Diamond Clarity: Everything You Need to Know

    So you're doing a little diamond shopping and need some clarity on diamond clarity? ;) We've got you! Keep reading for a complete, easy-to-understand guide on diamond clarity including:

    • What is diamond clarity?

    • Why eye-clean is the goal

    • GIA diamond clarity scale & how they assign clarity grades

    • Why does clarity matter?

    • How to choose the clarity grade for you

    • Where to prioritize clarity

    What is Diamond Clarity?

    Clarity is the measure of inclusions and blemishes in a diamond. To determine clarity grades, diamonds are viewed under 10x magnification, then rated by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) on a scale from Flawless to Included.

    What are inclusions and blemishes?

    Deep within the earth, when carbon is exposed to extreme heat and pressure, natural diamonds are formed. This metamorphosis, nothing short of a cosmic miracle, inevitably leaves behind tiny imperfections - diamond inclusions. Inclusions can look like bubbles, crystals trapped in the stone, chips, or other minerals inside the diamond.

    99% of all diamonds have inclusions. It's simply a part of their creation story, millions of miles and years beneath the earth's crust. Each mark narrates the unique journey of that particular diamond on this planet. It's akin to a birthmark, with no two diamonds exactly alike.

    oval cut diamond engagement ring

    GIA Diamond Clarity Scale

    The GIA's diamond clarity chart is used around the world to measure diamond clarity. Diamond clarity grades are assigned based on the size, type, location, and overall effect of inclusions in a diamond at 10x magnification.

    In addition to an overall clarity grade, the GIA plots out each individual inclusion on a diamond diagram to show the distinctive fingerprint of inclusions that makes each diamond one of a kind.

    Flawless (FL): No inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification. Considered the best diamond clarity grade, under 1% of all diamonds worldwide are considered FL, and their price tag reflects their rarity. All flawless diamonds are eye-clean.

    Internally Flawless (IF): No inclusions visible under 10x magnification. Small blemishes may be visible when viewed under a microscope. All internally flawless diamonds are eye clean.

    Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): Inclusions are difficult to find under 10x magnification. VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds are always eye clean.

    Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2):Minor inclusions can be found under 10x magnification. VS1 and VS2 diamonds are usually eye-clean.

    Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2):Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification. It is possible to find eye-clean slightly included diamonds, however it will take some searching.

    Included (I1, I2, and I3):Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification. This is the range where salt and pepper diamonds live, the cosmic galaxy stones of the diamond world.

    what does eye clean mean

    Eye-clean is the goal

    While diamonds are graded at 10x magnification, what really matters is what a diamond looks like to the naked eye. Diamonds with no inclusions visible to the naked eye are called "eye-clean" - this is the goal when diamond shopping (unless your diamond budget is infinite!)

    Why aim for eye clean?We only want to pay for stats we can see, and those higher clarity grades are exponentially more expensive yet they often look the same on the outside. And how often are you going to be viewing your diamond at 10x magnification? Most skilled Jewelers agree - don't pay for invisible diamond grading stats. Instead, direct your budget to more important factors like diamond cut.

    Even theGIA says, “Many inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to be seen by anyone other than a trained diamond grader. To the naked eye, a VS1 and an SI2 diamond may look exactly the same..”

    How does the GIA assign a clarity grade?

    The GIA evaluates clarity based on 5 different factors:

    Inclusion size

    The larger the inclusion (relative to the stone size), the more the clarity grade decreases.

    Number of inclusions

    As the number of inclusions rises, generally the clarity grade drops. It also depends how visible the inclusions are - a few almost invisible inclusions won't usually lower the clarity grade significantly.

    Position of inclusions

    The location of inclusions can have a big impact on clarity. Imperfections near the table (diamond top) in particular are most visible and impact clarity the most. Also, inclusions in the center of the stone will drop the clarity grade more than inclusions on the outer edge of a stone.

    Nature of inclusions

    The kind of inclusions and their depth in the diamond can both influence a diamond's clarity. Inclusions occur internally in a diamond and blemishes are external (on the outside of the diamond).

    Read our Complete Guide to Diamond Inclusions for an illustration and explanation of every kind of inclusion and blemish found in diamonds.


    Relief measures how distinct an inclusion or blemish is when contrasted with the diamond. White or see-through inclusions are consider "low relief", whereas darker inclusions are consider "low-relief". The higher the relief, the more the clarity grade is affected.

    Looks good - the only thing I would expand on is the clarity grade can depending on the type of inclusion but also the PLACEMENT so same inclusions type on the outer edge of a stone will have a hire clarity grade than if it is in the middle if that makes sense.
    diamond clarity comparison vvs1 vs si2

    Why does diamond clarity matter?

    Regardless of the kind of diamond you're shopping for, diamond clarity affect a diamond in a few ways:


    Heavily included diamonds don't sparkle and shine as bright as eye-clean diamonds. Though if you're looking for that night-sky look, inclusions are your friend.


    The highest clarity grades are extremely rare and ultra expensive. This is why we opt for the lowest possible clarity grade that maintains an eye-clean look - say it with me now, don't pay extra for ratings you can't see!


    While most inclusions don't affect durability, diamonds with surface-reaching inclusions can be less durable and have a higher risk of chipping.

    How to choose the clarity grade for you

    Start low and aim for eye-clean

    If you're working within a budget, start by looking for eye-clean diamonds in the diamond clarity grades Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) and Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) depending on the cut. It may take more searching, but it'll pay off with more budget to spend on cut, carat, and color.

    Juggle the 4 Cs for what matters and what's important to you

    If you're looking for an incredibly sparkly, large-looking diamond, cut is the most important C. Search for a Very Good cut or better, then optimize clarity and color for a look you love (without paying for invisible statistics).

    Your budget will dictate what carat range to look in - keep in mind, savings can be found in the "just shy" numbers - think 0.97 carat or 1.42 carat (below the most popular thresholds). Read our blog to see different carat sizes on a hand and learn all the diamond size pro-tips!

    Work with an expert Jeweler

    Your best bet to get the highest quality diamond in your budget is to work with an expert Jeweler who speaks diamond-ese fluently. We know where to splurge and where to save to get you the biggest, more brilliant diamond in your budget.

    Book a free consult with our Head Chef to discuss diamonds!

    Where to prioritize clarity

    Certain diamond shapes and types show inclusions more than others - meaning you'll want to move up or down the clarity scale with certain shapes to maintain that eye-clean look. Let's look at diamond types from the best inclusion-hiders to the worst:

    Brilliant cut diamonds

    Brilliant cuts are the best at hiding inclusions, meaning you can opt for a lower clarity grade like SI1 and still get that eye-clean look.

    Rose cut diamonds

    Thanks to their larger facets, rose cut diamonds show inclusions more than brilliant cut diamonds. They still do a pretty good job masquerading imperfections though, and can still look eye-clean in the VS2 range.

    Step cut diamonds

    Step cuts like emerald cut, Asscher cut, and baguettes have a wide open table and show inclusions easily. You'll want to opt for a higher clarity grade with these cuts to keep the eye-clean aesthetic. Usually, you'll be starting in the VS1 range, however every diamond is different!

    Portrait cut diamonds

    Made to resemble a perfectly clear pane of glass, portrait cuts are all about clarity and with their wide-open table, inclusions are very visible. You'll want to pick the highest clarity grade of all the diamond types to keep that totally transparent table.

    Large diamonds

    No matter the cut, the larger the diamond, the more easily you can spot inclusions. Generally, you want to move up the clarity scale at 2 carats and above.

    Questions about diamonds? Send a message to our diamond experts or book a free consult with our Head Chef to talk about stone sourcing, creating custom, or anything fine jewelry!

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