The Complete Guide to Diamond Inclusions

    Welcome to your definitive guide to diamond inclusions! Whether your heart lies with flawlessly clear, bright white diamonds or heavily included, night sky salt and pepper diamonds, we’re here with all the inclusion tips and truths to help you decide!  

    Keep reading for:

    • What are diamonds inclusions?
    • Why do inclusions matter?  
    • The beauty of inclusions
    • Types of diamond inclusions
    • What shapes of diamonds show inclusions more?

    What are Diamond Inclusions?

    Diamond inclusions are tiny imperfections that occur naturally within a diamond as it forms deep inside the earth's crust. Inclusions in diamonds can look like tiny crystals, bubbles, chips, hazy spots, or even other minerals that become trapped inside the diamond.

    types of diamond inclusions

    Why Do Diamond Inclusions Matter?

    First, let’s talk inclusions in traditional white diamonds. Almost all diamonds have inclusions, so what you’re aiming for is an eye-clean diamond – that means no inclusions visible to the naked eye. From there, clarity is measured by how easily blemishes can be seen under 10x magnification (more on that below!)

    Keep in mind, the price of a diamond can increase substantially between two to three clarity grades but it can often be impossible to tell the difference between them. Don’t pay extra for something you can’t see! This is where it helps to work with an expert jeweler – we’ll find you the most beautiful, sparkling, eye-clean diamond in your budget and we know where to save or splurge on clarity.

    The other side of inclusions: they can sometimes affect durability. A surface-reaching inclusion for example, is more than just aesthetics – it can make the diamond more prone to chipping or breaking.

    salt and pepper diamond solitaire ring gem breakfast

    Inclusions can be beautiful

    While inclusions are considered “flaws” by some, they can also be incredibly beautiful. Every mark on a diamond tells that stone’s story across the span of millions of years – it’s pretty magical when you think about it.

    Take salt and pepper diamonds for example – they're the most heavily included stones around, yet have the most mesmerizing starry night sky vibes. While traditional white diamonds are prized for their clarity, salt and pepper diamonds are beloved for their unique character and cosmic energy. Also known as galaxy diamonds, the white inclusions represent the stars and the black inclusions represent space. How can you not love that?

    Salt and pepper diamonds range from a tiny dusting of speckles to a full-on stormy night, from opalescent to icy white, and everything in-between. They’re a celebration of inclusions and each one is completely one-of-a-kind.

    Diamond Inclusion Grading

    Before we chat about the many inclusion types, let’s cover the basics of clarity. The GIA grades diamonds for clarity based on the size, type, location, and overall effect of inclusions in a diamond at 10x magnification.

    The GIA clarity grading scale:
    • Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes can be seen with 10× magnification
    • Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions (but some blemishes) can be seen with 10x magnification
    • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult to see under 10× magnification
    • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Minor inclusions can be seen under 10x magnification
    • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification
    • Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Obvious inclusions under 10× magnification

    Choosing between clarity grades

    The salt and pepper diamonds we mentioned above start at the lowest clarity grades, whereas you can easily find eye-clean diamonds in the VS2 range and even sometimes in the SI1 and SI2 range depending on the diamond. Like we said, the goal is to find an eye-clean diamond in the lowest possible clarity grade so you’re not paying for a stat on paper that you can’t actually see in your diamond!

    For example, if you had a VVS1 diamond and a VS2 diamond side by side and you couldn’t see any difference in clarity but the VVS1 diamond cost substantially more, which one would you choose? When you only pay for clarity you can see, you’re free to splurge on much more important factors like Cut – the true measure of a diamond’s sparkle and beauty.  

    vs2 rose cut oval diamond

    VS2 oval rose cut diamond

    vvs1 rose cut diamond

    VVS1 oval rose cut diamond


    These are clusters of tiny white inclusions that look like, you guessed it - clouds. They can impact the clarity of the diamond, but if you’re an inclusion-lover, they can also give it a hazy and ethereal look. If you’re looking for an eye-clean diamond, avoid clouds in lower clarity grade diamonds.

    cloud diamond inclusion
    Feather diamond inclusion

    These are internal cracks within the diamond that look like white feathers. Depending on the size and location, they may only be visible from certain angles. Feathers don’t usually affect durability unless they’re surface-reaching.

    These are long, thin inclusions that resemble needles. They’re usually very tiny and only visible under magnification. If they’re visible, they can affect clarity, but can also add a unique texture and pattern to a diamond.

     Needles diamond inclusion
    Twinning wisp diamond inclusion

    These inclusions look like spun sugar or faux cobwebs. If it’s only a tiny wisp, it may be invisible, but larger clusters can affect clarity.

    Pinpoints are tiny crystals that can appear inside a diamond. Only noticeable under magnification, they look like microscopic granules of sugar and are not something to worry about.  

    Pinpoint diamond inclusion
    Knot diamond inclusion

    A knot is a diamond crystal that reaches the surface of the stone. Like all surface-reaching inclusions, knots can cause durability issues and are best avoided for a stone that lasts forever.

    A cavity is a hole in the surface of a diamond. Usually cavities are formed from a feather or crystal breaking out during the cutting and polishing process.

    cavity diamond inclusion
    Internal Graining diamond inclusion

    Internal graining is groups of straight or curved lines inside a diamond – they can be colored, clear, or white. For an eye-clean diamond, avoid internal graining in lower clarity diamonds.

    Even though they’re the hardest material on earth, diamonds can get bruises too! They’re formed after an impact – usually in human hands rather than during formation. Bruises are only visible under magnification and are not something to be concerned about.

    Bruise diamond inclusion
    Chip diamond inclusion

    Just like a chip in your windshield, a diamond chip is a small hole caused by an impact. Chips can significantly affect a diamond’s clarity and light reflection, so avoid them if you can. Stones with sharp edges like princess cut, marquise or emerald cut are more prone to chipping on their delicate corners, however a protective setting takes away that risk.

    Some diamonds have other types of crystals trapped inside! They can be any color and almost any kind of mineral. Since they don’t generally reach the surface, they’re not usually an issue other than aesthetics.

    crystal diamond inclusion
    indented natural diamond inclusion

    It might look like a chip or cavity, but an indented natural inclusion is inside the diamond and doesn’t reach the surface. Because of this, they’re not a risky inclusion type.

    diamond inclusions to avoid

    Though inclusions can be beautiful, there are a few types to avoid to ensure your diamond is structurally sound and as sparkly as can be.


    A chip is a small hole in the diamond. Why we would avoid chips: they can affect a diamond's sparkle, and most importantly, can spread and crack further upon another impact.


    Laser drilled holes are human-made tunnels drilled into a diamond to improve an inclusion's appearance. They can also be treated with a filler material or acid bath to camoflouge the inclusion. This is a misleading practice done for heavily included diamonds and it isn't usually reflected in the price. We always steer clear of diamonds that have been artificially tampered with by humans!


    Run from any lower clarity grade diamond (SI or below) with this comment on a GIA grading report: “Clarity grade based on cloud/graining not shown”. These diamonds usually have many small inclusions that interfere with a diamond's sparkle, brilliance, and transparency.

    surface reaching inclusions
    Inclusions like knots, cavities, and feathers that reach the surface of a diamond can cause further damage and are best avoided if possible.

    Where to prioritize clarity

    If you’re searching for an eye clean diamond, there are a few diamond types that call for a higher clarity grade:

    • Step-cut diamonds: emerald cut and Asscher cut diamonds show inclusions much easier than brilliant cut diamonds, so if you’re shopping eye-clean, opt for a higher clarity grade.
    • Portrait cut diamonds: these are completely see-through diamonds with a fully open table – any inclusions will be very visible in this type of stone.
    • Rose cut diamonds: oh, how we love a rose cut. With their larger facets, inclusions will be more noticeable to the naked eye so you’ll want to choose a higher clarity grade vs a traditional brilliant cut diamond.
    • Large diamonds: the bigger the diamond, the more easily you’ll be able to spot inclusions. As the stone size rises over 2 carats, you’ll want to move up the clarity scale.  

    The final word on inclusions

    Now that we’ve spilled all the diamond inclusion tea, we’re here to say, choose what you love! If you’re coveting a flawless sparkling white diamond, we love that for you. If you’re mesmerized by a hazy cloud inclusion, just say yes! If you love the cosmic inclusion patterns in a salt and pepper diamond – that’s the one for you. It’s helpful to speak jewelry-ese and be able to read GIA reports, but ultimately, it's about choosing a stone you can’t stop staring at.

    Whether you know the exact diamond you want or aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help you find your perfect stone! Book a free consult with us anytime.

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