What Are Diamond Clarity Characteristics?

Clarity characteristics can affect the appearance and price of a loose diamond. Knowing about diamond clarity when reviewing a Gemological Institute of America (GIA) diamond report or dossier can certainly be valuable.

Diamond Clarity Characteristics

Click on each characteristic symbol for a visual diamond example and description.

Feather IconFeather
Break in the diamond that looks like a feather.
Cloud IconCloud
Pinpoints grouped together causing a haze on the diamond.
Crystal IconCrystal
Mineral inside a diamond.
Bruise IconBruise
Small root feathers at facet junction.
Cavity IconCavity
An angular opening that occurs when a feather breaks during polishing.
Indented Natural IconIndented Natural
Indented Natural
The original surface of a diamond below the polished surface.
Pinpoint IconPinpoint
Small crystal dot.
Twinning Wisp IconTwinning Wisp
Twinning Wisp
Grouping of pinpoints, crystals and clouds.
Laser Drill Hole IconLaser Drill Hole
Laser Drill Hole
Microscopic tunnel that runs into the diamond.
Chip IconChip
Shallow opening caused by diamond surface damage at culet, girdle edge or facet junction.
Needle IconNeedle
A thin crystal that looks like a long white rod.
Natural IconNatural
Part of the original skin of the diamond that is left when cut.
Etch Channel IconEtch Channel
Etch Channel
Thin, hollow tunnels that are also found as parallel lines.
Knot IconKnot
White crystal from internal to the surface.
Extra Facet IconExtra Facet
Extra Facet
Flat, polished surface.

Understanding Diamond Clarity Characteristics on a GIA Plotting Diagram

A diamond’s unique fingerprint or clarity characteristics can be seen via its plotting diagram. The GIA potting diagram is available on all GIA diamond reports and dossiers. “A plotting diagram is a map of a diamond’s clarity characteristics”, says the GIA. “These are the blemishes that reside on a diamond’s surface and the inclusions which are internal characteristics.” Each clarity characteristic on a GIA diamond plotting diagram is defined by color and marking.

These colors can help you understand specific clarity characteristics prior to purchase:

Diamond Clarity

Characteristics Associated with Diamond Clarity

A diamond is exposed to extreme heat and pressure during its formation deep within the earth. This natural process of diamond formation can result in "inclusions" (internal clarity characteristics) and blemishes (external clarity characteristics).

"Evaluating diamond clarity involves determining the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these characteristics, as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone", according to the GIA. "While no diamond is perfectly pure, the closer it comes, the higher its value".

Inclusions and blemishes are examined under 10x magnification by professional diamond graders, and come in various forms. From bearded girdles to chips, the fewer inclusions and blemishes a diamond has, the more rare and valuable it is. This makes checking diamond quality just as valuable.

Diamond Clarity
Diamond Clarity

Why are Diamond Clarity Characteristics Important?

The natural formation of a diamond and the mining and polishing processes all affect clarity characteristics. It is certainly true that no two diamonds are alike, and a diamond’s clarity characteristics act as a fingerprint.

"The GIA Clarity Scale contains 11 grades, with most diamonds falling into the VS (very slightly included) or SI (slightly included) categories", according to the GIA.

For example, an SI and VS diamond may appear to be the same to the untrained naked eye. But by using clarity characteristics, the value of the two diamonds may be significantly different.

Diamond Clarity

GIA Diamond Clarity Scale:

Below is how GIA rates diamond clarity, from Flawless to included. Learn more about Diamond Clarity and why it matters when buying a diamond.

Flawless (FL)
No visible inclusions or blemishes.
Internally Flawless (IF)
Internally Flawless
No inclusions are visible, but blemishes can be seen under 10x magnification.
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 - VVS2)
Very, Very Slightly Included
(VVS1 - VVS2)
Inclusions are very difficult to see.
Very Slightly Included (VS1 - VS2)
Very Slightly Included
(VS1 - VS2)
The inclusions are visible, but minor.
Slightly Included
Slightly Included
(SI1 - SI2)
Inclusions are indeed visible under 10x magnification.
(I1 - I3)
Inclusions are overly obvious and may affect a diamond’s brilliance.

When searching for the perfect diamond that encompasses your unique preferences and budget, make clarity a priority. It is almost impossible for an untrained naked eye to spot inclusions and blemishes. This makes understanding the GIA plotting diagram vital prior to purchase. You certainly want to make the purchase of a lifetime one of value.