The 4C’s – Diamond Clarity
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Part of the romance of a natural diamond is that it came from completely unique rough crystal, unlike any other. Nearly all diamonds have natural characteristics that formed over millions of years, called inclusions. Most are microscopic and need magnification to detect. Others may be visible with the naked eye. In no two diamonds will they be the same.
Clarity grades are assigned by examining the finished diamond face-up at 10X magnification in neutral lighting. When strictly graded, F and IF indicate the diamond is Flawless, or Internally Flawless; revealing no inclusions at this magnification. VVS1 and VVS2 indicate Very Very Slight inclusions; only the most minute imperfections were detected. VS1 and VS2 imply Very Slight inclusions; the grader saw only minor characteristics. SI1 and SI2 grades indicate the diamond was Slightly Included; inclusions were notable under 10X magnification. I1 means Included; characteristics were obvious to the grader when magnified. I2 and I3 grades are reserved for diamonds with extremely obvious inclusions and/or durability issues caused by their clarity features.
Common Grading Standards
The world’s largest labs are soft on clarity. Diamonds in most chain stores, malls and discount outlets may have more obvious inclusions for their grade than diamonds sent to the stricter labs. This can give casual shoppers a false and negative first impression about certain clarity grades.
AGS and GIA Clarity Standards
The world’s best diamonds are sent to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and American Gem Society (AGS). These labs employ strict and consistent standards. Diamonds with AGS and GIA reports command a higher premium and hold their value better than diamonds from softer labs. No two diamonds are alike, but when AGS and GIA standards are applied it is commonplace for diamonds SI1 and higher to have no visible inclusions face-up to the average vision in normal lighting.
Cut Influences Clarity Appearance
Since the goal of most cutters is to maximize carat weight from a piece of rough the “lay” of inclusions is often secondary to producing the greatest possible yield. However, when the cutter’s priority is cut quality he can plan the “lay” of a grade-setting inclusion to reduce its face-up visibility. It may be impossible to omit primary characteristics (and the resulting clarity grade) but a skilled cutter can orient the rough so that they become transparent or less visible. This is particularly true for the SI2 and I1 clarity grades.
High Performance Diamonds = Cleaner Low Clarities
Diamonds planned for the best “lay” of inclusions are surprisingly clean. A crystal inclusion seen in one orientation may become invisible with a slight design adjustment. High Performance Diamonds also have superior brightness and scintillation, even when removed from jewelry store lighting, and this helps to mask inclusions. In fact, when selling High Performance Diamonds we must discourage conventional thinking – about the I1 clarity in particular – because well-planned diamonds break conventional barriers. In hundreds of live viewings buyers are shocked when they choose a “favorite” diamond that is grades below their previously imagined clarity threshold.
Only a fraction of the world’s diamonds are planned in this manner; they are rare enough that most people have never even seen one. When buyers are considering diamonds planned for high performance we urge them to dismiss preconceived notions about lower clarities.
Our Recommendation: “Crafted By Infinity” Diamonds
Our favorite manufacturer of high performance “superideal” hearts & arrows rounds and princess cuts is Infinity Diamonds, a boutique cutting shop in Antwerp, Belgium. Infinity crafts only 1000 diamonds per year, with a complete focus on cut quality for unsurpassed performance and precision. We are proud to be a Select Infinity Dealer and consider them our private diamond cutter.
In addition to the elite American Gem Society grading report with Ideal light performance and actual AGS ASET® images, Infinity diamonds all include Hearts & Arrows cut precision photos. Infinity also boasts the world’s first “superideal” princess cut.
Infinity founder Paul Slegers’ high performance diamond design pre-dates GIA’s Excellent cut grade, the AGS Ideal performance grade and HRD’s high clarity Hearts & Arrows grade. Every one of his diamonds exceeds the standards of those systems and goes much farther, answering to a higher authority in the person of Mr. Slegers. He takes every diamond from rough planning to final polish with deliberate attention to detail. His “Crafted By Infinity” inscription will only be branded on 1000 perfectly cut diamonds this year.
Infinity clients include renowned diamond collectors, appraisers, and optical experts in the world’s strictest grading laboratories. Paul Slegers’ uncompromising standards and modest pricing combine to make Infinity the perfect choice for architects, engineers and diamond enthusiasts seeking technical perfection, as well as “regular people” seeking the world’s highest level of cut quality.
With over 50 combined years of dealing with fine diamonds the staff of High Performance Diamonds has sampled and sold practically every “superideal” brand in the world. We judge Paul Slegers’ boutique Antwerp operation to be the finest. Every Infinity is absolutely, truly a superideal… but not every superideal is an Infinity.