An In-Depth Guide to Understanding Diamond Clarity Grades and How They Affect Price

Shopping for a diamond can be stressful, especially if you don’t understand the 4Cs of diamonds–cut, color, carat, and clarity. The 4Cs refer to different factors of a diamond that indicate its value and appearance. The cut is usually the most important factor to be aware of when diamond shopping, however, you shouldn’t forget about clarity.

A clarity grade will explain how flawless a diamond is–whether there are noticeable inclusions that impact the sparkle or appearance of a diamond. However, clarity is often determined under a magnifying lens as inclusions are usually difficult to see.

What should you look for when considering clarity in a diamond? Though it’s challenging to see without magnification, knowing the basics of clarity will help you understand the value and price of a diamond better. We’ll go over the basics of clarity, how its grade is determined, and helpful tips for when you go shopping for a diamond so you end up with a beautiful stone within your price range.

What Is Clarity?

If you know anything about diamonds, you might have heard the term clarity quite a bit. Clarity is one of the 4Cs of diamonds and can affect the appearance and price of a diamond. However, clarity is not the most obvious of the 4Cs and can be difficult to determine with the naked eye.

When a natural diamond is formed deep within the earth, carbon is exposed to intense heat and pressure. During this diamond-making process, inclusions (internal characteristics) and blemishes (surface characteristics) occur to varying degrees.

When gemologists evaluate clarity, they take into account both internal and external inclusions and blemishes. Clarity is graded by the size, position, and number of these characteristics. While no diamond is completely pure and inclusion-free, the smaller and fewer inclusions a diamond has, the closer it will be to pure.

The clearer a diamond is, the higher the clarity grade. Diamonds that are incredibly close to being pure and without inclusions will be expensive and valued higher than others. So, while clarity might not be a big factor in the visible appearance of a diamond, it can be a significant determining factor in the overall value and price of a diamond.

Why Is Clarity Important?

If you’re shopping for a diamond, you may not be aware of the factors that are considered when determining a diamond’s price. The higher clarity grade often means that a diamond will be expensive.

While this may not matter to you if you’re working with a high price range, diamond clarity may be one of the factors that you can negotiate on with the other 4Cs. For example, if you are looking to purchase a brilliant round-cut diamond, opting for an excellent cut grade could mean that you can choose a lower diamond clarity or color grade without sacrificing beauty. This type of cut hides inclusions well, so you won’t have to worry about any visible marks.

However, with certain shapes, diamond clarity may be extra important when picking out a ring. For baguette or emerald cuts, choosing a high-clarity grade is essential. These types of shapes, have large tables (top facet) and fewer facets in general, which emphasizes the clarity of the diamond. So, inclusions are more easily visible to the eye than other types of diamonds. Since the marks would decrease the overall beauty of the stone, most baguette and emerald cuts will need to have a high clarity grade.

What Are the Different Clarity Grades?

When gemologists evaluate a diamond’s clarity, they use a 10x magnification and grading system to determine the quality of clarity. During the evaluation, a diamond is noted for its size, quantity, position, and type of internal and external characteristics, as well as the effect these characteristics have on the appearance of the stone.

The evaluated diamond is given a rating on a scale that starts with “included” and goes up to

  • Included (I1, I2, and I3): This is the lowest grade of clarity that can be given to a diamond. At this rating, a diamond will have obvious inclusions under magnification. These marks may even affect the overall brilliance or transparency of the stone.
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): With this rating, inclusions are noticeable under magnification. For step cuts, like the Emerald, you may be able to see inclusions visible to the eye with magnification.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): Under this grade, a diamond’s inclusions will be seen under a magnifying lens with effort.
  • Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): With this grade, the inclusions will be hard to spot except by a trained professional under 10x magnification.
  • Internally Flawless (IF): There are no inclusions visible under magnification.
  • Flawless (F): There are no internal inclusions or blemishes visible on the diamond.

How Is Clarity Graded?

Diamond clarity is graded by the size, position, type, and amount of inclusions present in a diamond. There are several different types of inclusions. Gemologists will look out for these types of marks and note them in the final clarity grade. 

One of the most common types of inclusions is clouds. With this type of inclusion, it’s not a single flaw, but rather a grouping of tiny points. Depending on the size of the overall grouping, the cloud could affect the diamond’s brilliance negatively. Or, if there are multiple clouds throughout the stone, it may be referred to as a cloudy diamond. For diamonds with step facets, cloudy diamonds will not be ideal as these types of cuts emphasize the transparency and clarity of a diamond.

Another type of inclusion found within diamonds is graining. This inclusion is created because of uneven crystal formation during the diamond development process. The color of the graining varies, but the lines can be seen as white, colored, or reflective. Graining can affect the appearance of a diamond, giving it a hazy look.

A cavity is another type of inclusion often found within diamonds. These pockets can often be colorless and not easily noticeable, however, this depends on the particular diamond. Cavities can also be colored, in which case, they are extremely noticeable without a magnifying lens.


The inclusions that a clarity grade evaluates are often super small and hard to identify. Gemologists may even have a hard time identifying them, and they have a lot of skill and knowledge. Most clarity grading cannot be done by the visible eye. Gemologists need to use a 10X magnification lens in order to properly see inclusions and blemishes. Professionals will also need proper lighting to assess the diamond accurately.

You may be wondering how you can judge clarity for yourself while you’re browsing diamonds. Unfortunately, clarity grades can only be accurately assessed by a professional with the proper tool. So, if you’re looking to judge clarity by yourself without a magnifying lens, you probably won’t be able to. The exception to this rule is for diamond cuts with large tables. With these cuts, you may be able to notice visible inclusions that affect the appearance of the stone if it's a particularly low clarity grade. However, with popular diamond cut types, like the brilliant round cut, it’s highly unlikely that even with a low clarity grade, the brilliance or appearance will be affected at all. So ultimately, you should go with the lowest clarity grade that works best with your ring style without it affecting the diamond’s appearance.

How Does Clarity Affect Price?

If you can’t visibly notice the clarity of a diamond, does it really affect the price? Yes, diamond clarity affects price even though it’s not easily visible. It often doesn’t play the most significant role in a diamond’s appearance, though it does affect the stone’s value.

A flawless diamond, close to perfect, is going to be more expensive than a slightly included diamond. The reason for this difference is the diamond’s rarity. A pure and flawless diamond is incredibly rare, which increases its value. A cloudy diamond, on the other hand, is going to be of a lesser value than a diamond with a higher clarity grade. Visibly noticeable inclusions can even affect the beauty and appearance of a diamond by diminishing its brilliance or brightness.

How Does Clarity Compare to the Other 4Cs?

How should you prioritize clarity with the other 4Cs? As previously mentioned, clarity is often not a visible factor in the overall appearance or beauty of a diamond. If you’re on a budget, then prioritizing other categories, like cut, can help offset the cost of the diamond. Since clarity will not be noticed visibly you can even go for a low grade, like slightly included, and combine it with a high cut grade and get a beautiful diamond at a lower price.

If you’re interested in exploring more creatively shaped diamonds, rather than the popular round-cut, you’ll want to consider clarity more closely. For certain fancy-shaped diamonds, however, clarity can become more important to the appearance of the stone. Step facet cuts, like baguette, emerald, or Asscher, will need higher grades in clarity and color compared to other shapes and cuts. The step facets tend to show inclusions more clearly. So if you’re looking to manipulate the 4Cs with these types of shapes, then you should consider going with a lower-carat weight or slightly lower cut grade while opting for the highest grades of clarity and color.

What Are Some Tips for Choosing a Diamond?

Selecting a diamond can be stressful as you must balance the 4Cs with your personal preferences and budget. Thankfully, there are easy ways to figure out what type of diamond will suit your needs best. As everyone has different tastes and objectives when choosing a diamond, there is no one type that is right for everyone.

For some people shopping for a diamond carat weight might be the most important factor of the stone to them. As carat weight typically also affects price significantly, in that case, these shoppers may need to adjust their expectations with the other 4Cs. As clarity also affects price, you’ll probably need to go with a lower grade.

Other shoppers may be more interested in creative styles of diamond rings. If you are possibly interested in buying a fancy-shaped diamond ring, then you’ll have to be aware of how clarity affects diamonds with step facets. If you do choose to go with an emerald stone, then you’ll need a high clarity grade.

It’s a good idea to see up-close pictures of the diamond before you make a purchase. Though clarity may not always be noticeable to the visible eye, you’ll be able to see how it looks with the other qualities of the ring. It’s smart to judge the clarity of the diamond by how it appears rather than its grade, as this will save you a lot of money.

Overall understanding clarity will give you all the insight you need to save money while buying a beautiful diamond ring. Even though clarity is oftentimes not visible to the naked eye, it can drastically affect the price of the diamond. If you’re looking for a diamond within your price range, then you’ll want to be aware of the clarity grading scale. Even lower clarity ratings don’t significantly alter the appearance of a diamond, meaning that you can choose a lower clarity grade and still get a beautiful diamond at a much lower cost. If you’re beginning your search for the perfect diamond ring, our selection of diamonds has varying ranges of clarity. Plus there are many options in sizes, shapes, colors, and more to create a customized ring that fits your budget and needs.