Diamond Clarity Characteristics (what inclusions are good or bad):

Diamond clarity characteristics

Diamond clarity characteristics are the inclusions and blemishes within a diamond. In some instances, they might also include insignificant surface blemishes. In other words, you'll probably need magnification to see them.

You might consider diamond inclusions to be good or bad depending on the extent of the internal characteristics. However, the extent, visibility, and size of inclusions also play a factor in the grading process.

Some people decide whether diamond inclusions are desirable or not based on the degree of visibility with or without magnification. With that in mind, you might say that you're looking for an SI-1 with inclusions that are not visible to the naked eye.

However, the degree of visibility is going to depend on the individual vision of whoever is looking at the diamond. As a matter of fact, what one person considers to be eye-clean might be readily apparent to somebody else. With that in mind, I recommend a minimum clarity of VS-2 if you really want the diamond to face-up eye-clean.

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Table of Contents

Diamond Clarity Grades:

In the first place, it's important to remember that diamond clarity grading is done under magnification. As a matter of fact, the industry standard for diamond clarity grading is 10x magnification.

However, the majority of online clarity photographs and video show the diamond at 35x magnification. In which case, the inclusions will look much larger and be easier to locate. Under those circumstances, the clarity inclusions might seem big and scary. While in reality the diamond clarity inclusions might not be visible without magnification.

I-1 Diamond Clarity Grade (Visible Inclusions):

I1 Diamond Clarity Grade

In the first place, the majority of I1 clarity diamonds will not be eye-clean. As a matter of fact the majority of them look pretty busy. With that in mind, this 1.01 carat, F-color, I1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is a good example. After all, the inclusions are readily and immediately visible without magnification.

According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) the primary inclusions are crystals and needle-shape diamond crystals. As a matter of fact, the primary inclusions are mirroring around within the body of the diamond. In which case, this I1 clarity diamond looks much busier than it does on the plotting diagram. That is why it is a good idea to have a clarity photograph or video. After all, there is only so much you can tell from the one-dimensional plotting diagram on the report.

I-1 Diamond Clarity Grade (Cloudy Looking):

I1 Clarity Grade Slightly Cloudy

The inclusions within this 1.05 carat, G-color, I1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond make it seem slightly cloudy. According to the GIA, the inclusions within this diamond consist of Twinning Wisps, Crystals, and Clouds. As you will learn below, a twinning wisp is a twisted crystal plane that looks similar to cotton candy.

In some instances, twinning wisp inclusions are of no consequence. However they can make diamonds look cloudy, especially in the lower clarity grades. In which case, we are obviously going to avoid them because they are negatively impacting the light performance. As a matter of fact, this I1 clarity diamond looks better than the one above. After all, it might look a little bit cloudy. However, at least it doesn't look like buck shot is blasting through the stone.

SI2 Diamond Clarity Grade (Slightly Included, Level 2):

SI2 Clarity Grade Diamond

The inclusions within this 1.04 carat, G-color, SI-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond look very slight. Under the circumstances, you may or may not be able to see the inclusions without magnification. In which case, it might seem like an eye-clean SI2 clarity diamond from your perspective. Of course, the visibility of the inclusions within a diamond will vary with each individual.

As a matter of fact, I've always been able to find the inclusions within SI-clarity diamonds without magnification. Especially once I know where and what to look for in terms of the clarity characteristics. At the same time, the diamond that Brian Gavin cut for my wedding ring was SI-2 clarity like this one. In that case, I chose a lower clarity diamond so that I could afford a larger carat weight. As a matter of fact, the only thing that people seem to notice is the sparkle factor.

Consequently, it's important to remember that every clarity grade encompasses a spectrum of inclusion. Under those circumstances, we recommend evaluating each diamond on its own merit. Rather than clumping diamonds together by classifications within the different diamond clarity grades. In other words, no two diamonds contain the same inclusion patterns, so every diamond is unique.

SI1 Diamond Clarity Grade (Slightly Included, Level 1):

SI1 Clarity Grade Diamond

In the first place, this 1.07 carat, E-color, SI-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is typical of the SI1 clarity grade. The SI-1 abbreviation indicates that the diamond has inclusions that are slight. As such, the inclusions within the diamond should be readily and immediately visible using 10X magnification. Although that may be true, this photograph shows the diamond at about 35X magnification.

As a matter of fact, we would reject this diamond because it contains a chip on one of the lower girdle facets. By chance, can you find the chip in the SI-1 clarity photograph that appears on the left? I'll give you a hint. It's not the white diamond crystal to the left of the arrow tip in the 12 o'clock region. That's right, that's a white diamond crystal and not a chip. Although this may be true, it certainly looks like a chip, doesn't it?

As a matter of fact, the chip appears in the five o'clock region of the lower plotting diagram. As such, it is going to show up in the seven o'clock position when you look at the diamond in the face-up position. In this case, it's the light grey splotch in the eight o'clock position just right of the arrow tip.

VS2 Diamond Clarity Grade (Very Slightly Included, Level 2):

VS2 Diamond Clarity Grade

As a matter of fact, the VS-2 diamond clarity grade is my personal favorite. That's because the diamond is going to face-up eye-clean and it's a good value proposition. With that in mind, this 1.03 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is a good option.

If you look carefully at the VS2 clarity photograph on the left, the inclusions are barely visible. As a matter of fact, the VS-2 clarity abbreviation means that the inclusions will be very slight. Under those circumstances, the inclusions should be difficult to find using 10x magnification. In this case, the inclusions are visible in the eight o'clock region along the edge of the table facet. In addition, there are some inclusions visible within the kite-shape bezel facet in the nine o'clock region.

If your eyes are really sharp, then you might be able to see a few other inclusions. As a matter of fact, the GIA indicates that additional clouds, pinpoints, internal and surface graining are not shown. That comment means that the grader was able to see those inclusions using higher degrees of magnification. However, the inclusions are not easily seen using standard 10x magnification. Under those circumstances, they are not suitable for identification purposes.

VS1 Diamond Clarity Grade (Very Slightly Included, Level 1):

VS1 Clarity Diamond Etch Channel

This 1.13 carat, D-color, VS-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is an interesting specimen. In the first place, the diamond has the proportions that I recommend. As such, it should exhibit a high volume of light return and a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion.

However, the diamond contains an "etch channel" and I don't like that type of inclusion. As a matter of fact, the etch channel to the left of the arrow tip in the six o'clock position. Technically speaking, an etch channel is an opening left behind by air bubbles escaping the diamond under pressure.

However, they can also be the result of laser drilling. With that in mind, I just don't like the very idea of them.

With that in mind, I would not recommend this diamond. However, it is a good example of how VS-1 clarity diamonds might have unforeseen issues. Under those circumstances, I would not recommend this diamond. However, it is a good example of how VS-1 clarity diamonds might have unforeseen issues.

My Son's VS-1 Clarity Diamond Engagement Ring:

VS1 Clarity Black by Brian Gavin Diamond

On the left, is a photograph of my son's engagement ring. The center stone is a 0.80 carats, F-color, VS-1 clarity, Black by Brian Gavin Diamond. In case you're wondering, I actually think that VS-2 clarity diamonds make more sense. However, my son prefers the mind-clean benefits of the slightly higher VS-1 clarity grade.

As a matter of fact, he also prefers the cooler tones of D-E-F colorless diamonds. Whereas the Brian Gavin Signature diamond in my wedding ring is I-color with distinct blue fluorescence. In similar fashion, the diamond in my mom's wedding set is M-color.

Obviously, I feel that the color grade is not as important as the degree of optical precision. After all, that is what is going to dictate the sparkle factor.

VVS2 Diamond Clarity Grade (Very, Very Slightly Included, Level 2):

VVS2 Clarity Diamond 35X Magnification

As you can see, the inclusions within this 1.01 carat, G-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond are difficult to see. This is typical of the VVS2 clarity grade because the inclusions are very, very slight.

Although this may be true, the inclusions are just under the table facet. As a matter of fact, there are several diamond crystals and a small feather. Of course, they're not very easy to see in this photograph even at 35X magnification.

Such is the nature of VVS-2 clarity diamonds because the inclusions are very, very slight. Although this may be true, this diamond will face-up the same as a VS-2 clarity diamond. In other words, both diamonds are going to face-up eye-clean even to a skilled grader.

With that in mind, I don't see the benefit of buying higher clarity diamonds. Of course, some people see it as more of a mind-clean thing. Obviously, you should choose whatever degree of diamond clarity that feels right for you.

VVS1 Diamond Clarity Grade (Very, Very Slightly Included, Level 1):

VVS1 Clarity Diamond

The inclusions within this 1.12 carat, D-color, VVS-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond are within the pavilion. In other words, the primary inclusions appear in the lower half of the diamond.

As a matter of fact, this is good because it can be more even more difficult to find the inclusions. Although you might still be able to see inclusions of this nature in the face-up position.

Consequently, a lot of VVS-1 clarity diamonds have inclusions in the crown section. The abbreviation VVS1 means that the inclusions will be Very, Very Slight. In other words, they will be very difficult to locate even using higher degree of magnification.

Here again, a VVS-1 clarity diamond is going to face-up the same as a VS-2 without magnification. With this in mind, I consider the clarity to be less important than the degree of optical precision.

Internally Flawless Diamond Clarity Grade (IF Clarity):

Internally Flawless IF Clarity Diamond

As a matter of fact, there isn't much reason to show you a photograph of an Internally Flawless clarity diamond. After all, there isn't much to see inside of a diamond that is internally flawless.

Although this may be true, the Ideal Scope image for this 1.18 carat, D-color, Internally Flawless clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond reveals a moderate to high amount of light leakage. That is what the light pink and semi-transparent sections along the edge of the table facet indicate.

Under the circumstances, you might wonder how a GIA Excellent Hearts and Arrows diamond could leak so much light.

As a matter of fact, the pavilion depth of 43.5% is the critical tipping point where light begins not to strike fully off the pavilion facets. In other words, the proportions are not really that good.

Obviously, this begs the question whether GIA Excellent is good enough. After all, it seems pretty clear that there is significant room for improvement in this case. With that in mind, I urge you to look beyond the overall cut grade and look at the ASET/Ideal Scope images. Of course, you can always ask me to help you look over the details.

Light Performance of IF Clarity Diamonds:

AGS Ideal Internally Flawless Clarity Diamond

This 1.08 carat, D-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Black by Brian Gavin diamond Is a much better option. As you can see, the Ideal Scope image is clearly superior.  Under the circumstances, it's fair to assume that the difference in performance is going to be like night and day. After all, the Ideal Scope image for this diamond is not revealing any light leakage under the table facet.

As a matter of fact, this is not surprising given my review of Black by Brian Gavin Diamonds. After all, they exhibit the highest degree of optical precision and even the minor facets are optimized for performance. Not only that, but Brian Gavin is the only diamond cutter in the world with a patent for maximizing light performance in the modern round brilliant cut diamond. With this in mind, it should be pretty clear why we recommend Brian Gavin so highly.

Flawless Clarity Diamonds:

Flawless Clarity Diamond Blue Nile

On the left, is a 1.13 carat, E-color, Internally Flawless clarity diamond from Blue Nile. As a matter of fact, the proportions are within the range I recommend. Under the circumstances, this diamond should exhibit a high volume of light return. At the same time, it should also exhibit a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. Although that may be true, there is still room for improvement in terms of optical precision.

To begin with, the 80% lower girdle facet length is producing a thinner looking arrows pattern. As a matter of fact, I prefer a LGF between 75 - 78% because it produces nicer looking arrows in my opinion. At the same time, there is a little bit of discoloration under the table facet in the four to five o'clock region.

In light of this, I wonder whether there isn't a bit of light leakage occurring in that section. Of course, we will need an ASET/Ideal Scope image to make that determination.

Unfortunately, Blue Nile does not provide the reflector scope images necessary to judge light performance. Although that may be true, I personally don't see the point of buying a flawless clarity diamond. After all, it's still going to face-up like a VS-2 clarity diamond without magnification. Thus, the only benefit to buying a flawless diamond is the aspect of it being more mind-clean.

Diamond Inclusions You Should Avoid:

With this in mind, I propose that there is no such thing as a bad diamond clarity grade. Rather there are only different types of diamond clarity characteristics. Although this may be true, some clarity characteristics are more desirable than others. Especially since the size, location, and extent of the inclusions can affect their visibility.

Be that as it may,, there are specific types of diamond clarity inclusions that we automatically reject. That's because the following types of inclusions present a potential durability risk.  Although this may be true, our strict adherence to policy does not make those characteristics good or bad. It is merely a reflection of our personal preferences and our desire to help you minimize risk. After all, there is an inherent risk in buying a diamond with inclusions that may affect its durability.

We Automatically Reject Diamonds For These Types of Inclusions:
  • Bruise
  • Cavity
  • Chip
  • Cleavage
  • Crystal (on) Surface
  • Etch Channel
  • Flux Remnant
  • Knot
  • Laser Drill Holes

What Are The Best Diamond Clarity Inclusions:

Remember that every inclusion is as individual and unique as a snowflake or your fingerprint. With that in mind, you should consider every diamond on its own merits. Under those circumstances, perhaps we shouldn't make a blanket statement about what types of diamond inclusions are best. However, it also stands to reason that some types of diamond conclusions are more desirable than others.

In addition, the size and visibility of inclusions will alter accordingly as you progress along the diamond clarity scale. With that in mind, we have to admit that diamond crystals are our favorite inclusion type. That's because diamond crystals are simply smaller diamonds that within the larger diamond crystal.

Of course, the size, location, and appearance of the crystal will affect the desirability. For example, a small collection of pinpoint size diamond crystals is probably not an issue. Despite the fact that we call a small group of pinpoint size diamond crystals a cloud. Whereas a large diamond crystal directly under the table facet of a diamond is less desirable. Especially if it is dark in color and the clarity is lower on the diamond grading scale.

Diamond Clarity Inclusions Most Likely To Be Acceptable:

  • Clouds of Pinpoints (not substantial)
  • Crystal
  • Extra Facet
  • Feather (small, not extensive)
  • Indented Natural
  • Internal Graining
  • Minor Details of Polish
  • Natural
  • Needle
  • Pinpoint
  • Surface Graining
  • Twinning Wisps

Once again, I remind you that every diamond is unique and must be evaluated on its own merit. In other words, we might still reject a diamond for these inclusions depending on the nature of the characteristics.

That is why we recommend taking advantage of our Free Diamond Concierge Service. We will review the diamond details and help you evaluate the characteristics. As a matter of fact, we don't care whether it's from a vendor we work with or a local jewelry store.

Identifying Diamond Inclusions Using Key to Symbols:

Diamond Clarity Characteristics

In the first place, the diamond grading report contains a key to symbols that indicates the type of inclusions. There may also be a plotting diagram that shows where the inclusions can be found. As a matter of fact, the inclusions are clarity characteristics sometimes called blemishes or flaws.

The green section to the left highlights the inclusions within this Brian Gavin Signature Hearts and Arrows diamond. Obviously, the nature of the inclusions determine the clarity grade of a diamond. With that in mind, the type of inclusion, as well as the extent factor into the equation.

In this instance, a few crystals and clouds of pinpoints are the basis for the SI-1 clarity grade. Obviously, this section of our website is for educational purposes only. Keep in mind that the inclusions within each diamond are as unique as a fingerprint or a snowflake.

Under those circumstances, no two diamonds will contain the exact same inclusions or formations. Therefore, you should conduct your own due diligence and decide what types of inclusions are acceptable for you.

The following "examples" and not absolute indications of what different inclusions will look like within other diamonds. Rather, each inclusion type shown here is a general example of inclusion types in their basic form. The inclusions within any other diamonds that you are considering will look different. Therefore, you should consider every diamond on its own merit.

Understanding the Key to Symbols Section of a Diamond Grading Report:

Clouds Not Shown

As a matter of fact, the plotting diagram is the key understanding the clarity characteristics within a diamond. The plotting diagram on the left shows where the inclusions appear within the stone. As you can see, the crown section (upper half) appears on the left. While the pavilion or lower section of the diamond appears on the right.

If you fold the right side (pavilion) up under the crown section, then you can see how the inclusions align. As a matter of fact, you might imagine that you're making a paper doll.

In which case, you would imagine a fold that runs vertically between the two halves. Under those circumstances, the nine o'clock region of the pavilion aligns with the three o'clock region of the crown.

As you can see, the inclusions are shown within the plotting diagram section where the inclusions appear. At the same time, it's important to realize that you're looking at a one dimensional model. In which case, the position of the inclusions is relative and not absolute or static.

For example, the green arrow in the lower plotting diagram on the right points to a feather. In which case, you might assume that the feather will not be visible in the face-up position. After all, it is well within the lower half of the diamond according to the plotting diagram. However, the facets of a diamond are like tiny windows and they also act like mirrors. In which case, the inclusion may be visible from several different vantage points or not at all.

Degrees of Magnification Used to Photograph Diamond Inclusions:

U.S. Dime 35x Magnification

As a matter of fact, the industry standard for diamond clarity grading is 10X magnification. However, the majority of online clarity photographs and video are closer to 35X. Under those circumstances, a standard US Dime looks like the photograph on the left.

Consequently, a standard US Dime measures approximately 17.9 millimeters in diameter. While the average one carat round brilliant cut diamond has a visible diameter closer to 6.5 mm.

To put this in perspective, the pink eraser on a standard #2 yellow pencil also measures 6.5 mm. Remember this point of reference when shopping for diamonds online. After all, the inclusions within diamonds can look pretty scary at 35x magnification.

Diamond Clarity Video:

Although it might seem counterintuitive, you should not use video to judge light performance. That's because there is no consistency in the imaging systems and lighting environments. With that in mind, you should only use video like this to get an idea of the inclusions.

Additional Pinpoints, or Clouds Not Shown Listed Under Comments on Lab Report:

Additional Clouds Not Shown

As a matter of fact, it is quite common to not plot all of the inclusions that appear within a diamond. Generally speaking, it is common practice not to plot minor inclusions. In other words, if an inclusion can not reliably be used for identification purposes. Under those circumstances, you might a comment like:

  • Additional clouds are not shown.
  • Additional pinpoints are not shown.
  • Minor details of polish are not shown.

Arguably, this might be because indicating those inclusions might make the plotting diagram look too busy. However, the labs indicate that it is because the inclusions are not suitable for identification purposes. Needless to say, I'll leave it up to you to decide, but that won't change anything.

Be that as it may, the inclusions are likely to be minimal and of no consequence. Otherwise, the plotting diagram would indicate the clarity characteristics. With that in mind, I tend to view the comments on the lab report as an advisory. As such, I will take them under advisement and carefully study the clarity and reflector scope images.

What is a Chip on a Diamond?

In the first place, a chip on a diamond is exactly what is sounds like. With that in mind, a chip occurs when a piece of the diamond breaks off. In other words, the diamond has been damaged or chipped and a small piece is missing.

In the second place, a diamond chip might refer to a diamond that is so small that it looks like a chip. Obviously as it pertains to diamond clarity grading, the chip we're referring to is damage. By the way, both types of diamond chips are nouns.

Chipped Diamond Culet

A chip in the surface of a diamond is usually the result of a some kind of impact. For example, the chip on the bottom of this princess cut diamond was caused by a downward impact. In this case, the force was strong enough that the diamond pushed down into the setting. The pressure was sufficient enough to chip the bottom point known as the culet.

As a matter of fact, people frequently request to have their diamond set as low as possible in the prongs. However, chips like this are the reason we like to leave a little open space beneath the culet.

In addition, it is normal for a diamond to move down a little when the prongs are being set. Under those circumstances, the extra space acts as a pad that allows for the movement. Thus, the risk of accidentally chipping the diamond during the setting process is less.

Can a Chipped Diamond Be Repaired?

In the first place, most diamond chips are minor and polishing the diamond can remove them. Depending on the extent of the chip, the loss of carat weight is likely to be minimal. However, more extensive chips may require that the entire diamond be re-cut to retain balance.

Recutting a diamond to repair a large chip can result in a substantial loss of weight. In fact, as much as a third to a half of the carat weight or more may be lost. In addition, chips in a diamond might pose a durability risk to the longevity of the stone. As a matter of fact, a chip in a diamond is like one in a windshield. In other words, there is a risk that the damage may spread.

For that reason, we automatically reject any diamond that contains a chip.

Diamond Crystals Inclusions:

As a matter of fact, crystals are my favorite type of inclusions within a diamond. That's because they are just tiny diamonds that were trapped within the larger crystal as it formed. With that in mind, they are like tiny ice crystals trapped within a larger ice cube in your freezer. In other words, diamond crystal inclusions are no big deal.

In fact, some of our clients describe the diamond crystals within their diamond as baby diamonds. As a matter of fact, that description is a pretty good way to look at it. Consequently, you will see that diamond crystals come in different shapes and sizes. With that in mind, diamond crystals are named for their size and shape:

  • Crystals vary in size and shape.
  • A long, thin diamond crystal is a Needle.
  • Pinpoints are very, very small diamond crystals.
  • A Cloud is a group of Pinpoint size diamond crystals.

Diamond Pinpoint Inclusions:

Diamond Pinpoint Inclusions

A pinpoint is a tiny diamond crystal that looks like a pinpoint of light as seen through magnification. With that in mind, pinpoint size diamond crystals are literally of no consequence. As a matter of fact, I think they look like sparkling specks of dust or constellations of stars.

At the same time, it's common for pinpoint size diamond crystals not be shown on the plotting diagram. After all, their minute size makes them difficult to locate with any degree of accuracy. Under those circumstances, you might see the comment "Additional pinpoints not shown" on the lab report.

The picture above shows a few normal sized diamond crystals as indicated by the red arrows. In addition, the yellow arrows point to three pinpoint size diamond crystals that are also present.

As you can see, these diamond crystals are of no consequence even at this level of magnification. Consequently, the pinpoints are indicated by three small red dots that are the size of a pinpoint.

Clouds of Pinpoint Size Diamond Crystals (normal light source):

Diamond Inclusions Cloud

In the first place, a cloud is nothing more than a small group of pinpoint size diamond crystals. With that in mind, a cloud usually consists of three or more pinpoints that are within close proximity.

Under the circumstances, you'll find that most clouds are of no consequence. After all, the pinpoints tend to be translucent and most clouds are quite small. However, if a cloud covers a significant portion of the diamond it might be a reason for concern. After all, a large cloud might impact the light return or sparkle factor. Of course, this type of negative consequence usually only occurs in lower clarity diamonds.

Clouds of Pinpoint Size Diamond Crystals (diffused light source):

Diamond Pinpoints Cloud

As a matter of fact, it is highly unlikely that clouds will be an issue in clarity grades of VS-2 or higher. However, substantial clouds can be an issue in diamonds that are SI-1 and lower in clarity. Consequently, I am repeating myself here intentionally.

With that in mind, you should carefully consider the extent of clouds within any diamonds you are considering. As shown above, clouds are shown on the plotting diagram as formations of small red pinpoints. If the plotting diagram indicates clouds that cover an extensive portion of the diamond, then ask me to look it over.

Clouds of Pinpoint Size Diamond Crystals (normal light source):

Cloud of Pinpoints 35x

The photograph on the left shows a cloud of pinpoints as seen using a normal light source. Whereas the two preceding photographs show the cloud as seen through a diffused light source. In this case, the magnification is higher so that you may see the inclusions more easily.

As you can see, this cloud formation is more dense, but it is still translucent. Under the circumstances, some people might find this alarming. However, you have to remember that you’re looking at the diamond at about 35x magnification. It is highly unlikely that a cloud like this will have any impact on visual performance.

Clouds of Pinpoint Size Diamond Crystals (diffused light source):

Cloud of Pinpoints 35x

As can be seen, the visibility of the inclusions varies depending on the light source. In both of these examples, the clouds shown are minimal and of no consequence. In other words, minor clouds like these are no reason for concern. After all, the clouds are translucent and are only visible using higher degrees of magnification.

Although this may be true, the next two photographs show clouds that are more extensive. As a matter of fact, the clouds within that SI-2 clarity diamond are pretty significant. Under those circumstances, the SI-2 clarity diamond below is not one that I recommend buying.

SI-2 Clarity Diamond with Extensive Clouds:

Extensive Cloud of Pinpoints

As you can see, the cloud within this SI-2 clarity diamond from James Allen is extensive. In this case, the photograph shows the cloud of pinpoints at approximately 20x magnification. From this vantage point it is clearly evident that the cloud cover is substantial.

In the event that a cloud covers a large area of the diamond, it might affect the light performance. After all, it stands to reason that a high concentration of pinpoints can interfere with the passage of light. Under those circumstances, I do not recommend diamonds like this to my clients.  Obviously, there are lots of other diamonds available, so why take the risk?

Ideal Scope Image Reveals Extensive Clouds:

Cloud of Pinpoints Ideal Scope

As you can see, the extensive cloud of pinpoints is more evident in this Ideal Scope photograph. From this perspective, it's easy to see why I would not recommend purchasing a diamond like this.

After all, the cloud of pinpoints clearly covers the vast majority of the diamond. At the same time, it's easy to see how the high concentration of pinpoints is affecting performance.

Obviously, the extent of the clouds within this diamond are making it look cloudy. However, smaller clouds of pinpoints might be difficult to locate even under higher degrees of magnification.

This is why it is important to evaluate every diamond on its own merits. Because the individual nature of the inclusions must be taken into account as part of the evaluation process.

Needle Shaped Diamond Crystals:

In the first place, a needle is just a long, thin diamond crystal. In other words, it looks like a needle, hence the name. Whereas other diamond crystals might be more circular or asymmetrical in shape.

As a matter of fact, needle-shape diamond crystals are nothing to worry about. Consequently, you will find that most needle-shape diamond crystals are extremely difficult to find. That's because they tend to be very thin and are usually translucent.

The series of photographs featured below show one diamond which contains several needle-shaped diamond crystals. In this case, the needles are located under the table facet of the diamond. They are shown here as seen through our Gem Scope at different levels of magnification and light sources.

Needle Diamond Inclusion
Needle Diamond Inclusion
Needle shaped crystal
Needle inclusion

Cool Looking Diamond Crystals:

Dragon Shaped Diamond Crystals

On occasion, I run across some pretty cool looking inclusions inside of diamonds. For example, I think the crystal inclusions within this diamond look like a dragon. Obviously, I might have spent too much time staring up at the clouds as a child.

At the same time, it's easy to see why diamond crystals are my favorite type of inclusion. After all, no other type of clarity characteristic has the potential to excite the imagination like this. As a matter of fact, I'm not the only person who finds this type of thing interesting. Many of our clients have purchased diamonds like this solely based on the presence of these types of inclusions.

Diamond Crystal Formations:

Butterfly Fish Diamond Crystal

In this case, I think that this diamond crystal looks like a butterfly taking flight. On the other hand, another member of our staff thinks it looks like a fish. As a matter of fact, we usually take our pictures in black and white to make it easier to see the inclusions. However, this diamond crystal looks more interesting in color, don't you think?

Under the circumstances, the lighting environment gives the diamond a slight brown tint. However, the light brown color is strictly the result of the lighting conditions. Be that as it may, don't you just love how the smaller crystals look like bubbles? With that in mind, may we present a butterfly-fish swimming in bubbles.

Fairy-like Diamond Crystal:

Fairy Shaped Diamond Crystal

Under the circumstances, it's rather obvious why we like diamond crystals so much. After all, no other type of inclusion is likely to tantalize the senses like a crystal. With that in mind, we kind of think that this one looks like a magical fairy. What do you think?

All right, I'm going to level with you. Here in the office, the comments range from it looks like a fairy to it looks like a hummingbird. Be that as it may, by the end of the day, we all agreed that it's like the artwork from the Led Zeppelin album The Song Remains the Same.

That's Right, the Song Remains the Same:

Diamond Fairy Crystal Inclusion

With that in mind, we all decided that it was time to go home. As a matter of fact, it was a Friday afternoon and we were looking for an excuse to go home anyway. However, we didn’t all go home, because I’m still sitting here, typing. After all, the show must go on even though it's Friday and I'm clearly punch drunk.

The picture to the left shows the Led Zeppelin Fairy Hummingbird Diamond Crystal Formation (tribute band logo). It is shown here as seen through our Gem Scope using 40x magnification. By the way, this level of magnification will make a regular size household ant look like Godzilla. (More on that concept in a moment).

The Diamond Crystal Grasshopper:

Grasshopper shape diamond crystal

So, what about the inclusions within this 1.24 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round diamond from Blue Nile? As a matter of fact, I think that this crystal looks like a grasshopper in this clarity photograph. The diamond crystal is visible within the table facet in the relative one o’clock region.

By the way, we haven't talked much about diamond cut quality in this article. However, the range of proportions and degree of optical precision are important factors to consider. After all, that is what is going to dictate the volume of light return and the sparkle factor. As a matter of fact, the inclusions are less noticeable in diamonds that exhibit higher degrees of performance. That makes sense, doesn't it?

California Ant @20x Magnification:

Ant 20x magnification.

By chance, were you one of those kids who ran around looking at everything under a magnifying glass? If so, then you're going to love this picture of a California black ant under 20X magnification. Perhaps now you can see how the magnification we use to photograph diamonds makes an ant look like Godzilla.

In case you're wondering, we took this photograph for the purpose of illustrating the power of 20X magnification. In this case, I told a client that the crystals inside a diamond were about the size of the hair on an ant's ass.

Diamond Crystal Inclusions In Lab Grown Diamonds:

As a matter of fact, there can be differences between crystals found in natural and lab-grown diamonds. In the first place, I'm sure you'll agree that there is a structural difference between a crystal and cavity. Although this may be true, that reality is not stopping some gemological laboratories from referring to cavities as crystals.

When they vaporize "the diamond seed" to begin the lab-grown process it leaves behind a cavity. For some reason, the gemological labs refer to this cavity as a crystal. Obviously, it goes without saying that a cavity is not the same as a crystal. 

In this case, the cavity is created by the diamond seed exploding to start the lab-grown diamond process. Whereas a crystal is part of the natural structure and growth process. Needless to say, it is beyond reason for a gemological laboratory to refer to a cavity as a crystal.

With that in mind, I can only imagine that they do so to make lab-grown diamonds seem more palatable. After all, an open space in the middle of a diamond is nothing like a crystal inclusion that is solid matter. Under those circumstances, referring to cavities as crystals is misleading and confusing.

Why You Should Not Buy Diamonds With Knots:

In the first place, a knot is an included diamond crystal that extends to the surface of the diamond. In other words, it is a diamond crystal that breaks through the surface of the stone.

Knot inclusion normal lighting

With that in mind, this shows a knot inclusion as seen through our Gem Scope. In this case, we used a diffused light source to make it easier to see the inclusion.

Under the circumstances, you can't really see how the knot breaks the surface of the diamond. However, you would be able to see the breach if we could photograph the diamond at just the right angle.

In some instances, this type of inclusion resemble raised areas on a facet or group of facets. At the same time, the uneven surface might cause visible differences in the quality of the polish where the knot appears.

Why Knot Look Closer:

Close-up Knot Inclusion

In this photograph, the higher degree of magnification provides an extreme close-up of the knot. As a matter of fact, you might mistake this knot for a crystal because they look similar.

However, the difference is that this knot is breaking through the table facet. Whereas a crystal exists within the body of the diamond and therefore poses no risk of structural integrity.

Remember that a knot is an included diamond crystal that extends to the surface of a diamond. In other words, it is a crystal, but it also breaks the surface. With that in mind, a knot has the potential to create a cavity if it falls out of the stone.

We generally reject diamonds that contain knots because of the potential durability risk.

Feather Inclusions within a Diamond:

In the first place, a feather is essentially a minute fracture within the body of a diamond. Obviously, the term "feather" is significantly more appealing than a fracture or a crack. With that in mind, it's pretty easy to see why the industry calls fractures feathers.

Although this may be true, they don't call a cavity a bubble, so I might be way off base.

Feather inclusion diamond

Okay, that's not quite true either. Because it's rather obvious why they refer to this type of inclusion as a feather. After all, the inclusion that appears between the red arrows does resemble a feather.

Of course, you'll want to remember that not all feather inclusions look like this one. That's because every inclusion is unique and different in its own way. With that in mind, we suggest that you evaluate and consider every diamond on its own merits.

Due to their very nature, all feathers within diamonds must be carefully evaluated.

Despite the fact that a feather is a fracture we will use the term feather to describe this type of inclusion. After all, we want to remain consistent with standard industry practice.

Identifying Feathers on Plotting Diagram:

Diamond plotting diagram feather inclusion

In order to indicate the location of feathers on the plotting diagram, we use tiny red lines or hash marks. If you look closely at the edge of the plotting diagram on the left, you will see a bunch of little red lines.

Those tiny red lines indicate the presence of small feathers on the girdle edge of this diamond. Generally speaking, the presence of a few small feathers are not a reason for concern.

However, we feel that extensive feathers or stacks of feathers might pose a durability risk. In other words, feathers that are larger in size or clustered together might be a problem. Consequently, it makes sense to carefully evaluate the nature of any feathers that are present. 

Although this may be true, you will notice that we're not saying to avoid feathers entirely. As a matter of fact, we are saying that the feathers within a diamond should be carefully evaluated. After all, some feathers are so small that they are literally of no consequence. Whereas other feathers are more extensive and literally give us the heebie jeebies.

Obviously, this is something that I can help you with. Click on the blue button below and send me a link to the diamond details page. Or, you can send me the diamond grading report number and I'll check it out for you.

Evaluating Durability Risks of Feathers:

In the first place, you'll want to consider whether the feather breaks the edge of the stone. Secondly, you'll want to determine to what extent the feathers may break the edge.

With that in mind, here's a simple trick that will make it easier to figure that out. 

Imagine that the plotting diagram on the lab report is like a paper doll that children play with.

Then imagine that there is a dotted line running down the middle like this:

 how to read a diamond plotting diagram

Now, fold the plotting diagram so that the lower half of the diamond on the right folds underneath the upper plot diagram on the left. From this perspective, the tip of the kite shaped bezel facet in the 3 o'clock position on the upper half of the diamond aligns with the tip of the pavilion main facet in the 9 o'clock position on the lower half of the diamond. This will help you to see the diamond as a two-dimensional model and match-up the inclusions.

Don't worry if this seems confusing at first.

Picture this. The two halves of the diagram stitch together via an imaginary vertical line between the two halves. Under those circumstances, if you fold the two pieces together they become one. In other words, aligning the two halves of the diagram creates a two-dimensional model.

Side view round brilliant cut diamond.

With that in mind, the side profile of the diamond on the left is a representation of the two-dimensional model. This is the model of the world that we are trying to create by folding the two halves together.

From this perspective you can identify the geolocation of the feathers within the diamond. In other words, you'll be able to see the relationship between the feathers in the upper and lower halves.

Under the circumstances, these feathers appear to run the gamut of the stone. In other words, they run through the girdle edge from top to bottom.That might not be a good thing if the feathers are substantial.

After all, they could crack further if exposed to extreme pressure. Such as when the pliers crimp down to adjust the prongs during the setting process or some kind of impact.

Risk Management 101:

Obviously, the operative word here is “might” because we are not saying that it “will” happen. As a matter of fact, the odds are that the diamond will be set by a seasoned professional. In which case, they should take the inclusions into account when setting the diamond.

However, we like to err on the side of caution. With that in mind, we want you to be aware of the potential risks that feather inclusions can present. That way you can take the feathers into account and decide whether to avoid them or not.

 Not All Feathers Are Durability Risks:

Under the circumstances, your first instinct might be to panic and avoid all diamonds that contain feathers. However, the reality is that 99.99999% of feather inclusions are of little or no consequence.

With this in mind, it is not necessary to avoid diamonds with feather inclusions. Rather, it is enough to be aware that feather inclusions might present a durability risk. In which case, we're really just suggesting that you carefully consider the clarity characteristics.

Plotting diagram diamond feather inclusion.

As a matter of fact, the plotting diagram on the left indicates that the presence of diamond crystals and feathers. This is the Black by Brian Gavin Diamond that I selected for my sons engagement ring. That might surprise you given everything you've just learned about feather inclusions with diamonds.

But remember that not all feathers within diamonds present a durability risk. That means that the majority of feathers within diamonds are nothing to worry about. In which case, you just need to take a look at the plotting diagram and clarity photographs. Then, you can determine whether the feathers are extensive or not. In this particular instance, the feathers are literally of no consequence.

Examples of Feather Inclusions:

In this case, this is the type of feather inclusions that we tend to avoid. As a matter of fact, this feather doesn't look that bad from the top down perspective. However, perspective is everything and thins look much different from the side profile:

Diamond feather inclusion top down view.
Diamond feather inclusion side profile.
Side view diamond feather inclusion.

When you look at the feather from a side profile, it's obviously more substantial. In this case, the feather is located near the edge of the stone. It is also clear that it runs the gamut of the stone from top to bottom through the girdle edge. As a matter of fact, a feather like this just might be a recipe for disaster. Then again, it might never be a problem. However, we prefer to err on the side of caution.

Through the Looking Glass:

In this series of photographs we'll look at the feather from several different vantage points. Obviously, the four photographs below show the diamond from the top down perspective. In the second and third images the feather is seen under normal lighting. Whereas the second and fourth photographs show the feather as seen using a diffused light source.

Feather inclusion within diamond.
Feather inclusion within diamond.
Feather inclusion within diamond.
Top down view feather inclusion.

In this particular instance, the  feather is well within the body of the diamond. Under the circumstances, it's obvious that this feather isn't a durability risk. In fact, a feather like this does not concern us in the least.

Evaluating Feathers via Side Profile:

In the first photograph below, the diamond is seen through our Gem Scope using a normal light source. While the second image shows the feather at 40x magnification. We diffused the light source for the third picture to provide you with a different perspective.

Feather inclusion side profile.
Extreme close-up feather inclusion.
Extreme close-up of feather inclusion.

At this level of magnification, it's easy to see why feathers are called feathers. Do you see how this inclusion looks just like the feather of a white bird?  Perhaps those early GIA gemologists from the 1950s were onto something.

Large feather inclusion.
Large feather inclusion.

Once again, we do not feel that this type of feather presents any sort of durability risk. Obviously, this feather is quite extensive and almost spans the entire width of the lower girdle facet.  However, this feather inclusion is also well within the body of the stone. At the same time, it doesn't appear to exhibit any substantial stress points and should not be an issue.

Naturals & Indented Natural Diamond Clarity Inclusions:

To begin with, a “natural” is just part of the original “skin” of the diamond. In which case, it was left on the diamond rather than being removed while being polished.

Uncut diamond rough.

With that in mind, you might be wondering what exactly is the skin of a diamond? Obviously, this is another tidbit of diamond terminology from the inner circle. As a matter of fact, the skin of a diamond is just the surface of the rough.

Here is a photograph of a piece of uncut diamond rough. As you can see, it has a rough exterior that is known as the “skin” of the diamond.

Essentially the skin is part of the original diamond rough that is the uncut crystal. In most cases, a natural is left on a diamond for reasons pertaining to weight retention. In other words, removing the natural might reduce the final carat weight significantly. Under those circumstances, the cutter might lose money, especially if the reduction of weight falls below the carat mark.

As a matter of fact, most naturals appear on the girdle edge of a diamond. Although we have also seen natural inclusions on the minor facets. With this in mind, we consider most naturals to be an acceptable type of inclusion.

However, you should carefully consider the location and extent of naturals during your selection process. After all, only you know what types of inclusions you are willing to accept.

What Is A Natural and Indented Natural?

Until recently, it was pretty common to find naturals on the “four corners” of a round diamond. In other words, you might find naturals on the North, South, East and West positions. That's because they were essential proof to the owner of the factory that the cutter did their job. In other words, they did not remove any more of the valuable diamond rough than absolutely necessary.

Diamond inclusion natural.
Diamond inclusion natural.
Diamond natural inclusion.
Side profile diamond natural inclusion.

This series of photographs focuses on a natural inclusion that appears along the girdle edge of the diamond. In this case, the natural is in alignment with the triangular upper girdle facet. The natural is indicated by the red arrows to make it easier foryou to identify..

The first photograph shows the natural inclusion from a top-down vantage point. In this case, the degree of magnification is about 20x with a normal light source. We diffused the light source with the second photograph to provide you with a different perspective. In the third and fourth photographs show the natural inclusion from the side profile.

Close up the diamond natural inclusion.
Diamond natural inclusion.
Diamond inclusion natural.

The first picture above is perhaps one of the best photographs of a natural that we've been able to capture. In this case, the crystal structure of the natural is clearly visible. As a matter of fact, the surface of this natural has been polished. Under those circumstances, it looks crisper than most of the naturals we see.

In other words, most of the natural inclusions that you'll see look pretty rough. With that in mind, you'll see a clear difference between the naturals in these three photographs. The second and third pictures show a natural that looks more rough because it has not been polished.

Indented Natural Diamond Clarity Inclusions:

An “indented natural” is simply a natural that is indents into the surface of the diamond. Under those circumstances, it's easy to mistake an indented natural for a chip if you're not paying attention. That's because you might see the indentation along the girdle edge while using magnification. Or perhaps, you might catch the inclusion with the edge of your fingernail.

Be that as it may, an indented natural inclusion is not a chip and it is no reason for concern. Of course, the extent and location of the inclusion must be taken into account during the evaluation process.

Indented natural diamond inclusion.
Indented natural diamond inclusion 20X
Indented natural inclusion diamond 40X.
Indented natural 50X magnification.
Indented natural diamond inclusion.

This is an extreme close-up of an indented natural inclusion as seen using 60x magnification. As is typical for this type of inclusion, it appears along the girdle edge of the diamond.

From this vantage point it is easy to see how somebody might mistake this type of inclusion for a chip. However, if this were actually a nick, pit, chip, or cavity, then it would appear as such on the report.

That makes perfect sense, right?

Girdle Finish: “Satin” or “Bruted”

The girdle edge is the line that appears between the upper and lower halves of a diamond. Needless to say, there are several ways to finish the girdle edge of a diamond. As a matter of fact, the easiest is to leave the diamond “bruted” because is a rough finish. The origin of the word comes from the process of bruting (cutting) the diamond edge.

Bruted girdle edge of diamond.

Bruting the girdle edge of a diamond involves placing two pieces of diamond rough edge-to-edge in a machine. The edges of the two diamonds beat against each other as they spinat high speed.

When the process is complete, the end result is the bruted satin finish on the left. As you can see the bruted girdle edge of this diamond looks pretty rough.

Needless to say, I'm not very fond of this particular type of finish because of how it looks. In addition, this type of girdle edge is prone to catching dirt and grime.

Girdle Finish: “Polished” and/or “Faceted” and Inscribed.

While some the girdle edge of some diamonds is rough, it will usually be smooth and shiny. That's because most diamond cutters will take the time to polish the girdle edge. As a matter of fact, I personally prefer a girdle edge that is faceted and polished.

Laser inscribed diamond.

Here is a photograph of a thin to medium, faceted girdle edge on a Brian Gavin Blue fluorescent diamond. The photograph on the left shows the inscription at 70x magnification.

As you can see, the inscription includes the brand reference and the lab report number. Under those conditions, it is possible to identify the source of the diamond. Plus, the lab report number enables Brian Gavin to look up the buyer.

At the same time, the inscription on the girdle edge will make it easier for you to identify your diamond. As a matter of fact, it provides some peace of mind when leaving your ring for repair.

Although that may be true, you should never rely strictly on the inscription to identify your diamond. That's because anybody with an inscription machine can forge the logo and report number. With that in mind, you should use both the inclusions and inscription for identification purposes.

“Bearding” or "Bearded" Girdle Edge on Diamond:

In the first place, bearding can be dig marks, small feathers (fractures and breaks) that occur along the girdle edge. As you might imagine, bearding is a side-effect of the banging two diamonds together.

In other words, bearding is the end result of bruting a diamond to begin the cutting process. Although that may be true, we reject for substantial bearding because polishing can correct the problem.

Bruted girdle edge diamond.
Bruted girdle edge.
Bruted Girdle Edge

The first photograph above shows the inscription on the bruted girdle edge of this diamond. As you can see the girdle edge of the diamond looks rough and unfinished. In addition, the inscription on the girdle edge of the diamond also looks choppy and rough.

The second photograph is an extreme close-up of bruting on the girdle edge of this diamond. While the photograph shows the small fractures left by the bruting process from a top down perspective.

As you can see, the bruted girdle edge of a diamond leaves a lot to be desired. Of course, it's also not likely that you'll spend a lot of time studying the girdle edge. In other words, deciding what type of girdle edge you prefer is largely a matter of preference.

Although that may be true, I definitely prefer the cleaner look of a faceted girdle edge. If for no other reason than it seems like the diamond cutter took the time to finish things properly.

Internal Grain Line Diamond Inclusions:

In the first place, the comment “Internal Graining Not Shown” is not necessarily a red flag. As a matter of fact, it's more of a Global CYA Statement because the odds of your seeing it is slim to none. 

As such, the comment "internal grain lines not shown" is not necessary a reason for concern. Under most circumstances, the grain lines within diamond are only visible using higher degrees of magnification. In other words, it's not the type of thing you're likely to see using anything less than 35 - 40X.

At the same time, the visibility of grain lines within a diamond depends on the lighting circumstances. With that in mind, we grade diamonds under laboratory conditions with specific light sources. Under those circumstances, we very carefully examine the diamond facet-by-facet to identify the characteristics. Whereas you're going to be wearing it in a ring and looking at it with the naked eye.

Be that as it may, from a technical perspective, internal graining looks like a transparent line. After all, it is an indication that the grain lines of the diamond crystal are visible to the grader. Although that may be true, the odds are that you'll never see it even if you're playing with a microscope.

Visibility of Graining and Surface Graining:

Obviously, the presence of visible grain lines can affect the clarity grade of a diamond. Especially if no other clarity characteristics are present. In which case, the grain lines might serve as the basis for the clarity grade.

In other words, a diamond that contains small diamond crystals might warrant a VS-1 clarity grade. However, the diamond might receive a grade of VS-2 if internal graining is present.

On the other hand, a diamond that might appear to be Internally Flawless, might be downgraded to VVS-1 if grain lines are present. Under those circumstances, the comment (the) "clarity grade (is) based on internal graining" is applicable. Whereas no other indications of clarity characteristics may appear within the key to symbols.

Diamond inclusions internal graining.

The round brilliant cut diamond on the left contains internal grain lines. The internal graining is not readily visible here at 10x magnification. On that note, 10x is the industry standard for diamond clarity grading.

As a matter of fact, internal grain lines are very difficult to locate even with higher degrees of magnification.  One of the reasons that internal grain lines are hard to locate is because they are translucent.  In addition, internal grain lines look similar to the edge of the facets on a diamond. Although that may be true, they do tend to be easier to find if they appear under the table facet.

Is Internal Graining and Surface Graining Bad?

As a matter of fact, we consider Internal Graining not to be an absolute characteristic. That's because the visibility depends on the lighting conditions. In addition, the angle from which you observe the diamond will also play a factor.

Under those circumstances, the grain lines might be visible to a trained grader under laboratory conditions. However, you might not be able to find the grain lines using magnification under a different light source.

Remember that internal graining refers to part of the grain structure of the diamond that is visible under specific conditions. In which case, I don't really think that grain lines are anything to worry about. After all, it's not like something you're likely to see with any degree of clarity.

Diamond inclusion internal graining.
Diamond inclusion internal graining.
Diamond inclusion internal graining.

These photographs show internal graining under the table facet at various degrees of magnification. In this case, the grain lines appear between the blue arrows. As a matter of fact, you can see how the appearance of the grain lines changes with different light sources.

Diamond inclusion internal grading lines.
Internal grain line diamond inclusions

Surface Grain Lines and/or Surface Graining Diamond Inclusions:

In the first place, I admit that the comment “Surface Graining Not Shown” might seem ominous. However, surface graining is little more than a light line that is visible on the surface of the diamond. By the way, have you begun to notice how easy it is to define the nature of these inclusions?

For example, surface graining is just a transparent line on the surface of a diamond. That's pretty simple, isn't it? With that in mind, surface grain lines are essentially the same as internal grain lines. However, surface grain lines appear on the surface of the diamond. Whereas internal grain lines appear within the crystal structure. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Although that may be true, surface graining may appear across the facet junction points. As a matter of fact, the labs will not indicate surface graining unless it crosses over the facet line. In the event that it does not, then it is a characteristic of polish.

In that case, most instances of surface graining are insignificant and very difficult to find. Needless to say, the only reason that we can find it is because we're using higher degrees of magnification. Consequently, that usually means that we're using something like 50 - 70x magnification. Whereas the industry standard is 10x for diamond clarity grading.

Reflections or Mirroring of Inclusions within Diamonds:

Obviously, the facets of a diamond act like tiny mirrors that reflect light in all directions. Under those circumstances, it's common for inclusions to reflect within the diamond. As a matter of fact, it's not uncommon for inclusions to reflect multiple times.

In that event, it's possible for a single inclusion to make a diamond look rather busy. However, there might really be only one or two physical inclusions within the diamond. As a matter of fact, it can be very confusing to people when they see this type of effect. After all, they look at the diamond and see a bunch of inclusions that don't appear on the plotting diagram.

Reflections of inclusions within diamond..

The photograph on the left is a perfect example of how inclusions can mirror within a diamond. As you can see, the same inclusion is reflecting into several different positions. In which case, it makes the diamond seem more included than it is.

Can you determine which of the white spots in this clarity photograph are the actual diamond crystals? As a matter of fact, the phenomena of inclusions mirroring inside diamonds is prominent in photographs. In other words, it seems more apparent in photographs and occurs less often under normal circumstances. That means that we don't always see the same degree of mirroring through a loupe.

Is It Bad for Inclusions to Mirror or Reflect?

As you might imagine, this kind of mirroring effect can make it challenging to correctly identify the primary inclusions. At the same time, it can make it hard to match up the inclusions with the plotting diagram. That means that you might have trouble verifying that the diamond matches the lab report.

However, an independent gemologist should be able to verify the diamond easily enough. After all, they'll have the experience and the gemological tools to evaluate the diamond properly.

Diamond inclusions mirroring.
Diamond inclusions mirroring 40X.
Inclusions mirroring within diamond 70X.

The first photograph above is a great example of the mirroring effect within diamonds. While the actual inclusions on the left are highlighted by the red arrows. And the reflections of the inclusions are marked with the light blue arrows on the right.

In the second photograph (middle) the table facet appears at 40x magnification. Whereas the blue arrows indicate the actual inclusions. And the green arrows point to the reflections of the actual inclusions.

The third photograph shows the inclusions as they appear through 70x magnification. As you can see, the higher degree of magnification makes it rather easy to see the inclusions. The thing to remember is that the structure of a diamond is a lot like a fun house of mirrors. As such, it can be challenging to separate the real inclusions from the reflections.

Twinning Wisps Inclusions (Crystal Inter-growth):

A twinning wisp is inter-growth in the form of an included twisted crystal plane. As such, twinning wisps are one of the more difficult types of diamond inclusions to evaluate. That's because extensive twinning wisps have the potential to make a diamond look cloudy. Especially if the twinnings wisps contain dark crystal inclusions which happen to be pretty common. However, a slight twinning wisp that contains crystals that are lighter in color is likely to be of no consequence.

Diamond inclusions twinning wisps.

The photograph on the left shows a twinning wisp inside an SI-2 clarity diamond. If you look closely, then you should be able to see the spattering effect throughout the stone.

As a matter of fact, the twinning wisps are most visible in the relative 2:30 and eight o'clock regions. Obviously, the spattering of little black crystals is creating some cloudiness in those areas.

Although this may be true, it's important to note that not all twinning wisps have this effect. As a matter of fact, if these inclusions were lighter in color, then this might be an eye-clean SI-2. Under those circumstances, it is likely that you would have difficulty seeing the inclusions without magnification.

ASET Scope Image of Twinning Wisp Diamond Inclusions:

 ASET Scope twinning wisp inclusions

The photograph to the left provides us an interesting perspective of twinning wisps through an ASET Scope. Although an ASET Scope is not intended for clarity grading, the different colors provide contrast. Under those circumstances, it enables us to see the twinning wisps in a different light.

From this perspective it should be easier for you to see the twinning wisp inclusions under the table facet. Once again, the twinning wisps are more apparent in the 2:30 and eight o'clock regions.

As a matter of fact, the purpose of an ASET Scope is to help us judge diamond light performance. The different colors represent regions of the hemisphere where the diamond is gathering light from.

In addition, it can help us identify light leakage and see how evenly a diamond is reflecting light. As a matter of fact, the light pink sections under the table facet indicate a moderate amount of light leakage. Refer to this article for more information on what the different colors of ASET mean.

Pear-shaped Diamond with Twinning Wisp Inclusions:

Pear-shaped diamond twinning wisp inclusions.

This I-1 clarity pear-shape diamond contains heavy concentrations of twinning wisp inclusions and laser drill holes. In this case, the twinning wisps appear to be whiter because the crystals are mostly transparent.

However, the heavy concentration of twinning wisps within this diamond are making it look cloudy. As a matter of fact, twinning wisps are frequently found in fancy shape diamonds. Especially fancy shape diamonds, such as pear-shapes, heart shapes, and triangles. That's because they are often fashioned from twinned diamond crystals.

However, twinning wisps can appear within other diamond shapes as well. Needless to say, it just depends on the quality of the diamond rough in each instance.

Laser Drill Holes, Fractured Filled/Laser Drilled:

Diamond inclusion laser drill hole.

The heart shape diamond on the right contains a laser drill hole as indicted by the red arrow. In this case, the laser drill hole looks like a small white dot in the face-up position.

As a matter of fact, diamond manufacturers sometimes laser drill diamonds to make inclusions less noticeable. The key to symbols on the lab report will indicate the inclusion as a laser drill hole.

In some cases, the manufacturer might also fill the laser drill hole with a clear substance. Under those circumstances, the seller should disclose the diamond as being laser drilled and fracture filled. Although that may be true, they are most likely to say that the diamond is clarity enhanced.

Identifying Laser Drill Holes in Diamonds:

Diamond inclusion laser drill hole.

In this case, the laser drill hole in this heart shape diamond is more easily seen from the side profile. The most visible section of the laser drill hole appears between the red arrows in the photograph to the left.

If you look closely you will see that a reflection of the laser drill hole is mirroring into multiple locations. As a matter of fact, this diamond is laser drilled. However, it is not fracture filled. In other words, it has not been clarity enhanced. That is why we can see the laser drill hole.

If this diamond was clarity enhanced, then you might see a flash of blue or some other color in that region. That's because FTC guidelines require disclosure of clarity enhancement or treatment.

Be advised that we automatically reject any diamond that has been laser drilled or fractured filled.

Etch Channel Inclusions:

In the first place, there are two types of etch channel inclusions that can occur within diamonds. On the one hand, an etch channel can be natural. In that case, the etch channel is the result of gas bubbles escaping the diamond under extreme pressure.

On the other hand, an etch channel can be a remnant of the laser drilling process. In either case, we routinely reject diamonds that contain etch channel inclusions.

Lake Waimangu thermal park

This photograph of a steaming geothermal crater in Lake Waimangu Thermal Park seems aptly appropriate. After all, it might be this type of steam under pressure that creates etch channels in diamonds.

Although this might be true, the high pressure steam that is necessary to create etch channels might be more intense. Under those circumstances, the gas bubbles are having to push their way through diamond. As a matter of fact, diamond is the hardest mineral substance on earth, so it's less porous than rock.

Suffice to say that it's an interesting concept, so just work with me here. Consequently, laser drilling diamonds to reduce the visibility of inclusions is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it is a technique that has been around for years. Be that as it may, I'm obviously not fond of the idea and reject diamonds with laser drill holes.

Generally speaking, we reject diamonds that have been laser drilled, fracture filled, and/or clarity enhanced. We also reject natural diamonds that have been high-pressure heat-treated (HPHT). That's because I prefer diamonds to be the way nature intended. Although that may be true, the popularity of lab-grown diamonds seems to be growing.

Natural vs Man-made Etch Channel:

Etch channel inclusions Blue Nile diamond.

As a matter of fact, there is only one way for us to know whether an etch channel is natural or man-made. That is to look for the phrase "internal laser drilling is present" in the comments section of the lab report.

In either case, etch channel inclusions are shown on the plotting diagram as green squares inside a red border. The red arrows on the left point to the etch channels within this diamond.

The etch channels within this 1.51 carat, D-color, SI-1 clarity, GIA Excellent cut diamond from Blue Nile are natural. That's because the phrase "internal laser drilling is present" is not present on the lab report.

Identifying Etch Channel Inclusions in Diamonds:

Etch channel inclusions Blue Nile diamond.

Take a look at the details for this 1.51 carat, D-color, SI-1 clarity, GIA Excellent cut diamond from Blue Nile. Once the page loads, click on the photograph of the diamond to the left of the video frame. That will enable you to view the diamond in the static face-up position.

From that vantage point, you will be able to see the larger etch channel inclusion. In this case, it is under the table facet. There are also a couple of etch channels out along the edge of the crown facets.

The location of the etch channels is shown here using red arrows. However, the location to the plotting diagram is relative to the position of the diamond.

What Do Etch Channel Inclusions Look Like?

Etch channel inclusions Blue Nile diamond.
Etch channel inclusions side profile.
ASET Scope etch channel inclusions.

This 1.51 carat, D-color, SI-1 clarity, GIA Excellent cut diamond from Blue Nile contains etch channel inclusions. The red arrows indicate the relative location of the etch channels in this diamond. From the face-up vantage point, these etch channels look similar to diamond crystals. 

However, the etch channel inclusions look more like laser drill holes from the side profile. Of course, etch channels within diamonds are neither crystals nor laser drill holes. As a matter of fact, natural etch channels are the result of gas bubbles escaping the diamond under high pressure. However, an etch channel can also be a remnant of laser drilling the diamond to reduce the appearance of inclusions.

We can use the ASET Scope image on the right to get a different perspective of the inclusions. However, the actual purpose of the ASET Scope image is to help us judge the light performance. In this case, the light pink and semi-transparent sections indicate a moderately high degree of light leakage.

Be advised that we automatically reject any diamond that contains etch channels..

Wrapping Up Diamond Clarity Inclusions.

brilyens Black by Brian Gavin Signature Emerald cut diamond

As can be seen, there is a lot more to diamond clarity grading than meets the unaided eye. With that in mind, this tutorial on diamond clarity and inclusions is quite extensive. Be that as it may, the reality is that there is a lot more to know about diamond clarity grading.

As a matter of fact, we could probably write an entire book on the subject of diamond clarity characteristics. Although that may be true, it still wouldn't be possible to account each individual detail.

With that in mind, I invite you to take advantage of our Free Diamond Concierge Service. Let us know the price range you are working with and the characteristics you are willing to consider.

We'll run the search and provide you with the best options currently available. Or, if you already have a diamond in mind, just provide us with a link and we'll check it out. Either way, you'll be able to buy a diamond with the confidence of better understanding of the details.

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