What are clarity enhanced diamonds? In order for us to be able to answer this question, we must first define the word “clarity” in the context of diamonds.
When we talk of diamond clarity, we speak of the amount of imperfections in and on the diamonds. These imperfections are of particular concern because they affect the way light passes through the diamond, causing the stone to appear less brilliant. There are two types of imperfections that affect a diamond’s clarity: inclusions (imperfections on the inside of the diamond) and blemishes (imperfections on the surface of the diamond).
The Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, has created a system that classifies diamonds in terms of their clarity. Diamonds are classified, or graded, depending on whether or not an expert is able to detect inclusions and blemishes on a diamond under 10x magnification. The GIA’s classification system has six broad categories (some of which are broken down into two or three subcategories), ranging from high clarity to lower clarity:
- Flawless. For a diamond to be classified as flawless, an expert must not be able to detect inclusions or blemishes on the stone even at a microscopic magnification.
- Internally Flawless. As the term suggests, an internally flawless diamond does not have inclusions—imperfections on the inside of the stone—visible to an expert. Only blemishes—imperfections on the surface—would be detectable.
- Very, Very Slightly Included - VVSI. If a diamond is classified as very, very slightly included, it means an expert is able to detect, with some difficulty, inclusions either from the diamond’s crown (the top portion of the stone) or the diamond’s pavilion (the bottom portion of the stone). These imperfections, however, are only visible when the stone is seen under 10x magnification, and even then, with some difficulty. They would not be visible to the naked eye.
- Very Slightly Included. A diamond is classified as very slightly included if its inclusions, though minor, are readily detectable by an expert. Even the occasional non-expert might detect the imperfections, but only under ideal conditions. These imperfections would still be invisible to the naked eye.
- Slightly Included. At this point, inclusions in the diamond are noticeable to an expert. These inclusions are often invisible to the naked eye, but someone carefully inspecting the stone might be able to spot them.
- Included. Diamonds under this classification contain very apparent inclusions, which are now readily visible to the naked eye.
Now that we know what “clarity” means in the context of diamonds, what does it mean when a diamond’s clarity is “enhanced”?
When a diamond’s clarity is enhanced, it means that the diamond’s imperfections—its inclusions and blemishes—are removed or corrected using mechanical or chemical processes. Experts commonly use one of two methods: laser drilling and fracture filling.
Laser drilling is a process used to correct dark inclusions within a diamond. As the name implies, a laser is used to drill a microscopic tunnel from the surface of the diamond to the target inclusion. How is the inclusion removed? Either the laser itself will burn the inclusion, or the tunnel will be used to funnel acids that would dissolve the inclusion. The tunnels themselves are permanent, but they are not visible to the naked eye and do not affect the brilliance of the now-enhanced diamond. The clarity rating of a diamond that has undergone this process may improve by one or two grades.
Fracture filling, on the other hand, is a process used to correct minute fractures in the diamond called feathers. As the name implies, fractures in the diamond are filled with molten glass in order to make them less visible. The clarity rating of a diamond that has undergone this procedure may improve by one up to three(!) grades.
Clarity Enhanced Diamonds
We now return to our original question: What are clarity enhanced diamonds? Clarity enhanced diamonds are diamonds whose clarity was previously affected by inclusions or blemishes that have since been corrected using processes like laser drilling or fracture filling. Because of these processes, the brilliance of the diamonds is improved, and the rating of the stone in clarity grading systems may even increase.
Clarity enhanced diamonds are excellent options for buyers because these diamonds tend to be more affordable. And yet, because of the enhancement process, buyers end up acquiring a product whose quality exceeds its prescribed price. Furthermore, clarity enhanced diamonds are natural and not synthetic. A buyer, therefore, is getting the real thing at a more accessible price point.
And lastly, some numbers:
- Approx. 92-98% of all the diamonds in the world possess a clarity grade of SI and less.
- Approx. 98% of all SI diamonds are 100% clean to the naked eye.
- Approx. 60% of all I diamonds are 100% clean to the naked eye.
- Clarity Enhanced diamonds can cause an improvement by a factor of 3 in the clarity grade, while the price is lower by a factor of 2 relative to a non-enhanced identical diamond.
- Each year, 6-7 figures in USD worth of jewelry set with clarity enhanced diamonds are sold. This figure grows by the year.