Clarity Grade Issues: The Diamond Analogy

Same Clarity Grade? Doesn’t Mean They are Equal.

Purchasing a diamond based just on its grade and price is unwise, as although two diamonds may be the same grade on paper, they can look, and in fact be, vastly different. This is of particular importance when looking at the clarity grade of a diamond. Although two diamonds can have the same clarity grade, one may be at the top of the grade, while the other is at the bottom end. The two are not the same! This difference may be reflected in the price, or then again you can pay too much for a diamond that is not very good.

Eleven Levels for the Clarity Grade is Not Enough!

Most certifying labs have 11 levels for clarity, from FL ( Flawless ) to i3 ( sometimes called P3 ). The problem is that this is only a very, very basic assessment of a diamond’s clarity. Some of the many different types of inclusions that it is possible to find in a diamond are outlined in the following link: diamond education. The sheer number of these will give you some idea of the extent of possible inclusions that could be found in any one diamond, and how difficult it is to categorise all these different possibilities into only eleven groups.

The clarity grade does not show issues of milkiness, as seen in the diamond on the left in this image
Believe it or Not, These Diamonds Have Been Given the Same Clarity Grade!

The Diamond Analogy

Diamonds are all different, so to make only eleven levels of clarity and expect each in the group to be equal, would be like buying a second hand car after assessing the options like this:

Take all the secondhand cars in the whole world, include all countries from India to the USA, then sort them into 11 levels, the best at the top and the running junkers at the bottom.

In the very top level most of the cars will be really great, however they will also be very costly. These cars will be actually better than most of us need. You will need to have a high level of funds available, once you have chosen which characteristics in the car you want e.g. a sports car, a 4×4 or a limousine etc.

The mid levels will have the most options because that is where most volume is found. Most of us shop in these levels, because the best balance in value is found here. The trouble with such a large mid level area, is that it includes really great cars as well as some that should be in the junkers area, and of course lots that are in-between. As you head down to the junkers area, it will be full of cars that are not good…but they are generally lower cost. The trouble is that quite a few will look far better on paper than they actually are, but how do you tell what you are getting? Is it a good car but at a bargain price?

The very bottom levels may still run, (just) but you may well need to revisit the issue at some stage down the track because what you have is never going to be a good car.

Just as you cannot say that all the cars in mid range levels will be good cars, nor should you expect this to be the case with diamonds. This is especially the case because of the way things stand with certification.

Who Determines what Diamond is in and What is Out of any Particular Clarity Grade?

Grading Labs: you can think of the laboratories undertaking the diamond assessments to be similar to a car salesmen assessing the cars in our car yard. No one controls the way the levels are applied. What goes in each level is up the the decisions made according to the criteria of the assessor. Some graders are better than others but it would be a difficult job even for the most honest of car salesman… because the grade levels are just too basic.

It would be a far more accurate system if there were multiple clarity grades, not just the simple 11 that we currently have. And of course some salesmen in the car yard may be a overly optimistic about how good some cars are and stick the tarted up junkers into the mid level area.

That is how it is with diamonds.

The Clarity Grade Doesn’t Tell us How a Diamond Looks

Oh and one last thing that is perhaps one of the most important issues – even the best and most relied upon diamond grading labs (generally considered by the industry to be the GIA ), do not include in their grading assessment really important characteristics that affect how a diamond looks to the eye – these are just not part of the grading system. Just as in our car analogy we could say lets not worry about whether a car is running or not…

What I am talking about here are things like milky low lustre – this is something that really affects how a diamond looks (as the name suggests, the diamond looks “milky”), but this is not even a part of the clarity grade and is not listed on the certification as a clarity issue! So it could be a flawless diamond, but still look hazy!

Equally, there is no cut grade given by the GIA in diamond certification for fancy cut diamonds (such as cushion cuts, emerald cuts etc), so the buyer has no guidance as to how good or bad the cut is from the certification. The cut of the diamond is critical because it really affects how a diamond looks and responds to light. It is extremely important especially when It comes to sparkle ! A poorly cut diamond will look very ordinary, even if it is graded as being in the highest levels.

Those who have not sought good advice get into real trouble trying to work out which is the best option… because even the best paperwork leaves out crucial information. Price can help, after all if it is too cheap then that should raise a red flag to the buyer, but paying more is still not a guarantee either.

Basically if you don’t seek out good solid advice…well you are on you own…you had better get some years of diamond grading under your belt.