If you're currently considering a diamond engagement ring, you've probably heard of the 4Cs: cut, carat, color, and clarity. Of the first two, diamonds can be almost exactly the same. The latter two, on the other hand, are similar to a diamond's fingerprint, making each gem unique. And of them all, clarity is the C in the 4 Cs that will always be unique to the stone.

This is perhaps why it is often the least understood by would be diamond jewelry buyers, whether they are shopping for a diamond engagement ring, a fancy colored diamond piece or even a loose diamond they intend to have fashioned into a custom engagement ring.

What is Diamond Clarity?

The quality of imperfections or flaws found in or on a diamond is referred to as diamond clarity. Each diamond is assigned a rating based on the clarity or purity of the diamond using an industry-standard diamond clarity scale. For the purposes of official clarification it is not a subjective value, although, as we'll discuss in a moment, in reality it can be.

Diamond jewelry set

Diamond jewelry set

Why is Diamond Clarity Important?

When you purchase a diamond from a certified dealer, you will receive a report detailing the stone's size, shape, position, and number of inclusions. These are frequently referred to as flaws. In a diamond, inclusions can range from nearly-invisible specks to clouds of microscopic crystals, wispy feather-like cracks, and bigger grey or black structures.

There are a couple different ways to think about the inclusions in your diamond. For some, it's a defect that could detract from a gemstone's brilliance. Diamonds with a lot of apparent inclusions can't reflect light as well as a diamond with fewer inclusions. It's also possible for an inclusion to break through the surface, which she notes could have an impact on the diamond's longevity because it makes it easier for it to chip or fracture.

Inclusions, on the other hand, excite many experts. Inclusions are appreciated by gemologists because they distinguish each diamond and aid in its identification. Because diamonds are formed hundreds of kilometres below the earth's surface and are subjected to extreme heat and pressure, they invariably capture other minerals and pieces of the earth as they form. These minerals serve as telltale birthmarks for the origin of the diamond.

A perfect diamond set

A perfect diamond set

Understanding Diamond Clarity's Impact

When you start shopping for the perfect diamond engagement ring, or those signature diamond earrings you have your heart set on, you probably don't expect that you'll be looking at statistics and charts. After all, you are shopping, not sitting an exam.

However, the charts associated with the 4Cs, and a diamond's position on them, are very important when it comes to its value and the expectation of durability.

Some people, because they have heard that diamond is one of the hardest substances on Earth (which it is) assume that their diamond jewelry will be indestructible. But diamonds can be chipped and cracked, although not as easily as many other gemstones by far, and a number of factors, including diamond clarity, can help determine how damage prone a diamond might be.

The clarity of a diamond affects its price in two ways. The first is that diamonds that are almost completely free of inclusions are extremely rare and therefore more expensive.

Second, with step-cut diamonds like emerald and Asscher cuts, clarity is particularly significant because the large facets produce a window-mirror effect, making inclusions more evident. Diamonds with a brilliant cut have a lot more facets, which helps to mask inclusions.

The impact of clarity on price is inextricably linked to the other three Cs of a diamond: carat, color, and cut. While the clarity of a diamond has a considerable bearing on its price, many imperfections in a diamond engagement ring or other piece of diamond jewelry are invisible to the human or unaided eye. In terms of clarity alone, a diamond with fewer inclusions would normally command a higher price, but the price is determined by considering all four Cs rather than just one.

An included diamond is by no means not one that is stunningly beautiful - and given how hard it is to find a 'perfect' diamond, and how much it would cost if you did, then your diamond engagement ring will almost certainly have some of the 'flaws' we've been talking about. However, these will, as we mentioned, often be one of the things that makes the piece unique, if you personally can even see them at all.

A perfect diamond set

A perfect diamond set

Clarity and Other Gemstones

Diamonds are not the only beautiful choice you can make when shopping for fine jewelry, and they are not the only choice of engagement ring for modern couples. Gemstone jewelry is beautiful and valuable, too, but you might be wondering how their clarity affects their appearance and value.

For colored gemstones, the level of clarity that is considered acceptable varies. Some gemstones, such as emeralds and rubies, have a higher rate of acceptable inclusions, but aquamarine, blue topaz, and citrine have fewer inclusions by nature.

They too are all usually graded on standardized charts, but the importance of their 'place' on these charts varies too, as colored gemstones have rather different appearances to diamonds. Few have anywhere near the brilliance, and it is therefore often their color that makes them appeal more to buyers than anything else.

Just like diamonds, perfect gemstones of any kind are rare. And in some cases, emeralds especially, are almost impossible to find.

So while knowing the clarity of a gemstone before you buy it is often important from a valuation point of view the most important thing about buying any piece of diamond or gemstone jewelry is that you love it, and that's especially true of a diamond engagement ring or one of the increasing numbers of gemstone engagement rings available.

After all, this is something you will be wearing for many years to come (and maybe even passing down for someone else to wear) so ensuring that your diamond or gemstone jewelry is perfect for you - although not quite perfect in scientific terms - is the most important thing of all.