Diamond flaws and inclusions can drastically lower the value and visual appeal of a gemstone, but clarity enhanced diamonds reverse minor imperfections and offer couples a more affordable alternative for a beautifully clear stone.
Diamond clarity is the gauge of how clear and flawless a gem is. Very few stones are perfectly flawless - most contain at least minor mineral inclusions or tiny cracks. The more visible those flaws are, the less valuable the stone is considered. It is possible to treat these imperfections and lower their impact, however. The resulting treated diamonds appear far more clear, but because they have been artificially enhanced they are frequently considered less valuable than naturally clear stones. Their true value, however, is less based on a gemological report than on how the couple perceives their beautiful clarity enhanced diamond. Gone are the days when any artificial treatment was scorned and belittled - today's treated diamonds are stunning gems that make larger carat weights and more elaborate engagement ring designs a reality for many couples.
Types of Clarity Treatments
There are two main ways that diamonds can have their clarity artificially improved: fracture filling and laser drilling.
Fracture filling treatments actually add material to a natural diamond to close small cracks. Silica resin or a thin glass film is used to fill the crack, completing the gem's crystalline structure. Because the filling has the same optical characteristics and refraction index as natural diamond, it is virtually undetectable and the result is an invisible repair for the flaw. Couples choosing a fracture filled diamond, however, should be aware that the filling may not be permanent, though many companies that perform the treatment offer guarantees for the quality of their work and will make additional repairs if necessary to perfect the diamond, often without any additional charges.
Laser drilling is a clarity treatment frequently used to remove minor inclusions in a diamond. Inclusions frequently appear as cloudy areas or dark spots in the gem, but if a laser is used to create a miniscule tunnel to the flaw, it can be removed. The laser itself may dissipate the imperfection, or chemicals may be injected into the resulting tunnel to bleach away the color. Laser drilling does not affect the stone's durability and is a more permanent enhancement than fracture filling.
Detecting Clarity Enhanced Diamonds
First and foremost, reputable jewelers ought to disclose if a diamond has been treated for clarity enhancement. Treatments should also be detailed on the stone's jewelry lab certificate. Because clarity treated stones are actually natural diamonds, however, many jewelers may not realize they have been enhanced, and couples should know how to examine a stone for any signs of artificial treatments.
While fracture filled diamonds may appear flawless when viewed from the top, careful examination from the side or other angles may reveal flashes of color that disrupt the pattern of facets in the stone - a sign that the gem has been treated. Because these hints are only visible from the side, however, it is vital to examine the gem closely and preferably while it is a loose diamond rather than already set into a ring. Another sign of fracture filled stones may be air bubbles trapped within the diamond - an indication that a crack was filled, though the treatment was less effective.
Laser drilling treatments can also be detected if a couple knows what to look for. The tunnels lasers leave appear as very thin, white lines that do not follow the pattern of the diamond cut. In some cases, however, the tunnels themselves may then be fracture filled, and couples should know to look for both types of treatments to discern if a stone has been enhanced.
Benefits of Clarity Enhancement
For years, it was assumed that enhancement treatments were detrimental, but in fact there are many benefits to these treated stones. Very few diamonds are naturally flawless, making them extraordinarily expensive - particularly for large gems. Clarity enhanced diamonds, on the other hand, are often less than half the cost of naturally clear gems, making a beautifully clear diamond more affordable for many couples. Clarity treatments are performed by experienced gemologists, making the treatments very precise - they are virtually invisible to all but trained eyes. Couples should not feel that choosing a treated diamond makes their engagement ring or the relationship it symbolizes is any less valuable and gorgeous than a truly flawless gem.
Caring for Treated Diamonds
At the same time, clarity enhanced diamonds do require some special care to ensure the treatment lasts and remains undetected. Certain chemical cleaners, especially ammonia-based solutions, can discolor or dissolve fracture fillings and should be avoided at all costs. If the ring will be reset or needs repair, the jeweler should be notified about any enhancements - the extreme heat of a jeweler's torch could damage the treatments. If a treatment is poorly done, the gem may be less durable and the ring should be treated more carefully to protect it from sharp blows or situations that could potentially damage it. With care, however, a treatment can remain invisible long past the marriage proposal and years of happy anniversaries.
Clarity enhanced diamonds are a more affordable option for couples interested in a flawless gem but who are also shopping within a tight budget. No marriage is truly flawless, after all, but with appropriate treatments, any problems can be as undetectable as the smallest imperfection in a treated diamond.