Perfect diamonds are rare and very expensive; diamond flaws and inclusions are present in virtually all of the diamonds that you will see in your local jewelry store. The amount of imperfections and the size of those imperfections will determine diamond clarity.
Types of Diamond Flaws and Inclusions
There are basically two types of inclusions found in natural diamonds. Syngenetic inclusions were made while a diamond was forming. Epigenetic inclusions were formed after a diamond was made.
- Cleavage: A cleavage is a serious flaw, as it can compromise the stability of a diamond. Cleavage inclusions are basically straight cracks. If they are serious enough, they can actually split a diamond apart, especially if they are hit in a certain area or subjected to high pressure.
- Bearding: Bearding is stress hair-like lines. These lines may occur during the cutting of a diamond, and they generally appear around the girdle, which is the area of the anatomy of a diamond that the prongs grasp. Bearding is also referred to as girdle fringes.
- Growth Lines: Growth lines, also know as grain lines, typically occur as a diamond is forming. Sometimes irregular crystallization occurs, and the lines are formed. If they are colorless, they usually don't alter a diamond's clarity. However, if they are white or colored, they may be more visible and lower the value of a diamond.
- Laser Lines: These inclusions are man-made. They are what is left after a laser has been used to remove dark, prominent inclusions in a diamond.
- Feathers: Feathers take their name from the fact that they actually do look like small feathers within a diamond. While small feathers are probably harmless, feathers that reach the surface of a diamond can increase the risk of breakage.
- Pinpoints: Pinpoints are crystals which have formed within the diamond. If the crystals are large enough, and/or they form clusters, they can create a cloudy appearance within the diamond, and this will reduce that diamond's clarity.
While the most serious flaws are usually the inclusions within a diamond, there are certain flaws which are surface blemishes. These blemishes may have occurred as the diamond was forming, but many of them occur as the diamond is cut or because of everyday wear. Prominent blemishes can detract from a diamond's value.
- Pit: A pit can be one of the more serious blemishes if it is very prominent. These pits are actually holes in a diamond's facets. Shallow pits can sometimes be eliminated through polishing.
- Scratches: Scratches, unless they are very deep, can usually be eradicated by polishing them away.
- Nicks: Nicks are actually chips in the diamond surface. Unless the chip is large, polishing can usually correct the problem.
Imperfections in Colored Diamonds
Colored diamonds may conceal flaws and inclusions more easily than colorless stones, especially with darker, richer colors. Even if a dark diamond appears flawless, always be certain to inspect it with the jeweler's loupe to guarantee that there are no undisclosed imperfections.
When you are looking for a diamond, be sure you find a jeweler whom you trust. A reliable jeweler should be willing and eager to point out various inclusions in each diamond. He should take the time to explain the make-up of that diamond and give you as much detail as possible, letting you look through his magnification tools to see for yourself. Even with a trustworthy jeweler, however, it is wise to get an independent appraisal from a third party. Some sellers provide this service through a third party at no charge to customers buying a diamond. If not, many jewelers provide independent appraisals on pieces not sold in their store.
The Beauty of Diamond Flaws and Inclusions
Diamond flaws and inclusions are a natural part of almost every gem, and they don't have to detract from its beauty or value. Instead, they can make that diamond become more unique. Many times a distinctive flaw creates a focal point within the stone, giving it a characteristic truly unique to that one jewel. Diamond flaws and inclusions can also be used to identify individual gems, insuring that your stone is not replaced or misappropriated during repairs.
There are many types of diamond flaws and inclusions. While not all of them are desirable, many smaller imperfections can be easily repaired or removed. Furthermore, while blemishes lower the financial value of the stone, they can heighten its sentimental value by making it even more unique.