Diamond Inclusions: Know Them Without Fearing Them
Angelica Frey | February 21, 2023
Angelica Frey | February 21, 2023
Diamond inclusions have oftentimes been portrayed as the hallmark of a diamond’s imperfection and as the main contributing factor to a cloudy appearance. Inclusions are a determinant of the diamond clarity scale, because they influence its clarity, which is one of the 4Cs. However, inclusions are a foundational characteristic of a diamond, and a great marker of its identity.
A diamond is made of around about 99.95% of carbon, and the other 0.05 percent can include one or more trace elements, which are atoms that aren’t part of a diamond’s essential chemistry: the presence of these trace elements is what causes the appearance of inclusions.To know inclusions is to make an informed decision when buying a diamond. In this guide, you’ll learn what inclusions are, whether they affect all types of diamonds and how to buy a diamond based on their inclusions and clarity characteristics.
Book an appointment with one of our experts who will help you make an informed decision when selecting your very own VRAI created diamond.
What Is A Diamond Inclusion?
Diamond inclusions are small imperfections within a diamond. Inclusions are formed because of the tremendous heat and pressures needed in the diamond creation process. Inclusions are an important factor when it comes to determining a diamond’s clarity, which is one of the 4Cs of a diamond. The presence and nature of inclusions determine a diamond clarity grade, which, in order, comprises: FL, IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, and I. The more visible the inclusion, the lower the clarity grade.
What Causes Inclusions In Diamonds?
During the formation process of a diamond, small crystals can become entrapped in the carbon grid. Sometimes, that crystal grows and develops, forming an inclusion called grain lines. They are what makes a diamond unique: just like no two people sport the same fingerprints, or just like there is no such thing as two identical snowflakes, the same can be said about diamonds and inclusions. A diamond’s inclusion can be a great identifier: they are a feature, not a bug.
Do All Diamonds Have Inclusions?
Flawless diamonds are extremely rare, and “Flawless” here just denotes the absence of inclusions. In fact, all diamonds of all origins sport inclusions, regardless of their origin and provenance. That’s because chemically and physically, lab grown diamonds and mined diamonds are identical.
Do Mined Diamonds Have Inclusions?
Mined diamonds do have inclusions because, when the diamonds are formed in the mantle of the earth, atoms of other elements and crystals insert themselves within the carbon crystal structure. Inclusions comprise needles, knots, twinning wisps, diamond crystals, other minerals, naturals, and indented naturals. They help distinguish one diamond from others.
Do Lab-Grown Diamonds Have Inclusions?
Because a lab setting recreates the same conditions of heat and pressure that are found in the Earth’s mantle, lab-grown diamonds do have inclusion: they are remnants of the growth process and can come in a variety of aspects that fully resemble the ones occurring in mined diamonds: reliefs with a dark appearance, metallic spheres, cloud-like formations. Without advanced testing, it’s nearly impossible to tell a mined diamond and a lab-grown diamond apart. Both origins occasionally produce flawless diamonds, which are rare and very valuable.
Why Do Lab-Grown Diamonds Have Inclusions?
Mined and lab-grown diamonds have to undergo the same formation process. Both a lab and the Earth mantle present variables within their formation environment, which will result in the appearance of inclusions. Lab-grown diamonds are physically and chemically identical to mined diamonds. The only difference is that they’re free from any human and environmental toll and they’re always of guaranteed origin.
Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Graded For Clarity?
Inclusions occur naturally during the growth process of both lab-created and mined diamonds, and the flawless diamond is an exceptionally rare occurrence in both instances. Lab grown diamonds are also graded for their clarity and they abide by the same GIA clarity scale used for mined diamonds.
Do Inclusions Affect A Diamond’s Brilliance?
The short answer to this is no, inclusions don’t necessarily affect a diamond’s brilliance. Most inclusions are only seen under 10x magnification, but when they’re located in the middle of the table or in the case of step cut diamonds, their presence is more noticeable. In addition, when on the larger side, they affect the brilliance of the diamond. Larger inclusions, in fact, do give diamonds a cloud-like appearance. Since no two inclusions are alike, it’s advisable to inspect a diamond firsthand. VRAI offers complimentary appointments with diamond experts. Brilliant cuts can generally hide inclusions better than step cut and mixed-cut diamonds.
Inclusions In Brilliant Cut Diamonds
Brilliant cut diamonds have 57-58 facets which are either triangle or kite-shaped. This makes inclusions harder to spot, because the high number of facets makes the light bounce around in a mix of brightness, fire, brilliance, a visual pattern that can conceal inclusions. With Brilliant cuts such as Round Brilliant, Oval, Pear, and Marquise cut diamonds, you can go lower in clarity grade provided that the diamond appears eye clean.
Inclusions In Step Cut Diamonds
Step cut diamonds such as Emerald and Asscher cut diamonds have fewer, larger, and parallel-shaped facets, which makes inclusions more visible because of the less dynamic way light can bounce off of them. When buying a step cut diamond, one has to prioritize clarity over the other 4Cs.
Inclusions In Radiant And Princess Diamonds
Radiant cut diamonds combine features of the Brilliant and Step cuts, and so they offer an aesthetic similar to the Emerald cut with the brilliance of Brilliant diamonds, which helps conceal inclusions.
With its chevron shaped facets on the pavilion and its larger table, Princess cut diamonds conceal inclusions remarkably well, but if an inclusion is near a corner, it can make the diamond prone to chipping, so it’s best to make sure that there are no inclusions in that area.
Can You Actually See Diamond Inclusions?
Most inclusions are only detected through 10x magnification. Diamond reports don’t include whether or not a diamond is 100% eye clean, the visibility of an inclusion depends on size and placement: for example, a carbon inclusion on a VS2 diamond at the center of its table is more detectable than a crystal inclusion on the crown near the girdle in a SI1 diamond. The most accessible magnifying device is the loupe, a magnifying glass that ranges from 10x to 30x magnification that you can hold or wear close to the eye.
“The Federal Trade Commission requires diamond grading to be done with a 10X magnifier, and any flaw that can’t be seen under 10X magnification is considered nonexistent,” writes Fred Cuellar, the founder and president of Diamond Cutters International, in his book How To Buy a Diamond.
What Are Types Of Diamond Inclusions?
The diamond inclusions’ appearance varies: they can be reminiscent of small indentations, hairline fractures, darker dots, cloud-like formations, patches of color, or thin needles.
Different-looking inclusions mean different types of inclusions, as carbon, crystals, fractures, and indentation all classify as clarity characteristics of the diamond. Below, we included the most common ones.
Bearding consists of hair-like lines that extend from the girdle into the surface of the stone, and they are a result of the cutting process of a diamond. Heavy bearding will give a diamond a cloudy and fuzzy appearance.
In terms of diamond inclusions, a cloud consists of tightly grouped pinpoints, at least three, that might be too small to distinguish individually but together have a hazy appearance. They do not affect the durability of the stone.
A crystal is another mineral included in a diamond: a crystal can be colorless, and that occurs when another diamond is embedded within the diamond, black in the case of carbon, reddish in the case of garnets, or greenish in the case of peridots.
A feather is a break in the diamond, and its name derives from its feather-like appearance. Feathers are a type of inclusion you need to pay attention to. Depending on their location, they can make a diamond more prone to chipping and cleaving.
Graining is an irregular internal crystal growth with a milky or hazy appearance, and it can also sport faint lines or streaks
A knot is an included diamond crystal that extends to the surface, and, unlike the crystal inclusion, a knot affects the durability of the diamond.
A needle is a type of rod-shaped crystal inclusions occurring in a diamond
A pinpoint is a tiny white or black inclusion, only a few micrometers in size.
Twinning wisps are veils of tiny needles, clouds, pinpoints and crystals running along the diamond's twinning plane, or caused by growth distortion.
How To Minimize The Appearance Of Diamond Inclusions
We established that Brilliant cuts conceal the appearance of inclusions better than step cuts. Another way to minimize the appearance of inclusions is through the diamond’s setting: a Bezel setting can hide inclusions in the pavilion, while a strategically placed prong can hide inclusions in the girdle.
In addition, carat size affects the visibility of clarity characteristics: the higher the carat weight, the more visible the inclusions. You will need higher clarity grades for larger diamonds in order for them to stay eye clean.
What Inclusions To Avoid In A Diamond
There is no definitive answer to this question, as each diamond is unique and with unique clarity characteristics, and it’s up to the buyer and their own preference.
“If you're sensitive about inclusions, you want to avoid inclusions that are smack-dab in the middle of the diamond as those are much more likely to be visible to the naked eye,” warns Grace Taylor, VRAI’s senior diamond expert and director of sales. “Inclusions are sort of like a freckle or a birthmark inside a diamond - there's nothing wrong with them, they occur naturally, and they can be really charming if you don't mind them! They can act as an immediate way to know your diamond is your diamond.”
Book An Appointment With Our Diamond Experts
Recognizing, discerning, and distinguishing inclusions can be a labor and time-intensive endeavor, something that the less experienced jewelry buyer can find overwhelming, especially in light of a purchase that is meant to stand the test of time and last generations. Our experts can assist you in understanding and not fearing them. They’re one of the things that make your diamond unique.