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DIAMOND CLARITY

DIAMOND CLARITY

Diamonds have been revered throughout history for many reasons. One of the hardest substances on earth, they are also the most clear - with no light reflecting off its surface, you could stand in front of a wall of diamond several feet thick and see through to the other side without being able to see the diamond at all. This clarity is one of a diamond’s most prized characteristics, but in modern diamond production, traditional notions of clarity are being turned on their head.

Diamonds are the strongest form of the basic element carbon. Each stone is formed deep within the earth, the result of unimaginable pressure pushing each carbon atom until they are lined up in perfect rows. This uniform crystal structure makes a perfectly clear white diamond. But the conditions required to form such a perfect stone are rare - so rare that many gemologists have never even laid eyes on a “flawless” diamond. So a system has been developed to catalog, grade and value diamonds based on their imperfections.

You may have heard of the four “C”s - cut, clarity, color and carat weight. Each diamond’s value hinges on its combination of these factors. There are irregularities both inside the stone, called inclusions, and on the surface, called blemishes. The combination of inclusions and blemishes make up the stone’s clarity. The standard clarity scale is from the Gemological Institute of America, or GIA. Terms like “SI2” or “VVS1” refer to the GIA clarity scale.

The most common inclusions are graining (faint lines or streaks), feathers (breaks in the crystal structure inside the diamond), and crystals (minerals trapped inside the stone.) Common blemishes include chips at the stone’s edge or cracks along its surface. While these characteristics affect the stone’s value in the traditional marketplace, they are often so small as to be invisible to the naked eye. If you’ve heard the term “VS” or “VVS” - these abbreviations both refer to inclusions so small that they can only be seen under 10x magnification, and even then only to the trained eye.

More and more in contemporary jewelry, you’ll see diamonds where clarity imperfections are celebrated. Many of the artists carried at Esqueleto use heavily included diamonds in their work, like the beautiful “salt and pepper” stones used in the collections of Lauren Wolf, Sarah Swell and more. The black “pepper” in these stones are small carbon inclusions - spots where the carbon atoms haven’t lined up. Rarely, we even see stones with other minerals trapped inside, like garnet inclusions (sometimes called "goldfish"!)

In addition to their unique beauty, these diamonds also offer an ecological advantage, as just a few decades ago they would have been headed for the slag pile. Now these natural wonders are cut and polished, and sold in contemporary jewelry. And despite their visible imperfections, these diamonds are generally just as strong as their white counterparts, making them a smart and beautiful choice for engagement rings.