Friday, January 7, 2011

What is Diamond Clarity?

A diamond's clarity refers to its relative freedom from imperfections - internal inclusions and/or surface blemishes. Flawless diamonds are absolutely clear; they are the most sought after and consequently, the most expensive.

However, few things in nature are absolutely perfect, and diamonds are no exception. Most diamonds have internal features, called inclusions, and surface irregularities, called blemishes. Together, they are the diamond's 'clarity characteristics'.

Clarity is the relative absence of these clarity characteristics.

Blemishes are surface imperfections including scratches and nicks. Inclusions are internal, though some might break the surface. Tiny diamond or other mineral crystals may be trapped within the diamond as it forms. Depending on their size and location, they may still be there after the diamond has been cut and polished.

How is clarity graded?
Similar to the color scale, a system for grading clarity has evolved that is generally accepted in the industry. Here's how the GIA clarity grading scale works:
Shows no inclusions or blemishes of any sort under 10x magnification when observed by an experienced grader.
Internally Flawless
Has no inclusions when examined by an experienced grader using 10x magnification, but will still have some minor blemishes.
VVS1 and VVS2
Very Very Slightly Included
Contains minute inclusions that are difficult even for experienced graders to see under 10x magnification.
VS1 and VS2
Very Slightly Included
Contains minute inclusions such as small crystals, clouds or feathers, when observed with effort under 10x magnification.
SI1 and SI2
Slightly Included
Contains inclusions (clouds, included crystals, knots, cavities, and feathers) that are noticeable to an experienced grader under 10x magnification.
I1, I2, I3
Contains inclusions (possibly large feathers or large included crystals) that are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.

*Within the SI clarity grade, - SI3 - to denote inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, but do not effect transparency and brilliance to a significant degree.

Clarity and Value
Similar to color, carat weight and cut, clarity's influence on value is directly related to rarity. The better the clarity grade, the more desirable and valuable the diamond.

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A Quick "how To" On Diamond Care

You slip the ring on your finger, or hold the earring up to your ear, and you can't believe the flashes of light shimmering off that diamond. "It's stunning," you think to yourself, "and I don't ever want to take it off."
A diamond is a treasure that should last a lifetime, and with the right care and maintenance, so can that incomparable sparkle. At Spence Diamonds, we want you to enjoy your diamond's sparkling beauty for generations, so here's a few "dos and don'ts" of caring for your new diamond:
It is okay to:
Clean your jewelry in warm, soapy water with a soft brush
Use a mild soap, such as dish soap
Use products designed specifically for cleaning diamonds (ask us in store for details)
It is not wise to:
Wear your jewelry when using abrasive cleaning products, or ones that contain bleach or chlorine
Wear your diamond during manual labour activities, while using heavy equipment, weightlifting or while playing sports (for your own safety as well as that of your jewelry)
The setting of your diamond and the metals used in bands, bracelets and necklaces should be taken into consideration, too. Especially in the case of gold, you want to be sure that the cleaning products you choose won't tarnish the finish of your precious metals. By following the guidelines above, you should be able to keep your valuables in showroom shape, plus it gives you a perfect use for your old toothbrushes! On that note, its best if you stick to mild soap and water with your toothbrush. Today's new toothpastes are great for getting your teeth whiter, but are usually much too abrasive for your jewels.
Everyday wear and tear, and even the perspiration and natural oils from your fingers can have an effect on your jewelry's natural glow over time, so a regular cleaning will ensure that they always look their best.
If you have any questions about the proper care of your jewelry, you can visit any Spence Diamonds showroom. We'd be happy to offer plenty of tips on proper care and maintenance of your jewelry investment.
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Why is Colour Important When Selecting a Diamond?

Colour, when applied to white diamonds, is often misunderstood by people outside the diamond industry.

Most people think that all white diamonds are colourless. In fact, truly colourless diamonds are quite rare. The diamonds used most often in jewelry are nearly colourless with faint yellow or brown tints. These diamonds fall into the normal colour range.Within the normal colour range, the closer to colourless, the more desirable and valuable the diamond.

In the 1950's, the GIA introduced the D-Z colour grading scale that is still the industry standard.

GIA Colour Grade Scale
D - F: Colourless
G - J: Near Colourless
K - M: Faint Yellow
N - R: Very Light Yellow
S - Z: Light Yellow

How is colour measured?
Colour in white diamonds is most commonly measured by comparing the diamond to a set of 'master stones' of known colour. The highest 'master stone' is E-colour. Any diamond better than the E-colour master is rated D-colour.

Each colour grade is actually a narrow range of colors. There is no one exact colour for any GIA grade. So, an F-colour diamond can be a strong, average or weak F-colour. However, as long as the diamond is better than the G-colour master, it receives an F-colour grade.

For a Diamond colour chart please visit

Fluorescence is a unique effect that causes some diamonds to produce a glow (usually blue or yellow) when exposed to a strong ultraviolet light. Some prefer a diamond with some 'blue fluorescence' because it may make the diamond in the 'near colourless' or 'faint yellow' ranges look somewhat whiter.

In the 'colourless' range, fluorescence has no effect on colour, though it can cause the diamond to have a slightly milky appearance.

Why is a diamond's colour grade important?
The brilliant, fiery, sparkles of light that radiate from a high quality white diamond are unmatched by any other gem. The diamond acts like a prism, dividing light into spectral colors, which are then reflected as colour flashes, called fire. Any natural colour in the diamond filters the light, reducing its fire and brilliance.

The less colour in the diamond, the more colorful the fire, and the better the diamond's colour grade. The better the colour grade, the more desirable and valuable the diamond.

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Diamonds: Cushion Cut Diamonds

The Cushion Cut Diamond was an extremely popular diamond shape a century ago. Cushion cut diamonds have a romantic look about them and have once again become extremely popular as a diamond choice especially with Hollywood movies stars and celebrities.
Cushion cut diamonds have a romantic look about them unlike other fancy shape diamonds. Cushion cut diamonds have lended themselves to the ‘Halo’ and ‘micro pave’ ring designs which are at present hugely popular.
Cushion cut diamonds are also sometimes referred to as “pillow-cut” diamonds. Modern cushion cuts are based on the antique cushion cuts, which are a combination of a round and square outline with a softened square or “pillow” shape.

Some of the most famous diamonds in the world are cushion cut diamonds. These include the Hope Diamond, the Cullinan II and the Tiffany Yellow.

Cushion cut diamonds have rounded corners and larger facets to increase their brilliance. These larger facets highlight the diamond’s clarity, so if you choose a Cushion cut diamond with a SI clarity grade, be sure to review the clarity plot on the diamond certificate.
Cushion cut diamonds can vary in the degree of rectangular shape that they have. For cushion cut diamonds that have an almost square look but elegant and classical charm a length to width ratio of 1.1 - 1.2 is best.

Cushion cut diamonds are an interesting alternative to oval shape diamonds or a modern princess cut diamond. The cushion cut diamond has the ability to display a high degree of returning light and brilliance and a sparkle which is dazzling. Cushion cut diamonds come to life, yet they still possess a dreamy quality.
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What is a Good Diamond Cut?

Rough diamonds can be cut by experts to virtually any shape and size

Some of the most popular shapes are round, oval, princess, emerald, marquise, pear, heart, triangle and radiant. The cut of a polished diamond is the only human contribution to its beauty, fire and brilliance.

Because of its extraordinary ability to reflect light, the round brilliant diamond is the most popular shape today.

Cut determines amount of reflected light that exits through the top of a diamond. The better the cut, the more light exits through the top, the more brilliant and beautiful the diamond.

Is cut important? Many gemologists consider cut to be the most important diamond characteristic:

  • A poorly cut diamond will appear relatively dull, even if clarity and color are perfect. When light is reflected through the sides and bottom of the diamond, not the top, brilliance and fire are dramatically reduced.
  • The 'well-cut' diamond reflects almost all the light through the top; it will be the most beautiful, and the most valuable.

So, why don't we hear more about cut? Diamond sellers prefer to talk about carat weight, color and clarity. That's because those measures are relatively simple to explain:

  • Carat weight is an exact measure
  • Color is easy to determine by comparing the diamond to 'master stones'
  • Clarity is a bit more difficult to judge, but there are well-established rules and standards that are accepted by all reputable diamond grading laboratories On the other hand, grading the cut of a diamond is complex. It is the analysis of all the diamond's proportions taken together that determines the cut grade.

Even the most reputable gemological laboratories try to avoid grading cut. In fact, only the AGS (American Gemological Society) has an established system for grading cut. Hopefully, the GIA, EGL, UGL will follow their lead.

How is cut graded? First, let's look at the parts of a diamond that are considered when evaluating cut:

the width of the diamond as measured through the girdle
the largest facet of a diamond
the top portion of the diamond; the crown extends from the girdle to the table
the narrow band around the widest part of the diamond; the girdle separates the crown from the pavilion
the bottom portion of the diamond; the pavilion extends from the girdle to the culet
the facet at the tip of the diamond; diamonds of excellent cut have culets that are invisible to the naked eye
the height of the diamond; depth is measured from the table to the culet
To determine the diamond's cut grade:

  • All the proportions of the diamond are considered
  • All the angles between faces and facets are measured

The symmetry of the diamond is evaluated The final cut grade of the diamond is determined by its weakest component. For example, an 'extremely thin' girdle will result in a poor cut grade, even if every other measurement is ideal.

Remember: Only about 3% of polished diamonds are ideal cuts. They are exquisite and rare gems that reflect back 96% or more of the light that enters through the table.

No other diamond characteristic has so much impact on price!

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Your complete guide to investing in Diamonds and diamond price estimation

Diamond priceThroughout history, diamonds have been sought after not only for aesthetics, but also because they can be very sound investments. To understand the potential of diamonds as assets, it is important to understand why the world values them.

Diamonds have intrinsic value: While diamonds have many unique properties, their primary and objective merit lies in the fact that they are the hardest substances on earth, and last virtually for ever.

Diamonds are highly portable: For all their value, diamonds can easily be concealed and carried, and in times of war or threat, diamonds have invariably been the only precious items that fleers have been able to retain.

Diamonds carry their value all over the world: Diamonds are currency and country agnostic, and hold their value anywhere in the world.

Investing in diamonds:

How are diamonds priced? Unlike gold or other commodity, there is no simple price-per-gram system for deciding diamond price. However, the diamond industry refers to international diamond pricing guides that price diamonds according to colour, cut, clarity, carat weight and other parameters.

Do diamonds appreciate in value? Yes, diamonds do appreciate in value, but this is truer of larger solitaires than of small stones. Certain kinds of diamonds are better bets in terms of value appreciation than others.

For example, the round brilliant cut is considered the best choice for diamond investors. Fancy shapes like the princess-cut, heart-shape and cushion cuts are fashionable choices for jewellery, but do not hold value as well as the ever popular round brilliant-cut diamond.

What about quality?It is true that higher the grade, higher the value of diamonds, but the highest-grade diamonds are not necessarily the best investments. In fact, diamonds in the upper mid range (clean and a good colour) are the most "current", i.e., the most bought and sold, which means they are more liquid than the highest grade stones. For example, it is typically easier to sell an H colour, VVS or SI clarity stone, than a D colour stone of flawless clarity.

Most importantly, an investor should only buy diamonds certified by international grading agencies like the GIA, IGI, HRD, or AGS. Certificates bear detailed descriptions of the stones, including unique traits that form the "thumbprint" of the stone. Labs also offer laser inscription services, which makes a diamond readily identifiable. In any case, certified diamonds are easier to sell, since uncertified diamonds will need a full, fresh appraisal, invariably at the seller's expense.

As a tangible, durable asset class with high intrinsic value, diamonds are excellent value holders that form a good hedge investment to retain money value, especially in uncertain and inflationary times. Although they are not a conventional choice for those seeking a quick profit, a shrewd and patient investor can reap handsome gains if he exploits the unique potential of diamonds as investments.

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The Four C's of Diamond Quality

Perhaps you've heard of the "Four C's" of diamond quality. Each and every unique diamond in the world has its own defining characteristics, and understanding each of them will help you make an informed decision when you come into a Spence Diamonds showroom.
Nothing is more important to the brilliance and sparkle of a diamond than its cut, as it is responsible for around 40% of a diamond's price. A well cut diamond will reflect light from one facet to another and back through the top, creating a dramatic sparkling effect that only a diamond can emit. Only the most skilled diamond cutters can shape a diamond with exacting precision, to release its full brilliance, taking into account such factors as proportions, finish, and of course symmetry.
When examining a diamond, be sure to view it "loose" (unmounted) under a neutral light source, to get the best view of its colour. In the "normal colour" range, the colour of a diamond is rated on a scale that goes from D to Z, with D being the whitest diamond available, and Z being a tinted, light yellow colour. For most jewelry, a colour grade from G to J is usually best.
Why "D to Z?" Before this rating system was invented, diamond professionals used many other symbols (including liberal uses of "A" and "AA") to rate colour, so the creators of the new system started at D, to avoid any confusion with the outdated ratings systems.
There are also various coloured diamond choices available today, but when you are looking specifically at a white diamond, you should understand how this scale works, and where your diamond of choice is rated on the spectrum. Also, the mounting of a diamond can impact its appearance. A more yellowish diamond will appear whiter next to a gold setting, whereas a white gold setting will make the diamond look less pure if you compare the two side-by-side.
The clarity of a diamond refers to the number and nature of inclusions or blemishes that are visible when you view it under a microscope. Some diamond professionals refer to clarity as "purity" or "quality," but neither of those start with "C," so we'll stick with clarity.
A blemish is an imperfection on the surface of a diamond, and an inclusion is a small spot contained within it. Diamonds with little or no imperfections such as these are rarer, and much more valuable. Five factors determine a diamond's clarity: the size, number, position, nature and "relief" of the inclusions. Relief describes the level of visibility of these imperfections. The clarity scale of a diamond is the easiest to understand: It varies from Flawless, to Internally Flawless, and from there goes to VVS, VS, SI and I. These are easy to understand and remember, because they stand for: Very Very Slightly included, Very Slightly included, Slightly Included, and Included. Each of these designations has varying levels as well, but getting a handle on these will help you understand the importance of clarity in a diamond's grading.
An "I" rated diamond will have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, whereas even a skilled diamond expert would need a microscope to see the inclusions in an "SI" diamond. Because of this, diamonds rated "SI" usually represent the best value for your investment.
Important Note: Skilled jewelry makers often mount a diamond so as to mask an inclusion from sight, helping it appear more flawless. Before buying a diamond, be sure to examine it loose under a microscope to get a better idea of its clarity.
The last and most obvious characteristic that a diamond is measured by is its Carat (abbreviated "ct."). A carat is a measure of weight, and it takes 142 of them to make an ounce.
Interesting bits of trivia:
You can mail 142 one-carat diamonds with just a single postage stamp (Not that you would want to)!
The majority of diamonds used in jewelry weigh less than one carat.
Obviously, a diamond's carat weight can have a big effect on its value. When written, carat weights are expressed as decimal numbers: 1.00 ct., 0.48 ct., 1.57 cts., and so on. In a piece which has more than one diamond, often times you will see the total carat weight of the diamonds shown.
At Spence Diamonds, each and every diamond comes with an official Diamond Certificate, which will give you a detailed blueprint of your diamond. Now that you understand the "Four C's" of diamond grading, you'll have a better understanding of these certificates, which give you detailed info on all of the factors discussed above, including a "plotting" that shows the exact location of inclusions and blemishes.
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