Just like people, diamonds can also have some natural “birthmarks” that appear as they are formed deep inside the ground. These are referred to as “clarity features” or inclusions and are essentially tiny imperfections and features discernible under 10x magnification to a professional grader.
Inclusions not only help graders distinguish between synthetic and natural stones – but they also help assess the diamond’s quality. Depending on their size, quantity, placement, tone, and color, these clarity features may – or may not – be apparent to the naked eye. That’s why a truly flawless gem is so difficult to find.
However, what if the inclusions could be removed? Would a diamond be more beautiful and valuable then? In this article, we’ll explain what inclusions are, which types of inclusions exist, and discuss if they’re necessarily bad. Plus, we’ll answer the question on everyone’s mind: Can you remove inclusions from a diamond?
Can You Remove Inclusions From a Diamond?
The short answer to this question is:
Yes, you can remove inclusions from a diamond. There are several different techniques that can substantially increase your diamond’s clarity and overall appearance by removing imperfections.
However, it’s worth mentioning that, depending on the type of inclusions and their size, these alternations might affect your diamond’s weight and shape, as well.
Treatments That Can Improve Clarity (Remove Inclusions)
The following are some of the treatments for removing diamond inclusions:
1. Laser Drilling
Diamond makers can use lasers to remove or brighten a dark-appearing inclusion by drilling a small hole in the inclusion’s location. The inclusion may burn as a result of the laser, or the treater may boil the diamond in bleach – or acid – to brighten it even more.
In addition to the initial inclusion, which is now less apparent, laser drilling gems will leave a small – but discernible – tunnel from the surface to the inclusion. Despite the extra tunnel, the fact that the apparent black inclusion is no longer visible should enhance the diamond’s clarity rating.
A laser drilled diamond’s tunnel is so tiny (20-25 microns in diameter) that it has no effect on the diamond’s weight. It’s no bigger than a strand of hair.
Because the tunnel generated by the laser affects the stone’s crystal structure, laser-drilled diamonds can be more brittle than non-laser-drilled diamonds. Also, dirt may get stuck in the tunnel and make it more apparent.
It’s worth noting that the drill hole can’t be removed; laser drilling is considered a permanent treatment method. The diamond may be fracture-filled after drilling, though – which is our next point.
2. Fracture Filling
The most frequent diamond treatment used to improve the clarity is injecting molten leaded glass-like material into a diamond’s fractures. Surface-reaching fractures could be efficiently concealed by fracture filling.
It might also help a person who smashes a diamond by mistake.
The treatment can endure for years with good care – even though the filling can be destroyed during routine jewelry repairs or by frequent cleanings with steam, acid, or ultrasonics.
If the filler melts and spills out, it might be possible to retract it. However, it’s impossible to make the filler colorless after it has turned dark. Still, fracture filling might improve the appearance of a diamond – while also lowering its color significantly.
Recutting a diamond is another approach to increase its clarity. That implies the jeweler will cut material from all sides of the stone – eradicating some of the impurities in the process.
The disadvantage of this technique is obvious: It decreases the carat weight of your diamond, resulting in a smaller – and less expensive – stone. This procedure only works if the inclusions are mainly close to the stone’s surface; if they are closer to the center, you won’t be able to cut them out.
You Can Trade Your Diamond
The most straightforward solution to get rid of these bothersome diamond imperfections is to switch your stone for a nicer one and cover the price difference. All clarity improvement treatments come with a price tag, whether in the form of service fees or the loss in the stone’s value.
Also, we advise you to consider whether the cost of trading your existing diamond for a new one is proportional to the expenses of the other alternatives we listed above. If an exchange turns out to be the most cost-effective option among all the alternatives, then yes, you should go for it.
What Are Diamond Inclusions?
The term “inclusion” is sometimes misunderstood to refer primarily to the black marks found in diamonds. These black marks represent crystals of the mineral found within the diamond. But actually, there are plenty of different types of inclusions that might occur in a diamond – and not all are formed naturally.
A perfect diamond is composed entirely of carbon organized in a crystal lattice devoid of any other minerals. Anything “included” or confined within the diamond is considered an inclusion by definition.
There are a plethora of possible impurities that could get trapped within a diamond – such as smaller diamonds, gem crystals like sapphire and garnet, and other elements and minerals.
Inclusions are essentially disruptions – or cracks – in the carbon lattice, such as feathers, twinning wisps, and graining. Furthermore, inclusions are also any characteristics that might be seen at 10x magnification by a qualified grader.
Although not strictly “inclusions,” elements like chips and naturals are essential to mention here, too. They’re called flaws since they’re only on the surface and not within the diamond. Put simply, anything that’s on the surface of the diamond is referred to as a “blemish,” not an inclusion.
Lastly, each stone verified by the GIA or AGS will come with a diamond inclusion plot.
Diamond clarity is the degree to which the gem presents inclusions and blemishes. It also refers to the diamond’s rarity and purity. The lesser the number of inclusions and blemishes in a diamond, the better the clarity grade.
Diamonds that have none – or very few inclusions – are incredibly uncommon and valuable.
Evaluating a diamond’s clarity entails analyzing the quantity, size, type, and location of these features, as well as how they impact the overall look of the stone. When deciding on the optimal clarity for your stone, keep in mind that no diamond is 100% pure. The closer it gets to purity, though, the clearer it becomes.
The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale consists of six categories:
- Flawless (FL) – No inclusions or imperfections are apparent under 10x magnification to an experienced grader.
- Internally Flawless (IF) – The grader can see no inclusions – only minor blemishes – under 10x magnification.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 & VVS2) – Inclusions are hard to spot under 10x magnification, even for a professional grader.
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 & VS2) – Minor inclusions that are difficult to notice under 10x magnification for a professional grader.
- Slightly Included (SI1 & SI2) – Inclusions are visible to a professional grader under 10x magnification.
- Included (I1, I2, & I3) – Inclusions are visible with 10x magnification and may influence clarity and brilliance.
When all other parameters are equal, there is no real difference in performance or aesthetics among the top five clarity grades. Nonetheless, there are oftentimes large pricing differences among them.
But if no one can tell the difference, why are higher clarities more pricey? The answer is simple – rarity.
In nature, diamonds with fewer inclusions are more uncommon than those with many. As a result, even though most people can’t tell the difference, these harder-to-obtain gems attract a higher price.
That’s why consumers seeking the best deals may simply trade down to the VS (Very Small Inclusions in a diamond) and even SI (Slightly Included inclusions) grades to find diamonds that are just as stunning but cost a fraction of the price of the theoretically more pure grades.
How Gemologists Classify Inclusions In Diamonds
When identifying and evaluating inclusions, renowned third-party diamond certifying labs – such as the GIA and AGSL – follow a precise protocol. The size, kind, and positioning of the inclusion can all affect the clarity grade of a diamond.
The four guidelines followed by these gem laboratories are as follows:
- Gemologists will initially determine the size of the inclusion. That is important because the more significant the diamond inclusions are, the worse the clarity rating will be.
- The second step is to figure out how many visible inclusions a diamond has. If a diamond has several inclusions on the table, the clarity grade will be lower.
- Gemologists will consider where the inclusions are on and within the diamond. Because diamonds are assessed from top to bottom, an inclusion towards the bottom or pavilion will have a lower chance of reducing the clarity grade.
- Finally, gemologists will evaluate whether inclusions are internal or external. External ones – such as those on the table – might, for example, lower the clarity grade. Internally Flawless diamonds, on the other hand, can be rated even if they have no internal inclusions.
Diamond Inclusions Types
As we already mentioned, not every inclusion is the same. Learning more about them could aid you in making a well-informed purchasing decision.
- The most prevalent forms of inclusion are pinpoint inclusions. They are microscopic black spots that appear on the table of a diamond, similar to blackheads on the skin.
- Feather inclusions are the second most common kind – and the one to be concerned about. They’re tiny internal fissures that, if found from top to bottom, might jeopardize the diamond’s longevity.
- Diamond cavities are the rarest of all inclusions. A cavity inclusion – much like a tooth cavity – is a tiny hole in the diamond. Don’t buy a stone with a cavity. These diamonds are typically referred to as “industrial grade” and are not utilized in jewelry.
With that said, let’s look at different types of diamond inclusions:
Laser Drill Hole
Since laser-drilled holes in stones are permanent, GIA will grade them. But if the drill hole on the surface is difficult to see, instead of the “Laser Drill Hole” mark, a notation “Internal laser drilling is present” will appear in the comments section. Any diamond laser drilling is irreversible; thus, the seller must mention it, as laser drilling has a significant impact on the diamond’s price.
Crystal inclusions exist in a wide range of shapes and colors. The color of any diamond is determined by the mineral contained within it.
White crystal inclusions are often tiny diamond crystals trapped within the diamond. But the white crystals are not easily observable if they are not too large, though. Other famous crystal hues include black (Carbon or Graphite), red (Garnets), and – on rare occasions – green (Peridot pieces entrapped in the Diamond).
In most cases, crystal inclusions in eye-clean diamonds are too tiny to pose a real – let alone severe – durability threat to the gem.
The crystals develop in a long, thin needle shape instead of the more normal circular shape due to the extreme pressure applied to a diamond as it forms. And under 10x magnification, needles resemble small rods.
Needles, which are frequently very minute and white or translucent, usually aren’t apparent to the human eye – unless they are of a different color, of course. If needles form in clusters, they may detract from the purity and value of the diamond.
Pinpoints are microscopic white (or black) crystals trapped inside a diamond and appear as tiny dots when magnified.
Individual tiny inclusions seldom influence the purity of a diamond. But when three (or more) pinpoints are joined together, they create a cloud. Clouds could change the purity of a diamond based on the number and color of pinpoints in the cloud.
A cloud inclusion is a broad phrase that describes a cluster of pinpoints/crystals that can be white, black, or translucent and are located near each other.
They are several densely clustered pinpoints that might be too small to detect individually – but they appear as a white or a gray area in the diamond. Clouds give the gem a foggy look and have an adverse effect on how light passes through it.
Related Read: Why Do Diamonds Get Cloudy?
A twinning wisp is a series of bright or dark-colored pinpoints, clouds, or crystals that occur in a diamond’s growing site. Fundamentally, that’s a diamond intergrowth twisted together in a twinning plane.
Twinning wisps within a diamond typically appear as white or black stripes – or streaking – at extreme magnification. It’s worth mentioning that twinning wisps aren’t always a cause for concern, but they should be carefully assessed to establish whether they impact the stone’s aesthetic performance.
A knot is an incorporated white or transparent diamond crystal, similar to a smaller diamond within a bigger diamond, with its own development patterns that might differ from the original diamond’s. A diamond knot is far rarer than other more typical inclusions such as pinpoints, needles, or feathers.
However, the existence of a knot might be even more troublesome: Knots that appear near the diamond surface after cutting could stretch all the way to the surface, lowering the diamond’s grade significantly.
A feather is a common name for a gem break. They can seem white or “feathery,” depending on the viewing position.
Feathers are microscopic cracks or fractures inside the diamond that can be translucent and practically undetectable. Extreme feathers, especially those that reach for the surface or are near the girdle area, might pose problems with durability.
A chip is a shallow cavity formed due to the damage on the gem’s surface, and it’s usually at the girdle edge, facet junction, or culet. This form of inclusion is usually man-made, made by wear and tear – or unintentional hits.
Cavities form when an internal inclusion – such as a crystal – falls out of its pocket during the polishing process.
It’s an angular hole that forms when a feather fragment breaks away, or a surface-reaching crystal falls out – or is driven out – during polishing. That’s frequently visible on the diamond’s surface as a big or deep opening.
Related Read: Diamond Polish: From Rough Stone to a Beautiful Diamond
Diamonds that are struck by a blow or a severe hit when they are developing are likely to be bruised. A “bruise” is a tiny region of impact accompanied by microscopic root-link feathers; bruises usually form near the facet junction.
Bruises can be of any size and appear anywhere on the diamond’s surface, although they’re most commonly seen in the diamond crown.
An indented natural is a flaw that extends below the polished diamond’s surface from the raw stone’s original surface.
In essence, an indented natural is a portion of the raw diamond that the cutter is required to leave undisturbed throughout the polishing process and is typically located around the girdle.
It’s actually only called an “inclusion” because it extends below the finished stone’s surface.
These are unpolished portions of the diamond’s original surface. Naturals are often left on or around the diamond’s girdle.
While naturals are generally considered flaws, their existence indicates competent cutting technique, with the cutter retaining as much of the initial raw diamond’s weight as possible. Even at 10x magnification, the natural is still not visible near or at the girdle.
Naturals can be eliminated if the region is polished more coarsely by the cutter. However, the diamond’s weight would reduce by up to 25% as a result of this.
A diamond with an extra facet is actually one with a “man-made imperfection.” Whether you believe it or not, diamond-cutting mistakes are incredibly rare. These are purposefully carved to remove flaws near the stone’s surface. That’s right – these are not “mistakes” at all.
Extra facets are sometimes cut on purpose to increase the stone’s brightness. Furthermore, these are normally placed in certain spots by design and on purpose, and they do not impact a diamond’s clarity rating in any way.
What Diamond Inclusions Should You Avoid?
Are there inclusions that should be absolute deal-breakers, and if so, which ones would they be? Here are a few to take note of:
- Dark Crystals
- Long Feathers
Closing Thoughts & Advice
If you’re thinking of buying a diamond that has gone through the process of removing flaws – inclusions – you should generally be informed about how permanent or impermanent these changes are.
Fracture filling isn’t a permanent solution, and the seller might not be required to inform the buyer about it. But with laser drilling, which has a permanent impact, the jeweler does need to tell you about the procedure.
The laser drill holes on the stone are specified in the GIA’s diamond grading reports. So, if you want to know if a diamond has been improved, ask to view the certificate.
Do note that any gem that has undergone a nonpermanent or unstable treatment technique, such as coating or fracture filling, does not get a GIA grading assessment. The presence of treatments will be disclosed on GIA reports for gems that were laser drilled or HPHT treated.