Ever wonder why jewelers look at diamonds with special magnifying lenses? They are looking for inclusions. Sometimes called flaws, inclusions are features inside the stone that can usually only be seen when magnified. The size and type of inclusion are what determine the clarity of a diamond.
Imperfect diamonds are rare and extremely expensive, so most of what is available in terms of loose stones, engagement rings and other jewelry has some type of flaw. An inclusion is like a freckle on your fiancé’s nose, it really shouldn’t be considered a flaw because it makes your diamond unique.
Types of Inclusions
Most gemstones that you find in jewelry stores are not perfect; they can have any number of inclusions. Here are the most common types of flaws found in diamonds:
Embedded within some diamonds are natural, raw minerals that create crystals. This type of inclusion usually can’t be seen with the naked eye, but when magnified you may spot crystals in any color of the rainbow depending on the type of mineral – carbon (black), ruby (red), emerald (green), etc. Colorless crystals are actually tiny diamonds enclosed within the cut diamond. Crystals formed in particular shapes or from special gemstones, such as your fiancé’s birthstone, are actually considered flaws that make a diamond more unique and precious.
Needles & Knots
A needle is a crystal which, because it was formed under great pressure, has a long, skinny shape. They are generally whitish in color and larger needles tend to decrease the diamond’s appearance and lower its value.
If a crystal touches the polished exterior of the diamond, it is considered a knot. Because they lie on the surface, these inclusions are more likely to be visible without magnification.
Pinpoints & Clouds
Pinpoints are the most common kind of inclusion; when you look into a loupe – the magnifying glass used by jewelers – they appear as white, gray or black colored dots. Essentially, pinpoints are tiny crystals and when they appear in clusters, referred to as clouds, they create a hazy area in the diamond and can decrease its clarity rating.
Small fractures, or points where two surfaces of the diamond don’t quite touch within the stone, are called feathers. If the feather is invisible when the diamond is face up, it shouldn’t negatively impact the clarity rating. Avoid buying diamonds with large feathers near the perimeter, or girdle, of the stone as they can make it less durable.
This inclusion is actually a series of flaws – pinpoints, feathers and crystals – which formed as the diamond grew. Twinning wisps look like streaks within the body of the rock and, upon closer inspection, you can see that they are distorted or twisting.
A common inclusion on the edge of the diamond’s girdle is called a natural. Historically the natural served as proof that the stone was cut from the rough with the largest possible diameter intact.
Minute fractures caused by fluctuations in the growth of a crystal are grain lines. They are usually white in color or look transparent and reflective. Grain lines are an irregular crystallization and, though they generally affect clarity, they may decrease the gem’s strength if located near the edge.
Girdle Fringe, Bruise, Laser Lines
Unnatural inclusions include girdle fringe (also known as bearding) bruises and laser lines; these are irregularities caused when the stone is cut or polished. Girdle fringe is comprised of thin, hair-like lines along the diamond’s edge and its appearance can usually be reduced with polishing. Bruises are dents at the crown of the diamond made with the polishing wheel. Laser lines look like trails of steam extending from the surface of the diamond into the core where laser drilling was used to clear away dark crystal flaws.
Diamond specialists aim to enhance the diamond’s clarity and ensure that it sparkles as much as possible, however these kinds of inclusions are sometimes the result of their work. Trustworthy jewelers will inform you if a stone has been enhanced in some way, but rest assured that these types of inclusions should not decrease the durability of a diamond.
Inclusions to Avoid When Purchasing a Diamond
Don’t let this information scare you away. Imperfections are completely normal and expected for the majority of diamonds on the market.
Purchasing a diamond for an engagement ring, wedding band or any other piece of jewelry is a big decision, though and you want to be sure you’re getting the most beautiful stone for your money. So, what types of inclusions should you avoid?
Flaws on the surface of the diamond, usually found on the girdle are a sign that it has been damaged and that its structure is weakened. Though small nicks can be polished or buffed away, the diamond may be more likely to chip again in the future. Larger chips would require re-cutting to restore the diamond, but obviously this reduces the stone’s overall size.
Ring and jewelry settings can hide chips, that’s why it’s important to have the diamond removed from the setting before carefully inspecting with a loupe. You can even run your finger over its surface to feel for imperfections. Chips are something to look for when buying antique or vintage jewelry as they can be caused by normal wear and tear.
Lines without feathering that you may see inside a diamond are cracks and they are a serious flaw in terms of a stone’s value and integrity. Cracks render the gem more susceptible to force and make it more likely to split entirely. It’s best not to purchase diamonds with extended cracks that touch the surface.
To learn more about what to look out for when purchasing diamonds, read the Top 5 Diamond Buying Mistakes.
Janviér Jewelers carries the finest diamonds and our helpful staff will gladly assist you in finding the perfect stone for any piece of jewelry. Visit our store today or call us at (302) 366-7448 to explore our selection of engagement rings and diamond jewelry.