Last updated on April 9, 2021
Carat weight vs clarity grade is one of the most common dilemmas buyers face when choosing a diamond. It is a big question if you should choose a bigger stone and save on clarity, or you should get a smaller diamond of a higher clarity grade. Let’s see which of these factors is more important.
What Is Diamond Carat Weight?
Carat weight (ct) is the unit of measurement for the physical weight of diamonds. It originates from the ancient method of weighting precious metals and gemstones against the seed of the carob tree. At the time, carob seeds were considered to be even in weight and were used as weighting references by traders. As you could guess, carob seeds varied in sizes, and the actual weight of the gems could vary by around one metric carat.
It wasn’t until 1907, at the Fourth General Conference on Weights and Measures when it was agreed upon that one diamond carat would be equal to 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams. Nowadays, carat weight is measured using a highly accurate and calibrated digital scale capable of measuring even extremely small weights.
In terms of gemstone weight, there is also the term “point”. A point is one-hundredth of a carat, and 100 points are equal to 1 carat.
It is important to understand that carat is not how large a diamond is, meaning two diamonds of the same carat weight may differ in size depending on their cut quality and shape.
Carat weight is one of the four main components (4 Cs) of a diamond along with colour, clarity and cut, that indicate the quality of the stone and determine its value. Diamond price increases with carat weight because larger diamonds are rarer and more desirable as a result. However, two diamonds of the same carat weight can vary in prices depending on the other three factors of the diamond and other pricing criteria.
What Is Diamond Clarity Grade?
Clarity is one of the main characteristics of a diamond that grades how clean the diamond is from any kind of inclusions (internal flaws) and blemishes (external flaws).
According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), diamond clarity is graded on the following scale:
- FL (Flawless) – no inclusions and blemishes visible under 10x magnification.
- IF (Internally Flawless) – no inclusions visible under 10x magnification.
- VVS1, VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included) – hardly noticeable and very small inclusions visible under a gemological microscope.
- VS1, VS2 (Very Slightly Included) – minor inclusions visible with effort under 10x magnification.
- SI1 and SI2 (Slightly Included) – easily noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification.
- I1, I2 and I3 (Included) – obvious inclusions visible with the naked eye.
Although in most cases imperfections can not be easily recognized by the naked eye, clarity along with colour are what people notice first.
Clarity grade has a significant impact on a diamond’s value, meaning the fewer inclusions and blemishes the diamond has, the better its grade and the higher its price.
Diamond Carat Weight vs Clarity Grade
Unfortunately, many people prefer bigger diamonds saving on cut, clarity and colour. However, this is never a good idea in terms of diamonds, as diamonds are all about quality. Of course, you can ignore quality characteristics and buy a bigger diamond to show off, but the truth is that you get a big low-quality stone.
In case you are still determined to buy a bigger diamond with a lower clarity grade, you should understand that you are most likely to end up with a stone that has visible flaws which get even more noticeable as the size of the diamond goes up. This is especially true for diamonds graded SI2 and I1/I2/I3. All these stones have inclusions visible to the naked eye.
As a general rule, if you are going to buy a diamond with a clarity grade lower than VS2/SI1, it is best to opt for a smaller stone (1ct and less). If diamonds are graded lower than the mentioned range, they are most likely to have visible inclusions. Of course, in some cases, lower clarity does not translate into a visible difference.
It is also worth mentioning that a bigger diamond of lower clarity grade does not always look worse than a smaller one of higher clarity. Top-clarity diamonds do not differ significantly from mid-clarity stones if viewed with the naked eye. That is why it is wise to choose a VVS range diamond instead of an IF stone to save some money.