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Cloudy Diamonds Buyers Guide

What to look out for on a diamond lab certificate related to cloudy inclusions

By Mike Fried,

Clouds are a type of inclusion that can develop in diamonds as they form naturally. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), a cloud consists of “many tightly grouped pinpoints that might be too small to distinguish individually but together have a hazy appearance.”

As you may have read elsewhere on our website, its best to find an “eye-clean” diamond of lower clarity grade (like we discuss in our SI2 article). There is one “hidden” flaw that is disastrous. Not only will it sap all the brilliance out of the diamond, it will also devalue the diamond severely. Those are large clouds.

Take a look at this diamond from James Allen. In theory it looks like the perfect diamond, but in reality it has zero brilliance and is not worth the price. You are better of spending a little more on a diamond like this one from James Allen.

All diamonds have imperfections. Some contain noticeable flaws, while other blemishes are more hidden. Cloudy diamonds are diamonds with a hazy effect. And just like all types of inclusions, sometimes clouds create a problem, but not always.

Know what to look for and how to differentiate between good and bad cloudy diamonds.

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

Mike Fried has written hundreds of articles and helped answer more than 30,000 emails from our readers. This has given him a unique perspective on what information truly helps our readers in their quest for finding the perfect diamond engagement ring or piece of jewelry.

Mike is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

To read more about our process for secret shopping and reviewing companies and additional details about how we operate, check out this article.

What does a cloudy diamond mean?

A cloudy diamond has inclusions that make it appear hazy in some parts or all of the diamond. For instance, multiple smaller inclusions clustered together can cause the diamond to look foggy or dull.

Without looking at a particular diamond, it’s hard to know what the cloudiness is caused by. The nature and severity of the inclusions impact how cloudy or clear a diamond looks, especially for lower graded clarity diamonds.

It’s not solely cloud inclusions—those made up of three or more crystal inclusions—that can make a diamond appear hazy. It can be other types of inclusions like feathers and twinning wisps that can cloud the diamond.

In general, there are two main scenarios where a diamond looks cloudy.

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Lower clarity grade diamonds under 1 carat

If the diamond is less than 1 carat, a certificate from the GIA or AGS usually doesn’t come with a clarity plot (a clarity plot is a map of all the diamond’s imperfections). Without a clarity plot, you won’t know how large the cloud is or where it’s located on the diamond. You’ll need to look at the diamond yourself to review its clarity.

If the diamond is an SI1 clarity grade or lower, be sure to pay particular attention. If the report says “clarity grade based on clouds that aren’t shown,” that means there’s a large cloud covering a big portion of the diamond. This is a red flag. In these cases, there are usually a number of smaller spots and tiny clouds that warrant the lower clarity grade. Each individual inclusion is small, but together they make for a hazy diamond.

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Certain diamonds with fluorescence

Fluorescence can improve a diamond’s color but sometimes causes a cloudy effect. Particularly, be on the watch for diamonds with strong/very strong fluorescence in D-I color grades and medium fluorescence on D-G color grades. Very often—but not always—these levels of fluorescence cause a hazy or milky look.

It’s important to know that cloudiness is not visible on a screen or under store lights. If you’re buying a diamond in person, always view the diamond in daylight first. If you’re buying online, it’s better to avoid these fluorescence combinations altogether to lower the risk. 

In general, here’s what to know about diamond fluorescence and cloudiness:

  • Slight/Faint Blue Fluorescent diamonds never appear hazy
  • Medium Blue Fluorescent diamonds rarely appear hazy
  • Strong/Very Strong Blue Fluorescent diamonds usually appear hazy

If a diamond has strong or very strong blue fluorescence, it’ll most likely look hazy or oily on D-I colors. This cloudiness causes the diamond to look less transparent.

Expert buying tip: Only buy fluorescent diamonds from a reputable vendor to ensure they’re high-quality. If shopping in person, ask to see the diamonds under UV and normal lighting.

Are cloudy diamonds bad?

Cloudy diamonds aren’t always bad, depending on the severity of the cloudiness. If the cloudiness doesn’t take up a large portion of the diamond—specifically the table—then it can still be a beautiful stone. Or if there are a few small clouds on the edges, it won’t take away from the diamond’s beauty. They usually aren’t as noticeable and may even be covered by the ring setting. But a large cloud, on the other hand, can affect the transparency and beauty of a diamond. 

Besides the inclusions that can cause a diamond to be hazy, it’s also possible that the problem stems from the cleanliness of the stone. For instance, with normal wear, your engagement ring can look cloudy from grime, soap residue and oils. That’s why it’s important to know how to clean a diamond ring. If your diamond doesn’t sparkle as much as it used to, it’s probably due for a cleaning. You can clean the ring yourself or schedule an appointment at your jeweler.

Cloudy diamond price

Cloudy diamond prices are usually lower than non-cloudy diamonds. Because a clear, brilliant diamond will be more eye-catching, a cloudy diamond is priced lower. In our eyes, the lower price of a noticeably cloudy diamond is not worth it.

You’re better off trying to get the lowest clarity grade that still offers an eye-clean, transparent diamond. You’ll save hundreds or thousands by choosing a lower grade over a high clarity graded diamond. For example, this eye-clean 1.06 Carat H/VS2 diamond from Blue Nile costs $5,804, while this 1.09 Carat IF/H diamond from Blue Nile costs $7,003. With all other qualities being equal, the VS2 diamond is $1,198—or 17%—less!

That’s why it’s important to look at each diamond or get an expert’s help.

How do you fix a cloudy diamond?

If a diamond has inclusions that make it cloudy, there isn’t a way to fix the internal structure. If the diamond is hazy due to it being covered with residue and grime, then you can clean it to remove the cloudiness. A clean diamond will have more brilliance and fire because light can reach the diamond and reflect off of the table.

How do you keep a diamond ring shiny?

The best way to keep a diamond ring shiny is to routinely clean it. You can clean your engagement ring with water, dish soap and a soft-bristle brush. You can also take it to a local jeweler where they usually do cleanings for free.

Cloudy diamonds: Go for brilliant instead

You want to avoid a noticeably hazy diamond because it takes away from its brilliance. Instead, aim for an eye-clean, transparent-looking stone. A diamond’s cut quality impacts its beauty and brilliance the most. But a poor clarity diamond with too many inclusions or a large cloud covering the table is less than desirable.

For help reviewing diamonds for clarity and other aspects, send us a message.

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What we love about them:
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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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