Cloudy Diamonds Buyers Guide
What to look out for on a diamond lab certificate related to cloudy inclusions
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What to look out for on a diamond lab certificate related to cloudy inclusions
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 article on SI2 clarity). 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.
Cloudy diamonds are stones that exhibit a hazy, milky, or washed-out appearance due to internal or external flaws, known as inclusions or blemishes. These characteristics hinder the diamond’s ability to reflect light, thus compromising its brilliance and fire. Inclusions like clouds, feathers, or graining can contribute to a diamond’s cloudy appearance. The term “cloudy” is not an official grading term but is commonly used to describe diamonds that lack transparency and sparkle. The importance of avoiding cloudy diamonds cannot be overstated, as the primary allure of a diamond lies in its ability to interact with light beautifully.
When shopping for a diamond, it’s important to review the certificate and examine the stone in various lighting conditions. Look for terms like “internal graining,” “cloud,” or “pinpoints” on the certificate, which can be indicators of a cloudy appearance. Diamonds with high clarity grades are less likely to be cloudy, but it’s always good to visually inspect the stone or consult with an expert. Cloudiness significantly impacts a diamond’s value, making it less expensive than stones of comparable size and grade but far less desirable due to its lackluster appearance.
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.”
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.
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 (check out our diamond clarity guide to understand more about it).
If the diamond has SI1 clarity 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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Fluorescence in diamonds can improve their color but sometimes cause 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:
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.
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 with your jeweler.
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.
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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.
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.
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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