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Diamond Feather Inclusions: What to Watch For

By Mike Fried,

Diamonds have all sorts of inclusions. A feather inclusion is one type of internal inclusion. It’s a crack within the diamond that has a feathery look when viewed from a right angle. Depending on the color, size, and location of the feather, it can either impact the diamond considerably or not be noticeable at all.

You should not reject a diamond outright just because it has a feather. This diamond from Blue Nile, for example, is absolutely stunning and a great choice. The fact that there is a feather inclusion does not impact that in any way. But other feather inclusions may be an issue.

Learn all about diamond feather inclusions so you know what to avoid. We’ll also cover other important info about inclusions and diamond clarity.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

What are feather inclusions?
Are feather inclusions bad?
What is a feather-filled diamond?
Are diamond inclusions noticeable?
Do inclusions affect a diamond’s brilliance?
Are diamonds with inclusions worthless?

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.

What is a feather inclusion in a diamond?

A feather inclusion is an internal inclusion that is a fracture with a feathery appearance when viewed from a right angle. Feather inclusions can look white or dark like most inclusions. The size and location of the feather impact how problematic it will be for the diamond’s beauty.

Large feathers

Huge feathers can have a negative effect on the appearance and durability of a diamond. A large feather can impede the path of white and colored light—impacting the diamond’s brilliance and fire.

When a large feather is located in the girdle (the thin perimeter of a diamond), it can make a diamond more prone to chipping. The Princess Cut is the most affected shape by this because any inclusions located in the corners—especially feathers—can cause chipping.

Small feathers

There are hairline feathers as well. A hairline feather is a shallow fracture that looks like a scratch at first glance (but goes deeper in the diamond). These are usually harmless.

These smaller feathers are still called “feathers” on certifications, as there’s no distinction between large and small feathers on lab reports. You’ll have to review the diamond yourself to determine the size and impact of the feather.

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Look at this 1.01ct H/SI1 diamond example from Blue Nile below. When you open the GIA certificate, you’ll see a lot of feathers located all around the girdle. But since they are very small and most of them almost invisible, they don’t affect the diamond in any way and the diamond is eye-clean. One of the feathers is marked red and you can see that it’s hardly noticeable even when it’s 20X magnified.

SI1 eye-clean diamond from Blue Nile small feathers
SI1 eye-clean diamond

Diamond inclusion mapping

The clarity plot—a mapping of the diamond’s inclusions—can help you evaluate a feather diamond. The plot, which comes on the certificate of most diamonds over 1 carat, shows where the inclusions are located. Take a close look at the diamond to see if you can spot those inclusions.

Is a feather in a diamond bad?

A feather in a diamond can be detrimental to the stone’s beauty and durability, but not always. A feather can be dark, white or transparent. The darker the inclusion, the more noticeable it is. Large feathers can impact how light travels through the diamond. If a feather impedes light, the diamond is usually less brilliant.

For any inclusions or blemishes in a diamond, the most important thing is to find one that’s eye-clean. A small crack like a hairline feather will likely still be an eye-clean stone. For an eye-clean diamond, it means you can’t see blemishes and inclusions with the naked eye.

As the American Gem Society states here, “many inclusions and blemishes are very small, and can be hard to see with the naked eye.” Large feathers that are visible to the eye can prevent a diamond from having an eye-clean appearance, while tiny ones may not be noticeable even with significant magnification.

You can review the HD photography from an online vendor like James Allen or Blue Nile to see if you notice imperfections like feathers. If you’re shopping in a bricks and mortar store, take the diamond away from the bright, fluorescent lights. Look at the stone under more natural light—ideally daylight—to see if you notice any imperfections.

Here is an example of a large feather located on the diamond’s table and visible to the naked eye. View the original 1.21ct J/SI1 Round diamond from Blue Nile here.

SI1 Round Cut with a large feather

“Feather [is a] general trade term for a break in a gemstone, often white and feathery in appearance.”

“Feather inclusions in a diamond can be indicative of a rough ride from the earth’s mantle to the surface. These birthmarks are signs of a diamond’s natural origin and make your diamond unique in the world.” Gemological Institute of America (GIA)

What is a feather-filled diamond?

A feather-filled diamond is one with multiple feathers in it. If the feathers are small enough, the diamond might be OK to buy for an engagement ring. If the feathers are large, dark or on the diamond’s girdle or on the diamond’s table, then it’s best to avoid buying that diamond.

Are diamond inclusions noticeable?

Most diamond inclusions aren’t noticeable (unless it’s under magnification), meaning the diamond is eye-clean. Some diamond inclusions, including large feathers, can be noticeable to the naked eye. The size, color, quantity and location of inclusions all play a factor in how easy they are to spot.

So if you’re wondering, “can you see diamond inclusions?” the answer is: it depends.

Do inclusions affect a diamond’s brilliance?

Inclusions can affect a diamond’s brilliance—meaning how well white light reflects back to your eye off the diamond’s table. When an inclusion impedes light, the light might exit out of the sides or the bottom of the diamond instead. In these cases, the diamond will appear dull and lifeless.

The aspect that impacts brilliance most readily is the diamond cut. Diamond color and clarity play a role in a diamond’s brilliance, but not as much as cut does.

Are diamonds with inclusions worthless?

Diamonds with inclusions are not worthless, because all diamonds have inclusions. If you can see the inclusions with the naked eye, we suggest not buying that diamond.

If you can’t see the inclusions—which happens in most cases in an SI1 grade or better—the diamond is eye-clean, and a good purchase (as long as you’re not paying for a higher clarity grade than you need to). For instance, this 1.05 carat IF diamond in G color from Blue Nile costs $8,610 while this 1.05 carat Round cut G/VS2 diamond from Blue Nile only costs $5,730, With all other qualities being the same, the IF diamond costs $1,199 more—a 17% difference! That’s why we recommend looking for an eye-clean diamond at the lowest clarity grade.

For help looking for an eye-clean diamond, send us a note.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab-created diamonds online.
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well-known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high-quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. 
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
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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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