The Diamond Pro

Diamond Feather Inclusions: What to Watch For

By Michael Fried
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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.

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

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.

Look at this 1.20ct J/SI1diamond example 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 from Blue Nile

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.

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 1.20ct J/SI1 Round diamond here.

SI1 Round Cut from Blue Nile with large feather

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 a diamond’s brilliance most readily is its Cut quality. 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 1.09 Carat IF diamond in H color costs $7,003 while this 1.06 Carat Round Cut H/VS2 diamond only costs $5,804, 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.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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