Diamond Flaws

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Diamond Flaws
By Dave Letter

Exterior Flaws

Blemishes

These diamond flaws are present on the surface of a stone and can occur naturally. However, these are more likely to be caused due to the external environment, when a diamond was being cut and polished. These blemishes are classified as under.

Scratches

These are fine lines found on the surface of the diamond. They may have been present naturally or caused when a diamond was cut. While minor scratches can be removed through proper polishing, deep scratches need to be carefully considered while purchasing a stone.

Extra facets

These are usually cut to remove blemishes or certain close to surface inclusions on diamonds. At times these extra facets are also cut to enhance the brilliance of the diamond. These do not usually affect the clarity grade of a diamond.

Fracture

A breakage in diamonds that is not parallel to the cleavage plane is referred to as a fracture. Fractures are usually irregular in shape making a diamond look chipped. The practice of fracture filling is commonly employed to improve the clarity of such diamonds.

Fingerprints

Fingerprint inclusions in the shape of fingerprints can sometimes be found in diamonds. However such inclusions are rare in diamonds as compared to other stones like rubies. Such inclusions are usually formed during fluid assisted partial healing of fractures already present in stones. For this to take place in diamonds, high pressures and temperatures are required, which is unusual. Till now few such inclusions have been reported in natural blue and colorless diamonds. While this could indicate that diamonds have been HPHT treated , giving the required temperatures for fingerprint inclusions, such is not always the case. The earth may also cause geologically high temperatures, leading to the formation of fingerprint inclusions.

Pits

Small holes may be present on the surface of a diamond. These pits are usually not visible to the naked eye. However, pits present on the table facet of a diamond are usually visible and reduce the clarity of a diamond.

Nicks

Diamonds are also chipped at places causing the appearance of nicks. This is often repaired by adding extra facets. However too many facets reduce the brilliance of a diamond and are to be avoided.

Naturals

This refers to the original surface of the diamond which has not been polished and left as it is. Naturals are usually left on or near the girdle of the diamond. While these are considered as blemishes, the presence of naturals is a sign of good cutting practice, where the cutter has managed to retain as much of the original weight as possible. Indented naturals are also seen to exist on some stones, where the portion of the natural is seen to dip inside slightly from the diameter of the stone. Here the cutter usually leaves the indented natural either at the girdle or pavilion of the stone, in order to keep it less noticeable. In such positions, the natural is not visible even with a loupe. Indents can be removed if the cutter polishes out rougher. However, this would result in a drop of the diamond's weight by up to 25%.

Carbons

Diamonds are made from carbon, usually graphite. Nevertheless, while a diamond is being formed, it may not totally crystallize leading to the presence of small dots of black carbon. These black spots have been classified to be those of graphite, pyrrhotite and pentlandite. These surface flaws resemble a small black dot and may affect the clarity of the stone depending on the size of imperfection. The occurrence of this kind of flaw is rare in diamonds as compared to pinpoint inclusions. Carbons are usually seen in white or blue-white stones. However carbons are not commonly found in diamonds of poorer colors.

Chips

The breaking off of a small piece of diamond towards the surface is usually referred to as chipping. The term may be confused with 'diamond chips' which refer to very small pieces of diamonds. These are usually caused due to minor impact from the environment. Downward impact caused when a stone is being set or is being worn, can cause chips on the culet of the diamond. As these are commonly caused when a diamond is worn, it is suggested that while diamonds are being set, a little space be left between the base of the diamond and the head of the prongs of the ring. This space acts as a cushion protecting the diamond from possible chipping when it falls. Chips are however easy to remove.

Cavity

Larger chipping in diamonds leads to a diamond cavity. This term thus refers to the presence of a large or deep opening in a diamond. These can be caused either accidentally or when a diamond cutter has removed a large crystal inclusion close to the diamond surface.

Internal flaws

Crystal/ mineral inclusions

Some diamonds show the presence of small crystals, minerals or other diamonds. These are classified in various categories depending upon the size and structure of the inclusion. While many such inclusions are small in size and not visible to the naked eye, some diamonds may have large inclusions, which can be seen with the naked eye and can affect a diamond's clarity and also its life. Some crystals resemble a diamond inside a diamond and may also add to the look of the stone. These take on shapes of bubbles, needles or grains and are classified as under

Pinpoint inclusions

As the name implies, these inclusions are minute crystals usually white in color present inside the diamond. These resemble a small point of light and are, by far, the most common of all flaws found in diamonds. Most pinpoint inclusions do not affect the clarity of a diamond and are not visible to the naked eye and are usually not indicated on the plotting diagrams of diamond reports. Comments such as pinpoints not shown may be listed in the comments section.

Needles

Diamond crystals in a diamond can also be present in the form of long and thin needles. These may not be visible to the naked eye, unless the needle inclusion is of a noticeable color or has a noticeable presence. Some needle inclusions are known to give diamonds a special look too.

Cloud

The presence of three or more pinpoint inclusions close together can create an area of haze or a cloud in the diamond. While the occurrence of a small cloud is not visible to the naked eye, presence of many pinpoints covering a large area can affect the clarity of the diamond. These are usually indicated on grading reports in the form of tiny red dots close together or as circles and other formations.

Knots

When diamond crystals extend to the surface of the diamond, they are referred to as knots. These can be viewed under proper lighting conditions with a diamond loupe. Certain knot formations may also cause raised areas on particular facets of the diamond. The presence of knots may affect both the clarity and durability of the diamond and are best avoided.

Grain lines

Crystal inclusions in diamonds can also occur in the form of lines, known as grain lines. These are usually formed due to improper crystallization of the diamond, when it was being formed. Grain lines can also be caused due to improper polishing of the diamond. Even skilled diamond cutters may come across diamonds with variations in hardness when a facet is polished. This can cause microscopic lines across the facet. These grains are usually difficult to remove without excessive weight loss. Grain lines are commonly seen in pink fancy diamonds. A saturation of grain lines on pink stones can also make them look red.

Feathers

These are cracks in the stone that resemble the design of feathers. Presence of this in a diamond usually does not affect the life of the stone unless and until the feather runs through a major length of the stone or shows major stress points where it can break. If the cracks reach the surface or have deep fissures, the durability of the stone may be reduced with the possibility of the stone breaking with age.

Twinning Wisps

Twinning wisps or intergrowths may also be seen in diamonds. These formations are usually inclusions in diamonds that have twisted together during the time of diamond formation. Thus various inclusions like pinpoints, needles or feathers may form together creating a white strip inside the diamond. Surface graining may also be seen in some cases. Such intergrowths are more commonly seen in fancy shaped diamonds and are extremely rare in ideal cut diamonds.

Cleavage

These are cracks in a diamond that occur in a straight line and are parallel to one of the diamond's crystallographic planes. Cleavages are usually caused by deep internal strain in a diamond and could also have been caused by a strong blow on the diamond. It usually shows no feathers and has a great chance of causing the stone to split, especially if placed in the high pressure grip of prongs in rings. Stones with cleavage must be chosen carefully and avoided as far as possible.

Bearding

Also known as girdle fencing or 'dig marks', this is caused around the diamond's girdle as the diamond is cut or bruited. These fine lines usually resemble a hair strand and do not present a problem. However extensive bearding can lessen the brightness of the diamond. It is suitable that such diamonds be cut or polished again to improve luster.

Diamond flaws are not always a negative phrase. In fact it is these flaws that often lend a loose diamond its distinctive beauty. It is often these flaws that make a stone look unique and often raise its value much further. It is however necessary that while purchasing individual diamonds, the buyer examines them with a jeweler's magnifier to check its brilliance and the presence of flaws. Careful considerations will go a long way in helping you buy a stone that remains precious, beautiful and unique for a lifetime.

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