The magic of diamond jewelry is not determined by its knack with a wand or its enchantment of eternal life. Rather, it’s determined by its brilliance. Brilliance, dear reader, is a diamond’s lustrous shine, its luminescent beauty, its je ne sais quoi.
Beauty, of course, is in the eyes of the beholder.
However, one factor that interrupts a diamond’s brilliance is a cloudy countenance. A cloudy diamond, while beautiful to some, is unvalued by universal diamond appraising standards used by an expert gemologist. These are determined by the 4 Cs of diamonds: clarity, cut, color, and carat.
Follow along as we explore the defining characteristics of a cloudy diamond and answer the questions:
- What is the essence of a cloudy diamond?
- What are the 4 C’s of diamonds?
- How can one buy a quality diamond?
Let’s dive in.
All About Cloudy Diamonds and the 4 C’s
Having a milky diamond may be due to grime or dirt, and knowing how to clean diamonds might solve it. On the other hand, the diamonds might be milky in appearance or have a hazy glaze due to inclusions within the gemstone.
A diamond’s hazy glaze stems from inclusions clustered together within the surface of a diamond, which originate during a gemstone’s development.
The life of a diamond begins deep within the Earth’s fiery crust, just below the surface of the upper mantle.1 A combination of hot temperatures and high pressures cultivates an ideal environment for it to develop into different diamond shapes.
Its inclusions, or perceived imperfections, form when small crystals become trapped inside a diamond during its heated maturation process. They’re common inclusions that affect the overall appearance of a stone.
While many inclusions or blemishes are only noticeable when magnified, crystal clusters are visible to the naked eye.
A couple of additional features may also elicit a diamond’s cloudy appearance:
- Fluorescence – When exposing diamonds to UV light, they glow at differing degrees of brightness. If a diamond possesses a strong fluorescence, it may appear chalky. Most often, this characteristic arises in colorless diamonds.
- Uncleanliness – An uncleaned diamond may appear hazy or cloudy to the naked eye, especially when coated in oils. It’s important to know how to clean diamonds properly to avoid a cloudy appearance.
In order to further understand the features of a cloudy diamond, we must introduce you to the 4 C’s: cut, clarity, color, and carat. These factors determine a diamond’s beauty and its universal value.
All About the 4 C’s of Diamonds
As you know, the 4 C’s are tools to evaluate a diamond’s worth. When determining the beauty of diamonds, the most influential “C” is cut, followed closely by clarity, color, and carat.
The cut of a diamond refers to the way a gemstone cutter shapes a diamond to emphasize (or deemphasize) a stone’s optical and physical properties.
The cut affects a diamond’s brilliance above all else. If badly cut, the brilliance, or shine, of a diamond may become muted. In this case, diamonds are unable to adequately reflect light, therefore losing their sparkle.
Certain cuts may hide the presence of cloudy inclusions, including:
- Radiant cuts – Similar to emerald cut diamonds, the more modern radiant cut elicits far more brilliance. With a smaller facet size and beveled corners, they appear larger than they actually are.
- Princess cuts – A princess cut is a sleek choice that’s suitable for ornate vintage styles. The diamond is squared, not rounded.2
When it comes to cutting diamonds, there are three physical characteristics a cutter pays special attention to:
- Facets – The polished planes of a diamond are called facets. Depending on the cut, some diamonds have a series of polished sides, while others are bruted. This means that the diamond possesses a continuous, unpolished, or polished surface.
- Step cut facets, which consist of rectangular planes, may hide inclusions or diminish cloudy appearances.
- Girdle – The girdle is the widest point of the diamond. It’s the thin perimeter that separates the top of the diamond called the crown from the lower section, which is called the pavilion. The thinner the girdle, the more valued the diamond.
- If a blemish lies on a diamond’s girdle, look to buy a ring with a prong setting to hide the inclusion.
- Culet – The culet is the lower point of a diamond’s pavilion. Typically, diamonds with minimal, unpointed culets are most valuable.
- If a flaw lies on a diamond’s pavilion, a ring with a bezel setting will hide the inclusion.
Cloudy diamonds, of course, lack clarity. If a diamond harbors a large abundance of blemishes or inclusions, its clarity rating will diminish. Typically, diamonds with the fewest inclusions are considered the most valuable.
To that end, diamond clarity is graded on the following scale:
- Flawless: FL
- Very Very Slightly Included: VVS1, VVS2
- Very Slightly Included: VS1, VS2
- Slightly Included: SI1, SI2, SI3
- Imperfect: I1, I2, I3
When buying a diamond, look to see if it’s paired with a clarity plot. A clarity plot is a diagram that maps out each blemish or inclusion that resides within or atop the surface of the gemstone.3 A clarity plot helps buyers identify the size and location of cloudy clusters. Be wary of diagrams in which inclusions are scant or unmarked. It’s wise to further inspect the diamond in person before making a purchase.
Tips and Tricks: Typically, diamonds rated SI1 likely contain cloudy inclusions, which diminish the brilliance of a diamond.4
While fluorescence can significantly affect the appearance of a diamond, so can color. Per universal diamond ratings, a near-colorless diamond is the most highly rated. Each diamond is graded on the following scale:
- Colorless: D, E, F
- Near Colorless: G, H, I, J
- Faint: K, L, M
- Very Light: N, O, P, Q, R
- Light: S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
Diamond fluorescence that also exists within the D through I color grades will most often appear hazy. Similarly, D through G color grade diamonds with medium fluorescence also appears milky. However, a blue fluorescence makes the diamond seem transparent.
Tips and Tricks: When shopping for a diamond, look for cloudy inclusions under direct sunlight. Most often, it’s difficult to see cloudiness under abrasive store lights
A carat is the weight measurement of a diamond. Diamond-lovers near and far flock to the heaviest gemstones due to their high appraisal.
If a diamond weighs below one carat, a clarity plot most likely is not included in its buying guide. In this case, a jeweler will have to be especially scrupulous when assessing the quality of the stone.
While a diamond’s carat measurement has little influence on the cloudiness or appearance of a diamond, it will influence its price.
When Buying a Diamond
The art of buying diamonds is one of meticulous planning, fastidious scrutiny, and thoughtful resolve.
Cloudy diamonds of lower carat measurements, though not the most brilliant, are the most affordable. The price determination of diamonds by carat size is exponential. In other words, a diamond’s price surges at each increased weight category.
Determining a Diamond’s Quality
A diamond’s value and quality are determined by the 4 C’s. When buying diamonds, it’s essential to know the difference between a:
- From a bad make – Although all diamonds possess beauty, a diamond of lower value is dull in cut and twinkle, freckled with inclusions, yellow in hue, and light in weight.
Then there’s the friction between natural and lab-made diamonds.
Find Clarity at CJ Charles Jewelers
The magical life of a diamond is not one for storybooks. It’s a brazen and fiery journey that inevitably elicits a few imperfections along the way.
A cloudy gem, although a bit magical in itself, is not suited for a lifelong commitment to the glitz and glamour that clearer gemstones so adamantly seek out.
At CJ Charles Jewelers, a luxury jewelry store in San Diego, we only offer the best. That is top-quality gemstones at world-class prices. Our diamonds gleam with twinkles of unmatched brilliance. Try your hand at a bracelet or ring, or get more cerebral with our selection of elegant earrings and necklaces.
No matter the choice, choose the diamond for you.
- Smithsonian Mag. Diamonds Unearthed. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/diamonds-unearthed-141629226/
- International Gem Society. Princess-Cut Diamonds: The Ultimate Guide. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/princess-cut-diamonds/
- GIA. GIA Diamond Grading Reports. https://4cs.gia.edu/en-us/blog/gia-diamond-grading-reports-understanding-diamond-clarity-plotting-diagram/
- Beyond 4Cs. Cloudy Diamonds–Why Do Diamonds Look Hazy or Milky? https://beyond4cs.com/clarity/cloudy-diamonds/
- Gem Society. Before Buying a Diamond: 9 Tips You Should Know. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/before-buying-a-diamond/