Since lab created diamonds are grown in highly controlled environments, they should be free of normal flaws that impact earth grown gems, right? Some sources say they have them, others say they don’t.
Do lab created diamonds have inclusions? Inclusions can, and do, occur in lab created diamonds, just as they do in nearly all earth grown diamonds. Laboratories mimic the natural processes that the earth uses to create diamonds, so inclusions are still bound to occur as a result of extreme heat, pressure, individual growth patterns, and more.
Inclusions are a big deal when it comes to the 4 C’s of diamond value. I share what you should be concerned about, and even a few things regarding inclusions to be grateful for below.
What Are Inclusions?
Inclusions are little scars, or birthmarks, that are found in a diamond. They can be a variety of shapes and colors. Sometimes they’re tiny dots, other times they’re more cloud-like. They can be almost clear, white, grey, or even black in some cases.
Nearly all diamonds have inclusions of some sort. Some can readily be seen with the naked eye. Others can’t be seen at all without magnification. The size, number, and placement of the inclusions affects a given gem’s clarity—and clarity has an impact on overall sparkle and value.
While the scars on the inside are called inclusions, the scars on the outside of a stone are called blemishes. Both inclusions and blemishes can take many forms. We’ll talk about some of those a little later. The inclusion pattern in diamonds is as unique as fingerprints or snowflakes. No two are identical. That uniqueness, brings a little charm to the imperfections that naturally come with nearly all diamonds. It also has practical purpose, as a potential way to identify your diamond if it’s ever lost or stolen.
Inclusions aren’t always obvious in rings that have them either. ‘Eye clean,’ is a term that means that inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. With sufficient magnification, maybe you could see inclusions within the diamond, but without magnification, you’d never know they are present. Any diamond that’s graded at, or above ‘VS’ (Very Slightly), for clarity, is going to be an Eye Clean diamond.
Are all Inclusions Equally Undesirable?
Not all inclusions are created equal. Some types can be more obtrusive than others based on size, position or color. Here are some of the common forms of inclusion.
Pinpoint inclusions: These are simply tiny black spots that are the result of the formation of a separate crystal. If could be a crystal of some other mineral, or a separate diamond crystal that formed within the larger diamond. These inclusions are so small, that they can often be missed when they’re on their own. Pinpoints are perhaps the most common form of diamond inclusion.
Feather inclusions: This type of inclusion is essentially a crack that’s visible in the diamond. Small Feather Inclusions are just a cosmetic nuisance, but a large version could lead to structural issues if they’re too large or prominent. Feather inclusions are also pretty common, but not as common as Pinpoints.
Diamond cavities: This is the probably the easiest form of inclusion for most people to understand and imagine. As with a cavity in a tooth, diamond cavities form small dark holes, or deep concave areas, that scar the surface of the gem, and typically ruin that stone’s ability to be used in jewelry.
Cloud inclusions: When a cluster of pinpoint of inclusions are tightly gathered, it can form the appearance of this larger inclusion that resembles a cloud you might see in the sky.
Needle inclusions: These inclusions are long and narrow. They quite simply look like a sewing needle.
Knot inclusions: These are crystals that form within the diamond, but they’re found near the surface of the diamond. Knots are most often a shade of white, but can also come in a variety of other colors.
Laboratories like IGI, AGSL, and GIA that grade diamonds and provide certifications, look for very specific things as they search for inclusions and evaluate clarity. The specific aspects of the inclusion that they look for, include:
- The size of the inclusion(s)
- The number of inclusions
- The specific location and positioning of inclusions
- The nature of the inclusions (whether they’re internal or surface flaws)
- The color of the inclusion(s)
The information gathered from that inspection will lead to a grade, and the grade will impact the gem’s value in the marketplace.
Are Inclusions Ever Magnetized?
Inclusions are sometimes caused by the presence of trace elements. Some man made diamonds, produced through the HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) method, have tiny dark metallic inclusions consisting of iron, nickel, or cobalt. If the inclusions are thick or frequent enough, the gems actually become slightly magnetic. Diamonds created through the CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) process, which is sometimes also referred to as the LPHT (Low Pressure High Temperature) process, form very differently. Because of this, CVD gems don’t form these metallic inclusions, and are never attracted to magnets.
It wouldn’t be accurate to make the blanket statement that man-made diamonds are magnetic, because only some are. Mined diamonds can also have inclusions that contain graphite, or another minerals or elements, but they typically don’t have a dark, metal-like, look to them, and they won’t be attracted by magnets.
How do Inclusions Impact the Value?
The four familiar determinants of diamond quality, and therefore value, are the 4 C’s that GIA pioneered.
- Carat Weight
Clarity is the aspect that’s most impacted by the inclusions that form in diamonds. Inclusions can impact the brilliance of a diamond, by interfering with the channeling of captured light through the diamond. The inclusion causes a shadow or obstruction that can have a dulling or muting affect on what otherwise could be a very brilliant piece.
Because significant inclusions can impact sparkle so much, they can also impact the value of the gem. In and effort to increase the value of some blighted diamonds, inclusions are sometimes treated in various ways to conceal or lessen the impact of the imperfection. Internal bleaching is used to treat some types of inclusions. The HPHT process can also be used to to create a clearer diamond.
Manufacturers and retailers are supposed to disclose when gems have been enhanced in any way. Some of those enhancements are discoverable through testing, while at this point at least, or enhancements can’t be detected.
When grading labs, like GIA, test diamonds, they’ll always note evidence of enhancements that they notice on the certificate that they issue for the stone. Enhanced, or treated, stones are more marketable than unenhanced stones, but they typically trade for less than unenhanced stones that are of similar quality.
- VVS2 (or better) — only about 10% of all diamonds sold.
- VS1-VS2 — Have inclusions, but look flawless to the naked eye. 50% of all diamonds sold. (most popular)
- SI1 — Inclusions are present and can be seen without magnification, but only upon close inspection. They aren’t noticeable at first glance.
- Sl2 — Greater inclusions present, and more noticeable without magnification). As stones get above 1 carat, you’ll probably want to stick with Sl1 quality, or better, because inclusions can be far more noticeable on large gems. Sl1 and Sl2, combined, account for about 30% of all diamonds sold.
What’s Actually Good About Inclusions?
Inclusions aren’t all bad. In fact, they’re really only bad if you aren’t aware of them and unknowingly overspend for your diamond. Inclusions can be a great shopping tool to help you get the characteristics you want most, while staying within budget.
If you buy a ring with inclusions that you you can live with (maybe some that don’t impact the sparkle of the ring), you’ll be able to spend quite a bit less on your ring, than you otherwise would need to. Or, you could also get a bigger diamond with a few minor inclusions instead of a smaller diamond that’s more completely inclusion free.
Why would a few minor inclusions that aren’t visible with the naked eye be a bad thing if they helped you save enough on the ring? When was the last time you saw a friend or co-workers walking around inspecting ring inclusions? Doesn’t happen, right?
So it’s really not a big deal, in most cases, if your diamond has minor imperfections that don’t take away from the sparkle or appearance of the ring in significant ways. No one except jewelers really ever inspects your ring under magnification anyway.
How do Inclusions Influence Diamond Shape and Mounting?
Diamond cutters are trained to select a shape and facet structure for each stone that maximizes the potential of the gem. They want to maximize size, while avoiding, or strategically positioning, inclusions to have as little impact on clarity, as they possibly can.
The cut is the most important factor of diamond quality. A fantastic cut can remove a bad inclusion, move it to an area of the stone where it won’t be noticed and will have little negative impact on sparkle. If possible, cutters try to position unavoidable inclusions so the’re under bezel facets or very close to the girdle where they can be a little more hidden. Whenever possible, they try to avoid positioning inclusions so they’re visible through the table of the diamond.
Brilliant cut diamonds are the best choice for hiding inclusions. The Brilliant-cut category would include well known options like round, marquise, pear, oval, cushion, and princess. Of those, round is the most commonly sold. Step-cut designs like Asscher and Emerald, are made to highlight, and emphasize, the clarity of the stone. Because of the wide-open nature of those cuts, it’ far more difficult to them to hide inclusions.
Do Lab Created Diamonds Test as Real?
Some diamond testing machines are more capable than others, but the complex and expensive equipment available at many grading labs can easily distinguish between a created diamond and a mined diamond. They do that using ultra-violet radiation, or evaluation of the graining patterns, which form a little differently in lab diamonds, based on how quickly they grow (6-10 weeks vs millions of years).
Do Lab Created Diamonds Scratch?
Lab grown diamonds are at least as hard as earth made diamonds. In some cases, lab cultured stones can be even harder. All diamonds are rated at 10 (the highest rating) on Mohs Scale of Hardness. While diamonds are incredibly hard, they are still capable of being scratched if another item making contact with it is harder.
Pressure is also a factor that needs to be considered. For example, if I lightly drag a diamond across a stretch of sidewalk, it may not scratch the stone, but if I apply all my weight and press down as hard as possible while dragging the diamond across a part of a sidewalk, I’m far more likely to see scratches.
The bottom line, is that all diamonds are incredibly scratch resistant, but we still need to exercise precaution while wearing them.
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Good For Engagement Rings?
Man made diamonds make incredible engagement rings! They have all of the beauty, durability, and sentiment of earth made diamonds at a far lower price. Since there is literally no way for peers to tell that the diamond isn’t earth made (not that you should be ashamed for people to know how smart you are), the decision to go with lab grown is ALL upside, and no downside.