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What are ‘Diamond Feathers’?

by Willyou.net * Sep 24, 2021
Oval 3 carat with feather inclusion - What are Diamond Feathers

When we talk about diamond clarity, and the presence or absence of visible inclusions, it’s convenient to lump them all together under that one umbrella term. After all, when we’re aiming for eye cleanliness, it doesn’t matter what inclusions a diamond has, provided they remain invisible to the naked eye, right?

For this reason alone, it can be pretty surprising for people when they first lean about quite how many different types of inclusions a diamond can have. From minute crystals of other substances to fissures within the diamond’s structure, like the feather itself, it’s pretty handy to know the basics of some of the most common types of inclusion – namely, what they are, and how they can impact the look and strength of a diamond.

What is a Feather in a Diamond?

A feather is a common type of inclusion that occurs naturally within diamonds during their development. It is a fracture (internal break) characterized by frayed, ‘feathery’ edges, which give it its name.

Like many other types of inclusions, feathers can be incredibly small – too small, even, to see without 10x magnification. They can also be white in appearance, and this helps them to be very easily concealed within the diamond – particularly if they occur towards the edge (without actually reaching it), rather than the table at the stone’s center.

Unfortunately, however, there are times when a feather is large enough to be seen – or even to overwhelm the entire diamond, and threaten its durability.

In some cases, the feather can appear as a much darker line running through the diamond – and, when this happens, light performance (sparkle) can be negatively impacted.

What Causes Diamond Inclusions?

Natural diamonds are created under some pretty intense conditions – and, so far below the surface of the earth, perfection is pretty much impossible.

Even FL and IF diamonds will feature some sort of inclusion, although these may not even be visible under 100x magnification. 

This is why the presence of inclusions within a diamond is never seen as a ‘dealbreaker’. In fact, they are often prized for the fact that they make diamonds totally unique from one another, almost like a fingerprint or a beauty spot on a person.

Are Feathers in Diamonds Common?

Yes and, most of the time, you won’t even notice they are there.

Alongside clouds, crystals and pinpoint inclusions, feathers are some of the most common flaws out there.

Once you start looking more closely at diamonds currently on the market, you will start to notice how common feather inclusions really are. In any GIA report, a diamond’s inclusions are meticulously plotted within a diagram. Feathers will be demarcated by a short, wavy line – even if the diamond is eye clean.

Is a Feather in a Diamond Bad?

Most of the time a feather is totally fine, although significant feathers can impact not only the beauty of the stone – but also its strength.

Most feathers mean very little for a diamond, and aside from lowering their clarity grade – and, as a result, their market value – whether or not it has a feather will be pretty much irrelevant to the diamond’s future wearer.

In some instances, however, a feather inclusion can undermine the structural integrity of the stone. If it’s positioned close to the surface, then the diamond can be more vulnerable to breaking – particularly if it’s worn on a prominent place, such as the finger. In extreme cases, the term ‘feather’ can be a little misleading, as it suggests something less worrying than a crack within the diamond.

You should be particularly wary if the diamond features a large feather very close to the diamond’s girdle, as a hard knock could very easily cause a fractur in this precarious position to grow larger. Even a small feather, if it reaches the very edge of the diamond, should be avoided.

These diamonds will be given a very low clarity grade, however, and provided you stick to eye clean diamonds, you won’t be at risk of looking down to find your diamond chipped or broken.

Do Feathers Affect Sparkle?

It’s certainly possible, but only if they’re significant enough to impact the diamond’s appearance.

We’re not talking about what the diamond looks like under magnification, but, instead, what it looks like outside of the grading lab. This is the most important test of all, since it’s the only way you’re going to be able to decide whether or not the diamond is eye clean.

Diamonds of this quality don’t miss out on sparkle because of a few minute inclusions, only visible to a skilled grader under 10x magnification.

If a diamond is low on brilliance or fire, then the chances are that it’s suffering from a poor cut – for instance, a low table percentage or a high depth percentage – rather than a few minor feathers, pinpoints, or clouds.

Yes, inclusions can impact sparkle, but if you’re reserving your interest for eye clean diamonds only, a few minor feathers won’t prevent it from producing an abundance of brilliance and fire.

How do You Hide Diamond Inclusions?

Small inclusions, like minor feathers and pinpoints, can be hidden by a skilled jeweler using prongs or, for more significant inclusions, a bezel setting.

This approach requires two very specific conditions, however. First off, you’ve got to find a diamond with inclusions close enough to the girdle that they can be hidden effectively by the ring setting (although not so close that they threaten its durability. Secondly, you’ve got to limit yourself only to the design (or designs) your jeweler things will properly cover the inclusions.

Given the fact that eye clean diamonds are available at many different clarity grades (and, as a result, different price points) it’s much easier to focus your search on diamonds that are visually flawless, rather than diamonds that need ‘covering up’.

round halo diamond engagement ring hidden inclusion - What are Diamond Feathers

Can Diamond Inclusions be Removed?

During the cutting and polishing process, many inclusions and blemishes are ‘removed’ from the original stone but, by the time they make it to the market, any inclusions are there to stay.

Despite the fact that eye clean diamonds are much, much more affordable than genuinely flawless diamonds, they still attract a strong price on the market. As a result, diamond cutters will put a lot of effort and skill into mapping out the right cut for a rough diamond, and ensuring that it is as big, well-proportioned, symmetrical and eye clean as possible.

Obviously, balancing all of these factors together isn’t easy – and there’s definitely value in larger stones, even if they have some visible inclusions – so some low clarity diamonds will be put onto the market, even if the rough stone could have yielded one or two smaller, higher clarity diamonds.

Either way, what this does mean is that, by the time the diamond is made available to the public, it’s not going to be changed again.

Removing inclusions means potentially cutting away substantial pieces of the original diamond – something no diamond cutter wants to do unless there is no other choice. Don’t purchase a heavily included diamond for a low price thinking that you’ll be able to ‘fix it’ later – the only shrewd approach to diamond shopping is to do your research, set your price point, and work with a reputable jeweler.

Should You Worry About Diamond Feathers?

In general, no, particularly if you have talked it through with your jeweler.

Ask them to go through the precise location of your diamond’s feathers, since the diamond plot included within your GIA report is not detailed enough to pinpoint how close to (or far from) the diamond’s edge the feathers are.

Anyway, in most cases, an eye clean diamond will offer plenty of reassurance over the value of your diamond – and its durability. Besides, a reputable jeweler wouldn’t attempt to sell you a diamond that was at risk of cracking further during routine wear and tear so, provided you choose to work with a reputable local jewelry store, you don’t need to worry yourself over some minor feathers in your diamond.

So, Should You Pick a Diamond with Feathers?

Absolutely, provided it’s eye clean, features an Excellent or Very Good cut grade, and visually colorless.

Many, many diamonds on the market today feature feathers. They are, however, much more common sights in GIA reports than they are in the diamonds themselves, since very few of us choose to appreciate diamonds on a microscopic level – and for good reason.

Inclusions are totally irrelevant to the beauty of your engagement ring, and no one you show it to is going to ask to check the GIA report for how many microscopic inclusions it features. As a result, the decision to save up and invest into an internally flawless diamond is far worse than the decision to focus your search on the wide and varied world of eye clean diamonds.

So, yes – if the diamond you’re falling for features feather inclusions only visible within the GIA report, don’t take it as a negative. Take it as a sign you’re making a strong investment, and creating a beautiful engagement ring for your future bride.