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Black Spots in Diamonds: Are They a Deal Breaker?

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Are Black Spots in Diamonds a Dealbreaker

You might find a diamond that hits on every note, but then you notice something’s not quite right. There’s a black spot in the diamond, marring its perfection. 

When I was shopping for an engagement ring for my wife, this inclusion was the type that jumped out first with nearly every diamond I viewed. When this happened, I removed it from consideration because my focus was on choosing one that’s eye-clean. I recommend you do the same.

Read below for what you need to know about black spots in diamonds, including if they can be removed, how they impact quality, and ways to make them less visible.

What are Black Spots in Diamonds?

A black spot in a diamond is a carbon flaw. Diamonds are made entirely of crystalized carbon, and these black spots are the result of carbon that never fully crystalized. They’re natural flaws, not man-made, and are a part of the diamond’s inherent structure.

Black Spots in Diamonds Infographic

Black spots are one of the most common inclusions, and almost every diamond will have some form of internal flaw. A black spot doesn’t make a diamond worthless, nor are they impossible to live with. 

Their visibility often depends on the lighting the diamond is under, as the diamond will reflect and refract light at different angles.

Unlike other imperfections, the black spots in a diamond do not negatively impact the integrity of the gem. They don’t weaken the diamond. 

Rather, they are part of its structural strength, and trying to remove them can weaken the gem (but more on that later). 

Let’s use the diamond below as an example, where we’ve highlighted the carbon flaw. 

Diamond with Black Spot

With an SI2 clarity grade, its black spots are apparent, especially with magnification. Based on that image, I recommend choosing one with a higher clarity grade and where the marks aren’t visible, even in a high-quality image.

But there’s a whole genre called salt and pepper diamonds, where the black spots are part of its distinguishing features.

How do Black Spots Affect the Clarity Grade?

The clarity grade of a diamond is graded on a scale developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The GIA scale ranges from flawless to I3, where each step down the scale indicates the inclusions are more impactful.

A black spot doesn’t result in a specific grade. Instead, the gemologist takes into account its overall effect on the appearance, brilliance, and performance of the diamond, combined with other inclusions.

For example, a diamond could have several carbon flaws but still earn an eye-clean VS2 grade. That would demonstrate they have little to no affect on its quality.

On the other hand, a diamond with multiple black spots that are visible to the naked eye would likely earn an SI1 or SI2 grade. The image below of an SI1 diamond provides an illustration.

So when you’re searching for a diamond, the clarity grade is a helpful place to start. But don’t neglect to view the diamond through high-quality images or in person to further identify flaws.

In fact, you won’t find these blemishes labeled on a GIA report. Take a look at this SI1 diamond’s report as an example.

GIA Diamond Report

It identifies the twinning wisp and feather but no the black spots.

But when you view the diamond in high-resolution, those spots are obvious.

Can They be Removed?

The desire to remove black carbon specks in diamonds is understandable. There are methods that diminish the look of black spots, or in some cases remove them entirely, but removal methods come at the cost of disrupting the structural integrity of the diamond.

Because black spots are an inclusion, meaning they appear on the inside of the diamond, it’s not possible to simply buff or polish them out. The surface of the diamond must be breached, and this inevitably introduces cracks or holes that weaken the gem.

Laser Drilling

The most common way to remove a black carbon flaw is by laser drilling. A laser is used to drill a microscopic hole to the black spot. Heat or acid is then funneled through this channel and burns away the black spot. 

This leaves an empty space where the black spot used to be. These spaces (even if filled) are weak points in the diamond’s armor. If it’s hit too hard or at the wrong angle, the diamond can crack and splinter.

Laser Drilling of Diamond

Fracture Filling

This is usually followed by a process called fracture filling, as the empty space and tunnel is filled with a clear, glass-like substance. This can affect the stone’s color and brilliance, as the foreign material has different properties than those of the diamond.

I tell readers it’s far easier to choose a diamond that never developed these noticeable black spots. Trying to remove them isn’t worth the time, cost, or long-term affects on your diamond.

How to Make Black Spots Less Visible

If you’ve decided trying to remove a black spot in your diamond is not the right move for you, there are a few ways to minimize the look of these troublesome carbon flaws, without damaging the structure of the stone.

Some buyers are under the false assumption that you can clean black spots off a diamond. This will not remove carbon inclusions. They are inherent in the diamond’s structure.

Here are some methods you can use.

Cover it with Prongs or a Bezel Setting

Bezel Setting Engagement Ring

This method depends on the location of the inclusion, so it will not work for all diamonds. This is especially true for those with black spots in the dead center.

If the flaw sits closer to the edge of the stone, it’s possible to cover it with the bezel or prongs of the setting. Diamonds can be rotated to fit under your chosen setting, and this can be used to your advantage when buying a lower clarity stone.

You would never know a flaw existed unless you removed the diamond from its setting and scrutinized it. Keep in mind this also works to the jeweler’s advantage when buying gems that are already pre-set, like engagement rings or other jewelry.

Upgrade your Diamond

If you’re unable to hide black spots on your diamond with the methods above, the right choice may be to trade it in for a new one.

Some jewelers have upgrade policies. You can trade in your diamond and receive its full value toward a diamond that costs at least twice as much.

But you don’t have to pay the premiums jewelers charge for flawless diamonds. In fact, prices generally rise 10 to 20 percent for every step up the clarity scale.

So if you originally bought an SI2 diamond, a flawless diamond could cost three or four times as much if the other qualities are equal.

I always recommend finding a diamond with the lowest clarity grade that still appears eye-clean. You won’t learn whether it meets this criteria by viewing the GIA report, so you’ll have to view images or visit the jewelry store.

Start your search at SI1, and work your way up the clarity scale until you find one where the black spots and other inclusions aren’t visible in a normal setting.

What do Black Spots Look Like on a Diamond?

Online jewelry retailers often let you view high-resolution photos of the diamonds before you buy them. This allows you to see examples of diamonds of black spots.

For example, this one carat diamond from James Allen is graded an S12 clarity.

1.00 Carat Round Diamond K Color - James Allen

This is one of the lowest grades for clarity, so it’s easy to see the black spots scattered throughout this diamond. 

The black spots in this S12 clarity diamond are more difficult to see but can still be spotted in multiple parts of the diamond.

1.01 Carat Diamond with Black Spot

Should You Buy a Diamond With Black Spots?

Part of the process of buying a diamond is examining them at every angle and learning if it’s the right fit for you. If you’re considering a diamond toward the bottom of the clarity scale, black spots are likely going to be present.

I recommend choosing a diamond without visible black spots. That’s what I chose when searching for an engagement ring, and I’m glad it’s eye-clean.

Start your search at SI1, but if the diamond is larger than one carat, you’ll likely have to move up the scale.

By viewing the diamond in person or through high-quality images to identify any black spots, you can discover which one has the right clarity for you.

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler is the founder of TeachJewelry.com.

He earned an Applied Jewelry Professional Diploma from the Gemological Institute of America and now brings you essential information about diamonds, settings, and more.

Devon has consulted with leading jewelry brands, and his work has been cited in Diamond Nexus and other industry publications.

He's also a member of the International Gem Society.

Devon enjoys discussing jewelry with readers, so contact him with any questions at tyler.devon@teachjewelry.com.

Learn More About Devon