If there is one thing you should pay attention to when shopping for diamonds, it is the feather inclusions a diamond may have. Diamonds have different inclusions, and diamond feathering is one of them. But, what is feathering or a feather inclusion? And, why do you need to watch out for them?
Learning about feathers is crucial since they are one of the most common inclusions found in diamonds. While others don’t care about feathers, some take them to a whole new level. In this article, we’ll find out what diamond feathering is and whether you should worry about them.
Table of Contents
What Are Diamond Feather Inclusions?
Feather is a term used in grading reports for diamonds. It generally refers to cracks, fractures, or breaks in diamonds. There is no real feather hidden within the diamond, as the name may suggest. Feathering, or diamond feather, was named after the flaw, which has a white and somewhat feather-like appearance.
A feather inclusion is a type of internal inclusion. It shows as a crack within the diamond that looks like a feather when viewed from an angle. The color, size, and location of the feather tell a lot about how it impacts the diamond.
Diamonds with feathering should not be rejected outright. Take for example Blue Nile’s diamond. There are feather inclusions in this diamond, but it doesn’t show impact in any way. Still, it looks stunning and can do as the perfect choice.
So, how do diamonds get feathers?
A diamond’s journey includes formation, mining, and cutting. Before reaching the hands of gemologists or retailers, these stones have endured extreme heat and pressure – not to mention a highly abrasive production process to get that sparkle and brilliance.
In the formation phase, diamonds are in the earth’s upper mantle. They are forced to the earth’s surface through a forceful geological process called “emplacement.” Emplacement is the process where diamonds and other minerals are transported through a host rock.
The effect of the violent geological process of diamond formation is the fissures within it. Feathers or diamond feathering happened during the formation billions of years ago when it was pushed to the earth’s ground.
This process is why the durability risk of diamonds with feathers is questionable. If a diamond was formed with a feather inclusion, it means it survived formation, emplacement, mining, and faceting. Those are some fierce progression these stones have to go through.
Diamond Inclusion Mapping
One of the most effective ways to evaluate a feather diamond is knowing where to find the inclusions. Clarity plot or mapping of the diamond’s inclusion that comes with the certificate of most diamonds above 1 carat provides this information.
The grading plot usually indicates them as a red feather. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and AGS (American Gem Society) use the same symbols to plot their diagrams for diamond feathering. For instance, this clarity plot is divided into two parts:
The plot shows the upper and lower half of the diamond divided through the girdle. The reason it shows two sides is the fact that the feather could be in the upper or lower half. In which case, the clarity plot may look like this:
This plot shows you that a feather or any inclusion type must be located at the exact spot even when you turn the diamond around.
Telling if a Feather is Eyeclean
Being eyeclean is what matters to most buyers when considering diamond clarity. To most, picking a diamond with feather inclusions is completely fine as long as they are not evident and visible to the naked eyes.
It comes down to this one question then – how can you tell if the diamond feathering passes or fails the eyecleanliness test?
The secret to telling if a feather is eyeclean is to utilize real and definite data like augmented videos in neutral lighting. This data lets you assess without any predisposition. Here are a few steps you can try to verify eye cleanliness:
- Examine the diamond using magnified images and videos. One of the popular places to buy diamonds online is James Allen. They have HD magnified videos of their listings that are insightful to use and present a multitude of information.
- Recognize noticeable looking inclusions and take a mental note of their locations. What you want to look for are black or colored inclusions like crystals and feathers. Pay extra attention to flaws found near the center of the table.
- See if the diamond’s real-life physical size is from the grading report. This information should be listed in the section that says “Measurement.”
- Use the zoom feature to set the image or the video to a real-life or magnified size. You may use a ruler to hold it against the screen. This may give you a somewhat realistic face-up size. Static images from vendors can work too. Simply use free tools like MS Paint or Powerpoint to scale down the photos.
- Once you have the diamond’s realistic size on your computer screen, see if you can spot the inclusions. Drag the image or the video to either side to change the viewing angles. Make sure to focus your attention on the inclusions you had a mental note of from step 2.
- If the diamond passes your visual inspection through the image resizing technique, then it is conceivably eyeclean by your standards. Likewise, if it fails your test, ditch it, and keep looking for a better one.
Which Clarity Grades Have Feathers Visible to The Naked Eye?
The most recommended clarity grade in getting the best bang for your buck is diamonds between VS2 and SI2.
VS2 clarity diamond, particularly those graded as such buy GIA, are always virtually eyeclean. There are only a few rare cases when VS2 is not eyeclean. These instances make it even wiser to go for an eyeclean diamond with the SI1 or SI2 clarity range. You might want to keep away from I1 as they are apparent with diamond inclusions.
Fortunately, diamond feathering is the most difficult to see with your naked eye. What makes them hard to identify are their appearance and, most often, slim form. Take this diagram as an example:
This clarity plot tells that there are feathers and twinning wisps, but they are almost not even visible to make out for the naked eye. Their appearance lets you differentiate a twinning wisp and a feather. Twinning wisps are series of pinpoints or crystals while feathers are breaks in the diamond.
To sum it up, the feathers hardly ever pose an appearance issue with the diamond. Often, it is the twinning wisps and crystals that affect the diamond’s appearance detrimentally. Also, most diamond shoppers don’t necessarily set apart different inclusion types. For most, diamond inclusion is simply just an inclusion.
Generally, the slim and whitish nature of many feather inclusions is clearly not among the most critical factors in weakening the diamond’s look.
Do Feathers Pose A Durability Risk
So, feathers aren’t apparent to the naked eye. How about durability issues, then?
A lot of times, feather inclusions are debated as a durability issue. This happens when the feather is positioned directly near the girdle area or reaches the diamond’s surface. The feather’s risk to the diamond’s integrity depends on the location and size of the inclusion.
Diamond feathering that is tiny and situated deep within the stone is not alarming. For VS2 diamonds, feathers are not an entirely durability issue because they are simply way too small.
On the other hand, a more extensive diamond inclusion that reaches and is located both in the upper and lower half of the stone can likely form a cleavage plane within the diamond. The cleavage plane is the diamond’s weakest direction in its molecular arrangement.
A cleavage plane could potentially weaken the diamond. Still, a VS2 feather inclusion is not big enough to apply such an effect. Know that the diamond itself goes through a callous polishing process in which it even turns red as it gets heated up so much. Hence, smaller inclusions like VS2 feather won’t really pose a severe durability risk.
Diamond chipping because of diamond feathering mostly occurs in I1 diamonds or lower. While diamond chipping itself is an infrequent occurrence, it hardly ever happens to SI1 or SI2 diamonds. What is riskier to this clarity graded stones are crystal inclusions directly at the girdle area.
The only time feathers would actually (even slightly) heighten the risk of diamond chipping is if they are huge enough to reach the table’s surface furthermore, if it is located both at the upper and lower diamond half.
Can Diamond Feathers Become Bigger?
It is unlikely that diamond feathers worsen and grow bigger with normal wear unless it is big enough and touches the diamond’s surface. They won’t get any bigger even if you bump your diamond accidentally.
Diamonds go through an extensive process to get into its particular shape, and it happens even before it reaches the store shelves.
Disguising a Feather
If the feather extends to the girdle edge, it can be hidden by placing a prong near the feather. However, it is still case-by-case-basis since some feathers may or may not benefit from a type of prong placement.
Placing a prong directly on top of the feather intensifies the risk that the stone may break from the weight and compression of setting the prong. On the other hand, placing a prong near a feather offers a reasonable amount of protection.
Generally, most feathers won’t pose an extensive durability risk even in the course of normal wear and tear. Each stone should still be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you are looking to get a diamond, pay attention to feathers, although you really won’t have to worry about them being damaging.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Can a feather result from an impact?
A: The cutting process is one thing that a diamond has to surpass. So, it is unlikely that a feather worsens after years of normal wear. Feathering caused by an impact is by and large different from typical feather inclusions.
For instance, if the feather is situated on a cleavage plane, it can extend due to impact. However, it is hardly ever seen in fully faceted diamonds. If it splits as a result of cleavage, it would have divided during the cutting process.
Taking into account the harsh nature of diamond cutting, it is improbable that a fully faceted diamond will have durability issues from cleavage.