Caused by Stress

We like to think of diamonds as the perfect gemstone, the most alluring of all precious stones.  The way we see diamonds from the outside is not necessarily how they look on the inside.  Rarely is a diamond “perfect”.  Most diamonds have flaws within them, but these flaws do not need to lessen our appreciation and enjoyment of our precious diamonds.  One common type of flaw in a diamond is called a feather.

What is a Diamond Feather?

A feather is a tiny fracture within a diamond.  These flaws usually form along a natural grain line in the crystal structure of the diamond.  Feathers form from the tremendous pressure a diamond undergoes while it is being formed far beneath the earth.  Some feathers begin and end inside a diamond, while others extend to the surface of a diamond.  These internal imperfections are called feathers because the white shading surrounding the fracture resembles a feather.

How Feathers Affect Diamond Clarity

Diamond grading focuses on the presence or absence of imperfections, not necessarily on how they affect the look of a diamond.  Many feathers are tiny and practically transparent.  Some feathers are only visible from the back of a diamond, not the front.  A diamond may have some feathers yet remain an eye clean diamond, meaning the feathers are not visible with the naked eye.  Usually small feathers are not visible, even with a 10x jeweler’s loupe.  Large feathers, however, may be readily visible or visible when light hits it at a certain angle.

The shape of a diamond also affects the visibility of a feather.  Many types of imperfections are readily visible in emerald cut diamonds.  This type of cut (image shown here) have a large table, the main window onto your diamond.  However, if the imperfection is a feather, the emerald cut diamond usually remains eye clean.  Radiant cut diamonds often also remain eye clean even with the presence of feathers within the diamond.  Learn more about different diamond shapes.

Feathers and Diamond Durability

Diamonds are an extremely tough material, yet they are not completely unbreakable.  Feathers that remain within the body of the diamond do not pose much of a risk to the diamond.  But feathers that extend to the surface of the diamond must be set with extreme care.  Hitting a diamond in the delicate area of a feather may cause it to shatter, or a piece of the diamond may fall off.

Most feathers do not pose a risk to the diamond’s durability.  These feathers were present since the formation of the diamond, surviving the tough process of getting to the surface of the earth.  Once mined, these diamonds were also subjected to getting cut from rough diamonds.  Predominantly, the presence of feathers does not disrupt the durability, the beauty or the brilliance of each unique diamond.

The Importance of Diamond Cut

By now you have probably heard plenty about the 4 C’s.  But do you know which one is by far the most important.  It’s diamond cut.  In fact, diamond clarity, which this article mentions in relationship to diamond feathers, is the least important.

Cut refers to the quality of the “cut” of your diamond, it has nothing to do with shape.  The diamond facets are what will ultimately make your diamond sparkle, the windows of your diamond.  If they are cut poorly then the diamond will look dull and lifeless.

Bottom line: If you are going to spend money to upgrade your diamond, spend it to upgrade Cut first.  Certainly don’t upgrade clarity at the expense of cut.

If you were wondering, diamond color is the second most important.  Diamond carat weight is next.  The decision on how to “upgrade” the qualities of your diamond is a very personal decision.  For more advice, visit our engagement ring buying guide.

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