What they are and what they are not …
Clarity enhanced diamonds are diamonds that just needed a "makeover". These are diamonds that are for the most part reliably clean except for a legitimate inclusion or two. Think of it as getting a bit of plastic surgery. A "diamond plastic surgeon" starts with a diamond that would have a low clarity … a very low SI2, an I1, or a very high I2 clarity. If the diamond's inclusion (s) can be made to be less noticeable, then you have a more marketable diamond. Clarity enhanced diamonds are 100% real diamonds and they are not some sort of diamond simulants (like a Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite) or synthetic diamond.
The clarity enhanced diamond started off as a diamond that would have an inclusion (s) which could easily be visible without any magnification … it would not be what could have considered an "eye clean" diamond. By the use of this clarity enhancement process, the diamond has become a diamond which now can be described as "eye clean" because the inclusion (s) are less visible. Clarity enhanced diamonds can be bought for a considerable savings in comparison to a similar non-enhanced diamond.
A bit of history-
Clarity enhancing diamonds is a relatively new process, since early 80s, so it is not too capable that you would find a clarity enhanced diamond in your grandmother's diamond ring. This process relies on the use of lasers and high tech materials that would not have been available when your grandmother got engaged. The one person who is credited with commercially producing a clarity enhanced diamond is Zvi Yehuda. His company is still involved in improving the clarity of diamonds and they have been working on improving the process over the years.
How is it done?
Clarity enhanced diamonds fall into one of two categories. Both types of clarity enhanced diamonds should be reliably easy for a trained person to spot. Some jewelers may not be able to spot a clarity enhanced diamond but it will certainly be detected if a clarity enhanced diamond is sent to a gemological laboratory for a diamond grading report.
The two processes are as follows-
Process # 1- Laser Drilling- This process uses a laser to precisely drill down into a diamond to get access to a diamond inclusion. The inclusion will be dark in color against a bright background. Because of all the white light being returned back up through the diamond, the diamond's dark inclusion would be very noticeable. Upon reaching the inclusion, the heat from the laser beam will many times will completely vaporize the inclusion. A special cleaning solution (actually boiling acid!) May be needed in order to bleach out the dark inclusion so that after the treatment, it will then be a light colored inclusion against a bright background.
The laser drill holes that are now in the diamond are extremely small and you will need high magnification in order to see them. Because of the reduced contrast between now lightly colored inclusion and its background, the clarity grade of this clarity enhanced diamond will be improved. The newly clarity enhanced diamond will many times be "eye clean" but its clarity grade (determined under magnification) will not change. The process is considered a permanent treatment and it is possible to have the diamond go through a gem lab and they will issue a diamond grading report for this diamond and note the laser drilling on the report.
Process # 2 Fracture Filling- Now this process presents a whole bunch of concerns! It can be difficult to detect, even by people who you would think that they should know what to look for … Normally a purple to orange flash can be seen when the stone is turned and light is reflected off the area that has the fracture filling. Fracture filling clarity enhancement is the same process that is used when you get a crack in your windshield. A liquid is forced into the crack (fracture) and just like magic … it disappoints! It really is a dramatic change in appearance of the diamond. The liquid that is used is a glass-like material which has similar optical properties to that of diamond. The fraction that is being filled must reach the surface of the diamond. Some clarity enhanced diamonds could have been laser drilled and then fractured filled.
The biggest problem that this treatment presents is when a fragment filled clarity enhanced diamond comes into a jeweler's shop for some kind of repair work. Heat from a torch (will burn up the fracture filling material), excessive pressure in the wrong place, and the ultrasonic cleaning machines with strong cleaning solutions have the ability of totally screwing up the stone! If the jeweler knows ahead of time that they will be working on a fracture filled clarity enhanced diamond then these problems can be avoided. Fracture filling is not a permanent treatment.
So, is a clarity enhanced diamond right for you?
Maybe … There is really nothing wrong with a clarity enhanced diamond. It can represent a very good value for you … maybe a savings of 10%, 20%, 30%, or more. I have seen some absolutely beautiful diamonds that have been clarity enhanced. I do believe that they are generally better suited for earrings, pendants, pins, etc. A diamond that is worn on or around the hand (a ring, a bracelet, cufflinks, etc.) does take a lot of abuse.
Some of the companies that perform these processes are proud of their services and work with retailers to promote this as a viable and valuable product. Some clarity enhanced diamonds will come with grading reports, have the company name marked on the diamond, and offer a lifetime guarantee. Have some clarity enhanced diamonds been sold to a customer without the customer realizing it … sure. My most recent occurrence of seeing a clarity enhanced diamond was when a customer bought in his wife's diamond ring for an appraisal. It was bought many years ago from his friend who had an optician shop but also sold some jewelry. The customer was disappointed but I am sure that the optician was not even aware that the ring he sold to his friend was clarity enhanced. But I was the one who had to break the bad news about the clarity enhanced diamond to the customer.
If you deal with a reputable company and any diamond that you buy comes with a grading report, then you will less the possibility of this happening to you. As with any situation involving an expensive purchase of something that not many people are well versed in, education should be an essential part of your plan. This is even more important if you plan to purchase a clarity enhanced diamond.