The needle inclusion is one of the most common inclusions you'll see while shopping for a diamond. Though you can spot them with your naked eye in rare cases, you might still confuse them with other similar inclusion characteristics without the aid of the grading report.
To help walk you through this inclusion, we'll explain the basics with images and videos and compare it with similar characteristics. Then you can make decisions with confidence.
What is a needle inclusion in a diamond?
Needle (Ndl) inclusions are elongated, narrow needle- or rod-shaped crystals in a diamond.✍🏻 They can be various shades of white or colorless. Gemologists usually group them along with pinpoints, clouds and crystals in the same inclusion category, which refers to tiny crystals (diamond crystals or other minerals) encompassed in a diamond during its formation.
Spotting needle inclusions
Since they are tiny things, diamond needles are generally only visible or at least noticeable under magnification. When shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, you can find these inclusions with a diamond loup under the guidance of a jeweler. However, adopting the combination of the two means below will give you a handy and accurate understanding.
How do diamond needles display on a grading report?
Gemologists plot the needle inclusion with a straight red line on a grading report. As shown in the plot, there is a distinct long needle near the table of this SI2 diamond. Specifically, it stays under the area consisting of a bezel and its conjoined star facet.🔍
Locating needle inclusions with online imagery
However, a diamond plot may not give you an intuitive sense of how inclusions look and impact beauty; this is why many online jewelers and vendors offer 360-degree high-resolution imagery to help you inspect the actual stone.
Big players like Blue Nile, Brilliant Earth, Whiteflash, etc. deliver imagery of at least 20x magnification—twice that of a standard diamond loup. But have you heard of 40x magnification?! James Allen's Super Zoom feature offers four times zooming in on diamond imperfections compared to a standard loupe.
The video below shows where the needle discussed earlier is located within the diamond. As you can see, it is somewhat visually more evident than the minute crystal inclusions (Xtl) scattering below and around the table facet.
Needles vs. Similar diamond inclusions
For regular buyers, diamond needles may look similar to other inclusions. But they lead to diverse results on a diamond's appearance and grading.
Needles vs. Feathers
At first glimpse, sometimes both needles and feathers may appear as white stripes in a diamond. Actually, they are not the same thing.
👉🏻Needles are long crystals contained within a diamond, while feathers are fractures within the stone structure. They are called feathers because they have feathered edges that are visually quite different from the defined lines of needles when observed with a loup.
Needle inclusions can emerge in groups and are more inclined to interfere with light reflection and refraction. Though both would induce durability issues, feathers are more likely to cause chippings, especially when near the junctions of facets or close to the girdle and culet.
Needles vs. Pinpoints, clouds and crystals
All of these inclusions are tiny crystals of different forms in a diamond. Pinpoints are white or occasionally black minuscule dot-shaped crystals, and they are even hardly figured out under magnification. When they emerge in clusters, we can call them a cloud—which would result in hazing effects that decrease the transparency and brilliance of the stone though some gemologists give it a romantic description of a constellation of stars. Crystal inclusions are thicker than pinpoints. They feature flat panes and angular shapes and can be either diamond crystals or other minerals, such as peridots and garnets.
Advice on buying a diamond with needles
As a rule of thumb, please always keep size, nature, number, location and relief in mind when considering the impacts of needles on a diamond.
It will be more prominent if a needle is long, spans multiple facets, or appears close to the crown and the table facet. And if multiple needles gather in a group, they will have a more substantial impact on the diamond's grading and beauty.
Additionally, the type of diamond cut a needle inclusion inhabits also plays a role in its visibility. Step cuts like emerald cut diamonds are pursued cleanliness since any inclusions could be easily under the spotlight because these cuts are not skilled at hiding imperfections. If these cuts are your favorites, you should evaluate the needles and other inclusions more carefully. If you are shopping for a brilliant-cut diamond such as a round, congrats! You have more room to make slight compromises with the needles, other inclusions and the clarity grade. Brilliant-cut diamonds are sparklers, and they bring about excellent brilliance, fire and scintillation, which can distract your attention from the imperfections in the real world.
In conclusion, always weigh the impacts of different inclusions. In some cases, needle inclusions would primarily work on the final clarity grade, while sometimes they would not matter. ⚠️You should also factor into other Cs and remember that eye-clean is paramount when it comes to clarity.