Overpaying for a diamond with specs/characteristics that doesn’t really make a difference in the sparkle and brilliance of a diamond is a rookie mistake that we would like to help you avoid!
The diamond business is a tricky one. It’s extremely easy for inexperienced diamond shoppers to get ripped-off, luckily, we have websites that teaches people how to pick great diamonds at any budget, and how to get the most bang for the buck!
After thorough conversations with our friends that are in the market for diamonds, we concluded that one of the most frustrating things they faced was not having a clear understanding of all terms (diamond industry idioms) they are being introduced to them by diamond retailers!
They can’t really differentiate between what really concerns them and what is better described as marketing hype. The two most common issues revolve around diamond clarity and diamond color.
We find it necessary to keep reminding you that we recommend being careful on what you spend your budget! A wise decision would be to spend money on getting a better cut.
Because a diamond is all about the sparkle and brilliance, which is why cut is so important here – color and clarity play less of a role in this.
A lot of people lacking the real understanding jump in and end up spending way too much money for characteristics that won’t have much effect on their stone, like getting a superior high clarity grade!
But, What does diamond clarity actually mean?
Diamond Clarity Definition
Diamond clarity is a measure of how “clean” the diamond is. Diamonds are basically natural minerals, therefore it’s a given to often have a certain amount of imperfections in them, such as “small chips”, “feathers” or “clouds”, which may or may not affect the perceived beauty and sparkle of the gem.
By the way, even Lab-Grown Diamonds have inclusions, so it’s not the case only for mined diamonds.
In many cases, these imperfections (referred to as inclusions) are so small or they’re located in places that have almost NO material effect on the stone’s brilliance!
With that being said, diamond clarity is only one pillar of four. All 4Cs need to be taken into consideration when making a decision about a gem.
When it comes to diamond clarity, you really need to understand what you are looking for in order to make the right call and get your money’s worth; buying the best diamond there’s for your set budget!
For example, look at this 1 carat, H color, Excellent Cut, VS2 Diamond on James Allen’s (in case it got sold, it was priced at $4,980), and then look at this similar diamond, except it’s a VVS1 clarity ($5,650), you might not be able to tell if there is a difference in clarity.
Just keep in mind that these diamonds are magnified (20x their real size).
The two diamonds you just saw are EYE-CLEAN. Differences between each of them are almost microscopic; you can never really see any inclusion on the first diamond by inspecting it with your eye.
Having said that, this is the reason why it’s very important to understand what diamond clarity is, and how it’s measured!
And to which extent should you care about diamond clarity? Should you always shoot for the highest clarity? Or does a safe “grade” exist when talking about diamond clarity scale?
Diamond Clarity Scale (Grades)
Looking online on sites such as James Allen or Blue Nile, you will see that clarity is referred to by a letter code, on a scale ranging from FL (for a Flawless) diamond to I1 (for included, i.e. visible inclusions to naked eye) and even Blue Nile stops at SI2.
This scale letters refer to the overall severity of the natural flaws of a diamond when examined under a 10x magnification, it’s very important here to highlight that 10x magnification being the standard, meaning that when they say slightly included, they mean this when seen under 10x not with naked eye.
As you can imagine, the price of a diamond will vary tremendously upon a change in its clarity. For instance, flawless diamonds cost insanely much more than ones with lower clarity (which are still considered gorgeous diamonds as well!).
We have gathered our intensive experience on diamond clarity in one place and created a unique Diamond Clarity Scale Chart that you can see below, where it includes real-world examples of various diamonds.
The scale also includes some large images of many diamonds so that you can see for yourself the difference between each diamond clarity grading.
Diamond Clarity Grades
A diamond might have several small non-visible inclusions but still, get an SI1 rating just because it has a high number of inclusions!
On the other hand, you might find a VS2 with only one inclusion! But which of course won’t be recommended because of it being black dead center of the table facet of the stone! So you can’t just rely on the count/grade of the diamond inclusions to decide.
In a nutshell, diamond clarity scale/grades are the results of the cumulative number and harshness of inclusions on the stone.
This all comes down to our overall recommendation of buying online from a vendor like James Allen; where you can see the diamonds for yourself in 360 degrees and 20x magnification (they even introduced 40x magnification!)!
Shopping with this high quality imaging will allow you NOT to rely only on a diamond certificate (even if it was a GIA as used on James Allen’s), but moreover you can have a full overview of everything related to the diamond.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are no universal guidelines for determining clarity. Each diamonds certification lab has its own guidelines for diamond clarity grades, therefore, just make sure the diamond certificate -for the stone you are interested in- is from a trustworthy lab (like GIA or AGS labs).
Here are the general guidelines that GIA: The Best Certification Lab uses for diamond clarity grading:
- Flawless – FL/IF Diamonds: Flawless: No inclusions under 10x.
Internally Flawless: None or only insignificant surface blemishes and no inclusions when examined under 10x. Normally, most blemishes can be removed by minor polishing.
- VVS Range – VVS1/VVS2 Diamonds: Very Very Slightly Included: Contain minute inclusions that are extremely difficult for an experienced grader to locate under 10x magnification.
- VS Range – VS1/VS2 Diamonds: Very Slightly Included: Contain minor inclusions that range from difficult to somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification. Typical VS inclusions are small crystals, feathers, or distinct clouds.
- SI Range – SI1/SI2 Diamonds: Slightly Included: Inclusions are easily visible under 10x magnification to an experienced gemologist and may be visible with the unaided eye, “may be” because most of SI1 diamonds are eye clean and no inclusions are visible to naked eye.
- I Range – I1/I2/I3 Diamonds: Included: Diamonds with significant inclusions.
Clarity Chart: Review Real Diamonds Clarity in a Chart
To better illustrate what you can expect in the real world, we took the liberty of putting together this Diamond Clarity Chart (as well as a diamond color chart) with real images of all the diamond clarity grades.
The focus of this article is clarity (as you’ve already noticed), therefore, we will be fixing the rest of the factors (using almost identical other characteristics for cut and carat).
The following diamond clarity chart clearly illustrates real images of GIA-certified diamonds from the James Allen website. Click on the images on the right to see zoomed photo close-ups of the diamonds:
|Clarity Grade||Description||Sample Image|
|IF – FL||Internally Flawless / FLawless – No inclusions under 10x. These are the rarest diamond clarity and as such the most expensive.|
Anything that appears to be an inclusion on an IF diamond is probably dust or at worst a speck that can be polished out easily. If there were a true inclusion, even a tiny one, diamond grading labs would give the diamond a VVS1 grade and not IF.
Important to note that even though this diamond is IF clarity it does not have an Ideal rating on its cut grade!
You can view the sample diamond’s original page on James Allen here:
1.00 Carat I-IF Round Diamond
|VVS1||Very Very Slightly Included – Diamond clarity inclusions rated VVS1 may have minute inclusions that are extremely difficult for even an experienced diamond professional to see under 10x magnification. These tiny pinpoint inclusions are completely invisible to the naked eye and even under powerful magnification take a trained eye to find.|
Do you see any difference between this 0.90 VVS1 and the IF above? I didn’t think so, so why would you spend an extra +$1000 on the IF clarity?
You can view this 1.01 CARAT I-VVS1 on James Allen web site here.
|VVS2||As in the VVS1 diamond clarity, the tiny specs on a VVS2 are invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen by a trained gemologist under heavy magnification. What generally separates a VVS2 from a VVS1 are the number of these small specs. SO while a VVS1 might have a small inclusion at 3:00 a VVS2 might have one at 3:00 and another at 9:00. This makes no difference to anyone looking at the diamond without strong magnification as both are too small to be seen even with a standard loupe.|
Once again- I wouldn’t recommend paying extra for this clarity grade because as you will see you can find lower grades that are just as clean to the naked eye.
Click on the image to the right for a close up of a VVS2 diamond clarity grade
Or, click here to see this 1.01 CARAT I-VVS2 diamond on James Allen web site.
|VS1||VS1 diamond clarity is defined as diamonds having minor inclusions that can range from difficult to somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification.|
In other words with a standard loupe trained gemologist should be able to pick up and identify the inclusions on a VS1 graded diamond pretty quickly. I have seen untrained people take several seconds and need instruction on where to look to see these. These inclusions are still too small to be seen by the naked eye.
Click here to see this 1.00 CARAT I-VS1 diamond on James Allen and see if you can spot the inclusion.
No luck? Now click on the sample on the right to see a large blow up of the same diamond and look at the 5:30 mark.
|VS2||Very Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – VS2 clarity inclusions always easy to find at 10x magnification Once in a while, the inclusion be hidden and make it more difficult to find, but otherwise, even a non-skilled person looking in a standard loupe will see the inclusion.|
In 99% of the cases VS2 diamonds are clean to the naked eye. There are rare occasions that a black inclusion will be dead center on the table making visible even without any magnification. By looking at the diamond photo on a site like James Allen you can save a lot of money by buying a clean VS2 rather then a more expensive higher graded clarity. In the photo on the right I chose a really bad VS2 to show how you can see the inclusions. Had these been moved over a little to the left they would have been hidden and not visible.
Click here to see this 1.01 CARAT I-VS2 diamond on James Allen or click the image itself to see a larger version
|SI1||Slightly Included (1st Degree) – SI1 Clarity inclusions are easily found with a standard jeweler’s loupe at 10x magnification. With most shapes (to the exclusion of step cuts like Asscher and Emerald Cuts), SI1 clarity inclusions are almost always clean to the naked eye.|
The diamond on the right will look clean to the eye because the SI1 grading was do to several smaller inclusions rather then 1 large one. Each of the smaller inclusions is too small to be seen individually. This is an example of an SI1 that is a great value because it still appears clean.
SI1 diamonds are genrally a very good choice for diamond stud earrings.
Click here to see this 1.00 CARAT I-SI1 diamond on James Allen or click the image itself to see a larger version
|SI2||Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – SI2 clarity inclusions can many times be seen with the naked eye, most likely with shapes such as Emerald and Asscher cuts but in all cases are obvious when viewed under magnification. With other shapes like round and princess cuts you can find SI2 diamonds that are clean to the eye if the inclusions are not on the table itself. These can be great values as the prices for SI2 are significantly lower then higher graded diamonds.|
The image on the right shows an SI2 with obvious inclusions.
Click here to see this 1.00 CARAT I-SI2 diamond on James Allen or click the image itself to see a larger version
|I1||Included (1st Degree) – Inmost cases I1 clarity inclusions are clearly seen by the naked eye- even on round diamonds. Because they are so noticeable especially on stepped cuts manufacturers will generally avoid producing these and in turn you won’t find many of them on the market. With round and Princess cuts you can find I1 clarity but again- beware as the inclusions can many times completely ruin the look of the diamond and the Brilliance.|
Click here to see this 1.00 CARAT I-I1 diamond on James Allen or click the image itself to see a larger version
How Diamond Clarity Grades Impact Price?
Something to keep in mind here: Always remember, diamond clarity is rated based on a 10X magnification.
This means that unless you are looking at an SI1 diamond or lower (SI2, SI3, I1, I2, or I3), imperfections (blemishes) will not be visible to the naked eye and most likely will not affect the reflection of light through the diamond, which is what gives it its sparkle and beauty.
In general, with all diamond characteristics being constant (except for clarity of course), it’s recommended to look for a diamond in the SI1-VS2 range of clarity; which will offer the best value for money invested.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for higher carat (1.5 and more), it’s recommended to stick to at least VS2 since inclusions might be more visible in larger diamonds.
For example, here are 3 round diamonds listed on James Allen’s. Each of the 3 has an Ideal cut, 1.00 Carat weight and an E color (Excellent Polish & Symmetry, GIA-certified, and without Fluorescence).
The only factor that is varying here being the diamond clarity:
As you can see from the above numbers, you will be paying a premium of 20% for the VVS1 diamond clarity grading over the VS1, although you will most likely not be able to tell the difference between both of them!
Summary: Don’t Get Ripped-off on Diamond Clarity
Diamond clarity is an important characteristic of a diamond, however, watch out for some jewelers that will try to oversell you! It’s critical to pay close attention (and more money for that matter) to other more important factors, mainly the “Diamond Cut”.
Once you’re all set on the rest of the factors, get a diamond with SI1 clarity and you’ll be safe, none of the inclusions on the diamond will be visible to the naked eye.
BUT, be careful, make sure that these very minor inclusions aren’t black or located dead in the center of a diamond table facet (top of the diamond).
Still need help finding the best diamond? Look no further, just fill the form below and we will be glad to offer a free consultancy for you.