A question we often encounter when buying loose diamonds is: What’s the ideal clarity grade we should aim for?

Consider two diamonds:

VS2 vs VVS1 BlueNile

Exclusively in terms of clarity, could you decide between the two? For context, both diamonds share identical carat, color, cut, polish, and symmetry characteristics. Bear in mind these images are magnified 20 times.

The one on the left, a VS1 clarity diamond, is priced at $5321 on Blue Nile. Should you wish to invest an extra $500 for a feature that you (or anyone else) will never distinguish, you could opt for the other diamond.

It’s tempting to simply suggest, “Just opt for the highest clarity possible and all will be well.” However, let’s refine that question:

What clarity grade can I aim for while ensuring I purchase a high-quality, brilliantly shining diamond?

This is a more nuanced question that we’re eager to answer. Many diamond store representatives would gladly seize the chance to upsell you the highest clarity grade they offer. Let’s explore the accurate answer to prevent any future missteps when diamond shopping.

Understanding Diamond Clarity

Examine this VVS1 1 Carat diamond on James Allen (priced at $5930), and then this comparable SI1 diamond (priced at $4690). Both diamonds share the same Carat, Color, Cut, Polish, Symmetry, and even no fluorescence.

This price difference of over $1200 (+26%) solely for the sake of clarity underscores why it’s crucial to comprehend why we opt for a specific clarity grade. This understanding ensures we get the maximum value for our money.

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Before proceeding further, it’s worth understanding how clarity is determined. What separates a diamond with a VS grade from a VVS grade?

Diamond clarity is a comprehensive concept signifying the presence or absence of defects inside or on a diamond’s surface, and determining their significance.

A diamond’s clarity depends on the number of blemishes or inclusions it contains, and to what extent these imperfections can be seen, whether with the naked eye or through a loupe.

The Impact of Inclusions on Clarity

As diamonds form deep within the earth’s core, blemishes and inclusions naturally occur. Blemishes are flaws on the diamond’s surface, while inclusions exist within the diamond.

Diamonds with fewer flaws are more likely to appear brilliant and reflect light better. This is because the light traversing the diamond isn’t hindered by inclusions or blemishes within or on the diamond.

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The location of a flaw also impacts the diamond’s clarity. Imperfections near the girdle or around the bezel facets are less likely to be noticeable, thus these diamonds are perceived as having better clarity.

Conversely, inclusions on the diamond table are more likely to be seen and/or affect the diamond’s light reflection, depending on the type and size of the inclusion.

Diamond Parts

Until the mid-20th century, a uniform classification of a diamond’s defining characteristic didn’t exist; stones were distinguished according to a simplified color system. The question: “What is the clarity of a diamond?” was rarely asked.

Thanks to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the 1960s, the diamond industry and consumers gained a better understanding of what a perfectly cut diamond is, leading to the increased popularity of such diamonds.

The GIA offered the world a reference system, evaluating a diamond according to four characteristics:

  • Cut
  • Color
  • Carat
  • Clarity

The GIA clarity ratings are based on an 11-point system that takes into account the number, size, color, reflectivity, and position of a diamond’s flaws or inclusions.

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4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity

Choosing a Suitable Diamond Clarity Level

Diamonds are graded into 11 categories, with 6 (and occasionally a 7th) being eye-clean. This means any imperfections can only be seen under a 10x magnifier.

Internally Flawless (IF) / Flawless (FI)

IF diamonds contain external blemishes that are extremely hard to detect even with magnification. Flawless (FL) diamonds do not contain any blemishes or inclusions and are incredibly rare, comprising less than 2% of all diamonds.

Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1. VVS2)

These diamonds have inclusions so small that they are hard to detect even under 10x magnification.


Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2)

These diamonds have small inclusions that are barely visible under 10x magnification. These diamonds may have clouds, feathers, and crystals that reduce their clarity.

Slightly Included (SI1, S12)

Inclusions such as clouds, feathers, knots, crystals, and cavities can be clearly seen under a jeweler’s loupe in SI1 and SI2 diamonds. For SI2 diamonds, these inclusions may be visible to the naked eye.

Included (I1, I2, I3)

These diamonds have obvious inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye and are more prominent under magnification. Despite their flaws, these diamonds are still sold as some customers value other aspects more than clarity.

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The Best Diamond Clarity for Your Budget?

So, which clarity grade should you aim for to ensure you invest wisely?

The short answer is to aim for a clarity grade that is “Eye Clean.”

Want more details?

If you desire further details, it’s about obtaining a diamond without visible inclusions and ensuring that no detrimental inclusions are present on the table.

The choice also depends on individual preferences. Some customers seek uniqueness, others are budget-conscious, and some prioritize safety. For all these customers, my advice is: Ensure you get the most value for your money.

The Best Diamond Clarity for You

Having clarified the different clarity grades, it will now be easier to determine the ideal clarity grade. When selecting a diamond, the preferred quality depends entirely on the customer’s desires.

IF-FL & VVS: If money is no object, opt for these grades. They represent high-quality diamonds with an almost perfect appearance, although they are notably expensive and rare.

VS: This is an excellent choice for those seeking high quality within a somewhat flexible budget. As the inclusions are invisible to the naked eye, this clarity grade is ideal. However, higher VS grades can still be costly, and the extra investment may not necessarily enhance the diamond’s clarity and brilliance.

If you’re getting a diamond with average carat (1-1.5), you may want to get a diamond that’s eye-clean, and nothing more, because in most cases, imperfections will not appear at all for naked eye, and this starts at grade VS2.

SI1: An SI1 diamond can be considered top-quality as the inclusions are only visible under magnification. Just ensure that the inclusions aren’t so large that they impact brilliance.

As highlighted, the imperfection’s location plays a part in determining the best diamond clarity. If the blemishes and inclusions occur on the diamond’s side, it’s better than if they’re located in the center of the table.

Priceless or Flawless?

The ideal diamond clarity isn’t necessarily the highest grade. It’s determined by what you desire and can afford

Once set and worn, diamonds with varying clarity grades may look identical. Blemishes and inclusions will be impossible to spot with the naked eye and can only be seen under magnification.

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Therefore, if a totally flawless diamond isn’t your priority, a diamond within the SI1-VS2 grades would be a wise choice

Opting for a lower clarity grade could be better than overspending on a high clarity grade that won’t be noticeable to the naked eye.

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An eye-clean clarity diamond ensures that no one will be able to differentiate between various diamond clarity levels. All diamonds with an SI1 clarity grade and above are considered eye-clean as their imperfections are invisible to the naked eye under any circumstances.

For those who want extra security, opt for a VS2 grade, which offers the best value for money. Don’t let retail stores sway you with arguments about clarity.

Consider these three diamonds listed on James Allen. Each one is an Ideal cut round diamond with a weight of 1.00 Carat and an E color. The only varying factor is the diamond clarity:

VVS1 – $10320

VS1- $8200

SI1 – $6320

As illustrated, you’ll pay a 25% premium for the VVS1 diamond clarity grading, even though you’ll likely never be able to tell the difference between it and the VS1.


Save your money and secure a good clarity diamond by choosing an eye-clean SI1. Online stores like James Allen and Blue Nile let you view real images and 360-degree videos of diamonds, ensuring you can scrutinize any potential issues

For added peace of mind (although not always necessary with a clean SI1), opt for one grade higher: a VS2.

If your budget allows, consider investing in a higher Cut as it’s the most critical factor among the 4Cs. If you have extra funds, invest in Color and then, if you still have more, consider a higher Clarity.


Still not sure where to buy your diamond?

We always recommend shopping diamonds online and created a Full guide to shop diamonds like a Pro.

Among online retailers, here are our favorite stores (click their logo to visit store):

1) James Allen: Our favorite online store, best diamond imaging technology available today, comes with the largest collection with more than half a million loose diamonds.

Latest JA Logo2) Blue Nile: Widest collection of loose diamonds of all sizes, great imaging technology for most of their  inventory (hundreds of thousands of diamonds), great customer support.

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3) Whiteflash: Home Of A CUT ABOVE® Super Ideal Diamonds, they stand out from the crowd by offering premium diamonds cuts, tailored to those who love the details, at great prices too.

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About the Author

Alexander Knight

A distinguished expert in the diamond industry with an unwavering passion for exceptional gemstones. With a keen eye for quality and a wealth of experience, Alexander has established himself as a prominent figure in the world of diamonds.

From an early age, Alexander was captivated by the allure and brilliance of diamonds. He embarked on a journey to understand the artistry and craftsmanship behind these precious gems. Through years of hands-on experience and collaboration with renowned diamond experts, Alexander has acquired comprehensive knowledge in diamond grading, sourcing, and jewelry design.

Driven by his desire to share his expertise, Alexander has created a captivating website dedicated to diamonds. Through this website, he imparts his wisdom and provides valuable insights on diamond education, trends, and investment opportunities.

With his impeccable reputation and extensive knowledge, Alexander Knight continues to leave a lasting impact in the dynamic world of diamonds, guiding others towards the discovery of their dream gemstone.