We get this question quite a lot, when we want to buy loose diamond, What is the best diamond clarity we should look for?
If you would choose between these two diamonds:
Based on Clarity (and clarity ONLY), can you make a decision between both? For your information, both diamonds are identical in carat, color, cut, polish & symmetry! And remember that these are 20x magnified images.
The left one is VS1 and priced at $5321 here on Blue Nile, and if you want to pay an extra $500 for something that you (and no one) will be ever to see or tell, go and see the other one here.
Since we can easily (but wrongfully) say: “Get the highest clarity possible, and you will be fine”, let me rephrase that question above:
What is a good diamond clarity that I can get while I maintain a high quality / shining diamond ?
Now this is a cool question that we love to answer, if you ask ANY diamonds store rep. about this, it will be their happy day because they will try to sell you the highest clarity level they have, let’s see the right answer for it so you don’t get ripped off next time you want to buy a diamond.
How Diamond Clarity is Defined?
Look at this VVS1 1 Carat diamond on James Allen (priced at $5930), and then take a look at this SI1 similar diamond (priced at $4690), the second diamond has same Carat, Color, Cut, Polish, Symmetry, and even a none fluourscence.
We’re talking about more than $1200 (+26%) increase in diamond price between both, just for the sake of clarity level!
This shows us why it’s very important to understand WHY we choose a specific clarity grade or level, in order to guarantee a best bang for our bucks.
Before going any further, it’s important to know how clarity is defined, what puts a diamond in VS grade, while another one is in VVS?
Diamond Clarity is a collective concept that implies the presence or absence of defects inside or on the surface of a stone and the determination of the degree of their significance.
The clarity of a diamond is defined by the number of blemishes or inclusions it has, and to what degree these blemishes or imperfections can be seen, whether to naked-eye or using a loupe.
How & to Which Extent Inclusions Affect Clarity?
The blemishes and inclusions occur naturally as the diamonds are being formed deep within the earth’s core. Blemishes are imperfections on the surface of the diamond. Inclusions occur within the diamond itself.
The diamonds that have fewer imperfections are more likely to look more brilliant and reflect better, and this is because the light that passes through the diamond is not obstructed by the blemishes or inclusions that occur within or without it.
Where the blemish is positioned is also a factor that influences the clarity of the diamond. Imperfections around the bezel facets or near the girdle are less likely to be seen. Diamonds with this feature are regarded as having better clarity.
While on the hand, inclusions that are on diamond table are more likely to be seen and/or affect diamond light reflection, depending on the inclusion type and how big/small it is.
Until the middle of the last century, a single classification of the diamond’s defining characteristic did not exist; the stones were distinguished according to the Old Term simplified color system. The question: “What is the clarity of a diamond” until that time almost did not rise.
Thanks to GIA, becuase in 1960s, people & diamond industry became more aware of what a perfectly cut diamond is, and such diamonds began to gain universal popularity.
We all know that Gemological Institute of America offered the world the GIA system (that became a reference for many other grading labs later), this system covers all the criteria that together comprise the value of a certain crystal. The GIA diamond is evaluated according to four characteristics:
The GIA rates diamonds clarity with an 11 point system based on the number, size, color, reflectivity, and position of the flaws / inclusions of a diamond.
Read: Diamond Inclusion Chart – How it Affects Clarity?
In order for us to determine a good diamond clarity level, it is important to first be acquainted with the different grades of clarity, shortly below…
Diamond Clarity Grades & Cleanness to Naked-Eye
Diamonds are graded into 11 grades / levels as we mentioned, and 6 of them are eye-clean (and a 7th in most of its cases), so if there is any imperfections, they can only be seen under 10x magnifier, here are the grades:
Internally Flawless (IF) / Flawless (FI)
Diamonds that are internally flawless but contain external blemishes are designated as IF. The blemishes are very difficult to see at a glance and even with magnification. Flawless (FL) diamonds do not contain any blemishes or inclusions, under the lens of a 10x magnification, these diamonds are VERY rare (less than 2%)
Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1. VVS2)
These contain inclusions that are so small that they are very hard to spot even under the 10x magnification used by a gerontologist.
Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2)
The clarity of diamonds in this grade is less. They have minute inclusions that are barely visible under 10x magnification. Clouds, feathers, and crystals are some of the imperfections that reduce the clarity of the very slightly included diamonds.
Slightly Included (SI1, S12)
Clouds, feathers, knots, crystals, and cavities can be clearly seen in an S1I and SI2 diamond by the jeweler loupe, and for SI2, it can be seen with naked-eye, less possible for an SI1 diamond in most cuts.
Included (I1, I2, I3)
In this case, the diamonds have inclusions that are even more obvious to the naked eye and reflect even more clearly under a gerontologist magnification. They are still sold even though most customers prefer other diamonds with more clarity,
The imperfections such as cavities, knots, feathers, clouds are mistaken for cracks and smudges. Diamonds that are included do not shine are well as other grades of clarity.
What is Best Budget-friendly Diamond Clarity?
Now back to our main question: In order to put my money into the right place, which diamond clarity level should I get? And not exceed it.
If you want the quick answer, get a clarity level that is “Eye Clean”, period.
Want more details?
Diamond clarity is all about a clean diamond, and a great sparkle, to get this, you have to pick an eye-clean diamond without visible inclusions, no bad inclusions on the table, and that’s it.
Well, in many cases, it depends on what the customer wants, some seek uniqueness, others are on budget, many are very cautious and prefer to stay “very safe”, and my advice for all of them is: Get the most Bang for the Buck!
What is a Good Diamond Clarity For You?
Now that the different grades of clarity have been clearly described, it will be easier to choose what grade of clarity is the best in diamonds. When choosing a diamond, the best type of quality is actually determined by the customer’s wants.
IF-FL & VVS: Money is not an issue? Get these grades, they are flawless high quality diamond with an almost perfect appearance. The diamonds of flawless or near flawless clarity are insanely expensive & very rare.
VS: Very good choice to go with when seeking high quality with some sort of flexible budget. Since the inclusions are not visible to the eye, this clarity grade is perfect, but still, many higher VS grades are very expensive, and honestly, a lot of money put in this grade will not reflect that much in clarity and shining.
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 SI1.
SI1: So yes, a diamond that is Slightly Included (SI1) can still be regarded as the best diamond quality as the inclusions can only be seen with magnification (we doubt her friends will take the diamond for an inspection, right?), but just make sure that the inclusions are not large so they don’t affect brilliance.
As mentioned above, the location of the imperfection matters in determining the best diamond clarity. If the blemishes and inclusions occur at the side of the diamond it is better than when they are situated in the center of the table..
Priceless or Flawless?
The best diamond clarity is not the highest grade as we saw above. It is determined solely by what you want and can afford.
When set on a setting and worn, diamonds of different grades of clarity might actually look the same. The blemishes and inclusions will be impossible to see with the naked eye.
It can only be seen under magnification. Therefore, if you are not very concerned about getting a totally flawless diamond, you can get a diamond within the grades of SI1-VS2.
It is much better to go with a lower grade of clarity than to overspend on a higher grade of clarity that will not be noticed by the naked eye.
Getting an eye-clean clarity diamond will ensure that no one will tell the difference between diamond clarity levels, from the table above, Most of SI1 & All above are ALL considered eye clean, their imperfections are not visible under any circumstances for naked eye.
And if you just want to be a little safer, just go a level up, VS2 will give you the best value for money, so rest-assure while you’re choosing within this grade, and don’t get sold to retail stores, this is the most point they argue on, the Clarity.
For example, here are 3 diamonds listed on James Allen. Each of the 3 are Ideal cut round diamond of 1.00 Carat weight and an E color. The only factor that changes is the diamond clarity (All of them are sold so prices are not shown on JA):
As you can see you will be paying a premium of 25% for the VVS1 diamond clarity grading even though it is more likely that you will never be able to tell the difference between it and the VS1 (I don’t recommend this SI1 for the imperfections on the table, but generally speaking, you can find a lot of eye-clean SI1).
Save your money, guarantee a good clarity diamond by getting an SI1 that’s an eye-clean, we highly recommend online stores like JamesAllen & Blue Nile where you can view diamonds real images with 360 degree videos so you can be 100% sure of spotting anything on the diamond.
If you want be a little safe (not always necessary if an SI1 is very clean piece), go one grade higher to VS2, and nothing more.
If you have more budget, you better spend on a higher Cut because it’s the most important factor among 4Cs, extra more money? Spend on Color, and then if you still have more, spend on a higher Clarity.