Diamond Clarity

Some may argue that Diamond Color is the Queen of the 4Cs, as Cut is the King. After picking the best cut, one would initially look for a near-colorless grade to intensify the diamond’s brilliance.

But let me show you a trick!

diamond clarity

An eye-clean diamond will affect the gem’s fire, brilliance, and scintillation greater than an icy-white diamond. So, before putting Color on a pedestal, make sure that Clarity is well taken care of!

I’ve collected everything you need to know about Diamond Clarity below, so when you start your search, you’ll be better equipped with the right jargons and modern tools for a smooth shopping.

For starters, diamond clarity is distinguished through different grades. Let’s talk about that!


What is clarity grading?

diamond clarity grading system

It’s the rating given to a diamond that speaks of the amount of flaws it possesses. These flaws can either be inclusions (internal flaws consisting of twigs, pinpoints etc.) or blemishes (external flaws like scratches that belong to the diamond polish). Read more about inclusion types here!

We normally use a 10x loupe to rate clarity. Do know that nearly all diamonds have some kind of blemish on the surface that’s usually cannot be seen by the naked eye. But inclusions can really take away from the beauty of the diamond if they are easily seen without magnification.


What do clarity grades look like?

In general, you can imagine the different diamond clarity grades to look something like this:

Diamond clarity grades

And here’s a comprehensive chart I’ve compiled using real diamond images from James Allen – currently the best online diamond shop today – so you can thoroughly evaluate every grading.

Take a look at how each clarity grade differs or in some cases, go hand in hand:

Clarity Grade

Actual Photo

Meaning

FL-IF

1 CARAT F-IF EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND  

As the rarest, FL and IF diamonds make up less than 1% of the world’s gem quality diamonds!

Unlike the lower clarity grades that are rated by the amount of flaws, FL and IF Diamonds are differentiated by the gem’s polish because both grades are actually free of any inclusions under 10x magnification.

Meaning, they have perfect clarity grades making them the priciest gems!

VVS1

1 CARAT F-VVS1 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND

Dubbed as Very, Very Slightly Included, VVS1 diamonds have inclusions that only a trained gemologist can detect under a 10x loupe.

The flaws in this grade are so slight that even an expert can find it difficult to view imperfections in 10x magnification.

Why don’t you click the image and see for yourself?

Zoom out to 2x magnification and try to make out any inclusion.

VVS2

1 CARAT F-VVS2 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND

Like VVS1, VVS2 inclusions are only detected by a professional under 10x loupe, but they’re still so difficult to see that they’re almost non-existent and it would take a few minutes to thoroughly evaluate them.

If an inclusion is seen by a grader from the pavilion side (bottom up) with magnification, the diamond would be branded as VVS1. While a VVS2 stone will have inclusions from the face up view, table down, or top half of the gem.

VS1

1 CARAT F-VS1 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND

VS1s are one of the most affordable diamonds with no visible inclusions.

This clarity grade bears tiny flaws that can only be detected by a trained gemologist under 10X magnification. Without a loupe, you wouldn’t be able to spot any flaws!

With VS1, you can be sure that they’ll always be EYE CLEAN. You won’t see black carbon spots; only tiny white inclusions when viewing under a loupe.

VS2

1 CARAT F-VS2 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND

VS2 diamonds bear noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification that are easily spotted by a professional. Although without magnification tools or bionic eyes, you wouldn’t see any flaw.

Meaning, they’re still invisible to the naked eye!

We call this grade “the sweet spot” for its high quality and affordability.

This is where you can save money without compromising quality!

SI1

1 CARAT F-SI1 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND

SI1 stands for “slightly included 1” which means that there are inclusions and they are visible under 10x magnification, but they may or may not be noticeable with your bare eyes.

The white hazy inclusions this sample has are evident under 20x magnification.

But they cannot be seen without a loupe, so this diamond is still eye clean and is good value for money!

SI2

1 CARAT F-SI2 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND

SI2 has inclusions that are easily seen under a 10x loupe and some of its flaws are possibly seen with the naked eye.

It has more evident inclusions and such flaws are naturally bigger than what SI1 normally possesses.

In fact, it’s not only the difference in amount or visibility that’s obvious, but the intensity in color as well.

If you’ll take time searching, you’ll find eye clean SI2 diamonds.

I1

1 CARAT F-I1 EXCELLENT CUT ROUND DIAMOND

Inclusions in this grade are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.

This sample diamond is NOT EYE CLEAN, but since I1 is the last clarity grade where eye clean diamonds exist, it’s possible to still find one, thru painstaking digging, of course.

I2 and I3 diamonds are NEVER eye clean and this is why you should definitely avoid those.


Eye Clean and Not Eye Clean Diamonds

You do have to be aware though that each kind of inclusion can greatly differ from diamond to diamond. Graders only consider the size of the inclusion, but not whether it’s black or nearly transparent (hardly noticeable). This is the reason why lower clarity grades can have diamonds with invisible (eye clean) and visible (not eye clean) flaws when viewed with bare eyes.

Check out these SI1 diamonds below:

  • eye clean SI1 diamond Eye Clean SI1 Diamond
  • not eye clean SI1 diamond Not Eye Clean SI1 Diamond

Given the scenario above, it becomes particularly important to have a look at the diamond before buying it. Grading certificates offer legit information, but they’re actually not enough. If you rely on the diamond reports alone, you won’t be able to know what the gem looks like in real life.

James Allen is the first online vendor that has introduced a revolutionary technique called the 360° Diamond Display Technology. I like how it allows the viewer to review the gem in 20x magnification from every angle, so that all inclusions can be made out!

Check Out James Allen Now


Which clarity grade should I choose?

Ideally, you want to buy a diamond that does not include any flaws that are visible to the naked eye. In short, always opt for eye clean diamonds! During my years of experience in the diamond industry, I have come up with three rules regarding diamond clarity. Let’s have a closer look!

1. Never choose I2 and I3 clarity grades.

Diamonds of such clarity grades ALWAYS contain inclusions that can be viewed with the naked eye. In fact, I’ve never held an I2 or I3 diamond that doesn’t contain inclusions when seen without loupe. To be safe, just scratch them off of your shopping criteria as they will definitely not be eye clean!

This is what you can expect when buying I2-13 clarity diamonds:

I2 and I3

Heavily Included I2 and I3 Diamonds


2. Any diamond with FL, IF, VVS1, VVS2, and VS1 clarity grades are guaranteed eye-clean.

This means that all these clarity grades will look just the same to the naked eye: perfectly clean as though there were no flaws at all! In other words, the more you go up the in clarity, the cleaner the diamond will be under 10x magnification.

VVS1 diamond in 10x loupe

When I’m evaluating VS1 gems, I usually have to find inclusions with a 10x powered loupe for several minutes. So, it’s safe to say that you don’t have to go higher than VS1 to find eye clean diamonds.

But of course, many people still opt for the highest for idealistic reasons and that is totally fine. As long as you are aware that you would be paying for a premium feature that you can barely see.


3. Clarity grades from VS2, SI1, and SI2 can be eye-clean and are much cheaper!

Now comes the interesting part: VS2, SI1, and SI2 clarity grades are cheaper than the “guaranteed” eye-clean grades and they’re virtually eye-clean as well! VS2 and SI1 inclusions can be spotted without any difficulty using a 10x loupe. But these imperfections remain invisible to the naked eye!

This is why, to me, VS2, SI1, and SI2 clarity grades are the magic region for saving a lot of money – if you pay attention to the details.

save money

The reason is that clarity grades only take the size of the inclusion into account and not its color, opaqueness, and position. In reality though, while some inclusions are hazy and white, others can be dark and stark.

Some flaws can also be found on the outer region of the diamond, while other inclusions are situated in the middle of the gem making them more evident. Still, such diamonds with differing impurities could get the same clarity grade.

So, at the end of the day, if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, this group is the sweet spot where you can maximize your budget!

Here you can clearly see that it really pays off to have a close look at the diamonds within the VS2 – SI2 clarity range:

  • Eye Clean VS2 Diamondeye clean VS2 diamond
  • Eye Clean SI1 Diamondeye clean SI1 diamond
  • Eye Clean SI2 Diamondeye clean SI2 diamond
  • Not Eye Clean VS2 Diamondnot eye clean VS2 diamond
  • Not Eye Clean SI1 Diamondnot eye clean SI1 diamond
  • Not Eye Clean SI2 Diamondnot eye clean SI2 diamond

 

If the highest clarity grades look enticing to you simply for investment reasons, then you need to know about this:


The Myth About Diamond Clarity for Investment Diamonds

thinking idea

Now, I know that there are people who would argue that they have to buy an “Internally Flawless” diamond because this would be investment quality.

This way, it is ensured that the diamond would not lose any of its value.

Sadly, “investment diamonds” is a myth.

The truth is that you will ALWAYS lose a considerable amount of money when reselling your diamond.

 

If you find this topic interesting, please read this meaty article titled “Have you ever tried to sell a diamond?“ It was written in 1982, but in terms of reselling diamonds, nothing has changed!

In a nutshell, it’s okay to choose the highest clarity grade possible, but please don’t do it because you think that it will be a good investment. Because it won’t.


The Takeaway

If you want to get the best deal for your money, I recommend buying a diamond between VS2, SI1, and SI2 grades and seeing the exact photos to make sure it’s eye clean! As simple as that.

Not sure if your diamond is eye clean?

Leave your question in the comments section below or better yet, email me here!

 

Diamond Clarity
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About 

Sebastian Naturski loves to write about diamonds and share his knowledge with his readers.
When he is not working on his website he is studying law at Humboldt University of Berlin.
He has taken part in several international law competitions and likes to broaden his horizons.
His other big passion are languages. He is fluent in German, English, Polish and Japanese and got basic skills in French and Spanish as well.

12 Comments

    • Hi Lissette, the last two diamonds are eye clean, but the first one isn’t as it bears a black inclusion right on the table facet of the gem. 🙂

  1. I am going through all your articles, and stopped here to comment to point out this beautiful thing, ‘you talk practically in favor of new diamond buyers’. Like your suggestions such as buy VS2, SI1, SI2 after inspection, which is one great advice and I always wondered where would I get such advice from someone experienced, and here you are.

    Good work.

    • Hi there Darpan,

      Thank you for your wonderful feedback! Tips and advice from this field usually come with a price. But I was once clueless as well and I have friends who have been ripped off because of wrong informaton. Over the years, my fascination over such gems grew, and given my experience in the diamond industry, it urged me to learn more and eventually share my knowledge. I’m just glad to be of help! 🙂

    • Hi Susan,

      I’m glad to be of help! What you shown is indeed a perfectly balanced diamond. The most important factors are the crown angle and pavilion angle. The crown angle should be between 34.0° and 35.0° and the pavilion angle between 40.6° – 41.0°. The perfect proportions to maximize fire and brilliance are right in the middle, so it’s 34.5° for the crown angle and 40.8° for the pavilion angle.

      You can also counterbalance a slightly higher crown angle with a slightly lower pavilion angle and vice versa. Thus, while 34.5° and 40.8° are the ideal proportions, the slightly higher crown angle of 34.7° is counterbalanced by the slightly lower crown angle of 40.6° degrees, making your diamond an excellent choice to maximize both fire and brilliance! 🙂

  2. Hi Sebastian,

    Thank you for making this website and providing such excellent advice! I have found some diamonds on James Allen site and would like your advice on whether these are considered eye clean, can you help?

    http://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.83-carat-j-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-961338
    http://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.80-carat-i-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-1005610
    http://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.80-carat-j-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-975003

    Thanks,
    Andy

    • Hi there Andy,

      Thanks for your feedback! All three diamonds are considered eye clean because they don’t possess visible dark inclusions especially at the table facet. They do bear white hazy inclusions and blemishes though, but they’re not too noticeable under 10x loupe, so they’re still eye clean.

      Hope this helps, cheers! 🙂

  3. So, if I am lazy I just have to choose a VS1 graded diamond and I will not have to worry about the diamond clarity?

    • Yes, if it is a GIA or AGS graded VS1 diamond, the diamond can basically be guaranteed to be eye-clean.
      Although a VS1 graded diamond is already much cheaper than an IF graded diamond and both are eye-clean, I would still try to look for eye-clean diamonds within the VS2, SI1 and SI2 clarity grades. That is, only if you want to make the best deal for your budget.

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