Table of Contents
- Introduction - Diamond Clarity Scale Chart
- The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale
- Understanding the Nature of Diamond Clarity
- The Effect of Inclusions on Diamond Clarity
- I-1, I-2, and I-3 clarity diamonds, aka Dead
- SI-1, and SI-2 clarity diamonds, the beginning of eye-clean
- VS-1 and VS-2 the Sweet Spot of Diamond Clarity
- VVS-1 and VVS-2 Diamond Clarity Grades
- The Meaning of Internally Flawless Clarity
- Flawless Diamond Clarity Grade
- Diamond Clarity Grading Photographs and Examples
- What does an I-1, I-2, I-3 clarity diamond look like?
- What does an SI-2 clarity diamond look like?
- Will this SI-1 clarity diamond face-up eye clean?
- VS-2 clarity diamonds, very slightly included
- VS-1 clarity, diamonds, the high side of very slightly included
- VVS-2 clarity diamonds, very, very slightly included
- VVS-1 clarity diamonds, can you see it?
- Internally Flawless – What is there to see?
- Flawless, there’s nothing to see here folks…
- So, which diamond clarity should you choose?
The majority of the diamond industry adheres to the diamond clarity scale introduced by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). This chart demonstrates the diamond clarity scale developed by the GIA*
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t find this version of the diamond clarity scale very helpful. After all, what does all of that VVS-1, VVS-2, VS-1, VS-2, SI-1-2-3, and I-1-2-3 stuff mean anyway? Unless you’re a professional diamond grader, it probably doesn’t mean much, which is why the GIA created this visual representation of the diamond clarity grades:
Which you probably don’t find to be all that helpful either, because a one-dimensional plotting diagram of a diamond is not an accurate representation of how visible inclusions may appear within a three-dimensional translucent crystal, right?
The GIA diamond clarity scale consists of six categories which are divided into eleven grades. The majority of diamonds purchased by our clients for engagement rings fall into the VVS, VS, or SI-clarity grades because they want their diamond to face-up eye clean. Brian Gavin does not sell diamonds in the lower clarity grades of I-1, I-2, or I-3 range.
Using the GIA system for grading diamond clarity, a grader will take into consideration, the size, nature, position, color or relief, and quantity of clarity characteristics, as determined using 10x magnification.
The GIA diamond clarity grades are defined as follows:
Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification.
Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.
Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification.
Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.
Diamonds are created deep within the earth under conditions of extreme heat and pressure. Diamonds may exhibit clarity characteristics (flaws) known inclusions (internal clarity characteristics) or blemishes (external clarity characteristics).
Some people say that no two diamonds are alike and that each diamond is unique in the composition and formation of the clarity characteristics which it contains. Thus, you might choose to view the location and structure of the clarity characteristics within your diamond as being similar to a fingerprint or birthmark.
We use these clarity characteristics to determine the rarity of the diamond, as compared to other diamonds which may contain more or less inclusions, or inclusions which are more or less noticeable under laboratory grading conditions.
The industry standard for diamond clarity grading is 10x magnification. However, we usually use a gem scope with higher degrees of magnification during the evaluation process to be able to identify inclusions more easily.
The majority of people buying a diamond engagement ring prefer to not to be able to see inclusions or flaws within the diamond with just their eyes. With that in mind, we recommend that you focus on diamonds which are VS-2 or higher in clarity.
While there are some SI-1 and SI-2 clarity diamonds which face-up “eye clean” it is important to understand that clarity is largely a matter of perspective. The apparent ability to locate the inclusions within a diamond with just your eyes, depends on the individual vision of each person and the lighting conditions under which the diamond is being viewed.
With that in mind, one person might deem an SI-1 or SI-2 clarity diamond to be “eye clean” while another person might pick-up the diamond and be able to see the inclusions without much effort. Which is not to say that SI-clarity diamonds are less desirable than higher clarity diamonds, because there are many people who don’t mind the possibility of being able to see an inclusion or two with just their eyes. After all, there is perfection in the imperfection of natural things…
With this in mind, let’s get I-1, I-2, and I-3 clarity diamonds out of the way and build our way up to the higher clarity grades from there.
The majority of I-1, I-2, and I-3 clarity diamonds that you’ll find in the market are what the industry deems to be “promotional goods” which are so heavily included that they appear to look “dead” because they are so dull and lifeless, due to the heavy concentration of flaws within the diamond crystal.
Many traditional brick and mortar jewelry stores use lower clarity diamonds like these as “lost leaders” in advertising to draw people into the store in hopes of buying a one carat diamond for $1,995 – 2,995.00 but WOW are most people surprised when they discover that the diamond they came in to buy looks like a piece of crushed rock quartz!
“Oh, well, that is the price of the engagement ring which we advertised, but if you’d like something nicer, we have many more diamonds to choose from…”
Of course they do, but thanks for making me think that I could buy a nice looking one carat diamond engagement ring for only $1,995 – 2,995.00 because now I’ve got that idea stuck in my head and it’s such a bummer to come down from there, right?
SI-clarity diamonds are “semi-included” which means that a trained grader was able to identify the inclusions “readily and immediately” using 10x magnification, which is the industry standard for diamond grading.
Depending on the nature of the inclusions, their size, location, and the degree to which they are visible, a diamond may be graded as SI-1 (the higher end of the spectrum) or SI-2 (the lower end of the spectrum) but it is important to realize that each clarity grade represents a range of possibility.
Which means that there some SI-1 and SI-2 clarity diamonds will be better (or worse) than others. For example, you might be comparing two SI-1 clarity diamonds, and one appears to be less included than the other.
Imagine that you’re able to easily see the big, black, crystal located right in the middle of the table facet of one, while the feather along the edge of the other SI-1 clarity diamond is not at all visible to the naked eye.
You might find yourself wondering how both of these diamonds can both be SI-1 in clarity. After all, the inclusions are blatantly obvious in one, and the other might be difficult for you to find even when using magnification.
It’s important to remember that the diamonds were graded by a trained diamond grader with extensive experience evaluating diamonds using magnification. That person took the location, extent, and visibility of the inclusions into account when determining the clarity grade.
Earlier, I touched on the fact that the visibility of inclusions depends on the individual vision of each person who is looking at the diamond. This is an important fact to remember when deciding whether to buy an SI-1 or SI-2 clarity diamond that is described as “eye clean” because whether you agree with that assessment will depend on your personal vision.
Keep this in mind when shopping for SI-1 or SI-2 clarity diamonds. The industry method for determining whether a diamond is “eye clean” is this… A trained grader picks the diamond up in tweezers and glances at it from a distance of 9-12 inches. If the inclusions are not “readily and immediately visible” to a trained grader, the diamond is deemed to be eye clean.
But this doesn’t mean that the diamond will be 100% eye clean if somebody has very keen vision and/or scrutinizes the diamond closely. Which is why you should consider nothing less than VS-2 clarity if you truly want the diamond to face-up eye clean under scrutiny.
Which is not to say that the inclusions within SI-1 or SI-2 clarity diamonds are always easy to spot. Oh, no, nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that some SI-clarity diamonds contain inclusions that are “readily and immediately visible” and you might be hard-pressed to find the inclusions within other SI-clarity diamonds even with magnification.
It practically goes without saying that the SI-clarity range represents the largest spectrum of inclusion possible. Everything that is higher than I-1 in clarity and lower than VS-2 in clarity, finds its way into the SI-1 or SI-2 clarity grades. Simple enough, right? Of course, that simple fact makes it all the more challenging to buy an SI-clarity diamond without a great deal of guidance. Thankfully, Brian Gavin personally evaluates every diamond signed with his signature, so we can walk you through the inclusions and help you select a diamond that meets your preferences.