(Updated on May 1, 2018. Originally Published March 29, 2017)
“I’ve been researching buying a diamond online, and it seems that diamond cut quality should be my primary concern. My girlfriend really wants a one carat diamond, and I’d like the diamond to face-up really white. We’ve talked about it and both of us are all right with being able to see a small inclusion or two, as long as it is not really noticeable. The problem is that I haven’t been able to find any options within my $5K price range on your web site. But I did find a GIA Excellent cut, 1.02 carat, E-color, I-1 clarity, diamond on another web site that is within my price range. Unfortunately they don’t offer any photographs of the diamond, which makes me a little uneasy. I’m getting mixed reviews when I ask different dealers about I-1 / I-2 clarity diamonds, and notice that Brian Gavin doesn’t offer them. What are your thoughts?”
I1 / I2 = Included, level 1 & 2:
Let’s start with the basics, which is understanding the nature of I-1 and I-2 clarity diamonds. Each diamond clarity grade is divided into subcategories, consisting of a lower and upper spectrum of possibility. The I-1 clarity grade is used to describe diamonds within which the inclusions were readily and immediately visible to a trained grader without magnification.
This is a file photograph provided by the cutter who produced the diamond you referenced. We estimate that the clarity photograph shows the diamond at around 20x magnification. As you can see, the inclusions are readily apparent.
Now, this in itself does not make a diamond good or bad. That is simply a matter of personal perception. You indicated that you and your girlfriend are open to considering a diamond that you might be able to see an inclusion or two within, but that you don’t want those inclusions to be very noticeable. My guess is that this isn’t what you have in mind.
An I-2 clarity diamond will be more included, and diamonds in both the I-1 and I-2 clarity grades are likely to contain inclusions which may present a possible durability risk. For this reason, Brian Gavin Diamonds does not include I-1 and I-2 clarity diamonds in our inventory.
Maximizing carat weight by adjusting clarity & color:
From our perspective, it’s better to adjust your search criteria to include a broader range of carat weight, color, and clarity. While I recognize that the 1.00 carat mark can present a sort of mental hurdle, I think that owning a truly spectacular looking diamond far outweighs a few points of carat weight.
Consider this 0.908 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamond. Notice how much crisper and cleaner this diamond appears, and it’s magnified here to about 35x magnification. Imagine how much brighter and more beautiful this diamond will be.
The SI-1 clarity grade is used to describe diamonds in which a trained grader is readily and immediately able to identify the inclusions using 10x magnification.
This diamond has an average outside diameter of 6.22 millimeters, while this 1.027 carat, K-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamond has an average outside diameter of 6.46 millimeters.
Diamond Clarity vs Carat Weight:
Many people buying a diamond face the dilemma of trying to decide whether to focus on diamond clarity or carat weight. People often ask us which of the Diamond 4C’s are most important in terms of how a diamond will look.
From our perspective, the most important of the 4C’s is Diamond Cut Quality because it is the controlling factor of light performance. Nothing will affect the appearance of your diamond more than the proportions and degree of optical precision.
The dilemma you face is whether you should sacrifice diamond clarity for carat weight and buy an I1 or I2 clarity diamond. As you’ve seen, the inclusions within I-1 and I-2 clarity diamonds can be so severe that they impair the ability of light to reflect through a diamond properly.
The question is how the difference of 0.2 millimeters plays out in terms of your personal preferences. Would you prefer to buy a larger diamond that is 1.00 carats, but visibly included with a myriad of inclusions that are easily and immediately visible without magnification? Then an I-1 or I-2 clarity diamond might be an acceptable option.
Or would you prefer a slightly smaller diamond, but one which faces-up much cleaner to the naked eye, and which offers a higher volume of light return and more intense sparkle?
Or might you be willing to accept a slightly warmer color, such as J-K color, in order to pick up the carat weight and maintain a higher clarity?
Diamond Buying Tip: If you set a diamond in white gold or platinum prongs, the color of the white metal will be picked up by the diamond and reflected throughout the stone, making it appear to face-up whiter and brighter than it does while unmounted.
Best Looking Round Brilliant Cut Diamond for $5K:
What I suggest is that we approach this dilemma from a different perspective. I believe that what you’re really trying to accomplish is buying the best-looking diamond for five thousand dollars. Would that assumption be correct?
You also want to maximize the carat weight of the diamond to create the best visual impression. Is that right? With that in mind, let’s search Brian Gavin Diamonds to determine the best options currently available.
The first thing I want you to do is set the upper limit for price about one thousand dollars higher than the budget of $5000 that you have in mind, because this reveals any diamonds that might be available right along the fringe of your desired price range.
For example, this 1.253 carat, L-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows diamond is only $4,962.00 and it will look outstanding on her finger. However, this diamond won’t show up in the results of your diamond search if you set the upper limits to 5K because the price is $5,115.00 before the discount for payment via cash/wire transfer.
The nice thing about this diamond is that it’s going to look huge on her finger! The average outside diameter is 6.90 millimeters, which is considerably larger than the eraser on a standard #2 pencil. In addition, the diamond faces-up eye clean, so you don’t have to worry about her looking down and seeing any unseemly blemishes within her diamond.
It’s true that an L-color diamond is going to face-up a little warmer in hue and saturation than an E-color diamond. However, the reality is that most people find it easier to see the inclusions in an I-1 or I-2 clarity diamond, than it is for them to see the subtle differences between diamond color grades under normal lighting.
With this in mind, I prefer the light performance and sparkle factor of a Brian Gavin Signature diamond with higher cut quality, over the carat weight of a more included diamond that lacks the luster and radiance of a truly spectacular diamond.