Get Clear About Diamond Clarity
What should VS and SI mean to you?
I love diamonds. What I don’t love are diamond industry practices that lead consumers into making poor purchasing decisions. I am writing this guide to help you feel more informed about diamond clarity and to empower you into feeling more confident about your diamond purchasing judgement.
As always, if you need one-to-one advice just CONTACT ME and I’d be happy to help.
1. FL – Flawless
2. IF – Internally Flawless
3. VVSI1 and VVSI2 – Very Very Slightly Included
4. VS1 and VS2 – Very Slightly Included
5. SI1 and SI2 – Slightly Included
6. I1, I2 and I3 – Included
The most popular grades are VS1, VS2, SI1 and SI2. Their popularity is due to the price points and their being mostly “eye clean”, meaning that any imperfections are only revealed with an expert eye and the magnification of a microscope.
With that in mind, in this guide I’m going to focus on these four grade. Let’s begin with the two key differences between them – that of PRICE and VISUALS.
The topic of price is quite simple and straight-forward. Diamonds are priced according to the Rapaport price list– an international trade diamond report for polished diamonds based on the 4 C’s. It is widely used by both wholesalers and retailers to standardize and verify diamond prices.
If you were hoping to take a look at the Rapaport price list, think again. It would be difficult for you the consumer to get your hands on the report, but just knowing about it will assist you to find the right price for the diamond you seek.
Things are a lot more complicated when it comes to matters of the eye. Determining differences between the VS1, VS2, SI1 and SI2 grades is almost impossible for people who don’t have professional training in diamond assessment. In fact, even the professionals will often disagree with grades.
This is quite an important point because it is the grades that play a massive role in the final price of the stone, so for example an SI2 clarity diamond is much cheaper than one with SI1 clarity, when the other 3 C’s are equal.
Let’s take a closer look at the four Clarity grades that we’re focused on.
VS CLARITY GRADE
VS or Very Slightly included, are grades awarded to diamonds with small imperfections. They are further divided into VS1 and VS2 grades.
VS1 diamonds are known for:
- Very few tiny inclusions that are hard to spot even under a 10x loupe
- Visually they are a safe purchase – even pros will struggle to notice the flaws
- Clearer than VS2 clarity diamonds
- Bragging rights
VS2 diamonds are known for:
- Slightly easier to detect inclusions compared to VS1
- Still a visually clean look even when viewed through 10x magnification
- Less expensive than VS1
- More potential value than VS1
SI CLARITY GRADE
SI or Slightly Included are grades awarded to diamonds with several small inclusions that are easily detected when viewed under a 10x microscope. Without magnification the flaws will rarely be noticeable with the naked eye.
They are divided into two grades – SI1 and SI2
SI1 diamonds are known for:
- Inclusions that are immediately spotted with a 10x loupe
- Appearing almost spotless when viewed with the naked eye
- Better value compared to VS diamonds
SI2 diamonds are known for:
- Inclusions that are immediately spotted with a 10x loupe
- Several small inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye
- Potential to find great value if you find a very good SI2
Want to buy the best diamond for your money?
VS1 DIAMOND CLARITY
These examples are graded as VS1 yet they show no visible inclusions. Not even when magnified to 40x.
SI1 DIAMOND CLARITY
Varying degrees of inclusions in the selection below. The top left diamond has the most flaws while the bottom right diamond is the best looking of the six. An SI1 diamond can look just as good as VS clarity diamonds – if you choose correctly.
SI2 DIAMOND CLARITY
We have nine SI2 diamonds below. As you can see, the visual flaws can look quite bad while others still look really great. Yet the all have the same grade. This is exactly what you need to be taking advantage of. Show some patience and you can definitely benefit from finding an SI2 diamond that looks amazing and doesn’t break the bank.
BUYING GUIDE FOR VS AND SI DIAMONDS
No two diamonds are alike, which adds another layer of difficulty when it comes to determining which diamond is right for you. One diamond may have more inclusions over a second diamond, but the flaws in the second diamond are more noticeable. But the second diamond has a better cut…and the first diamond has a smaller carat weight and…
You get the idea. It’s not easy.
Before you buy your diamond, at the very least you’re going to want to look at it through a 10x loupe. Physical diamond stores will let you look through a loupe or a microscope, if you ask. Use our descriptions above to try and judge whether the grade is a match or, even better, if the grade is underselling the value of the diamond.
The other option is purchasing online. Most reputable online shops will be able to provide real photos at a 20x-40x magnification. If you can’t see at least 20x magnification I would advise not making the purchase.
This tip becomes even more important when purchasing a diamond with a grade lower than VS2. In this case the ability to view a high quality magnified photo of the diamond becomes twice as important in order to determine the best diamond for your budget.
Inclusions will most directly affect diamonds with step cuts, such as emerald and ascher, as these cuts provide a beautiful mirror-like appearance that highlights any visible flaws. Brilliant cut diamonds tend to hide these inclusions within the facet and sparkle of the diamond. For that reason, I would strongly advise only using VS grades for step cut diamonds.
Finally, make sure you always purchase diamonds that are certified. This guarantees the grade and ensures that you are not being ripped off.
There is every reason in the world to focus your diamond interests on VS1, VS2, SI1 and SI2 clarity diamonds. Most of them will look flawless to the eye and will cost you a fraction of what a truly flawless diamond would cost. Don’t let a salesman convince you that a tiny flaw is something to be ashamed about because that same salesman probably needs a microscope to even notice the difference in the first place.
Do you attend a lot of parties with people walking around with microscopes? I doubt it.
For those who have the budget to get the best clarity, the VS range will have plenty of excellent choices to suit all but the highest of standards. For the same budget the SI range allows you to take on some small imperfections but improve upon the carat weight, cut and/or color grade.
When purchasing a VS or SI diamond, you should use your own eyes to determine whether the inclusions are acceptable for its grade. This is a skill that will take inexperienced buyers some time to develop, but the persistence will be worth it.
Use what you have learned in this article and you’ll be making great diamond purchases like a pro.
Or go ahead and ask what I think. It would be a pleasure to help you make the perfect diamond purchase.