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Is an I Clarity Diamond a Good Buy?

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Since I clarity diamonds contain large or numerous inclusions, finding a nice one can be tough. Learn whether an I clarity diamond is a good choice for your engagement ring and how to find one that will look great.
By Addison Rice 7 minute read
I1 clarity diamond ring
14k diamond ring, 0.46 cts, H/I color, I1 clarity. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Conestoga Auction Company, Division of Hess Auction Group.

If you’re looking at diamonds with low clarity grades (SI1 to I3), you’ll need to see magnified views. This will help you determine whether or not the imperfections are visible. We recommend James Allen and Blue Nile for this reason. Their closeup video lets you determine the diamond’s quality for yourself.

Of course, working with a custom jeweler can help you get the perfect engagement ring at any budget. If you want an engagement ring tailored just for you, check out CustomMade.

It can be difficult to find a nice-looking I clarity diamond, which is why we recommend choosing a SI2 clarity diamond, like this marquise-cut stone, if it fits your budget. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

What is an I Clarity Diamond?

I stands for “Included,” and I clarity diamonds represent the low end of jewelry-grade diamonds. Although they contain large or numerous inclusions that can impact their beauty and durability, they also have an attractive price point.

I clarity diamond with large inclusion
The cut quality of this I clarity diamond is beautiful, but the large, dark inclusion near the center is clearly visible to the naked eye. Check out the video at the James Allen site.

If you’re considering an I clarity diamond, you’re probably trying to stretch your budget. First, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of some alternatives and whether to opt for a higher clarity grade. Then, if you’re not satisfied with the alternatives, we’ll give you tips for finding the best I clarity diamond.

Stretching the Engagement Ring Budget

Nearly every I clarity diamond will have imperfections noticeable to the naked eye. While some consumers will tolerate a tiny flaw because of the savings it will bring, most want a diamond that appears perfect.

In this section, we’ll discuss alternatives to an I clarity diamond.

Lab-Made Diamonds

First up are lab-made diamonds. These stones are 100% real diamonds, only they’re made in a lab. That means they look exactly like mined diamonds and have the same hardness and durability. However, lab-made diamonds are more affordable and eco-friendly than mined diamonds, and they’re rapidly growing in popularity.

Compare these two diamonds from James Allen:

For $30 less than the 0.51-ct H, I1 mined diamond, you could get a lab-made 0.78-ct F SI1 diamond. The larger size of the lab-made diamond will really make an impact. Plus, the I clarity diamond has a dark inclusion that casts reflections, something you’re likely to notice in a ring.


Moissanite has also become a popular diamond alternative. To most non-experts, moissanites look just like diamonds but have a much more attractive price point. So, casual viewers won’t know your ring has a moissanite unless you tell them. Learn more about moissanite.

moissanite engagement ring
Find this Ring at CustomMadeWould you guess this was a moissanite ring? © CustomMade. Used with permission.

SI Clarity Diamonds

Of course, opting for an SI clarity diamond will cost you more than an I clarity diamond. However, finding one that looks perfect and doesn’t have any flaws that compromise its durability will be much easier.

While you might have to compromise on color or carat, you’ll likely be happier with an eye-clean SI clarity diamond than a flawed I clarity one.

If you compare the quality and price of these two diamonds, opting for the SI2 stone is easy. $30 cheaper and only 0.04 carats smaller, the eye-clean SI2 clarity diamond is a much better choice than the visibly flawed I1 clarity diamond.

Buying an I Clarity Diamond

If you’re up to the challenge of finding the best I clarity diamond for your ring, here are our top tips.

Grading Laboratory

First, check the grading laboratory. Each gem lab has slightly different standards for grading color, cut, and clarity. So, the best I clarity diamonds will have grading reports from one of the top labs: the GIA or AGS.

We recommend limiting your search to diamonds graded by one of these laboratories. Since they have higher standards, you’re more likely to purchase a diamond that looks nice and won’t chip or break.

I1, I2, or I3

I clarity is subdivided into two or three groups (depending on the grading laboratory). I1 has the fewest or smallest imperfections, while I2 and I3 have bigger and more noticeable flaws.

We recommend sticking exclusively to I1 diamonds. Lower clarity grades will always have readily visible flaws or flaws that can make your diamond break.

Durability in an I Clarity Diamond

Although diamonds are the hardest mineral, they can still chip and break. In fact, some clarity features might make this more likely.

Not surprisingly, the most dangerous imperfections are the large ones. Larger inclusions and internal fractures interrupt the diamond’s crystal structure. So, a diamond with a large flaw is more likely to break if you accidentally knock it against a hard surface, like a table.

many small inclusions
Although the many dark inclusions might make this diamond ugly, they don’t pose as much of a problem for durability as a single large flaw. Take a look at this diamond on the James Allen site.

Size isn’t the only thing that matters, though. The placement of the flaw in the stone is important, too. Flaws that reach the surface are the most dangerous, while those deep inside the gem pose the least concern.

Keep in mind that not all imperfections are dark and easily visible, even in a magnified view. Nevertheless, they can still cause durability problems. Always check the clarity diagram or plot on a diamond’s grading report and ask a gemologist if any of the indicated flaws present a durability concern.

Diamond Shape

In certain diamond shapes, it’s especially important to check the location of the imperfections. Large flaws near the corners of princess, pear, marquise, trillion, and heart-shaped diamonds pose serious durability concerns.

I clarity pear-shaped diamond
With a large cloud of black inclusions near the tip, this pear-shaped diamond might be more likely to break. Take a look at the video on the James Allen site.

The corners of these shapes are already at risk of chipping. With flaws in the corners, these diamonds are even more likely to chip or break. Since prongs usually hold these diamonds by their sharp corners, a broken diamond might fall out of the ring entirely.


If you’re sure the diamond’s flaws aren’t a durability concern, check for reflections next. Since diamonds are highly reflective, dark imperfections might reflect internally, making one flaw look like 20.

Reflections make the diamond appear darker and less sparkly, so avoid them if you want a nice-looking stone.

In this diamond, the dark blotches under the table reflect in the lower left facets, making the diamond much less bright. Learn to identify reflections by looking at the video on the James Allen site.

Zooming Out

Determining whether a diamond will have eye-visible imperfections can be difficult if you’re shopping online. While the magnified view of the diamond is absolutely necessary for assessing clarity and color, it also makes many of these diamonds look, quite frankly, ugly.

I1 eye clean diamond
Although this diamond has a few large imperfections, none are very noticeable when you zoom out. Try it for yourself on the James Allen site.

So, we recommend identifying the largest and darkest inclusions with the magnified view, then zooming out to how large the diamond will look when set in a ring. Keeping in mind where the inclusions are, can you still see them?

If you zoom out and the inclusion still looks large and blotchy, skip that diamond. On the other hand, if you lose track of the inclusion, put the stone on your final list. If it looks small, then it’s up to you. Are you OK with a diamond with a small, hard-to-see flaw?

Questions to Ask a Gemologist

Once you narrow your final list down to a few diamonds within your budget, consult a diamond expert. James Allen and Blue Nile both have experts on hand to answer any questions you have about a particular diamond.

For an I clarity diamond, it’s absolutely essential that you ask about durability and whether the diamond is eye-clean.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Is this diamond eye-clean? If not, is the flaw small or noticeable?
  • Are any of the inclusions near the surface?
  • Do any inclusions make the diamond more likely to chip or break?
  • Is it possible to hide the inclusions under a prong? Will this make the diamond more likely to chip?

Learn More About Diamond Clarity

If you’d like to learn more about diamond clarity, check out our complete consumer’s guide.

Of course, if you’re buying from James Allen or Blue Nile, you can chat with their diamond experts before you buy. They can address any concerns you have about the diamond’s clarity.

Working with a custom jeweler like CustomMade is another great way to ensure that your diamond will suit you perfectly. They can help you pick out a great diamond and also set it in a unique and stunning ring.