Is an I Clarity Diamond a Good Buy?
An I clarity diamond has a low clarity grade, but can it look OK in an engagement ring? Learn the pros and cons of these stones and how to find a great one.
7 Minute Read
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A geologist, environmental engineer and Caltech graduate, Addison’s interest in the mesmerizing and beautiful results of earth’s geological processes began in her elementary school’s environmental club. When she isn’t writing about gems and minerals, Addison spends winters studying ancient climates in Iceland and summers hiking the Colorado Rockies.
Diamond Value, Price, and Jewelry Information
What Customers Value Most in the Jewelry Insurance Buying Experience
An Interview with “Diamond Wizard” Maarten de Witte: Part 4
An Interview with “Diamond Wizard” Maarten de Witte: Part 2
D20 Gemstone: a Dungeons and Dragons-Inspired Design
Variscite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information
Interview with Justin Prim and Victoria Raynaud: The Dynamic Duo That Built a Multifaceted Business in the World of Gems
37 Blue Gemstones (Names, Pics, & More)
When you join the IGS community, you get trusted diamond & gemstone information when you need it.
Get started with the International Gem Society’s free guide to gemstone identification. Join our weekly newsletter & get a free copy of the Gem ID Checklist!