This engagement ring features a 0.40-ct, I1 clarity diamond. The major flaw in this diamond is a large but colorless mineral inclusion that’s well-placed, making it tough to spot. © CustomMade. Used with permission.
You must get a good, closeup look at any diamond before you buy it. This will help you identify the stone’s clarity features and assess the impact that any imperfections might have on its appearance and durability. A closeup view is also the only way to judge the stone’s color and cut.
If you’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, make sure the jeweler shows you the diamond under magnification in its intended setting as well as from different angles.
If you’re shopping online, we recommend James Allen or Blue Nile. Their magnified videos and viewing tools will let you evaluate the diamond for yourself. You can also try seeing what your stone will look like in various settings.
Alternatively, you could get expert help from CustomMade. Their team will find the best diamond you can afford and create a unique, special ring just for you.
What Does an I1 Clarity Mean?
A diamond’s clarity grade doesn’t simply refer to its transparency. It also specifies the type, size, and number of imperfections in the crystal. Larger or more numerous flaws will result in a lower grade.
Clarity letter grades range from “Flawless” (F) to “Included” (I), with several grades in between as well as some with numbered sub-categories: 1, 2, or 3. A higher number means a higher level of clarity. I1 is a low grade.
Is an I1 Clarity Diamond Eye-Clean?
An “eye-clean” diamond will have no flaws visible to the naked eye. (All diamonds, even F clarity stones, will contain microscopic flaws). Typically, I1 clarity diamonds will have large and numerous visible flaws that will very likely impact their appearance, so most aren’t eye-clean.
Even so, large flaws, whether visible or not, can still impact a diamond’s durability. Although diamonds are famous for being extremely hard, that only means they have great resistance to scratching. All diamonds are brittle, but I diamonds have a greater risk of chipping or breaking.
Clarity and Price
Of course, diamond clarity grades can have a significant effect on price. If you’re considering an I1 diamond, it’s probably because you want to save money. However, keep this in mind: there are no “good” deals in diamonds, only fair ones.
An eye-clean SI2 clarity diamond is a better buy than a noticeably flawed I1. You might save a small amount with an I1, but you’ll notice a difference in quality in most cases.
Both these 1.01-ct diamonds from James Allen have H color and very good round cuts. The I1 clarity stone costs $3,430. The SI2 clarity stone costs $3,610. For just an additional $180, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in clarity.
Should I Get an I1 Clarity Diamond?
Ultimately, we don’t recommend purchasing a I1 clarity diamond. It’s usually just not worth the hassle of trying to find a nice one. Here’s why.
I1 vs SI2
While some SI2 clarity diamonds might have durability issues, these are more likely to occur in I1 diamonds. Repairing or replacing a broken diamond in your engagement ring won’t be budget friendly.
In many cases, the cost of an I1 diamond will be close to that of an SI2 diamond. In fact, at the half-carat mark, their pricing overlaps frequently.
Rather than opting for an I1, stick to an SI2 clarity stone. If you need to save money, consider dropping to a lower color grade or carat weight, instead. Choosing a lower color grade or a slightly smaller diamond won’t make a big difference to your ring’s overall appearance.
If you’re really cash-strapped, consider lab-made diamonds. They’re available at prices about 30% less than those of mined diamonds of equivalent quality. Lab-made diamonds are real diamonds — not imitations or fakes — and have the same beauty and durability as any mined diamonds. They’re just created in a lab instead of formed underground.
More and more couples are opting for lab-made diamonds in their engagement rings. So, if your heart isn’t absolutely set on a mined diamond, consider picking a lab-made one.
Buying an I1 Clarity Diamond
If you’re determined to buy an I1 clarity diamond, follow these tips and consult with a gemologist before choosing a stone.
For a low-clarity diamond like an I1, pay particular attention to who grades the stone. Some grading labs have different standards than others. Make sure you choose the labs with the strictest standards: the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gem Society (AGS).
Reports from other labs might lead you to purchase even riskier diamonds, graded as I1 but even more vulnerable to damage and less likely to be eye-clean. (Labs like the GIA would likely grade these as I2 or I3).
Types of Clarity Features
Your diamond might have several different types of clarity features. Most are mineral inclusions that grew inside the diamond, while others are growth features like twinning planes, internal cracks, or surface imperfections.
The most noticeable clarity features are mineral inclusions. Often black, they can be quite large in an I1 diamond. Obviously, a large dark spot in a white diamond will stand out. If you’re trying to find an eye-clean I1 diamond, avoid any stone with large mineral inclusions.
Location of Clarity Features
The location of clarity features also affects their visibility. A large flaw at the center of a diamond is much more noticeable than several smaller features near the edges.
In addition, the exact location of a flaw in the stone can make a big difference to its durability. In particular, a surface-reaching fracture increases the risk of damage, since the diamond will be weaker at that point. If you knock the diamond against a hard surface in just the wrong way, it could break.
If you’re shopping for a diamond shape with corners, avoid any clarity features in these areas. Corners in princess, pear, heart, trillion, and marquise shapes are already vulnerable to breaking. Flaws in these areas increase the risk.
Reading a Clarity Chart
To understand the types and locations of the diamond’s flaws, you’ll have to look at the clarity chart or plot on the grading report. This will show you a diagram of the top and bottom views of the diamond with marks indicating the flaws. A legend will tell you what the marks mean.
This chart will help you notice if any of these flaws are particularly large or reach the surface. Pay particular attention to any that reach the surface at the girdle. Since this is the widest area of the diamond, it’s most likely to get knocked against a hard surface. Any flaws at the girdle pose a serious durability issue.
In some cases, you might see inclusions when you view a diamond that don’t appear to be on the clarity chart. That’s likely because they’re not inclusions, but reflections of inclusions.
Since a diamond’s facets act like a collection of mirrors, sometimes they’ll reflect inclusions. This can make one ugly dark spot look like a dozen.
If you’re holding the diamond, turn it so the reflections appear and disappear at certain angles. If you’re shopping online, use video and other viewing tools to turn the diamond.
Since reflections of dark inclusions make the entire stone darker, we recommend that you avoid any diamonds that show them.
Sometimes, you need to take a step back to gain some perspective. This applies to diamond shopping too. The magnified views provided by vendors like James Allen and Blue Nile are absolutely essential for judging clarity online. However, zooming out of the magnified views will help you determine if the clarity features are visible from a normal viewing distance, about 6 inches from your eyes. (Of course, this is easier to do if you’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar jeweler).
To do this online, first look at the magnified view and identify any imperfections. Make a note of the largest and most noticeable ones, and when they’re most visible.
Then, zoom out until the diamond is about as big on screen as it would be on your hand. Can you still notice the largest flaws? Zoom in and out a few times to confirm it. If the flaws remain visible, the diamond isn’t eye-clean.
On the other hand, if you lose track of the flaw, the diamond may be eye-clean. Check with the in-house gemologists to verify this, since they’re trained to notice these flaws.
Questions to Ask a Gemologist
When you’re buying an I1 clarity diamond, you’ll want some assurance that your stone is a good choice. Both James Allen and Blue Nile let you chat with diamond experts. If you’re buying a stone in person, most brick-and-mortar jewelry stores have a gemologist on staff. Here’s what you should ask before making your final decision:
- Is this diamond eye-clean?
- 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 create a stunning ring with a great, eye-clean diamond.