Is an SI Clarity Diamond a Good Deal?
Clarity grades are the most confusing part of diamond engagement ring buying. See what an SI clarity diamond looks like and learn how to pick the right one.
10 Minute Read
If you're buying online, it's essential that you can see the clarity imperfections in each diamond. Otherwise, there's no way to tell if it will appear flawed. We recommend using James Allen or Blue Nile. With their magnified videos, you'll be able to see each diamond's imperfections clearly and decide what's right for you.
Alternatively, working with custom jewelers like CustomMade will get you the best diamond for your budget, plus a uniquely perfect ring to match.
What is an SI Clarity Diamond?
Diamond clarity grades cover anything that affects the free passage of light through the stone, such as inclusions and imperfections. They range from "Flawless" (F) to "Included" (I), with several grades in between. From highest to lowest, the grades are F, IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, and I2.
SI stands for "Slightly Included," but that doesn't mean it's a bad grade. SI diamonds will often give you the most bang for your buck. Of the lower clarity grades, we recommend these.
Like all diamonds, even flawless ones, SI diamonds have imperfections. These flaws are larger or more numerous that those in diamonds with higher clarity grades. An expert viewing the diamond up-close will see some flaws. However, at the distance you normally view your ring, you're unlikely to notice anything.
Is an SI Diamond Right For Me?
There's a lot to evaluate when choosing a diamond. When considering clarity, there are three top factors: budget, buying style, and diamond shape.
If you're on a tight budget, SI diamonds are an obvious choice. They have a much lower price point than "Very Slightly Included" (VS) diamonds, yet they're also very often flawless in appearance to the naked eye.
Let's take a look at the difference in price and appearance between VS2, SI1, and SI2 clarity diamonds. Each of these diamonds weighs 1.00-1.01 cts and has I color with an excellent cut. Click through to see the price difference between VS2, SI1, and SI2 clarity grades.
The VS2 diamond costs $1,650 more than the SI2 clarity diamond. Why pay more for something you can't see? Compare these diamonds on the James Allen site.
Do you like to shop around, or do you just want to buy the first thing that looks decent? Do you like to brag about the money you saved with savvy shopping? Answering these questions is essential to choosing the right clarity grade for you.
If you like to shop around, an SI clarity diamond is ideal. However, you must take the time to make sure the diamond doesn't have large, dark blotches or any clarity features that will make it likely to break. (Don't worry, we'll get to this in a bit).
If you're not the type to shop around and you just settle for an SI clarity diamond, you might end up with a stone that has a visible flaw — or an invisible flaw that makes it likely to break in half. So, if you just want to buy a diamond that looks nice without spending too much time shopping, opting for a VS diamond will give you the most for your money.
Of course, some buyers like to brag about the money they've saved by choosing a flawed diamond. "See that tiny spot there? It's hardly noticeable unless you know to look, but it saved us $600!"
If this is you, go for it. An SI2 or even an I1 clarity diamond (if you're careful) will save you some dough, and a small flaw might be well worth the savings as long as you don't mind it.
On the other hand, emerald and asscher-cut diamonds show imperfections much more easily. For these diamond shapes, a VS clarity is your best bet. VS1 will have no flaws visible to the naked eye, while VS2 might.
Buying an SI Clarity Diamond
When buying an SI clarity diamond, you need to know what clarity features to look for — and where to look for them. This will help you determine whether the diamond will appear flawless and whether it's susceptible to breaking.
Types of Clarity Features
Most imperfections in SI diamonds will be inclusions, pinpricks, or cloudy formations. Twinning wisps and cracks or "feathers" also contribute to the diamond's clarity grade. Each of these types of clarity features can be large or small and can occur in any color. Smaller, white inclusions lower the stone's clarity grade less than larger or darker ones.
The placement of the imperfection within the diamond matters, too. Imperfections near the surface or under the table in the middle of the stone will lower the clarity grade more than ones near the edges of the crown, which are less noticeable. In some cases, prongs can completely hide these outlying flaws.
Reading a Clarity Chart
After you've narrowed your choices, take a look at the diamond's grading report. Reports from reputable labs like the GIA and AGS will always have a diagram or "plot" of a diamond, indicating the location and type of clarity features.
You'll see views from the top and bottom, noting the different features. Look at their location and size, then see if you can notice them in the diamond video. Keep in mind that the diamond may be rotated from its view in the diagram.
Clarity and Durability
Just because diamonds are the hardest minerals doesn't mean they can't chip or break. In some cases, clarity features can make your diamond more likely to chip or break. Obviously, you want to avoid that.
The most dangerous imperfections are simply the large ones. Any imperfection is an interruption of the diamond's crystal structure. Since this structure is what keeps the diamond in one piece, large imperfections make the stone more likely to break than small ones.
However, even large imperfections deep within the diamond are unlikely to cause problems. Those close to or at the surface are more likely to result in chips and breaks. Watch for feathers that reach the surface, especially at the diamond's girdle. If you knock the ring the wrong way, the diamond might break in two.
Viewing the diamond from the side, you can see why cracks are called "feathers." Since this one is at the surface, the diamond could break if knocked the wrong way. Look at the video on the James Allen site.
Durability and Diamond Shape
The corners of diamond shapes that have them require close examination. Make sure there aren't any large imperfections there. Princess, pear, marquise, trillion, and heart shapes all have sharp corners where most settings have prongs. These prongs put some pressure on the diamond. When there are imperfections under the prongs, the stone can be vulnerable to breaking. Even worse, if you don't notice the diamond breaking right away, it could fall out of the ring.
Polished diamonds are very shiny and reflective. So, if the diamond has dark inclusions, you might see reflections. One inclusion can look like twenty, which makes the diamond less bright. In some cases, the inclusion alone wouldn't be too noticeable, but the reflections will make the diamond appear very dirty.
SI1 vs SI2
"Slightly Included" diamonds actually encompass two clarity grades: SI1 and SI2. SI1 is the higher clarity grade, which makes it easier to find an SI diamond without visible imperfections.
Finding an SI2 diamond without visible imperfections will be harder but far from impossible. SI2 diamonds start at a nice price point. With a little investment of your time, you can also find a great stone with no eye-visible imperfections.
In addition, when looking at SI2 clarity diamonds, pay attention to the grading laboratory. Diamond dealers know that some labs grade more favorably than others, so stones on the I1/SI2 border rarely receive a grading report from the most trusted laboratories. We recommend sticking to SI2 diamonds with grade reports from the GIA or AGS.
When you're assessing clarity from online images or videos, remember to zoom out. When magnified, SI diamonds aren't always so attractive. It can be tough to tell from these images whether you'll be able to see that black splotch once the stone is set in a ring.
After you identify the location of the diamond's clarity imperfections, zoom out so that the diamond is about life-size on your screen. For a one-carat round diamond, this is about 6.5 mm or approximately a quarter-inch in diameter. Then, look for the imperfections again. Can you still see them? If you can still notice the imperfections in a video, you'll be able to notice them in your ring. If you can't, it's most likely an eye-clean choice.
See the little spot right in the center of this diamond? Since you can see it while zoomed out, this diamond is certainly not eye-clean. Take a look at the video on the James Allen site.
Questions to Ask a Gemologist
When you're buying an SI clarity diamond, you'll want some assurance that the 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 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.
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