Before you buy a diamond, you must get a good, closeup look at 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 opt for a custom jeweler like CustomMade. Their experts can help you find the perfect center stone for your style and budget.
What Do Diamond Clarity Grades Mean?
A diamond’s clarity grade doesn’t just refer to its transparency. It also specifies the type, size, and number of inclusions and imperfections in the crystal. Larger or more numerous flaws will result in a lower grade. Clarity grades range from “Flawless” (F) to “Included” (I), with several grades in between. VS stands for “Very Small” inclusions and comes in at about the middle of the clarity scale. This grade also has two subdivisions: VS1 and VS2.
What is a VS1 Clarity Diamond?
All VS clarity diamonds contain inclusions visible with magnification. In a VS1 diamond, the imperfections are smaller and harder to see than those in a VS2. Diamonds with a VS1 clarity grade will always be eye-clean. That means they’ll have no imperfections visible to the naked eye.
So, if VS1 diamonds have no visible flaws when viewed under normal conditions, why does this grade rank only as mid-range clarity instead of high clarity? The answer involves the advent of powerful microscopes. With these instruments, diamond graders can identify tiny flaws that, historically, would’ve gone unnoticed. In fact, under magnification greater than 40x, even a “Flawless” diamond would show imperfections.
Should I Buy a VS1 Clarity Diamond?
Since VS1 clarity diamonds will always be eye-clean, only your budget might keep you from buying one.
While VS1 diamonds are a great choice for engagement ring stones, VS2 clarity diamonds will almost always be eye-clean, too. Even most SI1 diamonds will appear flawless to the unaided eye. Since lower clarity grades mean lower prices, you could put the money you’ll save toward a higher carat diamond or a more intricate setting.
Both of these James Allen engagement rings have the same 14k white gold solitaire setting and a 1.00-ct, G color diamond. One has a clarity of VS1 and costs $5,462. The other has a clarity of SI1 and costs $4,632.
However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid VS1 clarity diamonds. In some cases, limiting your search to lower clarity stones will keep you from finding your best options. Here are a few examples.
Some diamond shapes are just harder to buy than others. For example, if you’re shopping for a trillion-cut diamond, your choices will be very limited. The stones you do find may have somewhat irregular shapes or just won’t look right. You’ll need to consider trillion cuts in any clarity grade from SI2 and up, just to find a good one.
In very large sizes, your options might be limited. Large diamonds are rare, so you may have trouble finding a nice one. In this case, again, don’t limit your clarity options.
Diamonds in Fancy Colors
Most diamonds are colorless or white. Any diamond with more yellow or brown than just a tint or any other color, like blue or pink, is considered a fancy colored diamond. Since fancy colors are so rare, don’t limit your search to a particular clarity grade if you’re shopping for one. For these diamonds, look for the stone with the best color you can afford. Clarity concerns should be far from your mind.
Which Clarity Grade Should I Choose?
If you’re not searching for a rare shape, size, or color, there’s no reason to pay more for higher clarity. In the end, what you’ll notice is whether a diamond is eye-clean. We’ll go through the clarity grades here to help you choose the one that’s best for you.
Flawless and Internally Flawless
“Flawless” (F) and “Internally Flawless” (IF) are the two highest clarity grades. IF diamonds will have small (literally microscopic) imperfections on their surfaces, created by the polishing process. However, keep in mind that neither F nor IF stones are actually flawless. With a powerful enough microscope, you’d find flaws in these diamonds, too.
Of course, these diamonds will always be eye-clean, but they’ll come with a high price tag. Diamonds with such tiny imperfections are quite rare.
VVS stands for “Very Very Small” inclusions. It’s the grade just below F and IF and is also considered a high clarity grade. Like F and IF diamonds, these stones have flaws that are only visible with a microscope, so they’ll always be eye-clean. Like F and IF diamonds, they’re also rare and expensive.
After VVS comes VS. Diamonds with this grade provide a nice balance between eye-clean clarity and affordable prices. VS1 diamonds will always be eye-clean, but some VS2 diamonds won’t be.
If you’re trying to decide between a VS1 and a VS2 stone, consider the kind of diamond cut you want. Some shapes may make inclusions and imperfections more visible. In particular, emerald-cut and asscher-cut diamonds can make the flaws in a VS2 clarity stone visible to the naked eye. In addition, watch out for any large or dark inclusions under the table. Still, if you’re careful, you can find an eye-clean VS2 clarity diamond in any shape.
Since VS2 diamonds offer much more attractive prices than VVS diamonds and are usually eye-clean, we generally recommend this clarity grade to any buyer.
After VS clarity comes SI clarity, which stands for “Slightly Included.” Many of these diamonds are eye-clean, but not all. In fact, we recommend SI1 clarity diamonds for anyone buying any diamond shape except emerald or asscher cuts, because the cost difference between SI1 and VS2 diamonds is significant. You could put your savings towards purchasing a larger SI1 stone… or a longer honeymoon!
Shopping for SI2 diamonds gets more complicated. These diamonds have larger and more numerous inclusions. This makes it a bit more difficult to find one that will look eye-clean. However, if you have a tight budget and the time to do some searching, you can find an SI2 clarity diamond that will still look good in your ring.
At the low end of the clarity grading scale, I stands for “Included.” These diamonds are rarely eye-clean and can have flaws that affect not only appearance but also durability.
Diamonds are famous for being extremely hard, but that only means they have great resistance to scratching. They’re still brittle and can chip or break. I diamonds may have greater susceptibility to blows. Although I diamonds are relatively inexpensive, we generally don’t recommend them.
If your budget is very limited, you might consider choosing a better quality lab-made diamond in place of an I clarity stone. These cost about 30% less than comparable mined diamonds but have the same beauty and physical properties. Lab-made diamonds are real diamonds. They just grow in a lab instead of underground.
Both these James Allen diamonds cost $2,900. The mined diamond has I1 clarity and G color, weighs 1.05 cts, and received an excellent round cut. The lab-created diamond has VS1 clarity and F color, weighs 1.23 cts, and received an ideal round cut.
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.