If you’re out there looking for the best diamond for your money, then please contact me and let me know your budget and what you’re looking for. I’ll sift through thousands of diamonds online and send you a list of 4 or 5 suggested stones to choose from that fit your needs the best. Unlike the other sites, I’m not looking to sell you anything – my advice is objective and in your best interest. The service is free, and there is absolutely no commitment to buy any of my suggestions. You have nothing to lose! (If you’re wondering why I do this, see my article entitled “The Truth About The Diamond Pro.”
As a newcomer to the diamond world, it can be quite intimidating learning all this new information. Sifting through the various clarity grades in particular can certainly be confusing. I have already penned an article covering diamond clarity in general and how it is commonly overvalued, and an article covering each of the four most common clarity grades: VS1, VS2, SI1, and SI2 clarities.
I decided, though, that in order to complete the discussion of clarity, I needed to provide one simple chart to easily and clearly put on display the different clarity grades.
The chart below contains real magnified sample images of GIA certified diamonds. I have chosen to use Asscher Cuts & Emerald Cuts for the sample images since these step-cut shapes show inclusions the clearest.
It should become clear from the chart below why it is so crucial to only buy from a online vendors (Like James Allen and Brian Gavin Diamonds) that provides you with high quality images of their diamonds.
|IF – FL||Internally Flawless / FLawless – No internal or external imperfections. Flawless diamonds are extremely rare.If you see anything at all on diamonds with a Flawless clarity grade, you can be assured that it is merely dust. For example, if you click on the sample image to the right, you’ll notice on the left-most edge, there is a tiny speck. That tiny speck, if it were an inclusion inside the diamond would probably render the stone a VVS2.|
|VVS1||Very Very Slightly Included (1st Degree) – Diamond clarity inclusions rated VVS1 are not visible at all under 10x magnification. These tiny pinpoints can only be seen under a powerful microscope.For the VVS Clarity grades, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to offer a sample diamond, since anyway, it would be impossible to tell using James Allen’s magnified images whether a certain dot is an inclusion or a piece of dust. Furthermore, a regular photograph, even a magnified one, can only focus on one level of depth. If a VVS-size inclusion is in a diamond, and the image is focused on a different layer of depth, there is no chance the pinpoint inclusion will be visible.|
|VVS2||Very Very Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – Diamond clarity inclusions rated VVS2 are sometimes just barely visible under 10x magnification (standard jeweler’s loupe). When they are visible, they are quite difficult to find and can often take quite a while to locate. Generally, however, you need a gemological microscope to identify a VVS2 inclusion since, often, the inclusion pattern is not one larger speck, but a few separate VVS1 sized spots that collectively equal a VVS2 clarity grade. Since each of the individual spots are too small to be seen with a jeweler’s loupe, one needs a microscope to identify them.|
|VS1||Very Slightly Included (1st Degree) – VS1 diamond clarity inclusions are just barely visible under 10x magnification (standard jeweler’s loupe). When looking for VS1 clarity inclusions with a loupe, it can sometimes take a good few seconds until the pinpoint is located. Unlike VVS2 clarity inclusions, a microscope is never needed to locate a VS1. As you can see on the sample diamond to the right, a VS1 clarity inclusion is still quite small and will never be visible to the naked eye. If you have trouble seeing the inclusion in small sample picture to the right, click on the photo to enlarge it.|
|VS2||Very Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – VS2 clarity inclusions are almost always easily noticeable at 10x magnification (standard jeweler’s loupe). Occasionally, the inclusion will be located in a difficult-to-spot location, but otherwise, the inclusion is large enough that it can be spotted quickly under magnification.VS2 Clarity inclusions are almost always clean to the naked eye. The sample photo on the right is somewhat of an extreme example. I specifically looked for a VS2 that was black and in the center of the stone to more easily illustrate the size of a VS2 inclusion. The inclusion in the sample photo might very well be visible to the naked eye as a result of it being black, in the center, and in an emerald cut (which do not mask inclusions at all).|
|SI1||Slightly Included (1st Degree) – SI1 Clarity inclusions are easily found with a standard jeweler’s loupe at 10x magnification. With most shapes (to the exclusion of step cuts like Asscher and Emerald Cuts), SI1 clarity inclusions are almost always clean to the naked eye.As with the VS2 sample above, the diamond chosen for the sample picture of an SI1 clarity inclusion is an extreme example chosen to show the maximum size and worst possible color of an SI1. One must remember that a clarity grade can be based on many different inclusion points within a diamond. It is less common (especially for SI1 and lower) that the clarity grade is based on one concentrated inclusion. Usually, there are a number of smaller spots and clouds of tiny spots that make up the clarity grade. In these cases, since each individual inclusion is very small, the diamond looks clean to the naked eye.|
|SI2||Slightly Included (2ndDegree) – SI2 clarity inclusions are seen clearly and obviously with the help of a jeweler’s loupe. With step cuts like Emerald and Asscher cuts, an SI2 clarity inclusion will most likely be visible to the naked eye (as is the case with the diamond in the sample photo on the right). With other brilliant shapes (basically all the other common shapes), an SI2 clarity inclusion will usually be clean to the naked eye.As with the SI1 sample photo above, I specifically chose a concentrated black center inclusion to illustrate just how bad an SI2 can get. A center black SI2 on an Emerald Cut is about as bad as an SI2 as there is. As I mentioned above regarding an SI1, in most cases, the SI2 clarity grade is made up of several (or many) smaller inclusions. In these cases, since the SI2 is spread out all over the stone, and not concentrated in any one area, the diamond is usually eye clean.|
|I1||Included (1st Degree) – I1 clarity inclusions are even more obvious and clearly seen than SI2 clarity inclusions. Most I1 inclusions are visible to the naked eye – even on brilliant cuts. I1 clarity inclusions are so obviously visible on step cuts (Asscher Cuts & Emerald Cuts) that you rarely see them produced. In fact, at the time of this article’s writing, James Allen had a total of only six I1 clarity Emerald cuts 0.90 carats and higher. They had no I1 clarity Asscher cuts in stock (any weight). This is why the sample picture to the right features a princess cut diamond and not a step cut. Just because the sample picture on the right is as hideous as it is doesn’t mean you can’t find a perfectly eye-clean beautiful I1 clarity diamond. As I mentioned above, most clarity grades are comprised of several to many smaller inclusions spread out over the area of the diamond. In such cases, the I1 clarity inclusion will be much less noticeable to the naked eye, if at all. Concentrated black inclusions in the center of the diamond are the exception, not the rule. I show them here in this chart simply to show how bad each clarity grade can get.|
(Many thanks to James Allen and Good Old Gold for providing the real diamond images shown in this chart)