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Ask a Diamond Pro: Clarity vs. Cut for 1.70 to 2.00 Carat Round Diamond

By Mike Fried,

We’re often contacted by readers asking us to compare several diamonds for them and suggest the best options for their tastes and budget. We love doing this, as it’s an opportunity to help our readers identify what to look for in a diamond and get the best possible deal. 

Recently, a reader contacted us asking for help comparing several round diamonds. The stones they had selected were gorgeous, but we suspected they were paying too much for extra clarity — a feature that wouldn’t be noticed — and that their budget would be better spent on cut.

Here’s the reader’s original email:

“First of all, thanks for the website and all of its Q&As. They’re very helpful in my learning about diamonds. I’ve been looking on the two websites that you recommend and have found several good stones. I have a stone that was found through a friend of mine who is a jeweler and I wanted to get your opinion on it compared to a couple stones on the James Allen site.

The two James Allen stones I’m looking at are:

(since the two diamonds they wanted us to compare have already been removed from the James Allen’s site, we’re including two similar ones as an exmaple.)



If you respond, I can send you the GIA and image of the diamond that my friend is recommending.

I would really appreciate the help!


The reader also sent the GIA certificate for the diamond their friend had found for them: a 1.87 carat, H color, VS1 clarity round brilliant cut. 

Here’s a copy of the diamond’s GIA certificate:

GIA certificate

The diamonds this reader has picked out are certainly beautiful, as is the diamond picked out by their friend. However, they have one thing in common: all have clarity grades that are well above the level needed for an eye-clean round brilliant cut diamond.

As we’ve covered in our guide to the 4Cs of diamonds, we recommend prioritizing diamond cut quality, then picking a diamond with the lowest clarity grade that’s eye-clean. This is because cut quality has a much greater impact on the appearance and beauty of a diamond than any extra increase in clarity

This reader ended up switching from their original choices to this 1.72 carat, H color, SI1 clarity round brilliant cut diamond from Brian Gavin Diamonds. It’s exceptionally well cut, giving it light performance that enhances its appearance and totally sets it apart from other diamonds. 

Why it’s Important Not to Overpay for Clarity

If you’ve read our guide to diamond clarity, you’ll know that we suggest buying a diamond that’s eye-clean, meaning it doesn’t have any inclusions or other blemishes that are visible to the eye when it’s viewed in “real life” conditions (meaning without magnification or studio lighting). 

You’ll also know that we think the most common mistake people make when buying a diamond is overpaying for a diamond with a clarity grade that’s simply too high.

When it comes to the four Cs (cut quality, clarity, color and carat weight), not all have the same impact on a diamond’s appearance.

4Cs infographic

Two of the four Cs — cut quality and carat weight — have a clear effect on the appearance of a diamond. In other words, there’s a linear relationship between a higher cut quality grade and a more beautiful diamond, as cut has a dramatic impact on a diamond’s brilliance and fire.

Likewise, there’s also a linear relationship between carat weight and diamond size. As you get further up the carat weight scale, diamonds become physically heavier and larger, giving each stone more presence on the wearer’s finger.

With clarity and color, however, things are different. Past a certain point, it’s impossible to truly perceive any differences in clarity between one diamond and another, as any inclusions in the diamonds become so small that they’re invisible to the human eye.

To put this in perspective, you can read this article from JCK. In it, industry experts state that around one third of all consumers actually aren’t aware of the specific clarity grade of their diamond jewelry. Grades, beyond a certain point, just don’t matter. Instead, what matters is that the diamond is eye-clean, meaning free of inclusions that you can perceive with your eye.

The same is true for color. In a real-life environment, a diamond with a color grade of D will be virtually indistinguishable from an equivalent diamond with a color grade of F or G, as the tiny difference in color simply can’t be perceived with the naked eye outside of a lab setting. 

This means that beyond a certain point, every dollar spent on clarity or color is one that could otherwise be spent to much greater effect on cut quality or carat weight. 

In this reader’s case, we think their budget could be used much more effectively by selecting a diamond with a clarity grade in the SI1 to VS2 range, then using the extra money to switch to a stone with even higher cut quality.

Diamond Clarity Chart

It’s also okay to drop down slightly in color, as the round brilliant cut’s facet pattern is excellent at concealing a small amount of yellow tint in a diamond. 

For example, this 1.71 carat, G color, VS2 clarity round brilliant cut diamond from Brian Gavin Diamonds sacrifices a small, imperceptible level of clarity and has stunning cut quality, with a visible hearts and arrows pattern. 

This 1.72 carat, H color, SI1 clarity diamond is also an absolute stunner, with truly exceptional light performance. The small difference in clarity will go completely unnoticed once it’s set in a ring, while the improvement in cut quality and brilliance will be very noticeable. 

Both of these diamonds offer superior aesthetics and value for money than the two diamonds from James Allen featured earlier. 

Our Recommendation

When you’re shopping for a diamond, it can be tempting to get attached to a specific clarity or color grade. Terms like “colorless” and “flawless,” both of which are used a lot in marketing for diamonds, can make it seem like anything less than an IF clarity or D color stone is subpar.

Unless you have an unlimited budget, buying anything involves making compromises. When it comes to diamonds, it’s best to make smart compromises by prioritizing cut quality (something you will always see) over imperceptibly small improvements in clarity or color. 

By prioritizing cut quality, this reader ended up selecting a diamond with vastly improved light performance and general appearance. It’s a stunning diamond that’s sure to look gorgeous in any choice of setting. 

If you’re also looking for an exceptionally well cut round diamond, we recommend Brian Gavin Diamonds. Their diamonds are truly the crème de la crème when it comes to cut — a topic we cover in more detail in our full Brian Gavin Diamonds review

If you need help comparing diamonds or selecting the right diamond or setting for your tastes and budget, feel free to contact us. We’re happy to discuss your options and help you find the ideal diamond engagement ring, earrings, pendant or other jewelry for your needs.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab-created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well-known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high-quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. Save 25% on settings at Blue Nile!

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What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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