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VS Diamonds: Buyer’s Guide

What to know about VS clarity diamonds and whether they are a good choice for you

By Mike Fried,

What are VS Diamonds?

VS is defined as a “very slightly included” diamond on the GIA’s diamond clarity scale. There are two sub-categories of VS diamonds: VS1 and VS2. The inclusions on VS-graded diamonds are almost always eye-clean,” and the inclusions on them can only be seen by a diamond grader under 10X magnification.

All diamonds used for jewelry are graded for clarity. A diamond’s clarity refers to the visibility of inclusions and blemishes in the diamond. Based on the number, size and type of inclusions and blemishes, a diamond is graded from I (included, the lowest grade) to FL (flawless).

As explained by the GIA, evaluating a diamond’s clarity “involves determining the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these characteristics, as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone.” No diamonds are completely perfect, but those with higher clarity grades typically display a less “flawed” appearance (at least under magnification) than those with poor clarity.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

What does the clarity grading scale look like?
What are VS1 clarity diamonds?
What are VS2 clarity diamonds?
What is the difference between VS1 and VS2 clarity diamonds?
What tips should I follow to get a beautiful VS clarity diamond?
Is it better to buy a diamond with an SI or VS clarity?
Where is the best place to buy a VS clarity diamond?

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

Bottom Line Recommendation:

We think VS clarity diamonds are a great choice. Buying an eye-clean VS1 or VS2 diamond will give you a diamond that looks identical to a flawless (FL) clarity diamond to the naked eye, all at a significantly lower price.

Most VS clarity diamonds are eye-clean. However, there are still some diamonds with VS clarity grades that have visible inclusions. For example, this VS1 clarity diamond from Blue Nile is eye-clean, whereas this VS2 diamond from James Allen has several visible inclusions. 

With diamonds, the larger the carat weight, the more visible inclusions will become. Because of this, we recommend sticking to VS1 clarity, or paying even more attention to eye-cleanliness, if you want to buy a diamond larger than 2 carats. 

If you need help evaluating a diamond for clarity or with any other aspect of the diamond buying process, feel free to contact us for expert assistance.

VS1 diamond vs. VS2 diamond clarity
VS1 Diamond (left) and VS2 Diamond (right) Comparison

VS Diamond Clarity Rating

The full GIA diamond clarity scale is as follows:

  • FL: Flawless
  • IF: Internally Flawless
  • VVS1: Very Very Slightly Included, 1st Degree 
  • VVS2: Very Very Slightly Included, 2nd Degree
  • VS1: Very Slightly Included, 1st Degree
  • VS2: Very Slightly Included, 2nd Degree
  • SI1: Slightly Included, 1st Degree
  • SI2: Slightly Included, 2nd Degree
  • I1, I2 and I3: Included, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Degree
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To illustrate the difference between a flawless diamond and a heavily included diamond, look at this I1 clarity round diamond from James Allen and compare it to this IF clarity stone from Blue Nile. While one looks flawless and clean even under magnification, the other has large, obvious inclusions.

We’ve explained how diamond clarity grading works in more detail, as well as the major factors that determine a diamond’s clarity grade, in our guide to diamond clarity

Almost all diamonds have imperfections. They’re an inevitable part of the way diamonds form in the earth’s mantle. Diamonds are exposed to extreme temperatures as they form over billions of years, making it inevitable that many stones will have visible inclusions and blemishes.

VS clarity diamonds have inclusions. However, the inclusions are extremely slight, meaning they aren’t typically visible to the naked eye. Even an experienced diamond grader might need a few seconds to find an inclusion in a VS diamond, even with the magnification of a jeweler’s loupe. 

As the GIA explains, “a VS diamond contains minor inclusions that range from difficult (VS1) to somewhat easy (VS2) to see at 10× magnification. Many different types of inclusions are possible, but they must be very small relative to the size of the diamond. Typical inclusions that might set the grade include some crystals, knots or distinct clouds, or minor surface-reaching features such as a feather, cavity or indented natural.” Gemological Institute of America (GIA)

As we mentioned above, VS diamonds are categorized into VS1 and VS2 clarity grades. There are a few key differences between these two grades that you should be aware of if you want to buy a VS diamond. We’ve explained these in more detail below.

VS1 Clarity Diamonds

1.70ct  VS1 Princess Cut
1.70ct VS1 Princess Cut

VS1 clarity diamonds are the highest quality diamonds, at least from a clarity perspective, in the VS grading range. A VS1 diamond will have very slight inclusions that are invisible to the naked eye and can typically only be seen under bright lighting and 10x magnification. 

It’s not that common to see visible inclusions in a VS1 clarity diamond without magnification. For example, look at these three diamonds:

All of these diamonds have a VS1 clarity grade. Although they’re not flawless, it’s very difficult to notice any inclusions even under magnification. All are eye-clean and will look stunning and free of visible blemishes once they’re set in an engagement ring.

Even large diamonds, which are more prone to displaying inclusions than smaller ones, tend to look eye-clean if they’re graded VS1. For example, this 2.50 carat, VS1 emerald cut diamond from James Allena shape that’s prone to displaying inclusions — is eye-clean and looks absolutely stunning. 

We’ve explained more about VS1 diamonds in our guide to VS1 clarity. In general, we think that VS1 clarity diamonds are great value for money, offering an identical appearance to IF and FL diamonds at a significantly lower price.

VS2 Clarity Diamonds

1.53ct VS2 Cushion Cut

VS2 clarity diamonds have small inclusions that are almost always invisible to the naked eye, especially in diamonds under the 2.0 carat mark. However, their inclusions and blemishes will often be relatively easy to spot when viewed under bright light and 10x magnification. 

We’re big proponents of not overspending on diamond clarity rating. In the right situation, a VS2 diamond is a great buy that can look identical to a flawless diamond once it’s set in an engagement ring. 

Diamond clarity can vary within the VS2 range. While some VS2 diamonds might look perfect, others may have small inclusions and blemishes in more obvious, visible locations.

For example, this 1.00 carat VS2 clarity diamond from James Allen looks almost completely clean even with 10x magnification, whereas this 1.07 carat VS2 clarity diamond also from James Allen has a few small blemishes that are visible through its table.

Sometimes, the small inclusions in a VS2 clarity diamond are located away from the table and can easily be hidden in jewelry. For example, this 0.80 carat, VS2 clarity diamond from James Allen has a small inclusion near its edge that may be able to be hidden by a prong. 

As diamonds get larger, inclusions tend to become more visible, meaning a VS2 clarity stone isn’t always a good choice for certain shapes. For example, this 2.62 carat, VS2 emerald cut diamond has several inclusions that are easy to see under magnification. 

For more information about VS2 diamonds, check out our guide to VS2 clarity. In general, we think that VS2 clarity diamonds can be an excellent buy and look stunning in a real-life setting, provided you check each diamond for eye-cleanliness before purchasing.

Differences Between VS1 And VS2 Clarity Diamonds

It can be very difficult to tell the difference between VS1 and VS2 clarity diamonds, especially in the sub-2 carat range. 

If you were to randomize photos of five VS1 and five VS2 clarity diamonds and take any form of labeling away, even a diamond expert would find it difficult to determine which ones are graded VS1 and which are graded VS2.

This is especially true for round brilliant cut diamonds and other diamond shapes that are good at concealing inclusions and blemishes. 

Take a look at this VS1 diamond and this VS2 diamond, both of the same cut quality and color and near-identical carat weight. Even with 10x magnification and bright studio lighting, it’s very difficult to see any difference in clarity between these two diamonds. 

The key differences between VS1 and VS2 diamonds are:

  • Visibility of inclusions. Good quality VS1 and VS2 diamonds will both look eye-clean in a real-life setting. However, in a lab under 10x magnification, it might take a diamond expert several seconds to find any inclusions in a VS1 diamond.

    In a VS2 diamond, inclusions are usually visible enough that they can be located more easily under magnification.
  • Size of inclusions. All inclusions in VS clarity diamonds are classed as minor. However, those in a VS2 clarity diamond may be ever-so-slightly larger than those in a VS1 clarity diamond, resulting in its lower clarity grade.
  • Eye-cleanliness. Almost all VS1 and the majority of VS2 diamonds are eye-clean, with no obvious inclusions. As you get into the 2+ carat range, certain VS2 diamonds might have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.

    With 3, 4 and 5+ carat diamonds, especially in cuts that tend to show inclusions readily, inclusions and blemishes can look more obvious. This makes it important to view each diamond individually to check for clarity instead of simply relying on its grade.

Buying Tips For a VS Clarity Diamond

While this article addresses the technical grading and value of VS clarity diamonds, that is not what we recommend focusing on when purchasing a diamond. In our opinion, a consumer’s goal should be to find the cheapest (in regards to clarity; other factors matter as well) “eye-clean” diamond you can find. We use “eye-clean” to describe diamonds that may have inclusions if you look at them with a magnifying glass (or microscope or loupe), but the typical person can’t see the inclusion with their naked eye.

Eye-cleanliness is paramount because this is all people are going to see when they look at a diamond. They don’t see a VVS1 or VS2 diamond – they see a diamond that’s clean, or one that has inclusions.

When you pay a premium for a high clarity diamond, in most cases you’re spending extra for a feature no one is going to notice. Why spend more on a VVS1 clarity diamond, when you can get essentially the same visible impact from a VS2 diamond?

We have recently developed Ringo, a patented artificial intelligence model, that can examine videos of diamonds and determine if they are eye-clean. Ringo will also filter for other parameters like making sure the diamond is well-cut, doesn’t have fluorescence issues and will match the style setting you choose. 

Ringo Approved Eye Clean Diamonds

What is Ringo?

If you want to select a diamond specifically for your personal needs (budget, shape and setting style), check it out here

Is a VS Diamond Ring Worth It Compared To an SI1 or SI2?

We think VS clarity diamonds offer an excellent combination of beauty and value for money. A well-cut, eye-clean VS clarity diamond will look almost completely identical to a diamond with a higher clarity grade once it’s set inside an engagement ring and will cost significantly less than a diamond with a VVS, IF or FL clarity grade.

In some cases, however, you may be able to go even lower in clarity and still come out with a beautiful, eye-clean diamond. For smaller diamonds, and particular shapes that hide inclusions well, you could get away with a clarity grade of SI1 or SI2 and save even more on the final cost of your ring.

For example, this 0.71 carat, I color, VS1 clarity round brilliant diamond from Blue Nile costs $1,840. While an SI2 diamond with the same grades everywhere else is just $1,260, and looks much the same under normal viewing conditions.

For a larger diamond or shapes like asscher or emerald cuts, it’s much less likely you’ll be able to find an eye-clean diamond lower than VS2 in clarity. However, it’s still worth inspecting diamonds in the SI range, as you stand to save a lot of the inclusions are adequately hidden.

A VS clarity diamond is certainly worth it over an SI1 or SI2 if that’s the difference between the diamond being eye-clean or not. That’s why it’s important to inspect the diamond for yourself, rather than blindly following the clarity rating. You can do this easily using the pictures provided by vendors like James Allen and Blue Nile.

Where to Buy a VS Clarity Diamond

As we mentioned above, it’s important to look closely at any diamond in the VS clarity range to check that it’s eye-clean. 

You can’t take it for granted that a VS diamond will be eye-clean. Depending on the size and placement of the inclusions, one diamond may look clean, while another of the same clarity grade may display obvious imperfections.

When you buy diamonds online, you should shop somewhere that gives you the ability to inspect diamonds with magnification and 360° images before you make a purchase, to be sure it is eye-clean.

We recommend buying from James Allen or Blue Nile. Both of these vendors offer high-quality, high-resolution images that allow you to view loose diamonds from any angle, making it easier to spot blemishes and inclusions.

This makes it easy to identify eye-clean diamonds, and, more importantly, to filter out diamonds that have obvious inclusions. 

As always, if you need any help, feel free to contact us. We’ve helped thousands of readers find eye-clean diamonds and can assist with any questions you have about diamond clarity or other aspects of the diamond buying process.

Here are more specific clarity topics to browse:

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. 
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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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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