The Diamond Pro

VS Clarity Diamonds: Our Complete Buyer’s Guide

By Michael Fried
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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 is eye-clean, whereas this VS2 diamond 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.

What are VS Clarity Diamonds?

VS clarity diamonds (VS1 and VS2) are diamonds that are graded as “very slightly included” on the GIA’s diamond clarity scale.

To understand what VS clarity diamonds are, it’s important to understand the basics of diamond clarity and how the GIA’s grading system works.

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).

VS1 and VS2 on the Diamond Clarity Scale

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

To illustrate the difference between a flawless diamond and a heavily included diamond, look at this I1 clarity round diamond and compare it to this IF clarity stone. 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 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 from Blue Nile

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 this round brilliant cut diamond, this Asscher cut diamond and this princess cut diamond

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 that smaller ones, tend to look eye-clean if they’re graded VS1. For example, this 2.50 carat, VS1 emerald cut diamonda shape that’s prone to displaying inclusions — is eye-clean and looks absolutely stunning. 

We’ve explained more about VS1 diamonds in our VS1 clarity guide. 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 from James Allen

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 clarity. 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 looks almost completely clean even with 10x magnification, whereas this 1.09 carat VS2 clarity diamond 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 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 2.60 carat, VS2 emerald cut diamond has several inclusions that are easy to see under magnification. 

We’ve explained more about VS2 diamonds in our VS2 clarity guide. 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.

Eye-Cleanliness is Paramount

While this article addresses the technical grading and value of XXXX 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.

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

  • James Allen

    Carat Weight 1.11

    Color I

    Clarity VS1

    Check Price
  • James Allen

    Carat Weight 1.00

    Color I

    Clarity VS1

    Check Price
  • James Allen

    Carat Weight 1.01

    Color H

    Clarity VS1

    Check Price
Load More

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

Should You Buy a VS Clarity Diamond?

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.

At the same time, a VS diamond will cost significantly less than a diamond with a VVS, IF or FL clarity grade. By spending less of your total budget on clarity, you’ll be able to spend more on higher carat weight, a more beautiful setting, or simply save the money for your wedding. 

For example, this 1.00 carat, I color, VVS1 clarity round brilliant cut diamond costs $5,256. It’s eye-clean (as you’d certainly expect from a VVS1 clarity diamond) and will look stunning once it’s set in an engagement ring.

This VS1 clarity diamond of the same carat weight, color and cut quality costs $4,672. Set in an engagement ring, it will look just as impressive and beautiful as the diamond above. By buying it, you’ll save almost $600 compared to the VVS1 diamond above. 

When you’re buying a VS clarity diamond, it’s important to inspect the diamond to check that it’s eye-clean. This is particularly important if you choose a VS2 clarity diamond, or are looking for a large diamond above the 1-2 carat range. 

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. 

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.

About the author
Michael Fried
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more.
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