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Let's Bring Some Clarity to Diamond Buying

Posted on Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 at 11:20 am by Karen

In my last post, I gave you some pointers about diamonds, their color, and how you can navigate through the color grades to save some money. This time, I want to discuss clarity and how it affects the prices of a diamond.

The bad news about clarity is that it can affect prices almost more than any of the other 3 C's (carat, color, or cut) and sometimes even more than carat weight! The good news is that the differences between the grades are extremely difficult to notice. Let's take a look at the clarity scale:

Clarity Scale

At the very left of the scale, you have the grades of "Flawless" (FL) and "Internally Flawless" (IF). A flawless diamond is one that has no internal inclusions (any material foreign to the host diamond that has been trapped on the inside of it), nor any external blemishes (any damage to the surface of the diamond). Since these top two grades are incredibily rare (and very expensive) they usually don't make it into the conversation. 

This brings us to the "Very, Very Slightly Included" range, also known as VVS1 and VVS2. When it comes to clarity, the "1" grade is always a higher grade than the "2". The inclusions inside a VVS diamond are often so small and hard to detect that even the most skilled Grader needs a considerable amount of time to locate why it's a VVS1 instead of an IF. And keep in mind, this is all done by using 10x magnification, not with the naked eye. Even the most skilled Graders need to use 10x magnification  to see a VVS inclusion, which means there would be thousands of dollars difference between these diamonds and an IF, but no visible difference to the naked eye. Absolutely no difference.

The next grade, "Very Slightly Included" diamonds, VS1 and VS2, will have slightly more inclusions than the previous grades, or possibly those inclusions will simply be bigger, but they are still not visible to the naked eye when properly graded. 

In "Slighty Included" diamonds, SI1, SI2, and SI3, you may finally start to see some inclusions with the naked eye, particularly in the SI2's and SI3's, but still only just barely. So even if they are technically visible, they'll be incredibily difficult to notice.

The final clarity grade classification is known as the "Included" range and has three different grades within it: I1 (inclusions that can be seen pretty easily), I2 (obvious inclusions that you can't miss), and I3 (inclusions so big and so significant that they may actually threaten the durability of the diamond). 

So what does this all mean? Assuming the proper grades have been assigned by a trusted jeweler, you could look at a VVS1 diamond and place it next to an SI1 diamond and see zero difference between those diamonds with your naked eye. Let's think about that for a moment. There could be a significant price difference between the 3rd highest clarity grade (VVS1) and the 7th highest clarity grade (SI1), but not a drop of difference you can actually see. And just because an inclusion can be seen does not necessarily mean that diamond is one that you wouldn't want to buy. Sometimes that inclusion can be found under a facet junction (where two edges come together on the diamond), or on the perimeter of the diamond (which means it could be set under a prong to hide it from plain view). Again, when it could mean saving thousands of dollars, these things are worth considering. When I hand select diamonds for the store, I think about how I would want to buy them as a consumer. I think about what I would spend my money on and frankly, it's typicaly not clarity. If I'm going to spend thousands more on a diamond, I want to be able to see significantly more beauty. So when it comes to clarity, Don's Jewelry & Design has VS2-SI-I1 diamonds available to make sure we always have a range of affordable options.

At the end of the day, if I were to ask you what you want out of your diamond, you would probably tell me you want it to be as big as you can afford and as sparkly as possible. Key words, size and sparkle. After all, this is what people actually notice. So after spending a fair amount of time discussing color, clarity, and carat weight with clients, they begin to realize those 3C's actually have very little to do with making a diamond sparkle.

The bottom line is this: a diamond's sparkle has almost nothing to do with either color or clarity. For a diamond to sparkle from across the room, it needs to be cut well. In my next post, I'll discuss the one C to unite them all: Cut.