Bottom Line Recommendation
Repeat this mantra and memorize it: Buy the Lowest Clarity Grade Possible that is Clean to the Naked Eye
There’s a lot of misdirection (not to mention outright lies) in the diamond business. Consumers are pounded with so many messages from very early on – whether it’s DeBeers advertising telling you that a diamond really is a symbol of your love or its the jewelry store salesman telling you that you need to drop 2 (some now even say 3!) months salary on an engagement ring. But perhaps the most egregious of all the half-truths told by the industry is the one that says that there’s something to gain by purchasing a high-clarity diamond.
The first thing that’s important to understand when discussing clarity is just how different it is from diamond color. Color, as you might recall from that article, is a relative parameter. What this means is that if you hold a D color diamond next to a J color diamond, you will definitely see the difference. Please don’t take this to mean that I recommend buying a very high color diamond – see the article there for the full explanation.
This is completely different, however, in the case of clarity. Clarity, at least as it relates to what the naked eye can perceive, is not a “relative” parameter – it’s a binary one. What I mean by this is simply that a diamond can either be clean to the naked eye, or it can be not clean to the naked eye. That’s all that matters to you, the consumer.
Here’s what no jewelry store salesman will tell you – an eye clean SI2 or even I1 will look identical to a flawless diamond assuming all else is equal. Inclusions are only problematic when they themselves are actually visible. Nobody likes to look down into their diamond and see black stuff floating around on the inside. But the fact is that inclusions do not detract from a diamond’s brilliance and fire (ie, how much they sparkle).
If we return to our “pizza” analogy from the color article, it’s clear that the way to handle clarity is to shoot for the lowest possible clarity grade that will still be clean to the naked eye. Spending any more money than this on clarity will needlessly make the other slices smaller while adding absolutely no visual benefit to the diamond. Your best be for budgeting for a diamond is to minimize what you spend on clarity, shoot for the lowest color that looks white, limit your search to the best cut diamonds, and then try to find the largest diamond possible within that framework. This way, the two slices that matter most (ie, cut and carat) will always be the largest.
There’s another issue about clarity which bears clarification. Even if one would care about a diamond’s actual clarity grade, it’s important to stress that even for VS2 graded diamonds, no two diamonds are alike (although for VS1 and higher grades, one can be certain that the diamond will be eye clean). It’s most definitely possible to have an ugly VS2 with a black inclusion dead center that’s eye visible while at the same time you could have a translucent feather on the girdle of an I1 certified diamond (A great example of this is in this video about EGL).
Take a look at the diamond in the picture to the left. This is a perfect example of an awful I1. (here’s a link to the diamond’s page on James Allen, by the way). The black inclusion in the center of the diamond, while small enough to be considered a VS2, is strong enough in color to still be visible to the naked eye. This diamond, an I VS2 0.70ct ideal cut round, costs $2,620 (at the time of writing this article).
Now have a look at the diamond to the right. This is a 0.72ct I SI2 ideal cut round from James Allen. This diamond will be completely clean to the naked eye, unlike our VS2 friend above. The best part? This diamond would only have cost you $2060 at the time of writing this article. That’s 21% less than the VS2, and you get an objectively nicer looking diamond.
Now hopefully the lesson is clear – stick to the lowest possible clarity grade you can find that is still clean to the naked eye!