It is the golden rule of many industry professionals that VS2, SI1 and SI2 are the diamond clarity grades to go for if you’re looking for budget-friendly eye-clear diamonds.
The Included diamond grades, I1, I2 and I3 stones, fall below this zone as they are almost never eye-clean which is also why they are even cheaper. Diamonds higher up on the clarity scale, while often containing no visible inclusions, can get pretty expensive.
So, does this mean that I1 clarity diamonds should just be avoided at all costs or do they have some value?
What Are I1 Diamonds?
Briefly, for those unfamiliar with diamond clarity grades, a stone’s clarity evaluates how many and how big (if any) are the internal blemishes and inclusions inside the stone itself. The fewer they are, the clearer the stone.
GIA Clarity Scale is the industry standard.
The basic grades maintained by most gemological institutes are as follows:
IF (Internally flawless) and FL (Flawless) – these have virtually no internal inclusions, even when viewed under an x10 magnification.
VVS1 & VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included) – these have some minor inclusions that can only be observed with magnification but are invisible to the naked eye.
VS1 & VS2 (Very Slightly Included) – these also only have minor inclusions that are invisible to the naked eye but are easier to notice with magnification.
SI1 & SI2 (Slightly Included) – these have more and bigger inclusions. Whether they are visible to the naked eye depends on their position in the stone and their color (which the grading method doesn’t account for).
I1, I2 And I3 (Included) – these are the stones that have many and large inclusions that are almost always visible to the naked eye.
So, as you can see, I1 clarity diamonds are at the bottom of the scale. So, should you just avoid them altogether?
Well, as we briefly pointed out, the color of the inclusions and their position in the diamonds isn’t actually a part of the grading method. This is a major factor to keep in mind as there is a huge difference between a colorless inclusion that’s by the side of the stone and a dark black inclusion that’s in a diamond’s center, just below the table. The latter will be painfully visible even to the layperson, while the former may very well remain invisible even to a professional’s naked eye.
Because each subsequent clarity grade up on the clarity scale often comes with a significant increase in price, looking for eye-clean, beautiful diamonds among the lower grades is an excellent way to save on your diamond’s price.
Can I1 Diamonds Be Eye-Clean?
This is the big question most people ask when wondering about I1 clarity diamonds. The reason VS2, SI1 and SI2 diamonds are considered the best choice for budget-friendly eye-clean stones is that it’s relatively easy to find a cheap SI2 stone which is nearly eye-clean (and it’s very easy to find an eye-clean VS2 stone).
However, is it the same for I1 diamonds?
One of the defining qualities of I1-3 stones is that their inclusions are so numerous and so large that they affect the stones’ brilliance, sparkle, and appearance. However, for some rare I1 diamonds it is still possible to find them with colorless inclusions that match the stone’s own shapes and colors so well that they remain invisible to the naked eye.
Here are a couple of great examples of I1 stones on the James Allen store that are so close to being eye-clean that it’s mind-boggling – this 1.00 carat G-color stone and this 1.04 carat I-color one. Both have quite a lot of large inclusions but because they are colorless and because they match so well with the rest of the stone, they are essentially unnoticeable. Remember to view them at their normal size (they’re 20x magnified in the video) and you’ll barely notice any inclusions.
So, would we advise you to look for eye-clean I1 diamonds instead of VS2, SI1 or SI2 stones? After all, they are even cheaper, right?
Well, admittedly, finding an eye-clean I1 diamond would be such a jackpot that many would buy it just because of that. But that’s also kind of the problem – eye-clean I1 diamonds are so rare that looking for them can be quite the time-consuming endeavor. After all, why spend multiple hours to look for a slightly cheaper diamond? Time is money too, isn’t it?
Because of the sheer rarity of eye-clean I1 diamonds, we’d advise you to stick to VS2, SI1 and SI2 stones when looking for budget-friendly eye-clean diamonds. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a cheap stone that’s close to being eye-clean, I1 is a good grade to consider.
I1 Diamonds and Shapes
Do certain diamond shapes cover an I1 diamond’s inclusion better than others? Well, this is mostly a case-by-case question.
The shape, cut and color of a stone can certainly make its internal inclusions more visible or harder to notice, but there isn’t one shape that’s best for that. Certain inclusions can be painfully visible on a round cut diamond but barely noticeable on a heart cut stone, and vice versa. Whatever diamond shape you’re looking for, finding an eye-clear I1 stone in it will be a challenge.
With that in mind, round cut and princess cut stones may be a better option to find I1 diamonds, simply because they are more numerous.
The Value Of An I1 Diamond
In terms of direct value that the diamond industry ascribes to I1 stones, it isn’t very high. At the end of the day, they are located at the lower end of the diamond clarity scale. Funny enough, it could be said that eye-clean I1 diamonds are “highly valued” by many customers precisely because they are so rare and because their price is so affordable.
Still, they are diamonds and it’s not like they are devoid of any actual value. When placed in the right setting and with the right embellishments around it, an I1 diamond’s inclusions can be mostly hidden. This makes I1 stones ideal for jewelry types and designs that don’t accent the diamond’s clarity too much. They are also great as side stones or with smaller melee diamonds.
Any earring, necklace, bracelet or even ring that has heavily ornamented design and doesn’t put its diamonds front and center is a good choice for an I1 diamond. Otherwise, especially for ring designs that are meant to showcase a diamond’s quality, we’d suggest a higher clarity grade.
Having said all this, it’s important to remember that the quality of workmanship and the type of setting can significantly add to any diamond’s price.
The Importance of Seeing the Diamond Clearly
Included diamonds are a great example as to why it’s very important to see the diamond in person before you make a purchase. There are a few online stores out there such as James Allen, Blue Nile and Brian Gavin that have excellent HD picture and video representation of their stones – in those cases you can be significantly surer that what you’re seeing is what you’re going to get.
Whether you’re buying the diamond in person or online, it’s important to know how to buy an I1 diamond. Yes, both online and in person you can (and should) look at the stone’s certification, it’s official grading, and any graphics that showcase its dimensions, cut, and even ones that accent its inclusions.
It’s also important to take a good magnified look at the whole diamond. This is one thing that many people skip when they are buying a stone in person, probably because they don’t want “to bother” the salesperson. Well, that’s what they are there for – to let you “bother” them.
The opposite is even more important, however – to see the diamond in its actual size and with the naked eye. This, reversely, is something that a lot of people forget to do online as they just look at the stone’s magnified images. Seeing how the stone looks in real life and in its actual size, especially from all sides, is very important when evaluating its visual quality.
To Wrap Things Up…
I1 clarity diamonds are in a very weird and fascinating place in the diamond world. Yes, they are on the lower end of the clarity scale, they are very rarely eye-clean, and they are much cheaper than other diamonds.
However, they do have their place in diamond jewelry and finding an eye-clean I1 stone can be a diamond-hunting highlight on its own.