Clearly Overrated

by John Carter

The last time you allowed me five minutes, I gave you some pointers about diamonds, their color, and how you can navigate through the grades to save some money. This time, let’s bring a little clarity to the situation. See what I did there? Hey Hey! (Krusty the Clown voice)

The bad news about clarity is that it can affect price almost more than any of the other 3 C’s…yes, sometimes even more than carat weight! The good news is that differences between the grades are extremely difficult to notice. Let’s take a closer look.

Clarity Grades Pic

At the very top 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). In essence, an FL diamond would generally be found in a museum, because once it’s worn and develops even a tiny scratch on the surface (yes that can happen) it would immediately be considered an IF and lose considerable value. So, since these top two grades are incredibly rare (and very expensive) they don’t usually make it into the conversation for the average consumer.

Which 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 not with the naked eye, but by using 10x magnification!

That last sentence is worth repeating. I just said that 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. Zero. Zip. Nada. None. We’ll come back to that, but first let’s discuss the next clarity grades.

“Very Slightly Included” diamonds (VS1 and VS2) will have more inclusions than the previous grades (or possibly those inclusions will simply be bigger…or both more and bigger) but they are still not visible to the naked eye when properly graded.

In “Slightly Included” diamonds (SI1 and SI2) you may finally start to see some inclusions with the naked eye (particularly in the SI2’s)…but still only just barely. So even if they are technically visible, they’ll be incredibly difficult to notice.

The final clarity 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 now that we’ve run the gauntlet of terms, what does it all mean? In short, you could look at an Internally Flawless (IF) diamond and place it next to an SI1 diamond and see zero difference between those diamonds with your naked eye (assuming proper grades have been assigned, which is why it’s important to have a jeweler you can trust). Think about that. There could be a 300% price difference between the 2nd highest clarity grade (IF) and the 7th highest 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 you wouldn’t want to buy. Sometimes that inclusion can be under a facet junction (where 2 edges come together on the diamond), or on the perimeter of the diamond (which means it could easily be set under a prong to hide it from plain view). Again, when it could mean saving thousands, these things are worth considering.

Now, I buy diamonds for the store generally the same way I would want to buy them as a consumer. I think about what I would want to spend my money on and frankly, it’s typically 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, Jack Lewis prioritizes VS2-SI2 diamonds, with some I1’s thrown into the mix 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. 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, what usually amazes them most is realizing those 3 C’s actually have very little to do with making a diamond sparkle.

In general, the only time you will really ever notice color or clarity is when they are lousy. Such as when you look at a diamond and see a fair amount of that yellow we discussed in my last blog, or when you can see a massive inclusion from far away.

The bottom line is this: a diamond’s sizzle, its dazzle, its bling, its sparkle…all that 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. So tune in next time where we’ll discuss the one C to unite them all: Cut.

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