I find that people either underestimate or over-estimate the importance of diamond clarity. This is a travesty that I intend to rectify. First, lets start with the basics:
Flawless- No inclusions inside or on the surface with 10x magnification. This is the definition of perfection.
Internally Flawless- No internal inclusions at 10x but there might be blemishes on the surface of the diamond.
VVS1/VVS2 Diamonds: Very Very Slightly Included. These have minuscule inclusions that are very difficult to spot under a 10x magnification. The inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.
VS1/VS2 Diamonds: Very Slightly Included. The inclusions are not visible to the naked eye, and are difficult to see under 10x magnification.
SI1/SI2 Diamonds: Slightly Included. The inclusions in these diamonds are usually not visible to the unaided eye, but are visible under a 10x magnification.
I1/I2 Diamonds: Included. These diamonds have visible inclusions to the unaided eye.
I generally don’t use stones that are more included than VS2 for my clients. Similarly, the high-end jewelry retailers like Harry Winston, Cartier, Van Cleef, Tiffany’s etc. don’t use SI or I clarities either. However, in order to reach the desired price points, commercial retailers like Blue Nile, Zales, etc. use a great deal of SI, I1, I2 and even I3 stones to make diamonds more accessible. Similarly, many of the fashion jewelry houses that use diamond slices or “brown diamonds” are using I3 goods. My stance on all this is that you have to know when to buy investment jewelry (VS2 or higher clarity) and when you’re buying fashion jewelry (which will never appreciate in value but it looks good). There is nothing wrong with dabbling in the entire spectrum but I would much rather my DMD darlings make informed decisions.
I an mot going to sit here and wax poetic about what clarity of diamonds you should have. One’s budget will always dictate the diamonds. If that means you have to sacrifice clarity in order to have a diamond engagement ring then so be it–no shame in that. However, if you have a larger budget but purchase SI or I goods because you like the design of the piece and don’t know any better, shame on you. Always get the best quality for your budget.
Size vs. Clarity
Different standards apply for different size stones and budgets. In a larger diamond, you should first scan the market to see what approximate size diamond you can get with your budget and then adjust clarity and color upwards or downwards. Let’s say your budget is $50,000. On today’s market, that could get you either a 1.25 carat D flawless round diamond or a 2 carat F, VS1 diamond. At that point, I would go for the 2 carat F because F and D colors are both in the colorless spectrum (click here to read my post on the diamond color scale); and given that VS1 inclusions are not visible to the naked eye, I would much rather a larger colorless diamond than a smaller flawless one when no one will be able to tell the difference anyway.
Alternatively, let’s say Kanye gives Kim a budget of 3 million to spend on her next engagement ring (this is starting to sound like one of my old law school hypotheticals). Rather than go for a 20 carat, G colored, VS2 like she did last time, I would advise her to go for a 8 or 9 carat D flawless. Why anyone would get a 20 carat mediocre stone over a D flawless that is half the size is beyond me–8 carats is worthy of jewelry arthritis as it is, and it is both more stunning visually and a better investment. Clearly the emphasis is on the flash appeal rather than on the quality or investment value. I would never advise someone in that direction–it’s just reckless disregard for logic and good fiscal planning.
Color vs. Clarity
Sizes being equal, what if I was posed with the choice of a 2 carat F VVS1 or a 2 carat E VS2? The second option being one step up in color but two steps down in clarity. Ahh, here I would go for color because color is more visible than clarity to the naked eye. The only instance where I would choose to upgrade clarity over color is if there is a large disparity between the two. Let’s say I have a 2 carat F color SI2; if given the choice to upgrade to an E, SI2 (one step up in color) or an F, VS2 (two steps up in clarity), I would choose the F, VS2 because SI inclusions can be visible to the naked eye whereas VS inclusions are not and that makes it a better investment.
We’ve done the behemoths, now for the melees. Mellees are what we in the industry call diamonds that we use for accents or pave settings. For example, on an engagement ring with a diamond band, the diamonds on the band are called melees. If you have a center stone, the melee should always match the center stone, that’s basic quality control. What if you don’t have a center stone and have a ring paved in melee? Is it worth it to splurge and get D flawless melee? Absolutely not. If you go for a high color, G or higher, no one is going to see the clarity difference between a VS2 and a VVS melee–you’d be wasting your money.
I am a big proponent of living within your means. The more included a diamond is the more affordable it is. Having said that, given one’s means, one should always strive for the best. That my darlings, is why one needs to be well-informed and the reason I pen this blog.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,