A Shocking Fact about Diamond Clarity They Don’t Want You to Know

Bottom Line Recommendation:

All else held constant, a diamond with poor clarity but is eye-clean will appear similar to a flawless one. And currently speaking, the only companies providing enough detailed pictures of their diamond products to determine their clarity is James Allen and Blue Nile. Through their advanced tools, you can discover exquisite pieces like this lovely S12 from Blue Nile that will give you a near 25% discount compared to a mediocre VS2 stone from James Allen.

If any doubts are lingering in your mind, never hesitate to contact us. We have helped countless other readers in the past and this has provided us we have more than enough experience to sort through these images and determine which diamond is eye-clean.


Natural diamonds are created deep beneath the earth’s mantle layer, at a depth of 80-120 miles in enormous heat of up to 2,200 degrees. While the entire process can take from a billion to as much as three billion years to complete, only the most exceptional diamond pieces surface in flawless condition. The majority of the time, they carry flaws and hold a distinct number of inclusions inside their bodies and blemishes in their surface.

Diamond Clarity is a qualitative measurement that rates the visual quality of every diamond. If the presence of inclusions and blemishes are few and rare, the stone will have a superior clarity grade. Although clarity plays an important role in a diamond’s value, flaws are undetectable to the naked eye majority of the time.

In increasing order of clarity, diamond clarity grades follow this kind of scale (GIA scale):

Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Small Inclusions 1 (VVS1), Very Very Small Inclusions 2 (VVS2), Very Small Inclusions 1 (VS1), Very Small Inclusions 2 (VS2), Small Inclusions 1 (SI1), Small Inclusions 2 (SI2), Inclusions 1 (I1), Inclusions 2 (I2).



Internally Flawless / Flawless – Free from any form of internal or external flaws. The most exceptional diamonds you can find today belong to this grade.


Very Very Slightly Included (1st Degree) –

If the diamond has a VVS1 grade, it means that the inclusions are undetectable even under 10x magnification – the traditional jeweler’s loupe level of magnification.


Very Very Slightly Included (2nd Degree) –

Diamonds with VVS2 grade have inclusions that are hardly perceivable under 10x magnification.


Very Slightly Included (1st Degree) –

A diamond following a clarity grade of VS1 have inclusions that are difficult to spot even under 10x magnification.


Very Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – If a diamond has been graded VS2, it means that it has inclusions that are big enough to be perceivable under 10x magnification.


Slightly Included (1st Degree) – When it comes to a SI1 clarity grade, the inclusions are quite obvious when viewed at 10x magnification. However, in the majority of shapes (except cuts such as Asscher and Emerald Cuts), the inclusions from diamonds with SI1 clarity grades are pretty much invisible to the naked eye.


Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – Inclusions in diamonds with SI2 clarity grades are very noticeable under a jeweler’s loupe. Even in step cuts like Emerald and Asscher cuts, the naked eye will be able to spot the inclusion.


Included (1st Degree) – Diamonds with I1 grades have inclusions that are even more obvious and noticeable than those with SI2 clarity grades. Even brilliant cuts with I1 clarity grades have inclusions that can easily be seen by the naked eye.

A Recurring Mistake

A recurring mistake that we have noticed in the diamond buyer populace is purchasing a piece that comes with a clarity grade that is too excessive to gauge just to give that biased feeling that you have made a “good investment”.

The chart displayed earlier holds authentic magnified images of GIA certified diamonds. I decided to opt for Asscher Cuts & Emerald Cuts for sample pictures because these step-cut shapes tend to expose inclusions better.

Based on the chart, you know now why it is vital to purchase only from online sellers (Like James Allen and Brian Gavin Diamonds) that give buyers detailed images of their products.

It’s almost Impossible to differentiate an SI2 from a VVS2

IF/ FL (Internally Flawless / Flawless)

Diamonds with Internally Flawless clarity grades are pretty much free from any form of inclusions – if there are any, rest assured that they are microscopic in nature. For instance, if you view the images on the table displayed earlier, you will see that in the bottom-most portion of the table, there is a dust like speck. That small speck, if we assume that it was an inclusion inside the diamond, would likely make the stone a VVS2.

VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included – 1st Degree)

The minute flaws inside a VVS1 can only be detected under intense magnification under a powerful microscope. I have provided a sample diamond, but I really don’t see any use for it. Inclusions from VVS1 clarity grades are pretty much invisible at this kind of magnification. An ordinary image, even those that are magnified, is only capable of focusing one level of depth. Thus, if there were an inclusion and the image was focused on another layer of depth, there is no way that it would be perceivable.

VVS2 (Very Slightly Included – 2nd Degree)

When you access the link to the original diamond on the table presented earlier, you will hardly notice the VVS2 inclusions. Most of the time, though, a gemological microscope is required to pinpoint a VVS2 inclusion since, normally, the inclusion is not arranged in one big, compact spot, but in a number of individually sized specks that when put together, will equate to a VVS2 clarity grade. And because these tiny specks are too minute to be visible under a jeweler’s loupe, you will require a microscope just to spot them.

VS1 (Very Slightly Included – 1st Degree)

Compared to a VVS2 clarity inclusion, the use of microscope is not required to pinpoint a VS1. If you click the sample diamond on the table presented earlier, you will see that a VS1 clarity inclusion is still not that noticeable and will never be seen by the naked eye.

VS2 (Very Slightly Included – 2nd Degree)

There are times when VS2 clarity inclusions are almost invisible to the naked eye. The sample stone provided in the table is not quite the norm. I tried to search purely for a black VS2 that is located in the center of a diamond to better portray the extent of a VS2 inclusion. The inclusion in the sample stone might just be noticeable to the naked eye due to its being black, in the center, and in an emerald cut (a cut that never hides inclusions). The bottom sample stone is your normal VS2.

SI1 (Slightly Included – 1st Degree)

Just like the inadequate VS2 sample shown in the table, the diamond selected for the sample picture of an SI1 clarity is also not an ideal representative to portray the optimum size and worse potential color of an SI1. It’s important to note that a clarity grade can be rooted in numerous distinct inclusion points in a diamond. It is rare (particularly for SI1 and lower) for a clarity grade to be rooted in a single condensed inclusion. Normally, there are several minute specks and dust of small spots that total to a clarity grade. In these situations, because every single inclusion is extremely tiny, the diamond appears spotless to the naked eye.

SI2 (Slightly Included – 2nd Degree)

In terms of step cuts such as Emerald and Asscher cuts, an SI2 clarity inclusion will generally appear noticeable to the naked eye (just like with the sample diamond image on the table). But in other brilliant shapes (virtually every other common shape), an SI2 clarity inclusion will normally look clean to the naked eye.

In the SI2 sample photo, I consciously opted with a condensed black center inclusion to demonstrate just how ugly an SI2 can get. If the same inclusion is on an Emerald Cut, you won’t have a much worse SI2 inclusion. As I have just shared earlier about an SI1, the majority of the time, the SI2 clarity grade is based on a number of tiny inclusions. Another typical feature is a “spready” SI2. In these situations, since the SI2 is dispersed all throughout the diamond, and not condensed in a single area, the diamond becomes eye clean most of the time.

I1 (Included – 1st Degree)

I1 clarity inclusions are particularly noticeable on step cuts (Asscher Cuts & Emerald Cuts) that it would be difficult for you to find such piece on the market. For instance, notice how terrible the sample stone on the table presented earlier appears. But just because the sample picture looks incomparably grotesque, it doesn’t necessarily conclude that there is no flawlessly eye-clean and exquisite I1 clarity diamond.

Just like I mentioned earlier, majority of clarity grades are made up of a number to numerous tiny inclusions spread throughout the diamond. With that being said, the I1 clarity inclusion will hardly be visible if not invisible to the naked eye. Condensed inclusions in the center of the diamond are quite rare and you are much more likely to land on a diamond with spread inclusions. I consciously chose the condensed inclusions in this chart just to portray the “worst case scenario” for every clarity grade.

Hidden Traits

I have been in the diamond business for over six years now. If you presented me with a diamond that has a VVS2 clarity grade, it would probably be a while before I can locate the existing flaw – the extremely tiny inclusion – using a 10x powered loupe.

Spotting a VS1 would relatively be easier although it’s hardly bigger than a VVS2. When its VS2s clarity grade inclusions that we are talking about, pinpointing them with a 10X powered loupe is almost always guaranteed. They are, however, pretty much invisible to the naked eye.

In terms of SI1 and SI2 clarity grades, though, you will notice a large number of diamond pieces with obvious inclusions. With that being said, it is crucial to focus your search for vendors who provide detailed images of their products. And of course, you can always count on us anytime to help you select the best SI1 or SI2 that is eye clean.

So if a diamond is basically a commodity that has traits that will give you some form of gain (i.e. its visual appeal), then why pay for traits that won’t provide you with any gain?

Sliced Traits

A good analogy of your overall investment in a diamond would be a whole pizza pie. Every trait of the diamond has its distinct slice in the pizza and the more money you pour in on one trait, the bigger the slice (which means other slices would also become smaller as a result).

Common sense will immediately tell you that you should allocate the biggest slices to those traits that will provide you with the most benefits. How about the other slices? Simply ensure that they are just big enough that it doesn’t diminish the visual qualities of the diamond.

Unequal Inclusions

Sadly, however, things are actually a lot more complicated than what this guide may have led you to believe. The most important to bear in mind is that every inclusion is unique on its own.

There are shiny inclusions and there are those that appear genuinely invisible. There are also inclusions that are completely white and some are absolutely black. And then some inclusions are located in the center of the diamond and there are those that are isolated on the far side of the stone that you will barely notice them.

Clarity grades

Clarity grades tend to consider the size of the inclusion and not on the color and opaqueness of neither the inclusion nor its location.

State-of-the-art Imagery

Luckily, James Allen holds some genuinely amazing state-of-the-art imagery that will give us the ability to examine actual clarity examples using a technology they call 360° Diamond Display Technology that offers 18x magnification around the whole stone.


The first diamond that we will examine is a 1.00 carat I1.

The diamond above serves as a primary example of the exceptional value you can enjoy with technological innovations like James Allen’s 360° Diamond Display Technology or Brian Gavin Diamonds’ superbly detailed photographs.

With Figure 1, which is captured at 9x magnification, it’s not as clear as you would want it to be. If not for the red mark encircling the inclusion, it would surely be hard to detect its existence.

This is because the inclusion is a bit opaque and more importantly, it is located on the furthermost side of the diamond. For an adept jeweler, masking the inclusion with a prong is relatively easy and you won’t even notice the cover-up.

Hidden Inclusions

In Figure 2, the same diamond is portrayed under 18x magnification. In this occasion, I have focused on the inclusion so you will have a better view on how its color allows it to camouflage with the natural appearance of the diamond seamlessly.

In the next diamond, we will examine a 1.01 carat VS2. As you may have noticed in Figure 3, there is a minute inclusion at the center of the diamond’s table. The inclusion, however, is completely black.

Because of the inclusions’ locations and color, chances are it would be detected by the naked eye despite the fact that it possesses a VS2 clarity grade.

Comparing Inclusions

In figure, the same inclusion is portrayed at 18x magnification.

Then shift your glance at the table below (Figure 5) regarding the two distinct diamond features. Both diamonds are practically the same, except for the three minor advantages that I1 holds over the VS2 (Fluorescence free with Superb polish and somewhat bigger dimensions).

With that being said, try to determine the exact price of each. The VS2? Sold in JamesAllen.com for $5,010.

Now the I1, that I have revealed to you as not just a greater value for your money but is also, without bias, a more beautiful diamond? $3,290.


Perhaps the biggest lie about diamonds is that they are reasonable investments. Edward Jay Epstein, in his masterpiece entitled “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?” has finally put some truth in an industry shrouded with fabricated facts and marketing slogans. We also have our own take on the issue on the resale value of a diamond.

If you are looking to buy a diamond, I highly suggest that you read every line of these articles. Before making a big purchase, it is crucial that you possess the right mindset so you won’t be enchanted by all the illusions and stirrings generated by DeBeers advertising.

Diamonds are a retail product just like any other. The product undergoes different stages of production and distribution (mining, polishing, distribution, retail, and finally customer).

As the diamond progresses in each stage, its price grows dramatically. When the diamond reaches its final stage, which is in the customer’s hands, the price has already ballooned to a point where it would be impossible to recouped every penny that you spent for it when you sell it.

If a car loses 15% of its value once it vacates the lot, the majority of diamonds would mostly lose at least 30-40% when they exit the store.

What’s more, that VS2 costs over 50% more than the I1! And what’s even worse is the only thing that you will get from the additional $1720 that you spent on the VS2 is a tiny dark speck that will always be there to mock you on the epic blunder that you made.

And before we close this discussion, still remember the pizza analogy I mentioned earlier? Now, wouldn’t it make complete sense to allocate a small slice of Clarity and a bigger one for Weight?

In the example presented in this guide, you could easily upgrade to a 1.25ct diamond and you would still end up spending less than $5,010.

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Kevin Lee is a former tech advisor who cut his teeth in Silicon Valley. He now spends his time sharing his passion for investing in diamonds and jewelry. You can reach Kevin for any comments by using this form.