When it comes to clarity, one of the main things new shoppers need to realize is the fact that there is plenty of leeway to find an eye clean diamond.
While, in order to get a beautiful and sparkling stone, you’ll need to stick to the very top two grades for cut (Excellent and Very Good), it is totally possible to find a visually flawless diamond from a grade way below FL and IF.
This is great news for plenty of reasons. For starters, it means you won’t have to spend years waiting for a flawless diamond to come along – and, given they represent less than 1% of all diamonds mined, you and your future bride would be waiting a while.
Furthermore, it means you have the ability to save thousands of dollars on the cost of your diamond – thousands of dollars that you can put towards finding a larger diamond still available in your price range.
It’s a no-brainer, really – provided you know where on the clarity scale you should focus your search.
By now, you might already have a pretty broad overview about the clarity grades clear in your mind. Then again, you might be just getting started. Either way, here’s a refresher on the clarity grading scale – and a much closer look at the VS grade.
While there are a number of scales used for identifying a diamond’s clarity, but, as you might have realised by now, the GIA’s system is the most widely used, recognized, and accepted.
This scale is used only to review the presence (or absence) of inclusions and blemishes, and not a diamond’s color, fluorescence, or symmetry. It runs from FL and IF diamonds, which are considered to be free from any inclusions under magnification, through ‘Very Very Slightly’ and ‘Very Slightly’ included diamonds (VVS and, of course, VS), ‘Slightly Included’ (SI) diamonds, and, finally, Included (I) diamonds.
Aside from FL and IF, each diamond grade is separated into two degrees. For instance, VS1 and VS2. There are only minor differences between each degree, and these differences will rarely impact the appearance of the diamond when it is not under magnification.
In order to determine a diamond’s clarity grade, it is assessed under 10x magnification by two expert graders, who will note down every single inclusion they come across (however small or minor) and illustrate it on a diamond plot, which will be included within the GIA report.
As a casual shopper, every diamond you come across will feature inclusions – though it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be able to spot them, unless the diamond has a very low clarity grade.
As we alluded to above, there is no conclusively ‘ideal grade’ for engagement rings, and buying a good diamond doesn’t necessarily mean aiming for the highest grade you can possibly afford.
VS refers to diamonds that are ‘Very Slightly’ included – or, more specifically, diamonds featuring inclusions that are “minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy” to spot under 10x magnification.
This is the official description used by expert GIA diamond graders but, for you, it roughly translates to a wide variety of diamonds that, while they do feature inclusions, are still of a high enough quality that the grader won’t spot them the instant the diamond is placed under the microscope.
Almost all VS grade diamonds will appear eye clean, yes.
The subject of eye clean diamonds is something you will want to get very familiar with before you start seriously shopping around for your diamond. For now, keep in mind that an eye clean diamond is worth far more to you than a diamond with an extremely high clarity grade, such as VVS1.
Yes, any imperfections in a VS grade diamond (whether VS1 or VS2) will not be significant enough to have any discernible impact on brilliance or fire.
Diamonds need to be pretty heavily included for sparkle to be affected, and, for the most part, you really don’t need to worry about the relationship between your diamond’s clarity grade, and its light performance.
The reason we always recommend shoppers stick to the very highest grades possible when it comes to cut, however, is because this is the factor most relevant to sparkle. A diamond could have a pretty poor color and clarity and still sparkle beautifully – although you definitely wouldn’t want to invest in it.
Understanding the ideal proportions for your diamond’s cut is essential, and far more important than stretching your budget to reach to a VVS grade on the off-chance that it will yield a better light performance.
In short, VS diamonds will sparkle – provided you don’t forget the importance of Cut quality.
Less than a fifth of all diamonds on the market today are thought to be VS, making them a relatively rare find.
While nowhere near as rare as FL or IF diamonds – or, for that matter, VVS diamonds – VS diamonds are still rarer finds than some of the lower clarity grades.
This is because of the fact that inclusions are incredibly common in diamonds, and that, since size is so highly valued among those looking to create beautiful diamond jewelry, plenty of stones are cut and sold with a relatively large number of inclusions.
So, not only are the overwhelming majority of diamonds mined from the earth full of inclusions (some minor, some more noticeable), but plenty of diamonds are cut in a way that means inclusions are left within them. VS diamonds are, of course, no different – for the cutter to create a flawless stone, they would have to remove significant portions of the rough stone, and this simply isn’t worth it.
The VVS clarity grade sits above VS on the GIA’s scale, and applies to diamonds with such minor inclusions that even a skilled grader struggles to see them under 10x magnification.
The GIA’s definition for VVS diamonds is as follows:
If that sounds pretty similar to the GIA’s description of the VS grade, then you’re not alone.
Skilled graders see diamonds in a totally different way that we see them. Under the microscope, the differences between VS and VVS diamonds are clear to see – although, of course, these differences become very, very subtle (if not totally impossible to detect) when the diamond is seen with the naked eye.
So, if you can’t tell the difference (and a jeweler can’t tell the difference) when the diamond is right there in front of you, what is it that makes the VVS a better grade?
Not much – unless you’re a collector with a keen interest in these near-flawless diamonds.
So, while VVS is the ‘better’ grade, it’s probably not the better choice for you.
That depends on the size and shape of the diamond you are looking at, although there are plenty of excellent and well-priced options at both grades.
The GIA’s definition for SI diamonds is:
As you might expect, this means that plenty of SI diamonds (and, in particular, SI1 diamonds) are also eye clean, making the VS2 vs SI1 debate a little more complicated than you might have imagined – and one definitely worth doing your research on before you buy.
VS diamonds can have a combination of inclusions, such as pinpoints, feathers, graining, twinning wisps, and crystals.
In fact, most diamonds contain most of the common types of inclusion. Diamond feathers, for instance, are highly common, and not considered an issue unless they’re much more substantial than they would be in a VS graded diamond.
In general, it really doesn’t matter what types of inclusion your diamond features (although it can be interesting to see them mapped out on your diamond’s plot) provided they’re small enough to preserve the visual and structural integrity of the diamond.
In this case, VS is a safe bet.
The main reason any diamond shopper will be drawn to these lower clarity grades is, of course, an interest in getting the best (and, likely, biggest) diamond they can out of their price range. If not, we’d all simply aim for the most flawless diamonds possible – even though they don’t look any better without strong magnification.
So how much can you really save if you shop from the VS category?
Like any diamond, VS graded diamonds vary significantly in price – from a couple thousand dollars to more than $10,000 – depending on many factors. In general, however, it’s good to keep in mind that VS diamonds are typically between 10% and 20% less than otherwise similar VVS diamonds.
In other words, let’s say you’re looking at a 1.5 carat diamond with Excellent cut, a clarity grade of VVS1, a color grade of H. You could feasibly shave as much as 20% off the price if you found a diamond that was pretty much identical in all respects except clarity – and, provided that second diamond was eye clean, you wouldn’t have to sacrifice any of the original diamond’s beauty for the sake of hundreds or thousands of dollars saved.
Alternatively, if you’re still ‘just browsing’, you could aim your sights a little higher and start looking at slightly larger diamonds. If your budget can’t take you to a 1 carat VVS diamond, then switching to the VS category could make it way easier for you to get there, without saving thousands of additional dollars before you can buy.
Yes, provided they are of a visually high quality.
Would you rather have a small diamond – say, half a carat – to place in the center of your diamond ring and a GIA report that confirms it as being only very, very slightly included, or would you rather have a diamond approximately twice the size with a GIA report that confirms it features very slight inclusions?
For the exact same reason that the Near Colorless range of diamonds (grades G, H, I, and J) represent far wiser investments than the rare and super-expensive Colorless range (D, E, and F), a lower clarity grade is absolutely worth your while.
From the opposite viewpoint, VS diamonds can often be preferable to the savings available from SI diamonds.
There are plenty of beautiful, eye clean diamonds available at the SI grade, but if you’re looking for a large diamond, or a shape that is not so good at hiding flaws (like the Emerald or Asscher cut) then the VS clarity grades offer more scope for finding the right, eye clean diamond.
It helps to understand how a diamond’s shape impacts any minor inclusions within it, and why there is no ‘right grade’ for every diamond out there. The clarity grade that offers the best deal for you may still be unnecessarily high for another shopper looking at different types of diamond, or it may be too low.
Again, this depends on carat weight. A 0.5 carat Emerald cut diamond would be great at the VS2 grade, though VS1 will yield better results for diamonds up to a carat in weight.
The Emerald and Asscher cuts are a little less forgiving when it comes to minor inclusions. While elegant and interesting to look at, they do not benefit from the same faceting structure seen on Round and Fancy shapes. It’s easier to see into the diamond – and, as a result, spot any minor inclusions that may not be obvious in other stones.
Nevertheless, you still have plenty of choices at the VS grade.
Absolutely. VS1 and VS2 represent two of the best grades for eye clean choices, particularly if you’re interested in looking at larger carat weights – although you won’t want to turn your back on the SI1 grade entirely just yet.
Out of all the clarity grades, the VS grades offer some of the best value. While the SI grades – and, in particular, SI1 – offer plenty of choice, they’re a little more restrictive at times, particularly when it comes to some of the fussier shapes, or larger diamonds.
For this reason alone, VS diamonds enjoy an incredibly strong position on the clarity scale. But, couple that with the fact that they offer the same impeccable, flawless appearance that could cost thousands of dollars extra if you were to shop from higher grades, and you can see quite how much better your experience will be if you narrow your search to these categories.
If you want to make sure you’re making the very best investment possible, we’d recommend widening your initial search to include the SI grades, too. If it turns out the type of diamond you’re looking for would be better off at a VS, then you’ll know you’re getting the best deal on your diamond, and that you’re not investing hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars into a clarity grade you don’t need.