A Guide to I1, I2 and I3 Clarity Diamonds: Are They Worth the Risk?

Inclusions and blemishes are present in almost all diamonds in varying degrees – the exception, are those very rare diamonds that receive a FL (flawless) grade. Inclusions and blemishes can be a delicate, natural reminder of the wonderous journey your diamond has undertaken before resting on your finger. However, inclusions can also negatively impact light return and the durability of a diamond. When striking a balance between how much you spend and the beauty of the diamond, choosing the right clarity grade will be a significant consideration.
A CUT ABOVE Hearts and Arrows Diamond

What is an I Clarity Diamond?

The GIA grades diamonds on the following scale:
Clarity Scale
I Clarity diamonds are the diamonds in the Imperfect clarity category. As you can see from this simulation, I1, I2 and I3 diamonds sit at the low end of the grading scale. The GIA states that I clarity diamonds possess: Inclusions that are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance’.
Grading the clarity of a diamond is a complex process. The diamond is analysed based on the number of inclusions, their positioning, size and the type of inclusion. With room for subjectivity, multiple graders must reach the same conclusion before the grade is decided. You can read more about diamond clarity in this article.
Diamond cuts will present inclusions differently; for example, brilliant cuts conceal inclusions better due to the facet patterning, while inclusions in step cuts, such as Emerald or Asscher, are much more visible. This tip may be helpful for those looking at SI1/SI2 diamonds, however I1-I3 diamonds are rarely cut into step cuts and will have visible inclusions regardless of diamond shape.
Diamonds with an I clarity grade are highly unlikely to be eye-clean. If they are they will most likely have diminished transparency. This is one of the many reasons we do not recommend them for engagement rings. Even when working with a modest budget, eye-clean is important for most shoppers when buying a diamond, and this is challenging for most I clarity diamonds. Using high-res imaging and video, you might come across an I1 diamond with inclusions that can be covered by a setting, but it will be an outlier. And if you do, the inclusion might be a type and size that compromises durability. In this case setting a prong on it, with the pressure that is necessary, could potentially damage the diamond.

I1 VS I2 VS I3 Diamonds

It should be noted that, while we do not recommend or sell I1-I3 diamonds, there can be a distinct difference in appearance of these diamonds. As mentioned, in some rare cases, I1 diamonds may have very spread out inclusions that are concentrated around the edge of the diamond – thus, when the diamond is set, it appears eye clean. I3 diamonds will not be eye-clean and you should be cautious of any seller offering them. I2 and I3 diamonds are not suitable for use in fine jewelry. If a jeweler shows you an I clarity diamond, insist upon knowing the specific grade; if it is below an I1, reject it. If it is an I1 – give it a close inspection with a jewelers loupe and ask to see the inclusion plot graph.

I Clarity Diamonds and Light Performance

At Whiteflash, we take light performance very seriously. We are committed to bringing our customers cutting edge diamond imaging and HD Video so that you can see precisely how well our diamonds handle light. Inclusions can cause transparency issues that will be extremely detrimental to light return, with different inclusions creating different optical flaws (for example, excessive cloud inclusions can cause a diamond to look milky, excessive twinning wisps may cause loss of transparency, etc). Inclusions inhibit light from being successfully reflected within the diamond, diminishing brilliance and sparkle. Even a diamond novice will be able to point out that an I clarity diamond may have a ‘dull’ appearance, and black crystals or opaque feathers may make the stone look dirty.
Once you have spotted an inclusion in your diamond, you cannot ‘unsee’ it. This is why finding an eye-clean diamond is the baseline requirement for most shoppers.
I Clarity Diamond
Inclusions seen in the table
I Clarity Hearts
Inclusions seen in the pavilion

I Clarity Diamonds and Durability

If you still believe that you could overlook the unsightly imperfections of an I clarity diamond to secure a bargain, perhaps the topic of durability will change your mind. Contrary to the widespread belief that diamonds are invincible, heavily included diamonds have a compromised structure making them more susceptible to chipping and breaking. While this issue is most likely confined to I2 and I3 diamonds, even I1 diamonds should be assessed by an expert to ensure none of the inclusions or blemishes will compromise the strength of the diamond. A quality diamond that is cared for will last forever, but low-quality diamonds that have forgone proper analysis may lead to huge disappointment and issues in the future.

Do I1 Clarity Diamonds Offer Good Value?

The short answer? No. If you find a vendor offering I clarity diamonds, we understand the price is likely to be compelling, but the bottom line is that these diamonds are poor quality; even I1 clarity diamonds require rigorous analysis to ensure they are even passable for a piece of fine jewelry, much less an engagement ring.
Generally, we advise customers shopping for natural diamonds to begin their search within the VS2 and above area of the clarity scale – this is the most popular clarity grade for a reason. At this grade, inclusions are in most cases not visible to the naked eye, and will not interfere with transparency, light return and durability. Combined with a sensational cut, VS diamonds will deliver exceptional brilliance, without the price tag that collection diamonds (DEF color FL-VVS clarity) diamonds will carry.
If your decision hinges on a tight budget, you are still in the right place to find a stunning diamond. Our advanced diamond imaging will allow you to search SI1/SI2 clarity diamonds and closely evaluate their inclusions and light return. We also note in the specifications whether a diamond is eye-clean or not.

Should You Consider a Lab Grown Diamond?

If you find yourself looking at I clarity diamonds in order to get the size in a natural diamond for your budget, then by all means you should consider a lab grown diamond. These are real diamonds with essentially the same chemical, physical and optical properties of natural diamonds. With a lab diamond you could get a larger and better quality stone for your budget.
A diamond is a beautiful gem if it has good color and clarity and excellent cut quality. Rather than compromising on any of those beauty factors, it makes sense to consider a high quality lab grown diamond. It will be just as durable and much more beautiful than most any natural Imperfect diamond.

Our Advice

At Whiteflash, we only offer diamonds that we believe will make dreams come true. Exceptional cuts, bright and brilliant color and wonderful clarity can all go hand in hand with your budget. We do not offer I1, I2, or I3 clarity diamonds because we do not believe they deliver the stunning properties that make a diamond so special. If the budget does not allow for a natural diamond better than I clarity, we strongly recommend considering a precision cut lab-grown diamond that will provide the beauty that diamonds are known for, but at a substantially lower price.  The Whiteflash Precision Lab brand consists of top color and clarity with outstanding cut quality – the “best of the best” in lab grown diamonds.

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