January 5, 2017

I1 Diamond: Best Diamond Clarity on a Budget

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Shopping for an engagement ring on a limited budget? An I1 diamond will offer the best bang for your buck. Learn how to choose one the smart way.

If you’re on a limited budget, then you know you have to make some sacrifices somewhere.

And here’s a secret:

The best area to “go cheap” on is the clarity. Most people think higher clarity equals a better looking diamond. But that’s not necessarily true. In our opinion, the clarity has the least effect on the appearance of the diamond.

First of all, most flaws are too small to be seen by the naked eye. And secondly, no one is going to examine the diamond that close.

So this means that if you’re really on a budget, you can save some big time bucks by going with a low clarity grade.

Usually, we wouldn’t recommend going down below SI (Slightly Included). But if you just need to save a little more, an I1 diamond could be a smart buy.

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In this article, we’re going to show you how to choose a beautiful I1 diamond the correct way. We’ll be using real examples from James Allen, our favorite online diamond retailer.

I1 Diamonds: How Much Can You Save?

The Included range of diamonds contains I1, I2, and I3. These are diamonds that have flaws easily seen under magnification and generally also seen with the naked eye. Sometimes, these flaws affect the appearance and brilliance of the diamond. Sometimes, these flaws affect the durability.

So what’s the difference between I1, I2, and I3?

I1 is at the top of this range. Its flaws are a little smaller and less noticeable. And when you get down to I3, the durability of the stone becomes at huge risk. This is why I1 is absolutely the lowest of the clarity grades you should consider. Most reputable diamond retailers do not sell anything under I1.

Pricewise, I1 diamonds offer amazing value. That is, if you find that one that appears flawless (which we’ll go over soon). Take a look at this comparison table. With all other factors the same, here’s the pricing at different clarity levels.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Usually, we recommend VS2 as a safe bet, even if you’re buying sight unseen. But you can see that going down to I1 can save you a huge amount! This means that if you’re on a budget, you can afford a better cut and/or larger stone.

Examples of I1 Diamonds

Unfortunately, most I1 diamonds will appear to have major flaws. A lot of the diamonds you’ll see will look something like this:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

But eye-clean I1 diamonds do exist! Here are a couple of examples.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Such diamonds are rare, but possible to find. Now, let’s go over how to pick out these hidden gems (pun totally intended).

Picking an I1 Diamond the Smart Way

The idea is to look for a diamond that appears flawless. Or have flaws that can be hidden with a setting. Here’s what to look for:

Look for inclusions along the edge. The worst locations for flaws are right under the table facet. Inclusions located at the edges are less noticeable and can be hidden with prongs. Inclusions in the pavilion (the bottom part) can be hidden in a bezel setting.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

For example, this I1 diamond has most of its flaws along the edge. This can be partially hidden with a prong.

Look for well spread-out inclusions that are less visible. White colored inclusions (such as a white crystal or white feather) are the best kind of flaws because they blend in. Clouds that are well scattered also look less visible. The worst ones are dark crystals right under the table facet, which will look like dust specks that you just can’t rub off.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

The diamond above is also a great choice for an Included diamond. It has some well spread-out clouds that you won’t be able to see with the naked eye. Again, the hazy bit along the edge can be hidden with a prong.

Final Tips for Buying an I1 Diamond

  • Put your money into the absolute best cut possible. Cut becomes extremely important at this stage. An ideal cut diamond will give off the most brilliance. And in this case, you want as much sparkle as possible to hide the flaws.

  • I1 works best on smaller diamonds. It’s easier to see the flaws in larger diamonds. On the other hand, it’ll be hard to see flaws on a small, super sparkly diamond. If you must buy an I1 diamond, it’s best that it’s less than 1 carat.

  • I1 doesn’t work for all shapes. Diamonds cut for maximum brilliance (such as round, princess, radiant) hide flaws with their intense sparkle. But step cuts (such as asscher and emerald) have a large table that peers deep into the depth of the diamond, thus easily revealing clarity. An I1 wouldn’t work in these cases. We recommend no less than VS2.

  • Make sure it is certified by GIA or AGS. These are the two most reputable labs in the world. They have the highest, most consistent grading standards. An I1 diamond graded by another lab may actually be even worse, such as I2 or I3.

  • Never buy an I1 diamond blind. Never, ever buy a diamond without seeing it in person to see if you are okay with the flaws. Or at least seeing HD magnified photos/videos (like what James Allen provides). What you’ll receive is just too unpredictable otherwise.

    Our favorite online diamond retailer is James Allen. They have an HD 360-degree video for every diamond in their collection. If you’re not sure if an I1 diamond will be eye-clean or not, you can get a real-time consultation and a diamond pro will evaluate it for you.

Bottom Line

An I1 diamond is great to save some serious money. And it is not impossible to find one that is eye-clean. You’ll just have to put a little bit more work into searching for the perfect stone.

There is absolutely no shame in buying an Included diamond. An eye-clean I1 diamond is the best bang for your buck. It’s a smart move if it means that you can afford a better cut and a bigger stone. Just NEVER buy one blind without at least seeing magnified photos.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

More from CreditDonkey:


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