October 23, 2016

VS2 Diamond: How to Choose a Diamond

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Find out why VS2 offers the best bang for your buck. Read on to learn all you need to know about VS2 diamond clarity to make a smart engagement ring purchase.

Best Clarity to Price Ratio

Contrary to what many think, the clarity of the diamond has nothing to do with brilliance

Of the 4C's of a diamond, cut is the most important, but the clarity is often the most confusing factor.

And we're going to let you in on a secret:

This is the best area to save yourself some money. The price difference between clarity levels can be staggering, but you can afford to go lower in clarity without sacrificing the beauty and appearance of the diamond.

In this guide, we're going to explain exactly what clarity is and why VS2 offers the best value for your money. We'll be using real examples from James Allen diamonds, one of our favorite online diamond jewelers.

Diamond Clarity Explained

Diamond Clarity Scale
Diamond Clarity Scale © CreditDonkey

Simply put, clarity refers to the flaws on a diamond. There are two types: 1) inclusions, or internal flaws, and 2) blemishes, or flaws on the surface.

The GIA grading scale for clarity is as follows (from best to worst):

  • FL (Flawless): Absolutely no flaws whatsoever, even under 10x magnification. This is super rare - only about 1% of all diamonds.
  • IF (Internally Flawless): No visible internal flaws under magnification, but may have tiny surface blemishes.
  • VVSI & VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included): Almost perfect diamonds; very. very small flaws that are difficult to see even under magnification.
  • VS1 & VS2 (Very Slightly Included): Slightly larger internal flaws or multiple smaller ones; usually slightly more visible under magnification, but not to the naked eye.
  • SI1 & S12 (Slightly Included): Inclusions are more clearly seen and possibly visible to the naked eye.
  • I1 (Included 1st Degree): Larger flaws visible to the naked eye and affect the diamond's brilliance and durability. (I2 and 13 exist too, but because of the poor quality, most stores don't even sell those.)

The Clarity Misunderstanding

So what clarity level should I get? I don't want a flawed diamond.

This is one of the most common questions.

And the answer is simple:

The important thing is just that you get a diamond whose flaws you can't see with the naked eye (called eye-clean).

But one of the biggest mistakes people make when purchasing a diamond is that they go for an unnecessarily high clarity level. Many people assume they need to buy a diamond graded VVS or above in order for it to appear eye-clean.

But the truth is that most flaws are not easily seen with the naked eye and are only spotted under 10x magnification (and is your girlfriend really going to examine the diamond with a jeweler's loupe?). A flaw would have to be pretty major to be visible to the casual observer.

And as opposed to what most people think, the diamond's clarity has nothing to do with how sparkly it'll be.

Tip: The cut of the diamond makes the biggest impact on its brilliance (or sparkliness). A well-cut diamond can literally be so sparkly that it masks flaws. This is why you should prioritize cut and go lower in clarity.

That said, visible inclusions can still affect the appearance of a diamond. Larger inclusions can cause a cloudiness or haziness within the diamond, making it seem not as sparkly. Fractures within the diamond or surface chips can be visible in certain light. So of course, those are undesirable and embarrassing.

But as you can see, you can safely go all the way down to VS2 (and even SI1) and still get a diamond with flaws that you can't see with the naked eye (we'll show some examples later).

Why VS2 is the most bang for your buck

The VS clarity grading refers to diamonds that have more noticeable flaws under magnification, but most likely can't be seen with the naked eye.

VS2 vs VS1

Differentiating factors that separate VS1 and VS2 include the size of the inclusion, its location, and the overall number of flaws. VS2 has slightly more flaws and/or bigger inclusions than a VS1 diamond. The flaws may be more prominently placed, like towards the center.

So why are we recommending VS2 instead of VS1?

Diamond clarity grades VS1 and above are guaranteed to be eye-clean. It's hard even to find the flaws under 10x magnification. VS2 diamonds have flaws more easily spotted under magnification, but they're often eye-clean too. And because they're a grade lower, they're priced lower as well.

Here are examples of VS2 eye-clean diamonds (from James Allen).

Screenshot from www.jamesallen.com

The majority of Excellent-cut VS2 diamonds have no obvious face-up flaws.

But once again, it's so important that you are able to see pictures/videos of the actual diamonds.

Here are a couple of examples of VS2 diamonds that may not be eye-clean. Believe me, these are the exception, because it was hard to find obvious examples.

Screenshot from www.jamesallen.com

Diamond 4 has multiple dark inclusions near the edges and a noticeable blemish near the center. Diamond 5 has a black crystal just off the center right, under the table facet that may be visible without a loupe.

Tip: If you are interested in purchasing a VS2 diamond from James Allen, but are not sure if the diamond will be eye-clean or not, you can get a Real Time Diamond Consultation with a diamond pro. It's best to talk to a professional to ensure that you get the best diamond for your money.

VS2 vs SI1: So what about SI1?

Honestly, most people would not be able to distinguish an SI1 diamond from a VS1 or VS2 diamond. And in fact, an SI1 diamond that is eye-clean will offer you the most bang for your buck, as going down another grade will significantly lower the cost even more.

But with SI1 diamonds, there's more of a possibility that the flaws will be visible (especially if you can't examine it for yourself). Just a quick search for S1 clarity turns up a lot more diamonds with more obvious flaws. It's really hit or miss.

Screenshot from www.jamesallen.com

The first two SI1 diamonds have more obvious flaws, while the 3rd is eye-clean.

That's why we recommend VS2 because the flaws will not be as noticeable as the ones on SI1. And even if you're not able to view photos under magnification, it's still a pretty safe bet that you'll receive an eye-clean diamond.

Some basic rules to shop by

So why are so many people spending more money to buy diamonds at a higher clarity level?

This is because the majority of online diamond retailers don't even show you an actual photo of the diamond. Without a photo, there is no way to tell, based on the grading report alone, what kind of flaws the diamond contains. So customers may feel like they have no choice but to compensate for the lack of a photo by purchasing a diamond higher in clarity.

This is why our favorite web diamond retailer is James Allen, which has an interactive HD 360-degree video for every diamond in their inventory. You can view each diamond up to 20x zoom and see the flaws for yourself and if you can live with them. We also love Whiteflash, which labels a diamond as eye-clean only if their professionals say it is.

Here are some rules-of-thumb to go by when purchasing a diamond:

  • Cut is the most important. A perfectly cut diamond will shine the brightest and disperse light in such a way that it hides inclusions. Never skimp on cut. With a high quality cut, you can get away with a diamond lower in color and clarity.

  • VS2 diamonds are the sweet spot for getting a good quality diamond and saving money. They have very small inclusions that are difficult to see to the naked eye. While the inclusions are visible under 10x magnification, they are usually considered minor.

  • The type of inclusion is important. The clarity grade is usually assigned based on the size of the inclusion, and not the color or position. Inclusions can appear as a white speck, a black spec, a cloudy mass, a clear line - all shapes and colors, some more undesirable than others. They can also be in the center where they're more visible, or off to the side where they're barely noticeable. That's why it's so important to be able to see the diamond and what kind of flaws it has.

  • The shape of the diamond plays a role too. Round diamonds are the priciest diamond shape, but they also do a fantastic job of hiding imperfections - when they have an ideal cut. You'll need to be more careful with step cuts (such as emerald and asscher), as those don't shine as brightly (they don't have as many facets) and will accentuate flaws more visibly.

  • Size matters too. Want a bigger rock? You'll probably have to pony up for higher clarity too. Larger rocks (2 carats and over) will show more flaws (as the facet sizes are larger), so it's recommended that you go for a clarity grade VS1 or above in those cases.

  • Stay away from Included Diamonds (I1 & I3), as they have large inclusions that affect the diamond's brilliance. In addition, durability is at stake too, as diamonds with large flaws are more easily chipped.

  • Consider paying with a credit card. While some retailers may offer a discount if you pay cash, you'll lose access to benefits that many credit cards offer (such as purchase protection).

Engagement ring vs diamond earrings

The guidelines we've outlined so far are for engagement ring diamonds. If you're shopping for a pair of VS2 diamond stud earrings instead, you can relax a bit as there's less of a need for such strict quality requirements.

A diamond engagement ring becomes the centerpiece of your (or your beloved's) hand, while nobody is going to scrutinize your earlobes close up. Therefore, you can afford to go even lower in color and clarity.

  • The carat size may be more important for earrings, since people will notice how large or small they are. And unlike a ring, you can't use tricks to make them appear larger.

  • As always, cut is the most important. All that matters for earrings is that they sparkle on the ears. And an excellent cut will make them shine and draw attention.

  • A clarity of SI2 (or even I1) is okay depending on the size of the diamonds. Most likely, no one is going to get close enough to notice inclusions.

  • Likewise, you can go down in color too, as low as J. In our opinion, anything higher than an H will be wasted on earrings.

Tip: Pre-set diamond stud earrings are usually not certified, as the cost of certification is high and there is really no need to. However, if you want larger earrings, like 1 carat each or over, you may want to carefully select two matching diamonds certified by GIA.

The Bottom Line: Is VS2 Good?

What you ultimately purchase depends on your budget and personal preference. If you still want to purchase a Flawless or Internally Flawless diamond - and you can afford the purchase - go for it as long as you're okay with spending more than necessary.

VS2 diamonds fill that sweet spot where you can find a budget-friendly diamond without sacrificing appearance. Most VS2 diamonds will be eye-clean, but once again, it's important to be able to see photos/video under magnification. If you can look beyond the grading report, you'll get the most bang for your buck here. Your beloved and your wallet will both appreciate it.

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:


Best Place to Buy Engagement Ring Online


James Allen Review


How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

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