Updated October 27, 2020

VS2 Diamond: The Best Value in Clarity

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

Best Clarity to Price Ratio

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

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

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

Clarity is the best area to save yourself some money on. 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.

Diamond Clarity Explained

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 it may have tiny surface blemishes.
  • VVSI & VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included): An almost perfect diamond with 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 & SI2 (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 that 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 is actually needed to avoid a flawed diamond?

This is one of the most common questions when diamond shopping.

The answer is simple:

The important thing is to get a diamond with flaws you can't see with your own eyes (called "eye-clean").

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

But the truth is that most flaws are only spotted under 10x magnification. Therefore, a flaw would have to be pretty major to be visible to the casual observer.

But contrary to what most people think, a diamond's clarity has nothing to do with how sparkly it'll be.

Tip: The cut of the diamond makes the biggest impact on a diamond's sparkle. A well-cut diamond can even be so sparkly that it masks flaws. This is why you should prioritize cut over clarity.

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

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 you some examples later).

VS2 vs VS1

The main factors that separate VS1 and VS2 are: the size of the inclusion, its location, and the overall number of flaws. VS2 have slightly more flaws and/or bigger inclusions than a VS1 diamond. Plus, the flaws may be more prominently placed, like more 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 to find the flaws even 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, which is why we consider them the best value.

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

But once again, it's very important that you are able to see pictures/videos of the actual diamond you'll be getting.

Tip: If you are interested in purchasing a VS2 diamond from James Allen but are not sure if the diamond will be eye-clean, you can have 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.

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 SI1 clarity turns up a lot more diamonds with more obvious flaws. It can be really hit or miss.

That's why we still recommend VS2. 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.

SI2 vs VS2: When we're getting into the SI2 clarity grade, the flaws become a lot more visible. VS2 diamonds are a safe bet that they'll be eye-clean, but flaws in SI2 diamonds may be seen by the naked eye. However, if you can find an eye-clean SI2 diamond, you can save a lot more money.

Some basic rules to shop by

So why do people spend so much money to buy diamonds at a higher clarity level?

The majority of online diamond retailers don't show you an actual photo of the diamond you'll be getting. Without a photo, there is no way to tell, based on the grading report alone, what kind of flaws the diamond contains. Customers may feel like they have no choice but to compensate by purchasing a diamond higher in clarity.

This again is why our favorite online diamond retailer is James Allen. With their interactive HD 360-degree video for every diamond in their inventory, you can view each diamond at up to 20x zoom and see the flaws for yourself and determine whether or not you can live with them. We also love Whiteflash. While you won't see the actual diamond, they only label it as eye-clean if their professionals say it is.

Here are some overall rules to go by when shopping for a diamond:

  • VS2 diamonds are the sweet spot for getting a good quality diamond while 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.

  • Cut is 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.

  • 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, and in 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 its flaws.

  • 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 need to be more careful with step cuts (such as emerald and asscher), as those don't shine as brightly because they don't have as many facets, so they will accentuate flaws more visibly.

  • Size matters too. Want a bigger rock? You'll probably have to pony up for higher clarity too. 2 carat or 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.

Engagement ring vs diamond earrings

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

A diamond engagement ring becomes the centerpiece of the hand, but nobody is going to scrutinize 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 be able to notice how large or small they are. And unlike a ring, you can't use tricks to make them appear larger.

  • As with diamond rings, cut is the most important. All that matters for earrings is that they sparkle. An excellent cut will make them shine and draw attention.

  • A clarity of SI2 (or even I1) is OK 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 as low as J in color. 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 do so. 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.

VS2 diamonds fill that sweet spot of a budget-friendly diamond that doesn't sacrifice on appearance. Most VS2 diamonds will be eye-clean, but once again, it's important to see photos/video under magnification. If you can see beyond the grading report, you'll get the most bang for your buck here. Your beloved and your wallet will both appreciate it.

Write to Anna G at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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