Finding the right engagement ring begins with the main, center stone. The popular choice to most people is the round diamonds, while some still hesitate to buy one. Price has a great contribution to their reluctance since ‘cheap’ is a near non-existent word in the diamond vocabulary.
What people do not know is that there are ways to maximize your budget when buying a diamond. Certain features tend to reduce the stone’s value without hurting their overall quality. However, not all budget-friendly pieces are worth the price.
One of the least expensive diamonds are those with I1 clarity grade. Their cost is highly affected by the number of inclusions that may affect a diamond’s fire and brilliance. Still, some think that this piece is a great buy if you find one that looks eye-clean despite its flaws.
Should you buy one from this clarity grade? You can read more to find out.
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Things You Should Know About Clarity and I1 Diamonds
Diamonds are uniquely different from each other. They work like the individuality of a person’s fingerprint. That is why inclusions play a huge role in distinguishing a piece over others. They range from microscopic to eye-visible imperfections that affect the stone’s brilliance.
A diamond’s value is dependent on its carat weight, color, clarity, and cut. Through the clarity scale, gemologists can measure which group a diamond belongs to based on its blemishes. The scale has ten categories, which are the following:
- Flawless – FL
- Internally Flawless – IF
- Very Very Small Inclusions 1 – VVS1
- Very Very Small Inclusions 2 – VVS2
- Very Small Inclusions 1 – VS1
- Very Small Inclusions 2 – VS2
- Small Inclusions 1 – SI1
- Small Inclusions 2 – SI2
- Inclusions 1 – I1
- Inclusions 2 – I2
Each category has a certain degree that affects a diamond’s valuation. Diamond impurities are inevitable because of the extreme pressure they undergo during their natural formation. That is why stones with the clearest quality or those that fall in the Flawless (FL) category are rare finds. They take only less than 1% of the total diamond population in the market.
However, some diamonds are only flawless within. That is why there is an Internally Flawless (IF) category for these stones. Like the highest rank, these pieces also come with an expensive price because they still look immaculate and sparkling clean from a wearer’s perspective.
Those falling in the Very Very Slight Inclusions (VVS) category are classified as VVS1 or VVS2, depending on the placement of its flaws. Both do have imperfections, but they only become visible under 63x magnification using a jeweler’s loupe. They are not as expensive as FL and IF, making them a more reasonable pick.
However, the first three categories may still overwhelm most clients’ budget since they have at least a five-digit per-carat price.
Jewelers would commonly suggest going for diamonds falling in the Very Slight Inclusions (VS) and Slight Inclusions (SI) group. Their imperfections are visible within a 10x magnification, but they still look clean and clear. Plus, they do not have a skyrocketing per-carat price that makes them an excellent deal if you are on a tight budget.
The last category is the Inclusions (I) group, and they are also the least favorable. Pieces in this category have large-looking blemishes that include black crystals, carbon clusters, and clouds. They do not have a promising eye-clean look, and most of them are dull and grayish. Thus, jewelers and investors frown over these pieces.
I1 is the highest degree in the I group. Unlike its brothers, I2 and I3, I1 has more acceptable features and sale value. However, most of the stones in this category have distracting inclusions that detract the wearer’s focus from its beauty. If there is one thing that makes I1 favorable over others, it is the less expensive price attached to its quality.
Color, cut, and carat weight also affects a diamond’s entire façade despite its clarity grade. Some have colorless features and smaller sizes that make inclusions less apparent, although their hazy appearance may still look appalling.
The following sections will give you a deeper understanding of I1 diamonds. You will learn some tricks in picking an I1 diamond without feeling any disappointments because of its looks.
I2 Diamonds vs. Other Clarity Grades
Now that you have learned the basics, it is best to visualize these diamonds to understand their qualities better.
Most diamond retailers skip pieces falling in the Inclusions group because they have less sellable characteristics. However, some trusted brands allow I1 diamonds to be included in their list because their qualities are as impressive as SI1 diamonds.
Below are two James Allen 1.01-carat round diamonds with an ideal cut, color G grade, and I1 clarity. The following shows that I1 variants may differ extremely, and some look more appealing than others. Blemishes at the center make the stone less favorable to most people since their paramount concern is an eye-clean piece. What may surprise you is that the one on the left has a lower price than the other.
The next degree higher to I1 are those with SI2 grade. The latter’s inclusions are still visible, but they are less noticeable than I1. How drastic are the differences between the two apart from their prices? We shall compare the same round diamond above with an SI2 piece.
The three have almost the same prices of around $2,500. Like I1, SI2 diamonds vary tremendously from each other. The pieces at the center and on the right have similar qualities, but the former looks far better than the latter. Thus, if you find an I1 diamond that looks better than SI2 or even SI1, it can be a better option.
If you want to feel more confident with your chosen diamonds, going higher in the clarity grade is another option. However, it will help if you keep in mind that cut and color have greater effects on a diamond’s brilliance over clarity. Nevertheless, you still should not disregard this quality since larger inclusions affect the amount of light that can pass through its facets.
Below is a VS1 diamond standing beside an I1 diamond. You will notice how different the two looks, and it is visible which of them has a better glow. The VS1 diamond looks cleaner, and its shadows are not as prominent as I1. Moreover, it does not have any visible imperfections, unlike its counterpart.
The only downside of going up in the clarity grade is the demand to spend more than those in the I1 category. The VS1 piece above costs $5,000, a 100% increase of the I1 diamond’s price. But if you have that amount, going for the VS1 diamond is advisable since it has better durability than I1.
You may get excited once you find a good-looking I1 diamond, but you must be extra careful with it. Online photos may not reflect its cloudy features that you will only discover once the item lands on your hands. Try to look closely at the GIA report to know what the inclusions are found in the diamond.
The goal of finding the right diamond depends on your preference. However, if you value price and quality, the I1 diamonds may not be the most practical choice because of the good piece’s rarity in this department. Remember, an engagement ring is for your soon-to-be wife. She does not deserve any less in this world.
Should You Buy Included Stones?
Experts suggest avoiding diamonds with the most inclusions due to their disadvantages. Despite these caveats, some buyers still opt for included items because of two reasons: cost and purpose.
The most expensive diamonds are those with the heavier carat weight and ideal cuts because people prioritize these qualities. Larger stones with excellent proportions illuminate more brilliance than others. Compromising on clarity will lessen the price of these stones to a significant amount.
That is why if you find a diamond that looks spotless despite its I1 clarity, you are in for the best deal of your life. However, it will help if you still were careful as some of them look far different in real life.
This quality is best for smaller pieces because the size makes flaws less visible. You can also pick shapes that do not reveal imperfections well, such as pear, marquise, and oval-cut diamonds.
Not all diamonds are bought for engagement rings, although it is the common reason for most buyers. A diamond with an I1 clarity grade is more appropriate for earrings, pendants, and fashion rings because they do not require a stone that has the most flawless quality.
These pieces have a farther viewing distance than a ring. Whether it is a flawless diamond or not, other people will not mind it, allowing you to save more for these purposes.
Getting a diamond falling in the “I” group is not so bad if you find one with good quality. However, it may take extra effort for you because the chances of finding eye-clean I1 diamonds are lesser than those with higher ratings.
What is the Best Diamond Shape for I1 Clarity?
Diamonds have several shape varieties that you can choose from, depending on your preference. Some shapes reveal color and blemishes well, while others do not. Some have more available stocks in the market, while others are rare to find.
No one shape perfectly fits the I1 clarity grade, but you can avoid pieces that reveal flaws the most.
While finding a spotless I1 diamond demands patience, it will help if you look over round-shaped and princess-cut diamonds because they have the most market availability. Moreover, oval and marquise have a reputation for hiding imperfections better than other shapes, making them compatible with I1.
It will also help if you avoid step-cut diamonds because they have well-arranged facets that make blemishes more visible. Shapes like radiant and emerald fall into this category.
What You Must Remember When Buying an I1 Diamond
If you insist on buying a diamond with an I1 clarity grade because of its price, you have to be extra vigilant in picking the right piece. Since most of these items have visible inclusions, your goal is to find one whose flaws are not as apparent as others.
Here are some tips to guide when buying a diamond under the Inclusions group.
#1. Examine the Diamond Closely When Buying Online
Reliable diamond retailers have several features that will allow you to assess a diamond. Companies like Blue Nile and James Allen have a 360-degree angle viewing of their available pieces. You can zoom them in and out so that you can see their impurities.
Since the I1 diamond’s blemishes are more visible, it will not be hard for you to identify if it has black crystals, carbon clusters, and needles. They are also specified in the GIA report that must be available for public viewing.
If you are uncertain about your judgment, you can also speak with experts from these brands. However, be extra mindful once they mention that the I1 diamonds are eye-clean. They are not, but some blemishes are not as large and clustered as others.
#2. Pick a Diamond That Is Prong-able
Several settings are available to keep a diamond protected as you wear it. Some are flashier than others, while some are more secured. When it comes to diamonds with I1 clarity, covering the impurities should be your goal.
Thus, you should pick a piece with blemishes that are not crumpled at the center. Some flaws are located at diamond’s edges and pavilions. You can choose these items and pair them with a prong setting. It has claw-like frames that clutch the diamond well. Its design also covers the diamond’s body and emphasizes the crown area.
Moreover, prong settings allow more light to pass through a diamond’s facets because it leaves some spaces in between the claws. Still, you must not set your expectations higher in I1 diamonds because their inclusions can affect the stone’s brilliance.
It also protects the stone better as I1 diamonds have a more fragile structure than pieces with higher clarity grades.
#3. Use the Diamond for Other Purposes
The most common reason why people buy a diamond is that they want it for an engagement ring. However, if you belong to the population who will use it for other accessories, it is best to pick those in the Inclusions group.
The reason for this is that fashion accessories do not highlight a diamond’s brilliance. Some are designed along with other ornamental stones that look far better than a diamond with I1 clarity. Settling with a lower clarity grade will help you save more, especially if you only need lighter carat weights and smaller size.
#4. Make Cut Your Primary Consideration When Buying a Diamond
We mentioned earlier that stones with the best cuts have more expensive prices. It is because light passes smoothly through the diamond, making it more brilliant than others. The sparkling illumination makes blemishes less visible.
Thus, if you have a diamond with an ideal or excellent cut, it is already enough to settle with a lower clarity grade. You are saving yourself from spending a lot, but you will still have a piece that has a well-polished finish.
However, this quality is rare in I1 diamonds. Save your time and money by going a little higher in the clarity scale.
Keeping these tips in mind will help you become a smarter shopper. In the end, a diamond becomes more valuable because of the meanings you attach to them.
The Verdict: Is an I1 Diamond Worth the Price?
If this is an I2 diamond, the answer is a straight no. However, I1 diamonds have a different and better story. This scale has a higher chance of having a good-looking piece than the other degrees in the Inclusions group.
Thus, we conclude that I1’s price is only worthy if the diamond looks presentable as those with an SI1 quality or higher. We even find the price only a secondary concern as we find your allotted time searching for an acceptable I1 diamond more important. Some reliable brands offer presentable I diamond, but it happens only in rare instances.
If you want to save your effort, time, and money, do not settle with a diamond with the least clarity grade. Besides, it is not a top priority when assessing a diamond. It only becomes relevant once the inclusions affect the stone’s beauty.
Going for an eye-clean diamond means spending more, but not as much as those falling in the VVS, IF, and FL categories. As we highlighted earlier, some SI2 and VS1 diamonds have the same price as I1 diamonds but with a premium appearance.
Why would you settle for something meager if you can have a better pick? The key here is balancing every aspect of the diamond to find the best piece for your taste and budget.