Not all diamonds have a high market value. Those stones with larger and visible inclusions end up with a lower clarity grade and a cheaper price. While it would interest buyers with a lower budget, its appearance is not worthy of the cost.
If you have researched I1 clarity, you might have read that some of its variants look eye-clean despite the number of inclusions. Retailers wanted to salvage its selling price by sending it to EGL and be certified as an SI3 diamond.
Some experts call it a scam because ‘SI3’ is not officially included in GIA’s clarity scale. Trusted retailers do not even sell these pieces because it tricks buyers into getting a better diamond, even if they do not.
You can find out the primary reasons why you must avoid a diamond with this clarity grade in this article. Scroll down for more details.
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What You Should Know About Clarity and SI3
A diamond’s quality report is not complete without assessing its clarity. The standard terminology, followed by trusted gemological institutes, are the following:
- Flawless – FL
- Internally Flawless – IF
- Very Very Small Inclusions First Degree – VVS1
- Very Very Small Inclusions Second Degree – VVS2
- Very Small Inclusions First Degree – VS1
- Very Small Inclusions – Second Degree – VS2
- Small Inclusions First Degree – SI1
- Small Inclusions Second Degree – SI2
- Inclusions First Degree – I1
- Inclusions Second Degree – I2
- Inclusions Third Degree – I3
The highest in the scale are those falling in the Flawless group as they do not show any visible inclusions up to 63x magnification. While they still have blemishes, it requires at least 100x enlargement to be detectable. Its perfect appearance makes it the most expensive on the scale.
Stones with IF quality have microscopic marks in their walls, and the VVS group’s inclusions also need a 63x magnification to show up. VS and SI inclusions are visible within 10x magnification, but they still look eye-clean and are considered the safest options on the scale. They are not as expensive as FL, IF, and VVS.
You guessed it right that the Inclusions group are those diamonds with the most impurities and the least valuable. The I1, I2, and I3 only vary on the amount and sizes of the spots. Most diamond retailers do not include these pieces in their conflict-free collections.
Now you might wonder, where is SI3 in the scale?
SI3 does not exist in the GIA clarity chart, but it does in EGL. We shall further discuss the two organization’s differences later.
I1 is the highest grade in the Inclusions group. Some I1 diamonds have better-looking table areas in rare instances because their inclusions are situated in the pavilion. Thus, they look almost like an SI diamond, but at a cheaper price.
In the 1990s, Tom Tashey of the European Gemological Laboratory Organization – Los Angeles (EGL-LA) created the SI3 clarity grade. It was there to differentiate eye-clean I1 diamonds from the rest to have more appropriate pricing. While it was an excellent plan on paper, the concept became an avenue of abuse for most retailers.
In practice, even I1 diamonds with less impressive features get an SI3 grade. It tricks the customers to believe that the stone has a premium quality since GIA’s standard scale makes stones in the I group less desirable.
What retailers do is they recertify an I-graded diamond to EGL for it to have an SI3 grade. With these details on the report, they now have the upper hand in setting the price higher than an I1 diamond. The consumers do not know that they are paying for more on a diamond that should cost less.
Business is business, and those who fall trap in it do not know about SI3 clarity.
The European Gemological Laboratory Organization
Several gemological institutes that evaluate diamonds exist worldwide. One of them is the European Gemological Laboratory Organization (EGL). EGL is in different areas, specifically Los Angeles, New York, Europe, and Israel. In terms of reputation, LA and NY are more reliable than the other two as these are separately run businesses.
EGL is a for-profit organization that collects certification payment from companies who need their assistance, regardless of the latter does not amend with EGL’s status report. Other bodies only ask for payment for their services and not for the certificate.
A lot of diamond enthusiasts claim that EGL’s evaluation protocols are looser than other institutes. That is why it is a favorite spot for retailers who like to take advantage of their clients.
EGL is closely compared to GIA because their certification reports differ in a lot of areas. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has a reputation for being strict, rigid, and consistent with their grading systems. Thus, it won the hearts of the most reliable diamond sellers in the market.
On the other hand, having an EGL certificate should not boost your confidence over a diamond. Instead, you should begin thinking if you are getting the right amount for an inferior piece.
The worst thing that could happen is paying extra dollars for a diamond with a color H and VS clarity, but only has a color G and SI quality using GIA’s standards.
If EGL has a sketchy reputation in grading diamonds, why does it still have a place in the industry?
The answer is simple. It provides quick solutions to issues that the GIA and other gemological institutes have. First of all, the certification cost in GIA is more expensive than EGL. A company must pay at least $100 per diamond to avail of its services. Also, the turnaround table in GIA is too long.
Thus, EGL takes centerstage by offering a less expensive processing fee and faster results. The problem is the organization is also known for inflating a diamond’s qualities. The perfect example is grading an I1 or I2 diamonds as SI3 so that retailers can sell it at a higher amount. In other instances, they sell the diamonds at the least prices to attract more customers.
EGL uses the term ‘upgrade’ when retailers recertify their diamonds. What it means is that a diamond’s quality in paper upgrades to two qualities higher. For example, a 1.00-carat diamond with a color I and SI2 quality from GIA can become a color H and SI2 clarity using EGL’s scale. Once retailers find the EGL report more appealing, they forget about the GIA report as if it never existed.
It is rare to find a diamond retailer website that has an EGL report. Most of these pieces are found on Amazon and E-bay since more people with a fixed budget shop on these platforms.
Again, you must be extra vigilant about SI3 diamonds if you come across one. The best thing to do is go away with these pieces, no matter how tempting their affordability is.
SI3 Clarity vs. Other Clarity Grades
With all this information at hand, you may be wondering what an SI3 diamond looks like. Finding this piece is quite challenging since diamond retailers avoid a stone with an EGL certificate. Fortunately, Brilliance has several items with this quality.
Below is a 1.70-carat round diamond with a very good cut, color F grade, and SI3 clarity. Its price is around $4,500, which sounds a good catch for a stone this heavy. On the right is a James Allen diamond with the same qualities, except its 1.58-carat weight, clarity rating, and price. It amounts to $6,000.
Between the two, it is apparent that the James Allen product looks more eye-clean and elegant. The SI3 diamond has a dull finish, poor proportions, and its black dent at the center is quite appalling. You may be paying less on this piece, but the entire façade may discourage you from preferring it.
To our estimate, the SI3 diamond looks a lot like an I2 item than SI. It lacks the radiance that most people are looking for in a diamond. Plus, the EGL certificate makes its qualities less credible than that of James Allen’s GIA report.
Another close contender of SI3 diamonds is those falling in the SI2 category. Blemishes in these stones are visible within 10x magnification, but the wearer would still perceive it as clean and well-polished. Below is an SI2 diamond with the same features as the Brilliance diamond above.
You will notice how the diamond on the right outshines the SI3 piece. However, its price is not as friendly as those in the I1 category. This one costs around $10,000.
A diamond’s beauty highly depends on your preference. If you feel okay with the SI3 diamond above because of the price, no one will stop you. At least you know what you are settling for with that amount.
Moreover, a smart shopper would not only rely on the price. He will also give primary value to the diamond’s features since no one wants a less presentable piece. It will help if you avoid thinking that an SI3 is the right choice since you are getting more diamonds.
Remember, a stone’s flair also relies on its inclusions. If you opt for maximum brilliance, going for better options is the best direction.
Is SI3 Clarity a Scam?
A diamond with an SI3 clarity grade is not a scam. The scale exists, and some diamond retailers with this quality sell them online and in brick-and-mortar shops. However, several controversies revolve around it that will make you think twice if it is worth the price.
Some vendors would highlight the ‘SI’ grade of an SI3 diamond since GIA’s clarity scale made the Inclusions group undesirable. It is their way to trick the customer into believing that the diamond looks better than an I1 piece. What they do not mention is that its number of inclusions are still similar to I1.
SI3 can mislead you, as a buyer, which would result in getting an inferior item than what you should be having with its price. EGL has a sketchy reputation in the industry, but some companies’ self-centered ambitions make the organization alive.
Yes, some I1 diamonds look better than others in the same group, but creating a new classification is unnecessary. Spotting these stones are rare, and some are only recertified from an I-graded clarity so that sellers can still earn a higher price from them.
The intent of fooling the customers is what makes these stones a con. Asking for the diamond’s EGL and GIA certificates leave an impression that you know what you are doing.
The Better Alternatives for an SI3 Diamond – Tips When Buying a Diamond
Deception is harmful in diamonds because they are not cheap. While some are more affordable than others, they are still expensive than other gemstones. For you to avoid having an inferior stone, the most reasonable thing to do is avoid any diamonds with an EGL certification and those with SI3 quality.
You can invest our budget in better alternatives for the best quality and price. You may be asking how you are going to hit the two birds in a single stone. Below are some tips to help you find a more sensible item than those with an SI3 characteristic.
#1. Find a Retailer That Sells GIA Certified Diamonds
We are not biased against EGL, but the diamond industry knows its reputation. Buying an SI3 diamond does not mean you are paying for less. Instead, you pay more for a diamond with a less appealing quality when it comes to GIA’s standard scale.
Thus, it will help if you find a diamond retailer that prioritizes diamonds certified by GIA. Moreover, these institutions do not appraise a diamond’s price. What they do is they only grade the stones to their appropriate qualities. Pricing them depends on the current market value and the retailer’s rates.
Blue Nile and James Allen are some examples of reliable diamond stores globally. What makes them a customer’s favorite spot is its lower price offering than other brands. No, they are not selling EGL-certified pieces, but their business model allows them to stay at a minimal amount without hurting their revenues.
#2. Pick an Item With a Great Cut and Shape
A diamond’s fire and brilliance rely on its shape and cut. Some diamond varieties look better than others with the same qualities because their facets hide colors and blemishes well.
If your priority is the stone’s sparkling look, choose one that is very good to an ideal cut. These stones have well-proportioned symmetries that allow light to pass through each of its corners.
If you value its price over other elements, find a piece that masks its imperfections. We strongly recommend round-shaped and princess-cut diamonds.
#3. Settle With Pieces Falling to the Safest Color and Clarity Thresholds
Color and clarity are two features that you can compromise in a diamond. The common misconception of people is finding a colorless item with the most flawless qualities. Yes, they would look stunning, but no, they are not practical.
The reason why people settle with an SI3 diamond is its price. If that is all that matters to you, here is a diamond hack that you must always remember. A diamond with an SI or VS clarity grade costs at least 50% less than VVS, IF, and FL diamonds. These categories do not appear far different from each other unless the wearer brings a jeweler’s loupe all the time.
Like clarity, picking a stone with a near-colorless feature (colors GHIJ) is fairer than those in the colorless scale (colors DEF). Most diamonds bought online are those with at least 1.00-carat weight. Their small sizes make inclusions and yellow pigments less detectable. Also, they disappear once you mount them on a setting that can conceal their imperfections.
The increment price of those with higher color and clarity grades has a great impact on your funds. Settling for less, but not the least, is the best decision you can make for yourself and your partner’s satisfaction.
#4. Identify Your Purpose in Buying a Diamond
Some people buy a diamond for a ring, and others buy it for other accessories. Whichever purpose you have in mind, it will greatly affect the path you will be taking when checking out a stone. If you intend to mount a diamond on an engagement ring, going for eye-clean diamonds should be your top priority.
If you are a collector or investor, the rarest and most valuable pieces suit you. Thus, it is best to settle with colorless and flawless diamonds. It would even be better if they are colored and with unconventional shapes.
However, if your purpose is to add some diamonds to a fashion accessory, those in the SI and I categories are enough. The stone will only add accent to the accessory and go well with other ornaments and gemstones. Plus, they are the least expensive.
The Verdict: Are SI3 Diamonds Worth the Price?
Price is the only advantage if you go for an SI3 diamond. Its worthiness depends on the diamond’s quality. If you got a piece that looks more eye-clean than an I1 diamond, you found a true SI3 diamond. However, it can only happen in rare instances. Thus, SI and VS diamonds are better options.
Moreover, looking at a diamond’s report is the best way to check its quality legitimacy. Those certified under EGL’s clarity are less credible due to the institute’s credibility in the industry.