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I1 Clarity Diamonds – Buy or Avoid?

i1 clarity diamond in engagement ring

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Picking the clarity of a diamond is crucial to both its quality and its price. However, it can be a difficult decision to make, especially since different clarity grades can look quite similar to the naked eye.While most jewelers recommend VS1 and VS2 clarity grades as the “standard” and SI1 and SI2 as “budget-friendly” options, are I1 clarity diamonds worth considering? In this article, we take a look at I1 clarity diamonds and if they are worth the money.

The Bottom Line

I1 clarity diamonds are affordable and available, however, finding an eye-clean stone or one with minimal inclusions can prove difficult. If purchasing online, ensure that you view the actual diamond. Look for I1 clarity diamonds:

  • Don’t have flaws in the center of the stone
  • Have smaller or lighter inclusions that aren’t easily visible
  • Aren’t too large, as larger stones tend to have more easily visible inclusions
  • Have at least a good cut to enhance sparkle and brilliance

I1 Clarity Diamonds – How They Compare to Other Clarity Grades

Before we can discuss the specifics of I1 clarity stones in detail, let’s first take a look at what diamond clarity means and the different grading scales.

GIA Clarity scale explained

Diamond clarity evaluates how clear a diamond is, how many natural blemishes and inclusions are inside the stone and how big they are. A standard diamond clarity scale simply grades the different stones depending on how clear they look. While different gemological institutes use slightly different grading scales, the GIA Diamond Grading System is one of the most commonly used.

This system grades diamonds according to the following:

  • IF (Internally flawless) and FL (Flawless) diamonds – These stones have no internal inclusions that are visible under x10 magnification. The difference between FL and IF diamonds depends on whether minor surface-level inclusions are present on the stone. If they are, the diamond is “only” internally flawless but still eye-clean, meaning that these imperfections aren’t visible to the naked eye.
  • VVS1 & VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included) diamonds – These diamonds can have some very minor inclusions that are still invisible to the naked eye. However, these will be visible under x10 magnification.
  • VS1 & VS2 (Very Slightly Included) diamonds – These stones appear almost completely clean to the naked eye but their inclusions are much easier to notice when viewed using a magnification tool. They can also sometimes be seen by the naked eye. These diamonds are usually viewed as the standard choice for engagement rings and other high-quality jewelry as they are the most affordable out of the eye-clear diamond grades.
  • SI1 & SI2 (Slightly Included) diamonds – These stones have much more noticeable inclusions which are easily visible to the naked eye. However, if they happen to be in a spot that’s easy to hide with the jewelry’s setting, they can be cleverly hidden. If the color of the inclusion is light and soft, it can make it even harder to notice. These diamonds are less expensive than those with fewer inclusions, so choosing one of these can be a smart choice especially if you’re on a budget.  
  • I1, I2, and I3 (Included) diamonds – Being the lowest on the clarity grading scale, I2 and I3 diamonds are rarely used for jewelry since they have many larger and highly noticeable inclusions . I1 diamonds also have visible inclusions, but these are far less noticeable than I2 and I3.

What are I1 Clarity Diamonds?

I1 diamonds are the most affordable diamonds you can find in a jewelry store. While it’s impossible to find a perfectly eye-clean I1 diamond, some stones have inclusions that are easy to hide with the right ring or jewelry setting.

Do I1 Clarity Diamonds Look Good?

As a loose stone on its own, an I1 clarity diamond would rarely look good. However, if the stone’s inclusions are sufficiently transparent and easy to hide with the jewelry’s setting (near the lower pavilion of the stone, for example), then such an I1 clarity diamond can look quite beautiful.

However, it’s important to note that the location and the type of inclusion isn’t indicated on the grading report. On paper, you could have two identical I1 clarity diamonds, but when you compare them side by side, one could have a large, dark inclusion at its center while the other’s inclusions could be more strategically located.

This is why it’s essential to view the actual diamond before you buy it. Some online retailers, such as James Allen and Blue Nile, have 360-degree videos for their diamonds, which allows you to see it from all angles. You can then cherry pick the best I1 clarity diamond from the lot.

i1 clarity diamonds

The above screenshot shows four randomly selected I1 diamonds from James Allen. From the four, which would you choose?

Is an I1 Clarity Diamond Worth It?

This depends on what you’re looking for. Given their very low price, I1 diamonds can be “worth” their cost regardless of what you use them for.

On the other hand, an I1 diamond can be worthy of being placed on a ring or a jewelry piece only if its inclusions can easily be hidden with the jewelry’s setting. In this case, I1 diamonds can look gorgeous, making them well worth their price.

Another positive aspect of I1 diamonds is that you spend less and get a bigger diamond or better-looking piece of jewelry. In that sense, a ring with an I1 diamond and a large diamond halo can look much better than a ring with a solitaire SI1 diamond, if you like rings with halo settings.

In terms of viewing jewelry as an expression of value and prestige, an I1 diamond is definitely not worth it – no jeweler or collector would offer you a good price for a ring with an I1 diamond on it. However, if you’re just looking for a ring or jewelry piece that’s affordable and looks great, an I1 diamond may be the right option for you.

Is Cut Important When Choosing I1 Diamonds?

i1 clarity diamond ring

I1 clarity diamond ring by Borohan Fine Jewelry. See this ring here.

Cut is a highly important factor to consider when choosing an I1 diamond. This is because if the cut is symmetrical, it will allow light to enter the stone and to reflect back out. This will enhance the stone’s brilliance and sparkle, which in turn minimizes the visibility of inclusions.

When choosing the cut grade, avoid going below the Good grade. If your budget allows, opt for a Very Good or even Ideal cut.

What Size I1 Diamond to Buy?

In most cases, the larger the diamond, the better. Most shoppers tend to gravitate towards diamonds of 1 carat or more. However, because I1 clarity diamonds are always included, note that the larger the diamond, the more visible the inclusions. Choosing a smaller stone can make it harder to see any visible inclusions.

What are the Best Shapes for I1 Clarity Diamonds?

The best cuts and shapes for covering the inclusions of an I1 diamond depend on where the inclusions are located and how big and noticeable they are. Jewelers often cut diamonds in less common shapes and cuts to remove or minimize certain inclusions. As a result, these diamonds can look unique and attractive. The most popular cuts and shapes available on the market are the princess cut and round shape, however, there are over 8 other popular diamond shapes to choose from.

Should You Buy or Avoid I1 Clarity Diamonds?

If you’re looking to optimize your budget, save money and get a larger stone with a better setting, or a more expensive jewelry piece, then finding a good looking I1 clarity diamond may be the right choice for you.

On the other hand, if you’d like to own a high-value diamond or if you just don’t have the time to browse through dozens of vendors and catalogs, going for a higher-graded diamond is the way to go.

Wrapping Up

I1 clarity diamonds can be an excellent choice and offer you great savings, if you can find one that has inclusions that aren’t readily visible. This takes time and you will have to go through many diamonds to find such a stone, as most I1 diamons are included.

As I1 clarity diamonds are often the lowest clarity grade sold at jewelry stores, they are readily available. We recommend doing your due diligence, viewing the actual diamond carefully and choosing a stone with minimal or hidden inclusions.

To learn more about diamond clarity, check out our detailed guide here.