Clarity grades… the dirty little secret

Are all SI-1 clarity diamonds eye-clean?
Are all SI-2 clarity diamonds eye-clean?
Are all VS-2 clarity diamonds eye-clean?
Are all VS-1 clarity diamonds eye-clean?

The truth may surprise many… but the answer to all four of the above questions is, no.

Here is another thought for those considering ‘buying blindly’ from the virtual list of diamonds available on the internet.

Many consumers assume that all clarity grades are uniformly identical or at least very close, Eg. “All SI-1 clarity diamonds will be eye-clean” at least all the SI-1 diamonds from the preeminent labs.

Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in the SI grades.

SI clarity stones of the same grade can vary tremendously, from eye-clean to easily visible to the naked eye. (see photo below of three actual stones, all with a Gemological Institute of America (GIA) clarity grade of SI-1)

It is helpful to think of the clarity grades as a range, and not an exact, precise, quantifiable term.

Within these ranges of clarity there are for example, good SI-1’s, bad SI-1’s and maybe even the ugly SI-1’s. ( this analogy will hold true thru the other clarity ranges as well)

It is common sense that diamond sellers that stock diamonds will buy for their own stock the nicer of these ranges of clarities and especially the nicer (eye clean) SI’s .

With the diamond sellers that stock diamonds buying only the ‘good’ SI diamonds for their stock, this of course leaves the bad and the ugly to be sold elsewhere.

Think about it.

verical%20clarity%20shot Diamonds

On this very topic, here is an inquiry from a  poster on an online diamond forum and my reply to the poster. He was asking if the SI-1 diamond he saw listed on a “virtual listing venue” was a good deal.

I’ve been looking to buy an engagement ring online, and have come to the conclusion has the best prices out there. For instance:

Price: $xxxx.xx

Stone shape: Round
Carat Weight: 0.91 carats
Cut: Ideal
Color: G
Clarity: SI1
Certificate type: GIA
Depth %: 62.8
Table %: 58.0
Symmetry: Very Good
Polish: Very Good
Girdle: Thin to Medium – Faceted
Culet: None
Fluorescence: None
Measurements: 6.22 x 6.16 x 3.89 millimeters
Length-to-width ratio: 1.01

To which I replied:

Hi, Welcome to the forum.

The short answer is, if the diamond is a strong SI-1 and not overly dark or dead from being marginally deep… the stone may be well priced.

The longer answer and the reality of the situation is that diamonds are essentially priced by the marketplace and by how strictly graded any particular diamond is and of course that particular diamonds cut quality.

I will only speak to the subject of clarity, but rest assured that the same market forces will affect the desirability and saleability of any diamond with regard to the diamonds Color and make and/or overall finish.

There are varying levels of SI-1 clarity diamonds (other clarities as well) and they are all priced by the supply and demand forces of the marketplace based on how strictly graded the diamond is.

Do a little research on clarity and you will find that SI-1 stones can vary from ‘clean to the naked eye’ to having ‘easily noticeable inclusions’

The diamonds on ____ ____ and many other websites are from virtual lists, these are lists of diamonds owned by cutters and wholesalers, bear in mind that most if not all of these same diamonds are available to jewelry stores and other volume buyers of diamonds but for whatever reason have gone unsold.

Of course, the most obvious and common reason for diamonds to be rejected by expert buyers is that the diamond is not strictly graded (IE. not a strong SI-1)

Certainly, there can be quality diamonds on these virtual lists also.

However, it is common sense that the longer any one diamond stays on this list, especially if it is priced ‘competitively’ the more likely it is that this particular diamond is a reject of the expert buyers that comprise the market.

Unfortunately, there is no way for consumers to tell how long a diamond has been on the market.

Consumers do not have the beneficial market forces to help the non-experts as one would have in another marketplace such as real estate, where an overpriced piece of real estate that has been on the market for years/months raises obvious red flags.

Aaaahhh… so where do these ‘rejected’ diamonds end up?

What better venue for a seller of such a stone than to be able to sell it to a consumer, sight unseen. Think about it.

His shopping is done… she has a ring on her finger… a wholesaler has sold a diamond that experts would not buy… and yet everybody is happy ?

Yes, and it is because all diamonds are beautiful, this is especially true for diamonds sold on the internet as there are not other more beautiful diamonds to compare it to. Even diamonds with noticeable imperfections in say, 3% of the visible area of the diamond may sparkle beautifully in the other 97 % of the diamond.

So… the diamond now has a happy home due to the above reason, but not without considerable help from the cognitive dissonance (the tendency in human nature to rationalize bad decisions) making this person think that his SI-1 diamond is the same as any other SI-1 diamond or that he has somehow found the deal of the century.

Speaking of which, there appears to be no shortage of people that seem to think they can swim with the sharks and out smart this ‘market place’ comprised of diamond buying experts and corporations that trade in diamonds for a living.

Hmmm? That last paragraph actually has the making of another article.

Brian Knox
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