The I1 clarity grade is assigned by gemological laboratories (such as GIA and AGS) when the diamond has inclusions that can be seen easily at 10X magnification. This is true even for an unskilled lay-person who’s using the loupe for the first time.
Generally speaking, diamonds that fall within the Included ranges (I1 – I3) would have their brilliance and fire negatively impacted. This is due to the obstruction of light paths caused by inclusions within the stone.
Depending on the type, size and severity of the inclusions, they are usually visible to the unaided eye. In some cases, I1 diamonds may possess flaws that are detrimental to its durability and they might run a high risk of being chipped easily.
That said, included diamonds can be one of the best ways to get maximum bang for shoppers with a limited budget; provided you know exactly what you are doing. In this article, I’m going to show you what to look out for and how to buy I1 graded diamonds the right way.
Notice that every diamond is different and varies in appearance?
Buying included diamonds is a tricky affair and visual assessment of the diamond is your number one priority. Generally speaking, my advice is to avoid stones in the I1 to I3 grades. However, if you must insist on buying within these grades, look for stones where the inclusions are widely scattered or have a few mains ones that are prong-able (hidden under the prongs from visibility).
2.12 Carat G – I1 Ideal Cut Round Brilliant Diamond
Inclusion plot of AGS 000 ideal cut round diamond
This diamond’s inclusions would be partially prongable and have inclusions hidden from view when it is mounted. In such scenarios, you might want to make use of bigger sized prongs to help you cover up the obvious included areas. For example, you can hide more of the unsightly areas with the choice of a correct setting. Flat tab prongs that are slightly wider and flatter are well-suited for such applications.
Example of a flat tab prong setting
Once this diamond is mounted and set, most people won’t be able to notice the inclusions since they are found in the crown area and would blend in nicely with the diamond’s body. Due to its I1 grading, this 2 carat baby only costs $18,000. That’s a far cry from the $40,000 you would expect to pay for a similar diamond in higher clarity grades.
Here another great example of an eye clean stone with a very small chip at the girdle. The chip is fairly noticeable near the center of the stone if you know where to look. Nonetheless, it isn’t obvious unless someone scrutinizes the diamond closely.
While many people automatically shun away from a cavity inclusion, this I1 is something you can consider on a budget. The grade setting inclusion (faint cavity) of this diamond is found on the upper girdle facet. In this particular case, this diamond is eye clean because the inclusion’s color blends well into the body of the diamond.
Will this pose durability issues? I would say yes, it might. However, all diamonds will run risks of chipping no matter what clarity grade it has. If you have a lack of care for your jewelry during wear, it doesn’t matter if you buy a flawless or included diamond, damage to the diamond will always be a likely possibility.
An IF graded diamond can chip just as easily as one with I1 rating if it is struck in the correct direction with an appropriate force. If you are a meticulous person, I don’t see any issue with getting an I1 or IF diamond for that matter.
Here’s an example of a diamond from James Allen that could be potentially eye clean. I say potentially because the diamond looks clean in the magnified picture. Also, it is a good sign that the GIA report for this diamond doesn’t report any additional comments.
The feather might be reflecting throughout the table (main facet on the face of the diamond) and might be visible at some angles of viewing. I know shoppers hate the idea of uncertainty when making a huge purchase and that’s why I recommend working with JamesAllen.com.
The great thing about James Allen is that you could request any of their diamonds to be eyeballed and reviewed by their graduate gemologist. By physically examining the stone, they can offer an insightful evaluation on the appearance of the stone you are interested in.
1.51 Carat G – I1 Heart Shaped Diamond
Potentially eye clean – This is a tough call and requires a physical inspection.
Sometimes, when people come across an amazingly clean I1 diamond, they get all excited or even buy it based on just a picture. Here’s where you really need to be careful. Most of the time, diamonds graded I1 that have seemingly spotless inclusions plots turn out to be cloudy looking or have other undesirable appearances in real life.
This is often due to “other comments” mentioned in the grading report. You need to know there MUST be something that is causing the stone to be graded as such. You can’t game the system.
Check out this E Color 1.05 Carat I1 Diamond…
Overly neat looking plots? Red flags must be raised. These are usually the worst kind of I1 diamonds…
There’s no way to confirm whether such diamonds are OK without physical examinations. Offhand, I would say that 99.99% of the above scenarios have HUGE underlying issues in them with cloudiness and haziness to some degree. Based on my experience, the cleaner the plot is for a low clarity diamond, the greater the risk.
Here’s a video that clearly shows a hazy looking diamond because of clarity issues.
Buying I1 diamonds are best done in person or if that’s not possible (e.g. buying online), it is advisable to get a reliable gemologist to eyeball the diamond on your behalf before you bite the bullet. Most decent online jewelers like James Allen or Brian Gavin can do this service for you at no charge.
However, if you happen to work with another vendor that doesn’t offer such services, make sure they have a generous return policy before you lay your cash down.
Cost. Not everyone can afford the premiums of a flawless diamond. This is because most people place emphasis on carat weight and cut, compromising on clarity could make larger diamonds more affordable. When chosen correctly, an I1 diamond can offer very good value for money in terms of costs and looks.
Purpose: The type of jewelry that you are purchasing might not require a high clarity grade. For example, people who are considering earrings, pendants or even cocktail rings can get away with lower clarity diamonds because the viewing distance of such jewelry is often much further than viewing a ring!
This is much akin to the unique fingerprints we see on our hands. Inclusions can actually help identify your diamond and they are a symbolism for Mother Nature’s creation. Interestingly, there are also included diamonds that collectors sought after due to their fascinating patterning or arrangement of inclusions.
Check out this awesome image of an I1 graded diamond…
Like the stars in a galaxy, the inclusions make this diamond a great collector’s choice!
If you have a limited budget to work with for your purchase, I1 diamonds are options to pursue. Given the fact that they had already been accurately graded as Included diamonds by GIA or AGS, finding one that is eye clean is difficult but not impossible.