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Two categories on the diamond clarity scale are included (I) and very slightly included (VS). Within these sections, two designations are I1 or VS2.
The difference between I1 and VS2 clarity is I1 diamonds have heavy inclusions that are almost always visible to the naked eye. The flaws impact its durability and appearance, so they’re rarely used in engagement rings. VS2 diamonds have small blemishes that are often only apparent with magnification.
We’ll compare I1 versus VS2 diamonds, including an overview of each clarity grade, four differences, and how to know which is right for you.
What is an I1 Diamond?
I1 diamonds fall on the low end of the clarity scale.
Within the included category, there are three grades: I1, I2, and I3.
Each step down means the inclusions are more impactful. I1 is the ninth lowest position on the scale, landing one grade below SI2.
To view an I1 diamond in high-resolution, check out this round-cut diamond from the vendor where I bought my wife’s engagement ring.
Rotate the image to view it at every angle and notice how the inclusions stand out in different areas.
To contrast it with a diamond that earned a flawless grade, here they are side-by-side.
The flaws in the I1 diamond are immediately noticeable.
On the other hand, compare it to this I2 diamond.
To the naked eye, it would be difficult to identify which is more included.
Even trained gemologists can assign unique clarity grades to the same diamond, which demonstrates how the distinctions between grades next to each other on the clarity scale often aren’t noticeable.
An I1 clarity grade isn’t referring to specific inclusions. It could have any of the following:
- Twinning wisps
- Black spots
Instead, it’s an indicator of the extent that those imperfections affect its overall quality and performance.
What is a VS2 Diamond?
VS2 diamonds are positioned between VS1 and SI1 on the GIA clarity scale.
So it has more impactful inclusions than the former but less than the latter.
But to the naked eye, it’s often impossible to tell the difference.
As an example, here’s a VS2 diamond next to one graded VS1.
Now, compare it to this SI1 diamond.
Even with high-resolutions images, they appear almost identical.
Similar to I1 diamonds, a VS2 grade isn’t indicating certain types of inclusions. It could have any combination of cavities, etch channels, or bruises.
But the VS2 clarity grade means these same inclusions aren’t as impactful compared to the ones in an I1 diamond.
How are I1 and VS2 Diamonds Different?
1. I1 Diamonds Have More Inclusions
In almost every case, I1 diamonds have more inclusions than ones that earn a VS2 grade.
Although clarity isn’t an indicator of a specific number, in general, more inclusions result in a lower grade.
For example, let’s examine this I1 diamond.
There are black spots, feathers, and twinning wisps scattered across its table.
Each has several occurrences.
As a comparison, this VS2 diamond only has crystals and feathers.
Most importantly, they aren’t visible, even in the close-up image.
Additionally, it’s likely each inclusion is smaller. This lessens its overall effect on the diamond.
There are exceptions to this rule. This one has:
The reason it still received a VS2 grade, even though there are four types of inclusions, is because they aren’t as large as the ones in the I1 diamond and have less of an affect on its performance.
I recommend choosing a diamond with several minor inclusions, like pinpoints and needles, versus one with one or two large ones.
The latter are more likely to be noticeable and impact its structure than several small ones.
Diamonds with large inclusions can earn an I1 grade for this reason.
2. VS2 Diamonds Sell for Higher Prices
Buyers are willing to pay a higher price for VS2 diamonds compared to ones graded I1.
They’re more visually appealing and rare, which increases demand.
To assess prices for VS2 versus I1 diamonds, I compared more than 140 diamonds from James Allen, my go-to vendor for quality jewelry.
Each round-cut was graded by the GIA and had the following grades:
- Carat weight: 1.00
- Cut: Very good
- Color: G
The average price for an I1 diamond with those grades was $3,962, with a range of $2,820-$5,130.
For a VS2 diamond with those traits, the average was $7,527. The range was $7,090-$9,490.
That’s a 90 percent premium for a VS2 diamond compared to one with I1 clarity.
The I1 diamond with the highest price still costs more than the VS2 diamond with the lowest price.
But in general, you’ll pay about 20 percent more for every step up the clarity scale. That difference is often more significant if you move from one category to the next, such as SI to VS clarity.
It’s also a higher premium than you’ll pay for moving up the color scale.
While I recommend avoiding higher clarity grades and instead focusing on value at the lower end, don’t go as far as I1 for your center diamond. VS2 often meets the criteria.
3. I1 Diamonds Can Lack Durability
The effects of inclusions in I1 diamonds aren’t limited to its visible appearance. It also impacts durability.
They represent weak points in a diamond’s structure that could fracture if it’s hit or dropped. This is especially the case if those imperfections are located in positions that are already vulnerable.
For example, fancy shapes like princess, baguette, marquise, and pear cuts have sharp points. On princess and baguette cuts, they’re on the corners.
Here’s the GIA report for a princess cut that shows needles and crystals on the corners of both the top-down and bottom-up view.
Depending on their size, I expect them to cause more durability challenges than if they were located in a different area.
On marquise and pear cuts, there are ends that narrow and reach a point.
Even without inclusions in those areas, they’re still vulnerable.
But when a flaw like a twinning wisp, feather, or bruise is located there, it weakens them even more. So protect these areas with a quality setting.
Bezel settings are often fit for weaker diamonds because a ring of metal wraps around it, protecting it at every angle.
The downside is it covers more of the diamond compared to a prong setting, which reduces its apparent size and brilliance.
And make sure your choice of setting doesn’t press too hard on the diamond.
This is less of an issue with VS2 diamonds. If there are inclusions in those positions, they’re more likely to be small and have minimal impact.
4. VS2 Diamonds are Popular for Engagement Rings
VS2 diamonds are often chosen for engagement rings because of their eye-cleanliness and lower price compared to ones in the VVS or flawless category.
If you choose a brilliant cut, the inclusions won’t have a significant impact on its brilliance.
Don’t be concerned with the specific clarity grade for your engagement ring diamond.
Instead, focus on how it appears when viewed in a normal setting. This concept applies to its color grade as well, which is why G and H color grades are popular.
In the same way I1 diamonds cost less than VS2 diamonds, the latter also commands a discount because of its inclusions.
In fact, if you opt for VS2 over flawless, you could save up to 50 percent on the diamond and put that savings toward improved color or cut or a heavier gem.
It’s rare to find an I1 diamond on an engagement ring. Visible inclusions, especially ones as large and dark as typically found on an I1 diamond, diminish its appearance.
On the other hand, this diamond ring has inclusions but still sparkles like a flawless one.
Start your search with SI2 or SI1, but if your diamond is heavier than one carat, you’ll likely find the right pick at VS2 or VS1.
For my wife’s ring, I chose a VS1 diamond, but there were ones graded VS2 I considered as well that would’ve been a fit.
Should You Choose an I1 or VS2 Diamond?
Choosing between an I1 versus VS2 diamond involves understanding how inclusions affect its overall quality and performance.
It’s one of the most important characteristics of a gem, and the 11 grades on the GIA clarity scale leaves you with many choices.
My recommendation is to avoid I1 diamonds and instead choose one with no visible inclusions. VS2 diamonds often fit this criteria.
This also applies to small diamond accents that complement the main one. Don’t go as far as I1 with these either. Instead, the SI range offers value.
Whether you’re searching for an I1 or VS2 diamond, or one with a different clarity grade, take the time to assess all the options available for your ring.