Wondering what an I3 diamond is and if buying one is worth it? Is it really a bad rating?
You're in the right place. In this Learning Guide, I'll answer the top questions asked about I3 diamonds:
- Are I3 Diamonds Okay for an Engagement Ring?
- What Does I3 Diamond Clarity Mean?
- Are I3 Diamonds Durable?
What is an I3 Diamond?
An I3 diamond is a diamond whose clarity grade means "included" in the diamond industry. All diamonds, whether natural or lab-grown, have natural inclusions. They happen during the diamond formation process.
Some inclusions can happen during the cutting and polishing process too. They are often the results of small crystals from other minerals getting trapped in the stone as it grows.
In natural mined diamonds, there are many different types of inclusions. Lab-grown diamonds still get them, but they're limited to certain types due to the laboratory environment. Other minerals are often captured in natural diamond crystals. Lab diamond crystals tend to have more needle-like inclusions made of graphite.
Read also: Types of Diamond Inclusions
The prominence of noticeable inclusions is part of the 4Cs of diamond quality. Clarity refers to how free of imperfections your diamond is. Diamond clarity is one of the four pillars that determines the price and overall value of a diamond.
What is the Diamond Clarity Scale?
The diamond clarity scale was developed by the Gemological Institute of America. It is the standard that majority of the jewelry uses for diamond clarity grading across the diamond industry.
The scale consists of five tiers and 11 grades:
Flawless (F): The highest tier of diamond clarity and consists of one clarity grade. Flawless natural diamonds are incredibly rare. No inclusions are able to be seen by a highly skilled diamond grader.
Read also: Buying Internally Flawless Diamonds
Internally flawless (IF): Flaws are only seen by a highly skilled diamond grader. This grade of diamonds account for less than 0.5% of gem quality natural diamonds.
Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 & VVS2): VVS diamond clarity is broken down into two clarity grades, VVS1 and VVS2. The differences between between two diamonds with VVS1 and VVS2 grades are minimum. The average person probably wouldn't know the difference.
Read also: Buying VVS1 & VVS2 Diamonds
A skilled diamond grader would say the VVS1 diamond has less noticeable ones than the grade lower. Very, very slight inclusions can be seen under 10x magnification.
Very Slightly included (VS1 & VS2): Like VVS diamonds, VS diamonds also has two tiers. VS1 diamonds have less prominent flaws than VS2 diamonds. This is the first tier considered to be eye-clean.
Eye-clean diamonds mean there are no eye-visible inclusions able to be seen by the naked eye. Very slight inclusions can be seen under 10x magnification by a diamond grader.
Read also: Buying VS1 & VS2 Diamonds
Slightly Included (SI1 & SI2): Slightly included diamonds may have a couple noticeable inclusions seen with the naked eye and under magnification. However, you can also come across eye-clean SI1 diamonds too.
Included (I1, I2, I3): Imperfections can be seen with and without 10x magnification. These have more visible flaws than all other tiers. They're the lowest clarity quality.
Read also: Buying SI Diamonds
Is an I3 Diamond a Good Clarity Grade for an Engagement Ring?
You don't necessarily need the highest grade on the clarity chart. But you definitely don't want the lowest grade on the clarity chart either. Diamonds with I3 clarity are lowest clarity grades available.
Visible inclusions aren't necessarily a bad thing, but highly included diamonds like I3 diamonds can impede the brilliance and beauty of the diamond. I3 diamonds are notorious for have many dark inclusions. Diamonds with higher clarity tend to have more white inclusions than dark ones.
Some people find included diamonds unique and interesting, which has made way for salt & pepper diamonds. The industry has found a way to market low clarity for a higher price that is still affordable to the average buyer.
You're less likely to find I3 center stones. As accents, I3 clarity diamonds are very popular at Kays. Majority of their non-certified engagement rings have I1 clarity for center stones and I3 clarity for accent stones.
Unless you're going for the salt and pepper look, I don't recommend buying an engagement ring with an I3 clarity diamond. There's a reason why many online retailers don't sell anything below SI clarity grades. Too many inclusions can impact the brilliance, which is usually the main desire of owning a diamond.
You may or may not notice I3 clarity inclusions in accent stones. They may make one diamond appear to be slightly grayish if it has more inclusions viewable on the table. However, a skilled designer should match them whether I3 clarity or not.
You're even less likely to find any I clarity lab diamonds too. I mentioned that lab diamond imperfections aren't usually as noticeable as their mined counterparts.
That being said, I3 clarity is not all bad. They can be great for low-impact pieces, even if they have external inclusions. They are an affordable choice for diamond earrings. Most people don't get that close to your ears to notice flaws.
From far away, most wouldn't be able to guess your diamond's clarity, or know the prices you paid for them. The setting alone can also help with that. Just keep in mind the flaws will be more visible as you search for diamond higher up in carat weight.
Regarding colored gemstones, the clarity grade doesn't matter as much as the actual color hue and intensity. An emerald with I3 clarity but Columbian origin and color can still go for very, very high prices.
I don't have a recommendation to find I3 stones, but James Allen does offer diamonds with I-Clarity. By using their 360˚ viewer, you may even to find ones with flaws that can be hidden in the setting. You should always check the placement of the flaws before purchasing from any jewelers.
Are I3 Diamonds Expensive?
The biggest and probably only appeal of I3 clarity diamonds are their prices in comparison to other clarity diamonds. Everybody wants to save money, right?
It's incredibly difficult to find I3 clarity diamonds for your center stone. There are many diamond sellers on Etsy selling I2-I3 clarity diamonds for a few hundred for a half-carat. The minimum clarity diamonds you'll find at fine jewelers are I1 diamond clarity.
Read also: James Allen vs Blue Nile
Pros and Cons for I3 Diamonds
If you want to lay it all out plainly, here's the good and bad about an I3 diamond.
- I3 Diamonds are more affordable
- I3 Diamonds are a good option for salt and pepper diamonds
- I3 flaws can detract from the sparkle and overall light return.
- They aren't sold as center stones and are difficult to find as such. Most retailers sell I1 center stones at the lowest.
- Chain jewelry retailers sell I clarity diamonds for much more than they worth, yet this is where most people buy their engagement rings.
- They can be salt and pepper diamonds, but you only want ones with internal imperfections, not external blemishes. External ones can lead to chipping and breaking.
All in all, I think the disadvantages and risk of owning a diamond many flaws far outweigh the benefits. If you like the look of many visible flaws, search for internals ones only. An external inclusion could risk the durability of your diamond. It is very difficult to search for a high quality I3 diamond.
In fact, I'd advise you to avoid the I Clarity tier altogether. Many chain retailers will sell their I Clarity diamonds for more than SI clarity diamonds found at James Allen or Blue Nile.