Are SI3 Clarity Diamonds a Scam?
Grading diamonds is objective and subjective, and knowing that will help you greatly when trying to understand SI3 diamonds. The search for flaws and inclusions is the objective part; they’re either present, or they’re not. The subjective part is what grading each inclusion is worth.
Understanding GIA Clarity Grades
The Gemological Institute of America is the body that first determined the clarity scale of diamonds. It is this scale that all report issuers use as the basis for the grade they give to a diamond. They go from Flawless (F) to Included level 3 (I3). As might be expected, F clarity has no visible inclusions even when looking with a jewelry loupe, and I3 will have many visible inclusions that will be visible without any magnification.
Diamond Clarity Scale: F – IF – VVS1 – VVS2 – VS1 – VS2 – SI1 – S12 – SI3 – I1 – I2 – I3
Among the rest of the grades are SI1 and SI2 or Slightly Included levels 1 and 2. This is the group before we reach the Included (I) group. By reaching this point on the scale, inclusions are likely visible to the naked eye. If not, it is increasingly likely that the brilliance of the diamond will suffer from reduced light reflection.
Occasionally, we will see the grade SI3 used to describe the clarity of a particular diamond. So, what does slightly included mean?
What is Slightly Included (SI) Clarity?
As the name suggests, diamonds within the slightly included (SI) grades do have inclusions that are easily seen under 10x magnification. The inclusions may not be large individually, but they may be enough collectively to affect the performance of the diamond’s brilliance. It is quite a big step from SI to I, where inclusions will almost always be visible.
The reason why SI diamonds remain popular is that a diamond that barely fails to make the Very Slightly Included (VS) grade may still look eye-clean. When it comes down to it, nobody outside the jewelry and diamond trade will be looking at your diamond ring. This makes eye-clean diamonds a good option for those on a budget.
It is important to note that the “Slightly Included” spectrum is huge. You can send a diamond to different appraisers, and you won’t always get the same answer.
What does SI3 Clarity Mean?
An SI3 clarity diamond is a diamond with a clarity that is not low enough to qualify as an I1 yet but is not high enough to be classified as an SI2 clarity. It is a narrow grading that sits between “Slight-Included” and “Included”.
Important note: Many jewelers claim, as we will mention below in great detail, that the SI3 clarity is not a real grading but rather a scam that helps to sell bad-quality diamonds that would otherwise be highly unsellable (due to having an I1 clarity grade). We agree with this claim.
Because GIA (and most other diamond certifiers) do not use the SI3 grade, it’s difficult to outline exactly what level of inclusions it applies to. Given that it fills the gap between SI2 and I1, we have to assume that inclusions will be present but that their visibility is in doubt. GIA separates SI-clarity and I-clarity grades by the terms “noticeable” and “obvious”. In SI1 and SI2 diamonds, inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification. In I1 clarity, I2 clarity, and I3 clarity, they are obvious and may affect both transparency and brilliance.
So by applying a little, very unscientific logic, we can probably reach the conclusion that SI3 inclusions are noticeable inclusions but not dominant enough to affect either transparency or brilliance. Indeed, the SI3 grade originally appeared to promote the best I1, eye-clean diamonds to a saleable level. I clarity diamonds carry something of a stigma, to the point where many jewelers won’t even stock them. By creating SI3, this got around that particular problem.
Examples of SI3 Clarity Diamonds
As shown in the diamond plotting examples above, the SI3 clarity diamond inclusion mirrors that of an I1 diamond.
These inclusions will almost always be visible to the naked eye without the use of a loupe.
The second example from the left, for example, will be extremely noticeable as most of the inclusions are all in a cluster in the very center of the diamond.
The example on the far right may not be as noticeable as quickly, but once the eye starts to focus, all of those large needle-inclusion will be very obvious and prominent.
Keep reading to learn the massive problem with SI3.
The Massive Problems with the SI3 Diamond
The biggest problem with the SI3 diamond is that few people accept this grading. This means that for all practical purposes, the SI3 diamond is actually an I1 diamond.
Buying an SI3-listed diamond will be less expensive than an SI1 or SI2-graded diamond (but more than a regular I1 clarity diamond). The problem will come when you have to sell it. At that point, it will probably become an I1 grade.
The only grading system which uses the SI3 grade is the EGL. EGL is one of the largest issuers of diamond grading reports, especially in Europe. However, they have a slightly patchy reputation regarding the clarity grades they issue. As a result, their reports are not as highly regarded as either GIA or AGS. Some specialist jewelry insurers in the US will not accept an EGL report for valuation purposes of very high-ticket items.
The Pros of SI3 Diamonds
The only advantage of an SI3 clarity diamond is that it sounds better than I1 clarity. Other than that, there is nothing else going for them.
As mentioned above, we would strongly caution staying away from them.
Which Diamond Clarity is a Smarter Choice than SI3?
In our opinion, choosing a VS2 clarity diamond instead of an SI3 (or I1 clarity) is an obvious decision, even if it means sacrificing the overall carat size or whiteness color of the diamond. In our opinion, anything beneath a VS2 clarity diamond is a big financial mistake.
The primary advantage of a VS2 clarity diamond lies in its superior visual appeal. VS2 stands for “Very Slightly Included 2”. The VS2 inclusions are generally not visible to the naked eye, ensuring that the diamond retains its brilliant appearance. This level of clarity ensures that the diamond’s natural beauty and sparkle are not compromised, making it an excellent choice for those who value a balance between quality and cost. In contrast, diamonds graded as SI3 (Slightly Included 3) or I1 (Included 1) have more noticeable inclusions. These inclusions can often be seen with the naked eye, detracting from the stone’s overall beauty and brilliance, even to a non-expert.
Furthermore, a VS2 clarity diamond typically holds better long-term value compared to SI3 diamond. Diamonds are not only a symbol of beauty and luxury but also an investment. VS2 diamonds are more sought after in the market due to their higher clarity grade, making them more desirable for resale or trade-up opportunities. In contrast, SI3 diamonds, with more visible inclusions, are often priced lower due to their reduced visual appeal and are less likely to retain their value over time. When choosing a diamond, it’s important to consider not only the initial purchase price but also the potential future value. A VS2 diamond strikes an optimal balance, offering a visually appealing stone that also holds its value better than lower clarity grades, making it a much better option for both immediate satisfaction and future considerations.
A Final Word on SI3 Diamonds
You will see SI3 clarity diamonds advertised at very attractive prices. Some will have reports, but many won’t.
If you want to buy an SI3 clarity diamond, that’s your choice. For all the reasons we’ve given here, though, we strongly recommend avoiding an SI3 diamond. You may buy cheaply, but that’s only because you’re buying a cheap diamond in every sense.
If you find an SI3 diamond that you want, send it off to be certified. If it comes back as SI2 or better, grab it. If it’s an I1, you know where you stand.
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