What are I3 Diamonds? (Should You Avoid Them?)

I3 is the lowest overall diamond grade in terms of clarity. The “I” in “I3” stands for “inclusion.” The “I” rating has 3 subcategories, 1, 2, and 3, with 3 being the lowest. 

Obviously, all I3 graded diamonds are similar in the fact that they have visible inclusions that affect the brilliance and/or transparency of the diamond, but does that mean that they are all the same quality? Of course not. In fact, because I3 is the lowest possible classification, there can be a great deal of variance in the quality of I3 diamonds.

Naturally, their maximum quality is limited, because past a certain quality point they would receive a higher grade, but there’s no real minimum quality for I3 as there is no lower grade category. You may see some jewelers attempt to be more specific by using their own “home-brewed” classifications, like Ib, 5, or 6, but these are not official GIA grades.

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Are I3 diamonds cheaper?

Generally speaking, I3 diamonds cost significantly less than higher-graded diamonds. All I3 diamonds aren’t necessarily the same price per carat, however—in addition to their value being affected by the cut, color, and carat of the diamond, it’s also affected by the type of inclusion. A heavily included diamond that lacks brilliance, or is even almost opaque, is going to be cheaper than one which still maintains transparency, even if both are graded I3.

Are I3 diamonds worth it?

Whether or not an I3 diamond is worth purchasing depends on how it will be used. In small sizes, in pieces with multiple diamonds, an I3 diamond might work fine; however, it may not be suitable or attractive for a solitaire diamond ring, for example.


Choosing the right diamond quality

When you decide you are ready to purchase a diamond—or several—whether loose or in a setting, it’s important to research diamond quality to make sure you’re getting the diamonds you want for a reasonable price. After all, diamonds last forever, and they’re something of an investment; it’s a significant purchase and not one you should take lightly. There are “four c’s” of diamond quality which professionals and consumers use to determine the value they place on a diamond: cut, color, clarity, and carat.

Cut refers to the shape of the diamond. Color, as you might expect, refers to exactly that. Carat refers to the diamond’s size. These are all easy to understand concepts that are intuitive to everyone, regardless of their experience with diamonds. Clarity is a bit more complex, especially considering the way that clarity is expressed by diamond grading. Abbreviations like “FL” and “SI1” mean very little to the layperson.

About Diamond Clarity Grading

Diamonds are created when carbon is exposed to tremendous amounts of pressure and heat over a long period of time, deep below the earth’s surface. There are several things that can happen during this process which will affect the eventual clarity of the resulting diamond. When something happens that disrupts the diamond’s internal formation, the characteristics that result are referred to as inclusions; if there is something amiss with the diamond’s external characteristics, it is called a blemish.

Inclusions, which are an important indicator of diamond clarity, are caused by small crystals that are trapped within the diamond. How much these inclusions affect the clarity of the diamond depends on a number of factors, including their visibility, their size, and where in the diamond they’re located.

The number of these unusual characteristics and their severity impacts the way the diamond is graded. Most diamonds are graded using the GIA Diamond Clarity Scale, developed by the Gemological Institute of America, a non-profit, third-party scientific body. Anyone who is seriously considering purchasing a diamond should insist that it be examined by a certified GIA diamond grader. Their examinations are renowned for being unbiased, scientific, and trustworthy assessments of diamond quality.

Their clarity grading scale has six categories, within which are several sub-grades, equaling 11 total classifications for accuracy:

  • Flawless (FL): No visible blemishes or inclusions in up to 10x magnification
  • Internally Flawless (IF): No visible inclusions in up to 10x magnification
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2): There are inclusions, but they are so slight that even a skilled grader has a difficult time identifying them in up to 10x magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2): With effort, extremely minor inclusions can be identified by a skilled grader in up to 10x magnification
  • Slightly Included (SI1, SI2): Inclusions are not noticeable with the naked eye but are visible in 10x magnification
  • Included (I1, I2, I3): The diamond contains inclusions which are very visible in 10x magnification and these inclusions may affect the transparency and/or brilliance of the diamond to the naked eye.

Carl A. Jones, GIA GG

Carl A. Jones is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. He is an independent jewelry appraiser. He specializes in determining the value of diamonds and advising consumers on how to buy quality diamond jewelry.

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