Let me begin by saying thank you for all of the information that you provide on this web site, I’ve learned so much about diamonds by reading your articles! And even a bit about the nature of my relationship thanks to the piece you wrote about the True Significance of a Diamond Engagement Ring, but could you explain what to expect from an SI-1 clarity diamond? e.g. what the SI-1 clarity grade really means to me as a consumer? Why are some SI-1 clarity diamonds “eye clean” and others are not? Why two SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature diamonds that seem virtually identical to me, are so different in price? Which SI-1 clarity diamond should I buy, I’ve provided links below. Thanks!”
If you’re a regular reader of my online diamond buying advice articles, then you know by now Brian Gavin Signature diamonds deliver the highest volume of light return and sparkle factor! This is because BGD Signature diamonds are cut to the best proportions for an ideal cut diamond, and a degree of optical precision that creates broad spectrum sparkle!
The SI-1 clarity grade is designated for diamonds that contain inclusions that are readily and immediately visible to an experienced diamond grader, when the diamond is viewed using 10x magnification, which is the industry standard for diamond clarity grading.
While it seems that every Brian Gavin Signature diamond is created equal when it comes to the overall degree of diamond cut quality, the general nature of the SI-1 clarity grade for diamonds is rather broad, and thus there is a wide degree of variance between SI-1 clarity diamonds.
As much as I appreciate the level of consumer confidence provided by diamond grading reports issued by the Gemological Institute of America Gem Trade Laboratory (GIA-GTL) and the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) the fact is that diamond grading reports can be a bit misleading because the plotting diagrams provided as a sort of map of the inclusions, is one dimensional in structure.
Therefore when we look at the plotting diagram for this 1.502 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, we can get an idea as to the type of inclusions located within the diamond, as well as the approximate location of the inclusions within the diamond from a top down vantage point. However it is impossible to determine where the inclusions within the diamond are located in terms of depth,off of the diamond grading report; nor do we have any indication as to whether the inclusions are light or dark in color; nor the degree to which the inclusions are visible with or without 10x magnification. In essence, the plotting diagram provided on a diamond grading report only tells us what type of inclusions provide the basis for the SI-1 clarity grade, and whether they were located in the crown (top view) or pavilion (bottom view) sections of the diamond.[separator]
Despite what you might think, the purpose of a diamond clarity photograph is to provide you with a representation of the approximate location of the inclusions within the diamond. A diamond clarity photograph such as the one for this 1.502 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature diamond can not tell you the extent to which the diamond may or may not be eye clean, nor even the color or tone of the inclusions. The first thing to realize about clarity photographs such as this is that they are taken using 30x – 40x magnification, which is far higher than the industry standard of 10x magnification, so every inclusion is far more prominent than it will be in real life![separator]
The next thing that you should know is that the majority of diamond clarity photographs provided online were taken using dark field magnification, which is designed to make it easier for professional diamond graders to quickly locate the inclusions within a diamond; however the lighting environment is nothing like the type of lighting environment that we live and work under… thus the inclusions within an SI-1 clarity diamond might appear to be light or dark in a diamond clarity photograph, but look completely different when viewed in real world lighting conditions.
Another thing to keep in mind is the size of the actual diamond versus the size that it appears to be in the clarity photograph, which was taken using an extremely high degree of magnification… Not only does the degree of magnification being used to photograph the diamond play a factor in how large the diamond, and subsequently the inclusions appear to be on your computer monitor, but so does the size of your monitor and the screen resolution that you have it set to.
In real life the 1.502 carat round Brian Gavin Signature diamond referenced above measures 7.35 – 7.38 x 4.52 mm, but it faces up on my laptop about the size of a golf ball. Obviously our ability to see the inclusions within a diamond with an average outside diameter 7.365 millimeters is going to be a lot different than our ability to see the inclusions within something that measures 42.7 millimeters, especially when the inclusions have increased in size proportionately! And then of course there is the matter of focal depth and depth of field to take into account, notice how this close-up of a golf ball makes it appear to be larger because of the way I’ve framed it and cropped the image.[separator]
There are many advantages to buying a diamond produced under the authority of a fifth generation diamond cutter like Brian Gavin, not the least of which is the fact that Brian Gavin Signature diamonds exhibit the highest volume of light return, and sparkle that is so vivid that it shows up from across the room!
But one of the biggest advantages of working directly with Brian Gavin is that he is in complete control over which diamonds are selected for his exclusive inventory of Brian Gavin Signature diamonds, and which diamonds are not… he personally evaluates every diamond after it has been polished, and decides whether it is worthy of his Signature or not, he’s not working off of virtual inventory like the majority of online diamond dealers, he’s working off of inventory that is sitting in his vault, where he can lay hands on it, and immediately tell us about the inclusions that resulted in the SI-1 clarity grade, the degree to which they may or may not be visible without magnification, and whether they face-up light or dark.
I’ll tell you a secret… The reason why SI-1 clarity diamonds that have similar characteristics such as the carat weight, color, clarity, degree of fluorescence, cut rating, etc., are often different in price, is due to the nature of the inclusions responsible for the SI-1 clarity grade; and just like the rest of the diamond industry, Brian Gavin takes this sort of thing into account when pricing SI-1 and other clarity diamonds. Which is why this 1.502 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is selling for $12,149.00* and this 1.516 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is selling for $12,605.00*
The difference in price between the two diamonds is not due to the 1.516 carat diamond weighing 0.014 carats more… And the difference in price between the two diamonds is not due to when they were produced, because the 1.502 carat is a newer diamond, the diamond grading report indicates that it was graded on February 05, 2015 whereas the 1.516 carat diamond was graded on September 20, 2014.
Yet the Price Per Carat of the 1.502 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is $8,088.54 PPC, while the Price Per Carat of the 1.516 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is $8,314.64
The proportions of the two Brian Gavin Signature round diamonds are virtually the same, and both diamonds exhibit the same degree of incredible optical precision, and have an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0, so what’s the deal? The 1.516 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is simply a better SI-1 clarity diamond. How do I know? Because while I suspected this to be the case, I simply asked Brian why one SI-1 clarity diamond was more expensive than the other… He said “Hold on, let me pull the two stones…” and then said “The inclusions within the 1.502 carat are white in color; it’s eye clean to me from a distance of 8-10 inches, but at about 4-6 inches there is a white inclusion that reflects within the stone if you know what to look for; but without really knowing what you’re looking for, it might seem to be eye clean even when viewed from 2-4 inches.”
Brian Gavin describes the inclusions within the 1.516 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond as being light in color, and indicates that the diamond is eye clean to him from a distance of 2 – 4 inches; thus this is a better specimen of the SI-1 clarity grade…[separator]
It is important to understand that each clarity grade represents a range of possibilities, and a the clarity of a diamond can fall anywhere within the range from the low side of the scale, to the middle, or to the high end.
Thus one SI-1 clarity diamond can be a “text book SI-1” right in the middle of the spectrum; or it might be a low-SI-1 that is close to the edge or “sitting on the fence” of what could be graded as either an SI-1 or an SI-2 clarity diamond; or it might be on the high side of the scale, graded as an SI-1, but it was almost a VS-2 clarity diamond in the opinion of the grader… and this is all subject to interpretation because diamonds are graded by human beings.
This is why I like to work with diamond cutters like Brian Gavin, who can provide me with an accurate assessment of every diamond in their inventory, based upon what they are able to see in the actual diamond, not just based upon their perception of the inclusions indicated on the plotting diagram of a diamond grading report, or a clarity photograph.
A short time ago, I was working with another client who was considering a diamond from another dealer online, they asked for an assessment of the diamond and was told by the on-staff gemologist that she could tell by the clarity photograph that the diamond was eye clean… my client forwarded her evaluation of the diamond to me via email, and I was so pissed about the fact that a gemologist would make such a stupid statement to a client, that I emailed the owner of the diamond company that backs this particular companies play online… he responded by telling me that the gemologist did not actually have physical access to the diamonds, that they worked off of photographs “for security reasons”… but that there was an indication on the notes indicating that the diamond was eye clean.
If the gemologist does not have physical access to the diamond “for security purposes” then exactly WHO determined that the diamond is eye clean?!?! And if the gemologist does not have physical access to the diamond, then HOW are they actually providing an in-depth online preview?
Don’t worry this is a rhetorical series of questions… You see “somebody” in the diamond department of the diamond company who backs this particular brand online, is providing “the gemologist” with the diamond clarity photograph, and video, and telling them what to tell you… Wow… yea, WOW.
And the owner of this diamond company actually asked me why I seem to prefer Brian Gavin Diamonds when he consulted with me… yea, oh yea,
The most common question that I receive pertaining to diamonds that are SI-1 in clarity, is whether I think that the SI-1 clarity diamond is completely eye clean, based upon the clarity photograph. So you know by now, that there is no way to know whether a diamond is going to be eye clean off of the clarity photograph or high resolution video provided by Brian Gavin, or any other diamond dealer for that matter… the only way to determine whether an SI-1 or SI-2 clarity diamond is “eye clean” is to ask the dealer, but you’re only going to get an accurate assessment of the diamond if they happen to have it on hand, and perhaps not even then.
A few years ago, I was searching for diamonds for a client who wanted something in the range of 1.70 – 1.99 carats, D or E color, SI-1 in clarity, and he insisted that the diamond be absolutely eye clean… to which I responded that he should probably consider diamonds in the VS-2 clarity range, but that wasn’t an option due to the higher price.
I explained to my client that the determination as to whether a diamond is eye clean or not is made by picking the diamond up in tweezers, and looking at it from a distance of 9 – 12 inches; the diamond is not scrutinized closely, and that differences in the individual eye sight of each person who looks at the diamond is a factor; thus what might seem like an eye clean SI-1 clarity diamond to one person, might not be eye clean to another person.
One of the diamond cutters who I worked with on a regular basis, not Brian Gavin in this particular instance, happened to have a 1.84 carat, D-color, SI-1 clarity, round ideal cut diamond that was graded by the GIA with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent.
I called the diamond cutter on the telephone and asked him about the nature of the SI-1 clarity grade and whether the diamond was eye clean or not… He told me “hold on a second, let me check…” and then returned to the phone a few minutes later to tell me “the diamond is gorgeous, it’s a great SI-1, completely eye clean, you’re going to love it!”
I forwarded this explanation to the client, who became very excited, and asked me to bring the diamond in for physical evaluation, this was back in the day when we were actually still selling diamonds on Nice Ice.
The next day, the diamond arrives via Fed Ex.
I open the box…
I sit down at my desk…
Open the parcel paper…
And find myself staring at a “black pique” which is a diamond crystal or mineral type inclusion that is dark in color, located smack dab in the middle of the table facet, visible plain as day from a distance of two feet, while the diamond is sitting in the parcel paper on my desk… I hadn’t even picked it up in tweezers yet.
The phone call that follows goes something like this as I recall…
Ring / Ring:
Him: “Tooood” (yea, that’s how they pronounce Todd)
Me: “Yes Yossi?”
Him: “Don’t be pissed…”
I don’t say anything… about a minute goes by.
Him: “You see what happened is, that when you called, the diamond was up the street, being shown to another customer by my brother, you know, he’s new to the business… and so I asked him to look at the stone, and he said it was eye clean, but when he brought it back to be shipped out, you know, it was late… and I could see the black pique, but I thought, maybe you’d like the stone once you see it… it’s a beautiful diamond, yes?”
Me: “Well yes… it is a beautiful diamond in terms of sparkle, but it’s not an eye clean SI-1 clarity diamond Yossi, and that’s what the customer wants. So you’re going to pay the cost of insured shipping on this diamond both ways, right?”
And do you know, Yossi actually tried to negotiate the shipping costs with me? After he LIED TO ME by omission… Welcome to the diamond business! You realize of course that Yossi could have simply called me and said something like “Hey upon looking at the diamond a second time, it’s not entirely eye clean” and saved us both a bunch of time and money…
In my experience, most of these guys are going to say whatever they think you want to hear in order for you to buy the stone, and then hope that you like it well enough when you get a chance to see how it sparkles. Never mind what YOU actually want.
But this has not been my experience working with Brian Gavin for the past 25+ years, I know what to expect when he tells me about a stone, there are no surprises when I open the parcel paper to look at it. And I’ve looked at literally thousands of diamonds produced by Brian Gavin over the years, thousands!
If a diamond has a black pique in the table facet, as does this 1.744 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, as indicated by the blue arrow that is pointing at the dark diamond crystal located in the table facet, as pictured to the left; then when I call Brian up to ask about whether the SI-1 clarity diamond is eye clean or not, and the extent of the inclusions, Brian tells me that “the diamond has a black pique in the center of the table facet, it’s eye clean to me from a distance of 8 – 10 inches, but I can see the inclusion if I scrutinize the diamond from 6 inches or less, but it’s a beautiful diamond and I’ve priced it accordingly. It’s a great price for a diamond this size.”[separator]
And Brian Gavin is correct, priced at only $12,324.00* this 1.744 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is a great price for a diamond this size! Especially when you consider that the price of this 1.698 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is $14,827.00*
And the price for this 1.687 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is $14,517.00*
Once again, the nature of the inclusions that are responsible for the SI-1 clarity grade provide the explanation for why these SI-1 clarity diamonds which are similar in carat weight, color, and clarity grade, are different prices… However there is also a discount applied to the 1.744 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, BGD Signature round diamond due to the medium blue fluorescence.
In case you’re wondering, the diamond that I chose for my own wedding ring was a 2.25 carat, I-color, SI-2 clarity, super ideal cut round diamond that exhibited distinct blue fluorescence. The diamond was not 100% eye clean if you knew what to look for, there was a feather located right in the middle of the table facet, that was positioned right over one of the pavilion mains, making it difficult to see unless you knew exactly what to look for…
So this 1.744 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is a diamond that I would purchase for myself, because it offers substantial size, with all the light performance of a Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, at a really good price! And I’m definitely a fan of diamonds with blue fluorescence, like those featured in the Brian Gavin Blue collection!
According to Brian, this 1.687 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is eye clean when viewed as close as 2 – 4 inches, and the inclusions are light in color and tone, which is why it costs more than the 1.744 carat referenced previously. This is something to keep in mind when trying to compare the price of SI-1 clarity diamonds that seem to be similar in carat weight, color, and cut quality; not that they could be, this is a Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows diamond after all! Everything else is simply not a Brian Gavin Signature diamond. Those other diamonds probably weren’t cut to exhibit this crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows! They don’t sparkle like this![separator]
Real quick… Because I get asked about this all the time… Do you see the smudge mark located in the bottom cleft of the heart pictured in the relative eight o’clock position on the hearts photograph provided above? And the tiny black dots / spots that are visible in some of the other hearts?
Those are actually reflections of the inclusions located within the diamond, they are nothing to worry about. They are simply visible because the hearts and arrows scope that we use to judge the degree of optical precision that a diamond has been cut to (this one is exceptional by the way) contains a magnifying lens that makes it easier to see the hearts pattern, but which also magnifies the size of the inclusions within the diamond.
According to Brian Gavin, this 1.698 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is eye clean from a distance of 8 – 10 inches, but that he’s able to detect a darkish inclusion in the star facets at around four inches if he twists and tilts the stone just right. The star facets by the way are the eight, triangular shaped facets that are located on the top of the stone, along the edge of the table facet (large flat facet in the middle) which separate the kite shaped bezel facets. The nice thing about the high volume of light return and intense sparkle created by a Brian Gavin Signature diamond, is that it tends to make it more difficult for us to locate the inclusions within SI-1 clarity diamonds with just our eyes! By the way, Brian also told me “but Toddy, you’re not going to like this stone because it has a cavity, and I know how YOU feel about that, even though it’s ridiculous, I know how you are.”[separator]
Okay so a couple of things here… As one of my original mentors in the diamond business, I suppose that Brian Gavin has earned the right to call me “Toddy” and I let it slide because he’s older than I am (Ha!) and he’s taught me TONS about diamonds over the years… And it’s a whole lot better than the time he called me a Diamond Nazi, or was that some other guy? He still vehemently denies it… But I’m not surrendering that easily!
But Brian does take full credit for giving me the name “Golden Child” one day while trying to convince me that not everything about a diamond has to be “PERFECT” by the standards set by Todd Gray, the Golden Child of the Diamond Business.
Hey… Let me remind you that I selected an SI-2 clarity, I-color, super ideal cut diamond for my own wedding ring which was NOT perfectly eye clean! ONLY the cut quality of the diamond has to be perfect. Okay, Okay, maybe I can be a bit harsh when it comes to the inclusions, but it’s just my nature. I blame Brian, after all, he IS one of my original mentors in the diamond business!
It’s all in good fun… Anyway, I’m not really a fan of the concept of a cavity in a diamond, but then again, it’s not exactly the same as a cavity in a tooth, it just sounds the same… but what is a cavity? Geologically speaking as it applies to a diamond, a “cavity” is simply a small gap or space contained within the diamond crystal that formed due to the expansion of gas or vapor before the enclosing body solidified.
Suffice to say that I just don’t like the sound of the damn things, even though they aren’t likely to present any sort of durability issue in the case of this 1.698 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond… but it should be noted that cavities within diamonds must be considered on a stone-by-stone basis, which is another reason to work with a diamond cutter like Brian Gavin who carefully evaluates every diamond selected to bear his signature.
Brian Gavin tells me that this 1.958 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is eye clean, even as close-up as two to four inches, and that the inclusions are light in tone and color. That’s great, now forget about the inclusions for a moment, focus on the ASET image of the diamond provided to the left. See all of that bright red? That indicates that this diamond is going to be incredibly bright, and exhibit a high volume of light return! Green, which represents the second brightest light source is evenly distributed throughout the diamond, indicating that this BGD Signature diamond is a Top Performer in the arena of super ideal cut diamonds! Blue represents static contrast, which is excellent![separator]
This article explains What the Different Colors of an ASET Image Mean in more detail, and what the green spot in the middle of the ASET image provided above indicates…
Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of why seemingly comparable SI-1 clarity diamonds can have dramatically different prices, even when they are all from the same brand of diamond like those featured in the Brian Gavin Signature diamond collection.
It goes without saying that diamond cutters like Brian Gavin can be difficult to reach in-person, but we’ve been good friends for almost three decades now, and I’ve got the guy on speed dial. Let me know if you’d like to know more about a specific Brian Gavin Signature diamond, I’m happy to help; just drop me a note via my free Diamond Concierge Service… It’s not big deal, Brian and I speak the same language “Diamond-ese” and it gives us a chance to catch up!
* Price stated above are based on the published price for payment via cash / wire transfer at the time this article was written, and are subject to change without notice due to fluctuations in the global diamond market.
Todd Gray is a professional diamond buyer with 30+ years of trade experience. He loves to teach people how to buy diamonds that exhibit incredible light performance! In addition to writing for Nice Ice, Todd "ghost writes" blogs and educational content for other diamond sites. When Todd isn't chained to a desk, or consulting for the trade, he enjoys Freediving! (that's like scuba diving, but without air tanks)
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