Seeing Triple? SI3 Clarity Grade Exposed

The Situation

Many consumers prepare for diamond shopping by reviewing the Four C's of diamond value as described by GIA.  After looking at the GIA clarity scale a few times, one notices that the I (Included) range is the only range with three separate clarity grades.  This is true.  But then the consumer visits some jewelry stores or looks at diamonds online and sees something that upsets what they have learned about the strictness of grading standards: the clarity grade of SI3.  SI3 is an actual grade assigned by the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL).  One can review the report for an SI3 diamond and see "SI3" actually printed on the cert.

The Problem

GIA established the internationally-recognized diamond grading system that is used by almost all gemological laboratories and members of the jewelry industry.  GIA chose not to copyright the grading system because the system was designed to unify grading standards and to instill consumer confidence in diamonds.  The GIA grading system can be used by anyone without paying royalties.  The "problem" (it is not actually a problem) with the GIA clarity scale is that the clarity ranges produce levels (FL/IF, VVS, VS, SI, and I), and the price differences between two neighboring levels can be dramatic.  In order to select a good quality diamond for an engagement ring, many jewelry professional recommend purchasing a diamond in the SI range or above.  The I range encompasses diamonds that have eye-visible inclusions, which can dramatically affect the appearance and light performance of a diamond.  Thus, a critical clarity call falls between the clarity grades of SI2 and I1.  An SI2 diamond is much more salable than an I1 stone with all other factors being equal.  So with so many diamonds being graded I1, many diamond dealers became frustrated with "borderline calls," or highly-contested clarity determinations between two grades.  Their solution: SI3.

The Truth

This newly-developed SI3 grade could be applied to the diamonds being graded as I1 but believed by some to actually be SI2.  In actuality, a grade of SI3 is, at best, an I1-clarity diamond.  There is no other way of looking at it.  EGL adopted SI3 as an accepted clarity grade in order to stay competitive with GIA and other gemological laboratories.  If a diamond dealer has a stone that he feels GIA might call an I1, he may choose to send it to EGL to get an SI3, which appears to be much more palatable to the consumer.  It would not be quite right to say that the use of SI3 constitutes fraud as EGL will actually print a grading report with "SI3" on it.  Thus, there is some backing to the grade.  There is, however, no doubt that the SI3 grade is intended to deceive the consumer.  The only organization that should have the right to alter the GIA grading system is GIA.  Altering the internationally-recognized grading system for profit is just unethical.  We at Liberty Diamonds do not accept SI3 as a legitimate grade, and we will not trade in SI3 diamonds.

My Recommendation

It is my personal recommendation to you, the consumer, to not purchase a diamond graded SI3.  Instead, opt for SI2 or I1.  The questionability of the SI3 grade will surely negatively affect the stone's actual and resale value.  It is also my personal recommendation that you reconsider accepting a grading report from a gemological laboratory that accepts the SI3 clarity grade as legitimate.