If you spend any time researching how to purchase a diamond you will probably come across advice to choose a stone with a specific clarity grade. But why is VS such a hot pick?
What is VS?
VS stands for very slightly included and consists of two subcategories of VS1 and VS2. In real life, diamonds that fall within this category have minor inclusions that are difficult to somewhat easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification.
Where does it fall on the clarity scale?
VS is really in the middle of all the clarity categories. There are a total of 10 clarity grades from GIA. VS1 is the 5th and VS2 is the 6th clarity grade.
Why is it so important?
Not only does VS represent the middle of all diamond clarity, but it is also regarded as a general threshold for eye-clean stones. This means that for all stones with VS2 or better clarity, the diamond will appear flawless and indistinguishable to the naked eye. Yes appearance-wise, you are getting a flawless looking stone paying only VS2 prices.
There is a catch with larger stone (1ct+) and diamond cuts with large tables (Emerald cuts) that are VS2 clarity. Very rarely, some of them will not be eye-clean, so if you want to be 100% sure a VS1 is a sure bet.
The Role of Crystals:
One unspoken rule for VS diamonds is the types of inclusions. In this case, it is specifically about crystals. Most crystals (90%+) will lower the diamond's clarity grade from a VVS2 to a VS1. If you see a crystal listed in the list of inclusions then it is likely a VS stone.
Plot vs. Reality: Don't Panic
Most diamonds usually have a full GIA diamond report and will come with a plot or map for all the internal and external features. This plot can appear scary at times. It also does not help that GIA decides to use the color red to mark all inclusions. (Pretty much everyone has some horrible memories from school related to red marks). But don't worry. Even if some plots can seem overwhelming, you should always double-check the photo or video to see if it is really scary.
Nine times out of ten, those scary clouds that seem to take up half of the stone are just clouds. Big and puffy but not threatening. Sometimes not even really visible against the blue sky or neutral background in our case.
What to avoid when choosing a VS stone?
There are generally two types of inclusions to look out for: Internal inclusions that are less desired and inclusions that can pose a durability issue.
For less desirable inclusions: keep an eye out for opaque black crystals or sometimes called a Piqué in the diamond. These are most likely found towards the edge of the girdle and are definitely more noticeable than other crystals. If you could avoid them, great!
For durability issues, inclusions such as large feathers cutting across the girdle should be avoided. You see them plotted on the GIA diamond report as a red line appearing both on the top and the bottom part of the diamond plot.
Another common duality concern comes from knots. Knots are crystals that are exposed on the surface. If you are unlucky, that little crystal might fall out and leave you with a diamond cavity.
Sometimes VS2 diamonds that list clouds as the first type of inclusion in the clarity characteristics can appear less brilliant than non-cloud clarity-based diamonds. These heavy clouds make the diamond appear fuzzy under magnification and more lifeless to the eye. If you are unsure, see if the cloud takes up a large part of the table or the center of the diamond. You can also always compare with another VS2 diamond whose clarity is not based on clouds to get a sense of the clouds in the stone you prefer.
Not the whole picture: one of the 4Cs
Keep in mind that VS is only one of the clarity. And clarity is only 1 of the 4 of the 4Cs of the stone. While clarity can have a significant impact on the overall appearance of the stone, keep in mind every stone should be valued on the overall quality. Don't get too hung up if you can not find the dream VS stone. An SI1 stone can be just as eye-clean as a VS2. A VVS2 stone does not mean you have to break the bank if you play around with some of the other 4Cs.
If you read this far, trust yourself. You are kind of an expert already!