Since its discovery centuries ago, a diamond’s value has remained at an all-time high due to its quality and rarity. The mainstream media also affects how people perceive these stones. They expect them to be large-looking, sparkling, and spot-on clean before buyers conclude that they are good diamonds.
What most people do not know is that some stones lack sellable qualities. Diamond retailers only handpick pieces whose features will pass people’s demands and standards. It is an easy win for those items with flawless qualities, but are they worthy of their unbelievable prices?
Four major elements are assessed when evaluating diamonds. They are the carat weight, cut, color, and clarity. The first two elements have the greatest contribution to a diamond’s valuation since they indicate how many diamonds you will have in a single piece and how proportionate its symmetries are.
Clarity is the quality that you can compromise if you want to lower the per-carat price. It dictates the number of inclusions found within a diamond’s walls. These blemishes range from carbon clusters, clouds, pinpoints, needles, black crystals, and many more. The fewer imperfections found the more expensive a stone becomes.
Experts use a specific standard to know a diamond’s worth. They follow a clarity scale with the subsequent measurements:
- Flawless – FL
- Internally Flawless – IF
- Very Very Small Inclusions 1 – VVS1
- Very Very Small Inclusions 2 – VVS2
- Very Small Inclusions 1 – VS1
- Very Small Inclusions 2 – VS2
- Small Inclusions 1 – SI1
- Small Inclusions 2 – SI2
- Inclusions 1 – I1
- Inclusions 2 – I2
Table of Contents
What are FL and IF Diamonds?
Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds rank the highest in the chart and have the most expensive value. Those falling in the FL category do not show any inclusions, even up to 63x magnification. On the other hand, IF stones have the same qualities, but their exterior walls may have some blemishes invisible to the naked eye.
It does not mean that FL diamonds lack any impurities at all. The diamond’s formation process will always leave a mark on these stones. It just needs to be magnified 100x for them to become visible. But doing so is already unnecessary since people do not normally bring a jeweler’s loupe in their pockets.
What makes an IF diamond less valuable than FL are the graining, extra facets, and minor polish marks left on the stone’s outside walls. However, these spots are microscopic and undetectable within 10x magnification, which is the maximum enlargement capacity in a jewelry shop’s website. These diamonds are rare as they only comprise 0.05% of the entire diamond population.
Going lower in the clarity scale is not a bad decision, too. While stones falling in the VVS, VS, and SI categories have more apparent flaws, they still look eye-clean and brilliant. You will love them for getting a diamond at a lower price without sacrificing their qualities. They even make the FL’s and IF’s exponential prices impractical since they all look identical once mounted in a setting.
What you should avoid are pieces falling in the Inclusions group despite their least expensive prices. Their blemishes are eye-visible, and the inclusions make their build less durable. It is also why some retailers skip those diamonds with an I1, I2, or I3 clarity grade.
FL and IF Diamonds vs. Other Clarity Grades
Rare diamonds are expensive, and those with FL and IF qualities fall to this classification. In this section, you will have a glimpse of FL and IF’s visual differences from each other and other groups on the scale. Since FL diamonds are the most expensive pieces, what should you expect from them?
Here are two round-shaped diamonds from Blue Nile. They have the same 1.00-carat weight, color D grade, and Ideal cut. Their only differences are their clarity ratings and price.
Can you identify which of them has FL and IF grades? It is indeed challenging to differentiate the two within 10x magnification. They may not have a similar facet arrangement, but they radiate the same fire and brilliance. Moreover, they both have an eye-clean and sparkling white look.
Cost is their major difference. The one on the left has the FL quality, and its price runs almost $20,000, while the IF diamond is only around $18,000. This price difference highly affects a buyer’s preference, given that they have the same exceptional appearance.
Since we mentioned earlier that VVS, VS, and SI groups look almost the same as FL and IF, we shall also compare them below.
VVS is still considered a higher-ranking quality with a more expensive price. Its blemishes are microscopic and appear only in 63x magnification. With the same qualities above, below are round-shaped diamonds on the third and fourth photos with VVS1 and VVS2 qualities, respectively.
Spending more is inessential if you can have a diamond with a spotless appearance at a lower price. The VVS diamonds above only range between $9,000 to $12,000, signifying a 100% decrease from FL’s amount. Still, some find these numbers expensive.
Pieces graded with VS and SI are the safest options for those whose budget cannot go higher than a four-digit mark. As most gemologists say, these diamonds have the most reasonable deals since they can satisfy more people’s tastes and bank accounts.
The two photos on the right have a VS1 and SI1 clarity rating. As you will notice, they do not have much of a difference from the FL and IF diamonds when it comes to appearance. However, SI’s blemishes are more prominent, making it less valuable with a $5,000 price. The VS1 diamond only costs $8,000.
While clarity does not take the highest portion of a diamond’s value, the examples above prove that it has some significant effect on a stone’s pricing. Thus, FL and IF diamonds are only advisable to people who have more money to spend than what to do with them. But for individuals with a fixed budget plan, the flawless ones are not worth the price.
The Upsides and Downsides of Buying FL and IF Diamonds
Like other diamond varieties, picking an FL and IF diamond has its advantages and disadvantages.
As to its pros, these pieces have the least to no inclusions, making them the most valuable in the clarity chart. That is why purists, collectors, and investors fall in love with these pieces since they are the market’s rarest goods. Their worth increases over time, and their trade-in value is higher than others.
Rich individuals also prefer these items as they signify their status symbol in the community. A Hollywood celebrity’s engagement would not be complete without the perfect diamond during their proposals. While it is not bad, it also fuels people’s perception of what an engagement ring should be despite its implausible costs.
Practicality is the greatest downside of this quality. FL and IF diamonds may be rare, but it does not mean that they have the best brilliance and beauty. It still boils down to finding a piece with the perfect symmetries because it gives off the loveliest appearance.
Tips on How to Find a Diamond With a Less Expensive Price
The common mistake for first-time buyers is they always go for flawless diamonds. While it is not entirely wrong, some of them end up spending more for a smaller piece. Becoming a smarter shopper will help you avoid this error.
Below is some advice that will help you find a less expensive alternative to your fiancé’s dream engagement ring. All you need to have is the right information about loose diamonds.
#1. Set Your Budget First
Affordability in diamonds is relative because almost all of them cost more than $1000. There are no cheap pieces in this department, but one diamond can have a less expensive price than others. You will only know which are suitable for you once you have identified the amount you are willing to spend on this fancy piece.
#2. Identify Your Purpose for Buying a Diamond
People buy diamonds for several purposes. Some buy one as an addition to their jewelry collection, while others want it for an engagement or wedding ring. If you belong to the former, buying FL, IF, and VVS diamonds will suit your goal.
However, if you want it for an engagement or a fashion ring, settling for a lower clarity grade will help you save more. You can even spend the extra dollars on other essential matters. Knowing your purpose will guide you on which path to take as you begin filtering your options.
#3. Prioritize Shape, Cut, and Carat Weight
Clarity is not the main element of a diamond’s brilliance. It will help if you prioritize finding the right shape, cut, and carat weight that suits your budget.
Diamonds have several varieties when it comes to shapes. The most popular choices are the round-shaped and princess-cut diamonds. If you want a larger-looking item, you can choose among emerald-cut, radiant-cut, oval-shaped, and marquise-cut diamonds. Asscher-cut, pear-cut, and heart-shaped diamonds have more unconventional and complex designs.
When it comes to price, the larger-looking and unique shapes are less expensive because they have lower demand rates than round and princess. Plus, some of these diamonds hide blemishes well, so you do not need to go for a higher clarity grade.
Like clarity, a diamond’s cut also has a standard grade that experts assess. They can label it with good, very good, and excellent or ideal, depending on the stone’s symmetries. A heart-shaped diamond with unidentical proportions will look unappealing, and it will also affect its reflection and valuation.
Poorly cut facets leave more spaces for darker areas within the diamond. While shadows make a stone look glamorous, an excessive amount of it affects a diamond’s valuation. Thus, you must ensure that your diamond has a very good to ideal cut grade before concluding that it is the right choice.
Finally, a carat weight signifies the amount of diamond you have in a piece. That is why heavier diamonds are more valuable than those with only 0.30 carats. However, heavyweight is not synonymous with larger pieces. A 1.00-carat oval-shaped diamond may appear larger than a 1.00-carat round diamond, but they still weigh the same.
If your partner loves all things that shine, you should not go lower than 1.00-carat so that she will appreciate better the diamond’s appearance.
#4. Compromise With Color and Clarity
Balancing color and clarity are the main tools in lessening a diamond’s price. Since FL and IF ratings increase a diamond’s worth, it would be best to settle with a piece that falls to the average level, such as VVS and SI groups.
This concept also goes with color quality. A diamond can be classified as colorless, near colorless, and colored pieces. Colors D, E, and F are equivalent to FL, IF, and VVS in clarity. They are expensive, but their prices are quite unreasonable.
Thus, if you want to save a few thousand dollars, getting a piece with a color H grade is a better alternative. It is not colorless, but it looks the same as DEF from the wearer’s perspective. Its pigments are only visible with magnification.
You will be surprised how much a diamond’s price decreases if you buy a 1.00-carat round diamond with an excellent cut, color H grade, and VVS2 clarity over those with FL clarity and color D grade.
Buying a diamond should not mean spending all your funds on a deluxe item. The highest grades are not always the right choices. Thus, you do not need to insist on having the most flawless clarity if you do not have the luxury to spend more.
The Verdict: Are FL and IF Diamonds Worth the Price?
FL and IF diamonds are not the strongest contenders to average buyers. They may have that sparkling white look, but they also have the most exorbitant prices. If you are not a purist or an investor, you will most likely let go of buying a diamond with these features and settle with more affordable pieces.
They may be rare, but it does not mean that they are the most beautiful items out there. Again, clarity is only a secondary consideration for the diamond’s brilliance. Having a great cut is the primary reason why they shine vibrantly.
You limit your choices between VS and SI diamonds if you do not mind inclusions. Invest more in shape, weight, and color since the right frame can still cover a diamond’s inclusions. Stressing over this quality is futile and unnecessary.
How Are Diamonds Formed?
We all begin somewhere, and diamonds have their origin, too. Their formation occurred billions of years ago but mining them began only in 1866 in South Africa.
These precious stones are formed with the crystallization of carbon atoms under extreme heat conditions and pressure. They lie deep down the Earth’s surface, at least 150-kilometer distance below. The average temperature in these areas ranges from 900 to 1,300 degrees Celsius with 60 kilobars of pressure.
In the same condition, molten lamproite and magma are also formed. Due to nature’s irregular cycles, an eruption occurs with an incredible speed and pushes some hard rocks where diamonds grow out. The pipes formed as magma spills to the Earth’s crust are excellent sources of diamonds. They call it a Kimberlite pipe after diamonds were first discovered in Kimberley, South Africa.
This formation makes a diamond’s blemishes inevitable. In rarer instances, some other elements, like Nitrogen, Copper, and Boron, enter the defective lattices of a diamond and changes their color into yellow, blue, pink, purple, and red. These unique stones are way priceless than colorless ones, as emphasized in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, Blood Diamond.