The Diamond Pro

IF & FL Diamonds: Not Smart Investments

By Michael Fried
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Flawless and internally flawless diamonds represent less than half a percent of all diamonds in the world. Without any visible inclusions even under 10x magnification, these diamonds are pristine, incredibly rare—and incredibly expensive.

When you see a diamond labeled as Flawless (FL) or Internally Flawless (IF), you might think it’s the best diamond clarity to buy. The truth is, buying a diamond with such a high Clarity grade won’t be noticed. Diamonds with lower clarity grades, such as VS2 and SI1 diamonds, appear eye-clean just like a flawless diamond but cost thousands of dollars less. So while FL and IF represent the peak of the Clarity grade, they’re not a smart buy, since they’ll appear the same as lower graded diamonds.

FL Diamond Ring from James Allen

Throughout our site, we talk about how diamonds shouldn’t be considered an investment, but you should still choose a diamond that gets you the most beauty and value for your money. By buying an FL or IF diamond, you’re spending money on something you won’t reap any return on.

What is an FL diamond?

An FL (flawless) clarity diamond shows no inclusions or blemishes even under 10x magnification. It’s the highest clarity grade and the rarest type of diamond clarity. Flawless diamonds represent less than a half percent of all diamonds on the market.

Because diamonds undergo extreme conditions during formation over billions of years, diamonds are bound to have imperfections, even small ones. A flawless diamond still isn’t 100% pure and will have inclusions, but you need 60X or even 100X magnification to see them. A professional gemologist looks at the diamond under 60X magnification to determine if it’s flawless.

FL diamond for FL diamond clarity example
FL Clarity Diamond from Blue Nile

What is an IF diamond?

An IF (Internally flawless) diamond has no visible internal inclusions but might have slight blemishes on the stone’s surface. IF diamonds fall right below Flawless diamonds on the GIA Clarity scale. They’re extremely rare, just like flawless diamonds, and represent less than 1% of all diamonds. Only a professional gemologist can give an IF diamond its grading while looking at the stone under 60X magnification.

IF diamond to show against FL diamond
IF Clarity Diamond from Blue Nile

FL vs IF Diamonds – What’s the Difference?

FL and IF diamonds are next to each other on the Clarity scale, with FL being the highest grading. When FL and IF diamonds are viewed under 10x magnification, no imperfections are noticeable. The biggest difference is that unlike flawless diamonds, internally flawless diamonds have slight surface blemishes. An IF diamond, for instance, might have surface graining, extra facets or minor polish marks.

Without the help of magnification and a professional gemologist’s eye, no one can tell the difference between FL and IF diamonds. Even trained professionals can have a difficult time distinguishing the two.

FL & IF Diamond Prices

Because of their rarity, FL diamonds cost anywhere from 25-35% more than IF diamonds. For instance, this 1.00 Carat Round Cut FL diamond, F color costs $9,791 while this 1.01 Carat Round Cut IF diamond, F color diamond costs $7,833. The price difference is $1,958—a whopping 25% more.

Overall, both IF and FL diamonds are incredibly rare, and their prices reflect that. As you increase in carat weight, the price increases exponentially because larger FL and IF diamonds are even more rare. For example, this 1.40 Carat FL Round diamond costs $17,930 and this 2.06 Carat IF Round diamond is priced at $28,650.

How much is a 1 carat flawless diamond?

Because flawless diamonds are so rare, the cost of a well-cut 1 carat round cut with a G-H Color ranges from $6,100 to $9,000. Larger flawless diamonds are even more rare, and their prices match that level of rarity.

Are IF & FL diamonds worth it?

While buying a top-tier clarity grading might seem like the best way to guarantee a beautiful stone, paying for an FL or IF grading is money poorly spent. Here’s why: no one will be able to tell that it’s an IF or FL diamond. You can find eye-clean stones at lower grades, like VS2 and SI1 graded diamonds.

VS2 diamond for FL and IF diamond article
Eye-Clean VS2 Diamond Ring James Allen

From a clarity standpoint, lower graded eye-clean diamonds will look identical to flawless diamonds but costs thousands of dollars less. For example, this 1.06 Carat Round Cut H/VS2 diamond costs $5,804, while this 1.09 Carat IF diamond in H color costs $7,003. With all other qualities being the same, the IF diamond costs $1,199 more. That’s a 17% difference!

IF and FL diamonds can only be identified under 60X or 100X magnification by an expert. Is that how you’ll be looking at your diamond? Probably not, so it’s simply not worth the price tag.

You’re far better off spending more of your budget on Cut quality. The quality of the diamond’s cut impacts the beauty and brilliance of your diamond more than any other aspect. An exceptionally cut diamond reflects white and colored light—making it a truly eye-catching stone.

Diamond Clarity Grading Scale

Outside of FL and IF diamonds, there’s an entire scale of clarity grades. Clarity is one of the 4C’s of diamonds. Ranging from best to worst, the GIA grades diamonds as:

  • 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)

A diamond’s clarity tells you whether or not imperfections like blemishes and inclusions are present in the diamond. The location, type, size and quantity of imperfections all impact the clarity grade it’s given.

While clarity grade is important, it’s not the only factor for evaluating a diamond’s imperfections. You should look at every diamond (no matter the grade) to see if you notice any blemishes and inclusions. Diamond vendors like James Allen provide HD magnified photos so you can review each diamond closely. You can also ask an expert for their opinion.

Which clarity is the best for diamonds?

In most cases, a VS2 or SI1 Clarity will give you the best value. With an eye-clean VS2 or SI1 diamond, you’ll have a beautiful diamond without paying nearly as much as a higher graded diamond. Depending on the carat weight and shape of your diamond, there are a few clarity grades to target to get the most out of your budget. You’ll still want to review each diamond closely yourself.

Here are the best clarity grades for each shape:

Round Cut and Princess Cut Diamonds: In general, an SI1 or VS2 clarity grade will be eye-clean (sometimes an SI2 won’t have visible inclusions either – only Round Cut). For diamonds over 2 carat, a VS1 or VS2 will still give you an eye-clean stone and cost much less than VVS diamonds. In general, the larger the diamond, the easier it is to see inclusions.

Oval Cut, Radiant Cut, Cushion Cut, Marquise and Pear Shaped: These shapes hide inclusions better than others, so aim for an SI1 or SI2 for the best value.

Asscher Cuts, Emerald Cuts and Baguettes: Because step cut diamonds show imperfections more easily, opt for a VS2 in these shapes to make the most of your budget.

Heart Shaped Diamonds: Choose a VS2 or SI1 clarity grade for the best value. Heart shape diamonds hide inclusions better than Round Cuts, but not as well as shapes like the Cushion Cut or Oval Cut.

FL & IF Diamonds: Spend your money elsewhere

We feel strongly that your budget is better spent paying for the highest tier on other qualities like Cut. For Clarity, you can find an eye-clean stone in a lower grade and pay a whole lot less. Choosing an FL or IF diamond is like throwing money down the drain.

Want to know more so you can make the best engagement ring purchase? Check out our other educational articles on everything from Diamond Color to Carat Weight.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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