According to the GIA, Flawless diamonds contain no inclusions or blemishes when viewed under 10x magnification. If that sounds perfect, it should because Flawless is the highest possible grade on the GIA clarity scale.
The upside to buying a Flawless (FL) diamond is it's the epitome of perfection. The downside is the potential for financial catastrophe is equally epic. If your diamond suffers a single scratch or bruise, the grade plummets to Internally Flawless.
Regarding diamond valuation, the price per carat difference between Flawless and Internally Flawless diamonds is astronomical. Under those circumstances, suffering an unexpected blemish is comparable to crashing your Lamborghini.
What's the Difference Between Flawless and Internally Flawless?
From a gemological perspective, the distinction between a Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF) diamond lies in the presence of blemishes, which are surface flaws.
A Flawless diamond has no inclusions (internal flaws) or blemishes (external imperfections) visible under 10x magnification. An Internally Flawless diamond has no inclusions visible under 10x magnification, but it does have minor blemishes.
An IF clarity grade may result from things like extra facets, naturals confined to the diamond's surface, or surface graining (irregular crystal growth).
Both Flawless and Internally Flawless diamonds are at the apex of the GIA clarity grading scale. In that case, Internally Flawless and FL clarity diamonds provide exceptionally rare clarity and bragging rights.
The essential difference between FL-IF comes down to minute details not visible to the naked eye. These characteristics do not affect the diamond's beauty or the sparkle factor but dramatically influence rarity and price.
Does a Flawless Diamond Sparkle More?
The sparkle of a diamond, technically known as its brilliance and fire, is primarily influenced by its cut quality rather than its clarity grade. The pristine quality of a flawless diamond might make it look more clean and pure, but it does not inherently make it sparkle more.
The diamond's cut, or how well it has been shaped and faceted, has the most significant impact on how much it sparkles. The angles and proportions of the facet structure determine how light enters the diamond and what the observer sees.
Super Ideal cut diamonds are optimized to deliver maximum light return and a more intense sparkle factor. Lower clarity grade diamonds can exhibit excellent sparkle with the right proportions and optical precision.
Conversely, a flawless diamond with less desirable proportions and cut quality may sparkle less than expected. That said, an ideal cut diamond with specific proportions and optical precision provides the best of both worlds.
Are Flawless Diamonds Perfect?
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is the world's foremost authority on diamond grading. Flawless is the highest possible grade in the GIA's grading system, highlighting its exceptional quality and rarity.
As stated, the GIA defines a flawless diamond as one without inclusions or blemishes when viewed under 10x magnification. Consequently, that is the industry standard for clarity grading. However, they will scrutinize diamonds more closely before grading them Flawless.
Simultaneously, GIA Graduate Gemologists are people, and the human condition is subject to errors and outside influences. Consider the potential impact of consuming too much caffeine or sugar and how it affects our vision.
Then contemplate the market value difference between Flawless and Internally Flawless diamonds. Given the price difference and potential risk, we're prone to suggest IF over FL since they look identical to the naked eye.
What are the Risks of Buying Flawless Diamonds?
When buying flawless diamonds, there are several potential risks to consider:
- 1Price Risk: Flawless diamonds command the highest prices due to their rarity and perfect clarity. In that case, you must be sure of the diamond's quality before making a purchase, as any mistake could result in a significant financial loss.
- 2Authentication Issues: There's always a risk of misrepresentation. Some sellers might attempt to sell lower-quality diamonds as flawless. It's essential to rely on proper knowledge and lab grading for valuation and verification.
- 3Market Volatility: Like any other investment, the value of diamonds can fluctuate based on supply and demand. Natural diamonds generally retain their value, but market fluctuations can still affect their price.
- 4Liquidity Risk: While some consider flawless diamonds investment grade, they are not as easily convertible into cash as other financial instruments. Finding a buyer willing to pay the market value of a high-clarity diamond may take time, especially during economic downturns.
- 5Improper Grading: Human error can occur even with certificates from reputed grading institutes like the Gemological Institute of America. Therefore, it's crucial to purchase from a trusted source and consider a second opinion for high-value gemstones.
- 6Overemphasis on Clarity: While important, a diamond's clarity is just one aspect of its overall quality. There's a risk of focusing too much on flawless clarity at the expense of other essential factors like cut, color, and carat weight.
Mitigating the Risks
To mitigate these risks, always buy diamonds from reputable sellers. It would be best if you also obtained verification from an independent GIA Graduate Gemologist. It's also essential to educate yourself about the 4Cs of diamond quality:
We emphasize diamond cut quality the most since it dictates the volume of light return and sparkles intensity. Refer to our in-depth buying guides for each diamond shape for specific guidelines and recommendations.
Are Flawless Diamonds Good Investments?
From a technical perspective, a flawless diamond possesses unmatched clarity, contributing to its high cost. As stated, there is a substantial risk of downgrading and devaluation in the event of external damage.
For those reasons, many diamond buyers prefer slightly included diamonds that look eye clean. The presence of minor inclusions not visible to magnification offers an excellent balance of quality and affordability.
While a flawless diamond's absence of imperfections boosts its value and appeal, it also elevates its price. From our perspective, the added cost and risks of buying flawless diamonds aren't worth it. Of course, this largely depends on your budget, personal preferences, and risk aversion.
If cost is a significant concern, consider a diamond with slight inclusions that aren't visible to the naked eye. Diamonds, rated as very slightly included (VS1 and VS2) or slightly included (SI1 and SI2), offer great value for money.
The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale
For reference purposes, here is the clarity scale developed by the GIA:
Refer to the articles linked above for detailed descriptions and specific recommendations. Please use our free Diamond Concierge Service for help searching or professional insight.