It is possible for a diamond to be flawless, known as an “FL” grade in diamond clarity, it refers to a gemstone with the highest degree of visual purity, also known as clarity. In the world of gemology and diamond grading, clarity refers to the presence or absence of internal and external flaws, which are known as inclusions and blemishes. A flawless diamond is extremely rare and is valued for its impeccable clarity.
What Makes a Diamond Flawless?
A natural diamond is created by a tremendous amount of heat and pressure within the earth. Throughout the process, the diamond takes on certain characteristics that affect its appearance. Internal characteristics are called inclusions, and are tiny imperfections like liquid or gas bubbles, small cracks, or other mineral grains that form inside a diamond as it grows. External characteristics are called blemishes. Although diamond clarity scales vary depending on the laboratory, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) serves as the industry standard. When determining the clarity of a diamond, the GIA considers the size, nature, position, color, and quantity of clarity characteristics visible under 10× magnification.
Inclusions can affect diamonds in two ways, the first being clarity, which is a measure of how easily light can pass through a stone. A diamond with lots of inclusions, or large inclusions, will have a lower clarity grade as the inclusions block light from passing through the stone, causing it to lose some of its sparkle. Inclusions also impact a diamond’s structural integrity. While diamonds are the hardest mineral, inclusions can make a diamond brittle and prone to cracking. Fortunately, this is rare and only happens when diamonds are very heavily included. Flawless (FL) diamonds are those with no visible inclusions or blemishes, and Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds are those with visible blemishes, but no inclusions.
Here’s how diamond clarity is graded:
- Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF): Flawless diamonds have no internal or external imperfections visible under 10x magnification. Internally Flawless diamonds may have minor surface blemishes but no internal inclusions.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): These diamonds have very minute inclusions that are extremely difficult to detect even under 10x magnification. VVS1 is slightly better in clarity than VVS2.
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): Inclusions in these diamonds are minor and are difficult to detect with the naked eye. VS1 diamonds have slightly fewer and smaller inclusions than VS2 diamonds.
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): These diamonds have noticeable inclusions when examined under 10x magnification, but they are typically not visible to the naked eye without close inspection. SI1 diamonds have fewer and smaller inclusions than SI2 diamonds.
- Included (I1, I2, and I3): These diamonds have inclusions that are easily visible even to the naked eye. I1 diamonds may have inclusions that affect the stone’s transparency and brilliance, while I2 and I3 diamonds have more significant inclusions and may have durability issues.
You may also come across the term “eye clean” which are diamonds with no inclusions or blemishes that are visible to the naked eye. Diamond experts typically use the term “eye clean diamond” when discussing VS2 and SI1 clarity grades for brilliant cut diamonds (such as rounds, ovals, and princesses), and VVS1 and VVS2 clarity grades for step cuts (such as emerald cuts and asscher cuts.) Basically, “eye clean” means that even though the diamond does have inclusions visible under magnification, you will not see them without it.
What is a Flawless Diamond?
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) defines a Flawless diamond as having “no inclusions or blemishes visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.” Flawless is the absence of visible blemishes and inclusions, (at 10x magnification) however diamonds are not truly flawless, and when using more powerful magnification, such as 60x or 100x, a “flawless” diamond may actually present visible blemishes. Between 0.5% and 1% of natural diamonds meet the 10x magnification definition of flawless, which accentuates just how rare these diamonds truly are.
The complete absence of inclusions and blemishes in a flawless diamond results in exceptional transparency and brilliance. Light is able to pass through the diamond without any hindrance, therefore creating a high level of sparkle and fire. Very few diamonds meet the criteria for a flawless grade, and the ones that do, are highly sought after for their purity and rarity. Flawless diamonds are often considered collector’s items and are typically reserved for investors, connoisseurs, and individuals who desire the highest quality and most valuable gemstones. These diamonds also come with a significant price tag due to their rarity and exceptional clarity.
It’s nearly impossible for the naked eye to differentiate between flawless and internally flawless diamonds, even trained gemologists using microscopes may have a difficult time. Despite this extreme difficulty in detecting any visual differences between the two grades, the internally flawless diamond price differs greatly from that of a flawless diamond. Most people choose diamonds with lower clarity grades, such as those in the VS (Very Slightly Included) or SI (Slightly Included) range, as they are more affordable and can still be stunningly beautiful while being less expensive than flawless diamonds.
The choice of diamond clarity often depends on budget, personal preferences, and the intended use of the diamond, such as for an engagement ring or other jewelry. Contact one of our Denver-based diamond and fine jewelry experts for more information about diamond clarity and grading, and to find the perfect engagement ring or wedding set.