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The clarity of diamond impacts its appearance, brilliance, and durability.
They’re graded on a scale from flawless to heavily included, and two grades between those ends of the spectrum are VVS1 (very, very slightly included), and IF (internally flawless).
Let’s compare VVS1 versus IF diamonds, including an overview of each, three ways they’re different, similarities, and how to decide which is right for you.
What are VVS1 Diamonds?
A VVS1 diamond has inclusions visible at 10x magnification, but they have minimal impact on the diamond’s performance and quality.
Examples of the inclusions found in a VVS1 diamond include:
- Twinning wisps
The diamond pictured below earned a VVS1 clarity grade from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
The report indicates pinpoints, feathers, indented naturals, and naturals, but each are incredibly small. They’re even difficult to spot on the clarity characteristics plot.
The blemishes are impossible to view with the naked eye.
These same inclusions can be found in diamonds that earn a lower clarity grade, but in a VVS1 diamond, they’re smaller, more transparent, and in positions that don’t cause structural issues.
The reason diamonds with similar types of inclusions earn lower grades is because they affect the diamond’s visible appearance and light performance.
On the clarity scale, VVS1 diamonds are one position above VVS2. Compared to VVS1 diamonds, VVS2 indicates inclusions are slightly larger or more impactful. To the naked eye, it’s impossible to tell the difference.
This also makes them a valuable find over flawless diamonds because you can avoid those premiums while still having one that appears flawless.
What are IF Diamonds?
IF diamonds have no internal inclusions visible at 10x magnification, but it will have blemishes on its surface. These imperfections are often minimal and invisible to the naked eye.
Check out the IF round-cut diamond below.
No matter which way you rotate the high-resolution image, there are no inclusions apparent.
The comments section of the GIA report reads “Minor details of polish are not shown,” but there are no inclusions listed on the clarity characteristics plot.
IF diamonds are one step below flawless (FL) on the GIA clarity scale and one above VVS1.
The difference between IF and FL diamonds is the latter has no inclusions on the inside or surface visible at 10x.
The types of blemishes noted on an IF diamond include:
- Polish marks
- Extra facets
- Surface graining
Each of these affects a diamond in a different way. For example, extra facets mean it lacks symmetry.
This can diminish its brilliance because light can’t enter and exit the diamond’s facets properly. Surface graining appears as transparent or colored lines and also prevents optimal light performance.
Though there are issues present on the surface, IF diamonds are eye-clean.
It generally takes a professional gemologist to identify the differences between VVS1 and IF diamonds, even with magnification.
How are VVS1 and IF Diamonds Different?
1. IF Diamonds Have No Inclusions at 10x Magnification
Inclusions refer to flaws on the inside of a diamond.
There are more types of inclusions found on the inside, and they’re more impactful.
With an IF diamond, it’s free from internal inclusions when viewed with magnification.
To illustrate, here’s a magnified view of a princess cut diamond with an IF clarity grade.
Take a few minutes to rotate the image and view it from every angle. You won’t find any inclusions.
That doesn’t mean there are none on the inside. It’s possible small pinpoints or needle inclusions could be found at 20x, 40x, or 60x magnification, but the GIA’s scale only takes into account 10x magnification.
In fact, most gemologists agree no diamond is truly flawless on the inside.
For instance, notice the size of these pinpoint inclusions.
They’re visible at the level of magnification, but it’s easy to imagine more of them lurking inside the facets that are too small to discover at 10x magnification.
The most valuable diamonds have small inclusions that don’t impact the diamond in any way, so they earn the top grades of FL and IF.
VVS1 diamonds can have internal inclusions and external flaws.
Even though the inclusions are present, gemologists have determined based on their size, type, and location that they’ll have minimal impact on its quality.
Whether it’s a transparent feather, a few pinpoints grouped together, or a white twinning wisp, they won’t have a significant impact on any aspect of its appearance or performance in an engagement ring.
2. IF Diamonds are More Rare Than VVS1
It’s rare for a diamond to develop without any visible inclusions at 10x magnification.
Diamonds are formed under such intense heat and pressure that none come out unscathed.
This results in less than half a percent of diamonds on the market selling as internally flawless.
VVS1 diamonds represent between three and five percent of diamonds sold. If you’re searching at any popular jewelry retailer, you’ll likely find far more options for VVS1 diamonds versus IF.
For example, James Allen is a popular online diamond retailer. They have 9,000 round IF diamonds available across all color, carat weights, and cuts.
There are close to 30,000 round VVS1 diamonds to choose from.
Blue Nile, another online retailer, offers 10,000 options for round IF flawless diamonds and 26,000 round diamonds with a VVS1 clarity grade. At Brilliance, the IF category has 12,500 to select from, and that number increases to 27,000 for VVS1.
If you want the most number of options, explore the wide range available with a VVS1 clarity grade. You can modify the cut, carat, and color to find the right combination for you.
3. VVS1 Diamonds are More Affordable
For every step up the GIA clarity scale, the price of a diamond increases. This is also true of criteria such as color, cut, and carat.
The key to the right purchase is understanding the marginal price differences between VVS1 and IF diamonds and deciding whether the benefits are worth the extra cost.
The best way to understand price differences is to compare diamonds that have all the same qualities, except one is IF and the other is VVS1.
I analyzed hundreds of diamonds with the following qualities:
- Carat weight: 1.00
- Cut: Very good
- Color: G
At James Allen, the average price of a round IF diamond with these qualities is $7,188, with a range of $6,340-$8,140.
At Blue Nile, the average price is $7,468, and the range is $6,802-$8,698.
For a diamond with those qualities and a VVS1 clarity grade, the average price at James Allen is $6,765, with the lowest price at $5,970 and the highest at $7,840.
Blue Nile sells these VVS1 diamonds for an average of $7,090 and a range of $6,373-$8,370.
So you can expect to pay a 5-7 percent premium for an IF versus VVS1 diamond.
This range can be the difference in hundreds of dollars for a one-carat diamond or more than $1,000 as the carat weight increases.
You’ll have to decide if the benefits of an IF diamond versus a VVS1 diamond are worth the price increase.
You might choose to take the money you’d save on a VVS1 diamond and put it toward a higher carat weight or color grade.
Do They Have Any Similarities?
The first is they’re both eye-clean, like VVS1 diamond ring.
Eye-cleanliness is a coveted trait because most buyers are only concerned about its appearance to the naked eye.
They don’t want to look down at their diamond ring and see dark spots or white lines spreading throughout it.
With IF and VVS1 diamonds, this isn’t a problem. No matter the type of inclusions, they can only be seen with magnification and will look identical to anyone viewing them side by side.
Both diamonds could also have external blemishes such as surface graining, minor polish marks, and additional facets.
The flawless designation for IF diamonds doesn’t refer to its surface. So the same issues, like the surface graining seen below, are found on VVS1 and IF diamonds.
In both cases, the blemishes have minimal impact on the diamond and often can’t be seen without magnification.
The final similarity between the two is they both hide color.
Diamonds with a color grade of I and below often aren’t colorless to the naked eye.
A lack of inclusions results in better light performance and brilliance, and these factors hide some yellow or brown tints.
It’s one of the reasons you can often find better value by choosing a diamond in the near colorless category instead of colorless. Diamonds with G and H color grades can appear identical to ones graded D, E, or F because the white light hides color.
Don’t Offer Strong Value
VVS1 and IF diamonds aren’t considered strong value buys because both grades result in a price premium.
Even though FL diamonds command the highest prices, you’ll still pay far more for those two grades than ones lower on the clarity scale like SI1, VS2, or VS1.
Each of those three grades has the potential to mean the diamond is eye-clean. If you lined up a VS2, VVS1, and IF diamond under 1.5 carats, they’d likely look the same, and the VS2 diamond would cost 40-50 percent less.
Those savings could be put toward other qualities like its carat weight or a setting enhanced with pavé diamonds.
You’ll increase the total carat weight of your ring without the price increase that results from VVS1 and IF clarity grades.
Is a VVS1 or IF Diamond Right For You?
If you’re deciding between a VVS1 or IF diamond, here are a few guidelines.
You should choose a VVS1 diamond if:
- You want a high-quality diamond without the premium price of IF
- You’re buying a large diamond and want a high degree of confidence inclusions aren’t visible
Consider an IF diamond if:
- It’s important to you there are no inclusions visible at 10x magnification
- You’re willing to pay the premium price these diamonds warrant
- You can accept minor surface blemishes
They’re both rare finds, so retailers charge top dollar for the lack of imperfections.
If your only concern is inclusions aren’t visible to the naked eye, don’t choose an IF or VVS1 clarity. Start your search at SI1 clarity and move up the scale from there.
If you want the pride of knowing your diamond has better clarity than more than 90 percent of others on the market, an IF or VVS1 diamond can be the right choice for you.