If you’ve already started looking into the Four Cs of diamonds in more detail, and feel as though you’re finally finding your feet in the complicated world of diamond shopping, you’re probably aware of the fact that there is no ‘perfect’ grade capable of catering to every shopper out there.
Your budget and vision for your engagement ring means that the GIA scales are open to interpretation, to a certain extent, provided you consider a very high quality cut and eye cleanliness to be non-negotiables.
This is best illustrated by clarity, and the fact that shoppers can enjoy a long spectrum of grades from FL to SI, with, in many cases, equally beautiful results.
So, when it comes to color, the same rules apply, right? Yes – but, as always, there comes a point at which you don’t want to dip any lower, no matter what budget you’re working with.
A diamond that has been color graded at K according to the GIA color scale.
This scale runs from D to Z, and is divided into the following categories by the GIA:
|Colorless||Near Colorless||Faint||Very Light||Light|
|D, E, F||G, H, I, J||K, L, M||N, O, P, Q, R,||S – Z|
The GIA color scale is only used on clear diamonds – not on ‘fancy color’ diamonds, which can be pink, yellow, purple, green, gray, or virtually any other color – and is used to exhibit how affected the diamond is by the presence of nitrogen, which can cause a noticeable yellow or brown-ish tint in affected diamonds.
For the higher color grades, this yellow tint is not noticeable to the naked eye – and, like minor inclusions, requires ‘ideal’ lighting and magnification for skilled graders to spot.
The K grade sits a little over a third of the way down the scale, and refers to diamonds with a pretty faint tint.
Yes, a K color diamond will almost certainly feature a tint visible to the naked eye. Even without the ideal lighting conditions and magnification, or the expert eye of a diamond grader.
This tint will, of course, be very vague, and no K color diamond is going to look yellow-yellow – it is, after all, only the first grade in the ‘Faint’ color category.
What’s more, color tends to be a lot more noticeable when the diamond is viewed from the side. Unless the diamond is heavily discolored – or, of course, a fancy color diamond – then you’ll be able to perceive the presence of color a lot more when you’re not staring straight down through the table of the diamond.
What’s more, some shapes hide color better than others. If you’re interested in a step cut diamond, then a K color will be more noticeable than it is in brilliant cuts.
Yes – for most jewelers, K diamonds sit a little too far down the color scale for comfort.
K Color diamonds are significantly lower in price than diamonds. They represent the first grade of the Faint color category, which means that you’re no longer paying a premium for a diamond that is considered as close to colorless as possible.
These Near Colorless diamonds are thought of as the best possible choice for most shoppers, since they cost a lot less than Colorless (D-F) diamonds, without showing any visible tint of yellow or brown.
This is exactly what buyers are sacrificing when they go for a K color diamond or lower. By this point, color is beginning to show, and, in all likelihood, you’ll be able to spot it yourself.
Yes, unless they are poorly cut or feature a major inclusions.
Color is not a factor that impacts on a diamond’s ability to sparkle, but that’s no reason to opt for a diamond with a yellow or brown tint. Even if the diamond creates a spectacular show of fire, brilliance, and scintillation whenever the wearer’s hand moves, even a subtle degree of discoloration can significantly impact the beauty of the stone.
Sparkle is intrinsic to the value of a diamond, but it’s not everything – and color is a prime example of that.
The J grade is a good baseline since, in general, we wouldn’t advise any shopper to go beyond the ‘Near Colorless’ range of diamonds.
J Color diamonds are a little more expensive than K color diamonds. Not only are they a grade higher, but they’re also part of a much more valuable group of diamonds that typically feature a tint too faint to be seen by the naked eye.
As we mentioned above, there’s plenty of scope for buyers to move a little lower down the scales – and save plenty of money in the process – but there will inevitably come a point at which saving money comes with a pretty major sacrifice.
For this reason, we think that J color diamonds are worth the higher price, and should generally be considered the lowest grade you should consider if you want a diamond that appears eye clean.
Going any lower than this is a big risk, particularly if you are considering buying a diamond online. This is a bad idea for plenty of reasons, not least of all because you can’t properly judge the color of a diamond through pictures alone. For that, you need to see the diamond under different light sources, see how it appears against the skin and, of course, how it appears alongside other diamonds.
This depends entirely on carat weight, cut and clarity, but a good rule of thumb is to consider K diamonds to be around $500 cheaper than comparable J diamonds.
The cost reduction is not as great as you might expect, although it’s certainly tempting if you’re looking to squeeze every penny out of your budget. Nevertheless, going into the ‘Faint’ range of clear diamonds means making a sacrifice when it comes to the stone’s appearance, rather than what’s printed in the GIA report – something shoppers should never be willing to do.
Some shoppers opt to pay a little less for these diamonds, and opt for a ring setting that is purposefully designed to mask or counteract the presence of color (more on that below). But, in general, saving a few hundred dollars on this vital aspect is not worth it, even if you think you can hide that yellow undertone.
If a diamond features only a slight hint of yellow or brown, then a yellow or rose gold setting can give it the appearance of being a little clearer.
This is because the warmer hues of gold naturally reflect within a diamond, meaning that a slight yellow cast can seem as though it’s down to the setting, rather than the diamond itself. Also, the contrast between the warmer yellow or pink hues of these metals can make the diamond look clearer than it is.
Nevertheless, not only does this restrict you a lot in terms of what settings you can choose, but it is also a risk, since J color diamonds are far enough down the scale that the warmer hues of gold serve to amplify the diamond’s color, rather than mitigate it.
Some people will opt to surround their diamond with a halo of smaller stones that have been given a lower clarity grade but, again, this is far from ideal.
It’s not the worst, but it’s a long way from being the best – and it’s a little too low on the color scale for us to comfortably recommend it.
One of the reasons eye cleanliness is such a good target to aim for (with regards to clarity and color) is because it means finding a diamond that looks better than what is printed in its GIA report. On paper, it’s a long way from perfect but, in real life, it might as well be a flawless, colorless stone.
J color diamonds do not appear to be ‘eye clean’. They feature a yellow tint that even a non-expert will be able to pick up on, although, admittedly, this will be considerably less noticeable than it is in diamonds further down the color scale.
Despite the relatively small difference in price, this can have a pretty major impact on the overall appearance of the diamond – and especially once it’s mounted in a ring setting. The bright white of platinum or white gold can throw any discoloration into sharp relief, while, as we mentioned above, the warmer tone of a yellow gold setting can reflect within the stone and actively contribute to its yellow appearance.
Our advice? Stick to the near colorless range of diamonds, and consider that your sweet spot between the high cost of a colorless stone, and the visual inferiority of a faintly colored diamond.