When it comes to shopping for a diamond, there are lots of variables. You know the 4 C’s: Cut, Carat, Clarity and Color, but how do you choose the best of each without sacrificing quality or breaking the budget? Here are some tips to help you choose the best diamond color to fit your budget and style.
Diamond Color Overview
The most widely used diamond color grading system was originally developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the 1950s. Many well known and highly respected gemological laboratories from around the world use the same system and language to describe the presence (or lack) of color in a diamond.
Most diamonds range from colorless or near-colorless to light yellow or brown. The standard diamond color grading scale distinguishes between them using a letter grade with D being colorless and Z being light yellow or brown. Diamond colors are often grouped into five categories: colorless (D-F), near-colorless (G-J), faint yellow (K-M), very light yellow (N-R) and light yellow (S-Z).
Picking the Right Diamond Color
Detecting color in a diamond is difficult even for the most experienced diamond grader. Most couples shopping for an engagement ring select a diamond that is either in the colorless or near-colorless range. It would be unlikely that you could see a difference between an F color and a G color diamond, but the difference in price could be significant.
Once you’ve set your budget for a diamond ring, you want to narrow down your choices among the 4 C’s. For color, that means setting a high and low grade that you’re comfortable with (further reading).
Colorless Diamonds, Rare and Valuable
If you’re after the perfect diamond, settle for no less than a perfectly white diamond. In the colorless category, there are three grades: D, E and F. Even for a highly trained diamond grader, determining between the three grades is extremely difficult.
While diamonds in the colorless range are very beautiful, they are quite rare and command top prices. Compare a 1/3 carat D color diamond to a 1 carat I color, they may be similar in price, but the larger diamond will make a much bigger impression.
Diamond Color With Best Value
Most diamond engagement rings are set with a diamond that has a color grade of either G, H or I. These diamond colors offer the best value for shoppers. It is virtually impossible to see traces of color in these diamonds, especially once they are mounted. They look nearly the same as a colorless diamond for a fraction of the cost.
For a diamond that will be set in a yellow gold mounting, you can choose a diamond color of J, or even K, and still have a “white” appearance. The yellow color of the metal will compliment the slight yellow color of the diamond.
To make sure that your diamond looks as white or colorless as possible, be sure to select side stones that are the same or lower in color than the center diamond. So for example, if your center diamond is H color, the side diamonds should be H, I or J color. Choosing side diamonds that are significantly higher in color could make the center diamond appear more yellow.
Diamond Color and Fashion
Diamonds that are light yellow or light brown are very fashionable and when set in the right type of mounting can rival higher colored diamonds for beauty. If you are selecting a diamond that has a lower color, you have two choices for setting. The first is to choose a yellow gold mounting to compliment traces of color in the diamond.
The other choice is to create a contrast between the mounting, side stones and center diamond. In a white gold or platinum setting with bright white accent diamonds, a light yellow color diamond could appear to be a “fancy-colored” yellow diamond of much higher value (more info).
What is Fluorescence
Don’t be concerned if you walk into a night club and notice that your diamond is glowing blue! About one-third of all gem quality diamonds have an effect known as fluorescence which causes them to glow when they are exposed to ultraviolet radiation.
Historically speaking, fluorescence has been treated as an undesirable trait and diamonds that have fluorescence can sell for up to a 15% discount compared to non-fluorescent diamonds. Fluorescence, however can actually have a positive effect on a diamond and appeal to savvy shoppers who want a bargain.
Diamonds with traces of yellow color (J – M) can appear much higher in color if they display medium to strong blue fluorescence. The reason for this is that fluorescence can be stimulated by UV rays present in sunlight and many artificial light sources. Blue and yellow are complimentary colors, and since most diamonds fluoresce blue, they essentially cancel each other out, making the diamond appear significantly whiter.