Let’s learn about color (not talking about fancy color diamonds here). Now, in order to understand the nuances of diamond color, you must first understand how diamond color is determined in the first instance. Here is a diamond color scale as a refresher:
Diamond Color Grade Scale
Fun fact: diamonds are graded face down. It allows the grader to accurately assess the color without the distraction of the sparkle and brilliance the stone exhibits from the table top.
Each loose diamond is not looked at on its own, but is compared to a set of ‘master stones’ (usually a set of CZ stones in every color grade). The grader will pop the diamond face down on a white surface and then match up that particular stone with the identical colored master stone. “Why should I care about this, Rian?” I hear you cry. Well this information is valuable to you for two reasons, so quit your hollering. First and foremost, a diamond’s color actually looks very different from table-top and face-down or side perspectives:
From left to right we have a D H and J color in the colorless diamond range. As you can see (especially when it comes to the D and H), there is a fairly subtle difference when examined from the table-top position. And here’s where you come in my friend; you will not be scrutinising the color of your diamond from a face-down position, because it will most likely be placed in a beautiful ring setting for you and/or your partner to show off.
Secondly, unless you and/your partner plan you carry around a full set of GIA master stones in your pocket to show people the definitive color grade (weird), then you are unlikely to encounter a situation whereby your diamond color will be scrutinised to such a degree. The closest you might get to that scenario is if you choose a diamond wedding band, which can easily be picked so as to enhance the beauty of the engagement ring stone. Simple!
So, which color is the best value for money? This is completely up to you, but I do have a few nuggets of information that will hopefully help you make a decision that is right for you. Let’s begin with those top-o-the-range colorless babies. The cream of the crop. The best of the best. The crème de la crème (OK I’m done). For this range, I’m going to give you the same advice I gave you with regards to clarity - unless there is a specific reason why you really want a colorless stone (which is totally fine), it doesn’t make a huge amount of financial sense to fork out on these with the highest color grade.
You see, the visual difference between a ‘D’ and a ‘G’ will only be obvious when held directly next to each other (this is an old upselling sales trick BTW, more on that in a future post), but the price differential will be substantial. Once mounted in a ring setting, those near colorless stones G-J will perform just as well (if not better, depending on cut) as their colorless comrades.
Moving on down the scale, we’ve gotten to the K-M colors. These diamonds will have a faint color to them, and if you are color-averse I would suggest staying away from these. If on the other hand, the notion of a diamond exhibiting a tiny hint of warmth does not have you running for the hills, this might be the color range for you1 Indeed, I believe these might be the real hidden gems of the diamond color scale (see what I did there? Diamond Pun). Let’s take a look at a few real-life examples:
1. In fact, fluorescence in this color range can also be your best friend! Unlike the colorless diamonds (in which fluorescence can dull the brilliance of a stone), the presence of fluorescence here can actually make a stone appear whiter.
The picture on the left is an ‘M’ color diamond (larger stone) compared to an ‘H’ color three stone ring. Even though you can see a difference color-wise between the two, the ‘M’ color stone still looks lovely. The picture on the right is another ‘M’ colored stone in a yellow gold setting next to white gold bands, and it holds a little secret that you need to know for realsies. The reason why this ‘M’ looks so white is because it’s in a yellow gold setting vs. a white gold setting. On its own the stone might look yellowish - especially face-down - but in that yellow gold band its contrasting with something darker (as well as picking up some of the color from the band) which in turn makes it seem whiter and more vibrant.
This is not just true for ‘M’ colored stones of course, this trick can be used all the way up the scale. Another sneaky way of making a stone appear whiter is to have any side/accent stones be slightly darker. This is a great tool if you plan on having a halo setting, or a three-stone ring.
All this being said, there are a number of ways in which going for a stone with more color might come back and bite you in the proverbial caboose; namely, the size and shape of the stone you choose. When it comes to size, the larger the diamond the more obvious the color will become, so a 1 carat diamond will look lighter than a 3 carat of the exact same color grade. If a colorless/near colorless diamond is a priority for you, I would remain cognisant of this.
Shape can also cause trouble if you are looking to capitalise on those yellowish stones we just learned about. For example, a ‘J’ color cushion or radiant cut diamond will come across much more yellow than a round brilliant of the same grade. Luckily, round brilliants (which are by far the most popular of all the diamond cuts) are pretty darn awesome at disguising a yellowish tint. Yay for conformity trends! Cough.
A Final Note on Color Undertones:
If you take nothing else way from this article, let it be this section on color undertones. So far when talking about color in a stone I have used the term ‘yellow’ to describe it, and even the GIA color scale moves from a clear to a yellow tone when denoting color to a diamond. In reality however, there are a number of tints/hues besides yellow tint that a diamond can have. The most common of these are brown and gray, and most people don’t realise that they can substantially impact both the look and the price of a stone - even within the same color grade like these two;
Interestingly, neither the GIA nor the AGS (the two main gemological labs) rate brown/gray undertones of diamonds graded ‘J’ color or above, meaning these tints can only be seen when you take a look at the stones themselves. Here is the crux of the matter however, these hints and hues have gotten somewhat of an unwarranted bad reputation. In fact, I would argue there are excellent deals to be had within this band of colors! Brownish stones can look absolutely beautiful in gold/rose gold settings for example, and can sometimes look even whiter than their yellowish counterparts. The rule of thumb therefore is to make sure you are knowingly purchasing a brown/gray hued stone, and set it accordingly to make the most of its unique coloring. If you are not sure, ask the retailer!
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