One of the most common things customers ask us about is how to understand diamond color and clarity. Diamonds come out of the earth as rough crystals with many color variations, from bright white to yellowish/brown. Diamonds also feature natural marks within them, known as inclusions. When you’re shopping for an engagement ring or any special piece of jewelry, you want to find the best combination of color and clarity your budget allows for.
First, let’s start with color.
Contrary to common belief, there are no such things as A, B, or C colored diamonds. Diamond colors start with the color D, which is colorless. These are the most sought after diamonds. The closer you are to a D color, the better the color quality.
There are also classes of color, ranging from colorless to light yellow. “Light yellow” in this case is different from the Fancy Colored Diamonds that may come to mind, such as canary yellow diamonds. Fancy colors are graded differently.
1. Colorless: D E F diamonds are the whitest, brightest diamonds you can find. Also the rarest!
2. Near Colorless: G H I J diamonds are all near colorless, so they appear very white. These colors are excellent for engagement rings. They are also common choices for diamond studs, bracelets, and pendants.
3. Faint Yellow: K L M diamonds have a slight yellow appearance. When compared to a near colorless or colorless diamond side by side, you will see the difference.
4. Very Light Yellow: N O P Q R diamonds have a very light yellow color that is likely noticeable when wearing the stone.
5. Light Yellow: S – Z diamonds have a yellow appearance that is very noticeable to the naked eye.
Next, let’s talk about clarity:
Diamonds have natural inclusions which are internal characteristics/marks. They also have blemishes, which are external characteristics (think birthmarks). The Gemological Institute of America Clarity Scale ranges from flawless to included diamonds:
Here's a helpful chart so you can visualize what these mean:
1. Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. These diamonds are extremely rare and expensive.
2. Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification.
3. Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see, even under 10x magnification. To the eye, you will not notice these inclusions, which make VVS diamonds great for engagement rings.
4. Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification. These diamonds face up well in engagement rings and other jewelry featuring larger diamonds.
5. Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification. You may be able to see these inclusions with the naked eye, depending on where they are located in the stone.
6. Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance. It is likely you will notice these diamonds are darker due to the inclusions.
It's important to remember that neither color or clarity are more important than one another; for example, you can have an E color diamond that is heavily included, making its appearance less favorable. Similarly, you can have a J color diamond that is only very slightly included, allowing it to sparkle and face up better.
When you're ready to choose your perfect diamond, allow our expert diamond consultants to assist you– they'll answer any questions you may have!
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