Diamond Color vs Clarity — Which Matters More?

Last Updated on July 30, 2023 by Juli "Jewels" Church

Wondering if diamond color is more important than clarity? Or vice versa?

You can rest easy. In this guide, I'll compare both diamond color vs clarity and answer questions like: 

diamond color vs clarity
  • Will a low color grade hurt my diamond?
  • Are diamond inclusions bad?
  • Is a J color diamond a good color grade?

A Brief Introduction to Color and Clarity Grades

If you've stumbled across this article, it's likely that you've been researching what it takes to buy the best diamond online. Which means, you probably know a little bit about the 4Cs. If you don't know about the 4Cs, we highly recommend you checking out those first. 

But here's the brief on Diamond Color vs Clarity:

  • A diamond's clarity grade is given based on an assessment of the natural inclusions and surface blemishes. These diamond characteristics can happen during the growth process and the polishing process. The more noticeable inclusions in a diamond, the lower its clarity grade will be.
  • A diamond's color grade is determined by the amount of yellow tint or brown tint in the diamond. Majority of diamonds mined have some sort of color tint due to nitrogen impurities that happen during the growth process. The stronger the tint, the lower color grade will be given.

This is How Your Clarity Grade Affects Your Diamond

When choosing your clarity grade, you want to choose what we call an eye clean diamond. An eye clean diamond is a a diamond whose inclusions and blemishes aren't able to be seen with the naked eye.

GIA Diamond Clarity Scale

The Official GIA Clarity Scale 

Eye clean diamonds include a range of diamond clarity grades, not just a single clarity grade.

Most diamonds that are eye clean diamonds will be:

A higher clarity grade like one of these ensures that there are no visible inclusions to the naked eye, but there will be inclusions under 10x magnification and beyond.

Eye Clean VS2 Diamond at 40x Magnification

Eye Clean IF Diamond at 40x Magnification

Lower clarity grades like SI Diamonds and I Clarity Diamonds will have inclusions able to be seen with the naked eye.

Diamonds on the I Clarity tier are likely to impact the appearance and beauty of a diamond. I2 and I3 diamonds can impact durability because of the impact of so many imperfections.

SI2 Clarity Diamond Inclusions

I1 Clarity Diamond Inclusions

The Price of a Higher Clarity Grade

We'd all love to buy flawless diamonds with zero inclusions but that's not feasible for most of our wallets. Flawless diamonds are the rarest of all clarity diamonds, so you can be sure they get expensive. Raise the carat weight and the price rises exponentially.

There's no such thing as a "cheap diamond". Diamonds are expensive. There's no getting around it. These are the average prices of a 1 carat diamond based on its color grade alone. These ranges can change based on other diamond details.

  • Flawless (FL) or Internally Flawless (IF) Clarity: $9,000 - $15,000
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1/VVS2) Clarity: $6,000 - $9,000
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1/VS2) Clarity: $4,000 - $6,000
  • Slightly Included (SI1/SI2) Clarity: $3,000 - $4,000
  • Included (I1/I2/I3) Clarity: $2,000 - $3,000

Inclusions and blemishes aren't necessarily a bad thing. All diamonds have inclusions, even flawless ones at super high magnification. There are many types of inclusions and some are more noticeable than others.

Most inclusions only affect visibility and sparkle, but rarely they can leave your diamond more vulnerable to chipping if struck along a cleavage plane.

Tips on How to Get Eye Clean Diamonds without Paying for Higher Clarity Grades

Though non-eye clean diamonds have visible inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye, it's still possible to find what I like to call "You-Clean Diamonds". While not "technically" eye clean diamond grades, it's possible to find lower clarity grades that are mostly eye clean.

It's a lot harder to find SI1 or SI2 diamonds void of inclusions, otherwise they'd have been given a higher clarity grade. Instead, look through loose diamonds of an online retailer that offers 360 video so you can see just where those visible inclusions are.

You can avoid SI diamonds with large dark inclusions on the table facet, and search for ones whose darker inclusions are under the crown, closer to the girdle, or maybe even where a prong would be.

I wouldn't expect to find eye clean I clarity diamonds either, not do I consider any I clarity diamonds "recommended clarity grades".

Here are some more tips to get the most bling for your buck:

  • Opt for diamonds with inclusions located near the diamond's edges or under the prongs. These placements make the inclusions less visible from the top and reduce their impact on overall appearance.
  • Choose diamonds with inclusions that are white or transparent. Such inclusions tend to blend with the diamond better and become less noticeable, especially when they are not directly under the table or affect the diamond's brilliance.
  • Consider diamonds with smaller carat weights. Smaller diamonds tend to have smaller facets, making it easier for inclusions to be hidden or less visible.
  • Prioritize diamonds with excellent cut grades. Well-cut diamonds reflect light in a way that can help mask the appearance of inclusions, enhancing their overall brilliance and minimizing the focus on any potential flaws.
  • Seek diamonds with better color grades. Diamonds with higher color grades (e.g., D to G) tend to hide inclusions better than lower color grades. The absence of noticeable color can distract the eye from any minor inclusions.
  • Work with a reputable jeweler who can help you find eye-clean diamonds within your desired clarity range. Their expertise and knowledge of diamond selection can guide you toward stones that offer excellent visual appeal without compromising quality.

This is How Your Color Grade Affects Your Diamond

Just like there's a diamond clarity scale, the GIA also developed a color grading scale. The color grading scale starts with D and goes all the way through the letter Z. However, most commercially graded diamonds don't sell any diamonds below J color grade.

DEF color grades are considered colorless, while GHIJ color grades are considered near colorless. KLM are faint yellow, and N-Z are very light to light yellow. 

If a stone's clarity is really low, it can impact durability. In the case of color vs clarity, a lower color grade doesn't compromise the durability or structure. Color grades are purely a visual effect. A poor clarity grade can cause problems.

So, how do diamonds become tinted yellow or brown, you ask?

You already know that a diamond forming in the earth comes into contact with all sorts of elements, minerals, and impurities. Yes, many of these create inclusions but some impurities cause tint.

L Color Diamond Table View

L Color Diamond Side View

L Color Diamond Back View

The yellow tint in a diamond is caused by nitrogen impurities. Nitrogen atoms replace some of the diamond's carbon atoms and absorb some of the blue light. When the blue light is absorbed, we perceive the color as yellow or brown tint.

While nitrogen impurities are responsible for creating fancy yellow diamonds, these are not the same as tinted yellow diamonds.

Yellow Tint in Diamonds vs Yellow Colored Diamonds

Though most commercial diamond retailers don't offer color grades below M color diamonds, it's possible to run into lower color graded diamonds in seller marketplaces. Diamonds with color grades N-Z will have more prominent yellow or brown tint as it goes down the line.

It may look like a yellow diamond, but this is not the same as a fancy yellow diamond. Don't let anyone convince you that diamonds with these color grades are rare or canary diamonds.

.56 carat O-P Color Grade Colorless Diamond

.55 carat Fancy Light Yellow Colored Diamond

Fancy color diamonds have their own color scales and standards and are not given a color grade in the D-Z scale. The color scale only applies to colorless diamonds.

Fancy yellow diamonds tend to be more bright and vivid. There can be brownish yellow fancy colored diamonds, but they don't look quite the same as a colorless diamond with strong yellow/brown tint.

The Price of Higher Diamond Color Grade

The color chart is a lot different than the clarity scale, so it's safe to assume their prices and ranges will differ in the same way.

Typically, you won't notice a significant price shift from one color grade diamond to the one above or below. But once you start moving toward different ends, the price starts increasing. You're more likely to see a bigger price difference from the color grade ranges, not individual color grades.

If you already read the clarity grade section, you know that better clarity grade doesn't necessarily guarantee a higher price. This ideas applies to both color and clarity grades.

Remember, color and clarity are just two pieces of the puzzle that is diamond quality. But for an idea of price estimates, here's about what you can expect from a 1 carat diamond color prices.

  • D (Colorless): $8,000 - $12,000
  • E (Colorless): $7,000 - $10,000
  • F (Colorless): $6,000 - $8,000
  • G (Near Colorless): $5,000 - $7,000
  • H (Near Colorless): $4,000 - $6,000
  • I (Near Colorless): $3,000 - $5,000
  • J (Near Colorless): $2,000 - $4,000

I realize these are pretty wide ranges, but it all depends on the combination of your diamond's other grades, like its cut quality, diamond shape, diamond clarity, and of course its carat weight.

You shouldn't expect as big of a shift in price as your clarity grade, but definitely expect it to be much higher if you're other grades are higher too. That goes double for higher carat weight.

Tips on Making Yellow Tint Less Noticeable in Lower Grade Diamonds

Yellow tint in a diamond brings down the value and price in the diamond industry, but there are many customers that actually prefer a warmer colored diamond. On Reddit, many have pointed out that diamonds with a lower color grade complement darker skin stones.

And since low color grades don't compromise your diamond, there's no harm in buying a lower color grade the center diamond of your engagement ring. Always get what you like, just don't compromise its structure.

But if the yellow tint of diamond color bothers you, here are a couple handy little tricks that the community has said:

  • A well-cut round diamond is better at hiding yellow tint in light because of the superior brilliance of round diamonds.
  • Choose a solitaire ring setting. Side stones often have better grades and can make a low color grade look more yellow in comparison to the bright accent stones.
  • Opt for a yellow gold ring setting. The bright yellow of the setting can make a center diamond appear more "white". White gold will make it the opposite.

You should keep in mind that the above tips are also subjective. We all have different eyes, so we perceive color tint differently. Some people are more sensitive to diamond color than others. In this case, those tips probably won't help and you may need to go up higher on the scale in order to prioritize color.

Diamond Color vs Clarity: Where Should You Put Your Money?

Now that you've got an idea on how both color and clarity grades affect a diamond's appearance, you might have decided which you have a preference for. Or, you might still be confused which is better: higher color grades or higher clarity grades.

If you choose your color grades and clarity grades wisely, there's no reason why you can't have the best of both worlds. No more choosing color vs clarity.

3 Steps to a Diamond Engagement Ring with Good Color and Good Clarity: Without Breaking the Bank

Here's my advice to choosing a color grade and clarity grade that doesn't impact the way your diamond appears.

Consider your diamond shape. Some fancy diamond shapes reveal noticeable inclusions and diamond color tint more than other diamond shapes. Round diamonds are the best at hiding these factors better, as long as you've chosen a well-cut diamond.

Brilliant cut shapes like a princess cut diamond or a pear shaped diamond are better at hiding clarity imperfections. 

Consider purchasing lab grown diamonds. Lab diamonds are real diamonds that come at a 20-40% discount compared to diamonds mined out of the ground.

Their isolated laboratory environment limits the types of inclusions and impurities that enter during the growth process. As a result, lab grown diamond inventories tend to have better clarity and better color as a whole.

Avoid chain retailers. They don't usually have hundreds of loose diamonds to sift through. A diamond engagement ring in-store is typically already preset and costs more to switch out the center diamond if it's not to your liking.

If you choose an online retailer, it's likely that they'll have tools that help you see your diamond better under magnification. Don't forget these are usually magnified much higher than your typical 10x. Inclusions in clarity grades appear more noticeable at this high of magnification, so don't fret.

360˚ viewers and other viewing tools online as well as their filters can help you narrow down diamonds with obvious inclusions. With color grades, it's a little harder. It's my recommendation that you zoom out to see the color tint of your diamond. It's harder to detect with the diamond blown up so big.

M Color Diamond at 40x Magnification

M Color Diamond at 10x Magnification

Final Word on Diamond Clarity vs Diamond Color

But my biggest tip when choosing any grade, whether it's diamond color vs clarity grades, or other grades and details, it's important to have a balance. Choose eye clean diamonds for clarity and go for near colorless color grades instead of colorless. If you like warmer diamonds, then choose a lower color grade. It's all about what it looks like to you, the wearer.

The perfect diamond engagement ring isn't about which letter grades it is, but rather a beautiful diamond that fits both your budget and your lifestyle. 

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