Color and clarity are two of the most important diamond quality characteristics. But is one of them more important that the other when choosing a diamond? Read on to learn when you should focus more on color and when on clarity.
How Color Affects Diamond Appearance
Diamond color is graded on a letter scale, with the top grade being D and indicating a perfectly colorless diamond.
The lower a diamond’s color grade, the more tinted the stone looks.
Diamonds whose color is graded K or lower have a slight yellow coloring, which becomes more noticeable the lower you go down the color scale.
How Clarity Impacts the Look of a Diamond
Clarity refers to how many internal flaws (inclusions) and surface imperfections a diamond has and how visible they are under magnification or with the naked eye.
The top clarity grade, FL (Flawless), is assigned to diamonds that have no visible inclusions even when looked at with a 10x loupe.
The lower a stone’s clarity grade, the more likely you are to see imperfections such as black spots or lines within the diamond.
Does Color or Clarity Affect Diamond Brilliance More?
Brilliance is perhaps the most important characteristic of a diamond, and its intensity depends mainly on the stone’s cut. Color and clarity do not affect brilliance directly, but they can contribute to its visual effect.
Although diamond color does not itself increase or diminish brilliance, more colorless stones look whiter, brighter, and appear livelier overall.
In contrast, lower-grade diamonds that have stronger yellow tints may look darker, and people might perceive them as less brilliant (although, in reality, this might not be the case).
When it comes to clarity, an absence of flaws definitely adds to the impression that the stone is sparkling clean.
Visible imperfections can make a diamond look a bit dirty, but such flaws do not change significantly the way the stone reflects light so as to affect its brilliance.
A diamond’s brilliance could be affected negatively in stones that have numerous, very large inclusions, but most jewelers do not carry diamonds of such low clarity.
When Diamond Color Is More Important
Sometimes, having a high-grade color is more important than having top clarity. For example, if you are going to put your diamond in a white setting, it is very important for the stone not to have visible tints.
Otherwise, if you set a diamond with slight yellowish tints in white gold or platinum, the yellow will stand out even more against the white backdrop, and the diamond will look darker than its setting.
In a case like that, a small inclusion on the side of the diamond would spoil its appearance much less than the stone’s low-grade color.
When Diamond Clarity Starts to Matter More
In general, clarity starts to matter a lot when it is too low. There is not much difference to the naked eye between a diamond graded FL or IF and one in the VS1-VS2 clarity range.
However, diamonds with clarity graded below SI1/SI2 are very likely to have visible flaws.
Clarity matters much more than color when the diamond is going to be set in a yellow gold setting, which can absorb the yellowish tints in a low-grade stone and make it look whiter in contrast to the gold.
In such a case, you would be better off making sure that the diamond you choose looks clean to the naked eye rather than shooting for a perfectly white color.
How to Choose Diamond Color and Clarity
When buying a diamond, our recommendation is to first make sure that the stone is eye clean, i.e., it doesn’t have any flaws big enough to be visible with the naked eye.
You don’t need to go for the highest-clarity stone, as diamonds graded VS1-VS2 or SI1 can look just as clean as FL/IF-clarity stones if you take your time to find a good-looking diamond.
If you are buying a round diamond for a yellow gold setting, you can safely pick a stone with a color graded as low as J, K or L (sometimes even M) and not worry about the visibility of its yellow tints when the stone is set.
For other diamond cuts, you might need to draw the line at a higher color grade such as I, J or K.
If your round diamond is going to be set in platinum or white gold, don’t go lower than H, I or J color. For cuts other than round, G or H is a good choice, but don’t go lower than I color.
Where to Buy Diamonds and Diamond Jewelry?
For diamond jewelry, we highly recommend James Allen because it shows real photos and videos for each diamond so you can take a 360-degree look at any stone before buying it.
For colored diamonds, we recommend Leibish & Co., which specializes in fancy color diamonds (use code JewelryNotes200 at checkout to get a 5% discount).