It seems pretty straightforward to determine what the best diamond color and clarity are – you can easily see which grades are at the top of the grading scale. However, these top-graded diamonds are also the most expensive. It is trickier to pick the best color and clarity that are also the cheapest. Let’s see how you can do this.
Diamond Color Grades
The G.I.A. (Gemological Institute of America) grades diamond color using the following grading ranges and letter grades: Colorless range (includes grades D, E and F), Near Colorless (G, H, I and J grades), Faint Yellow (K, L and M), Very Light Yellow (grades N to R), and Light Yellow (S to Z).
The Best Diamond Color to Buy
As you can see from the grading scale, D color is the best. However, diamonds that are completely colorless are very rare and expensive (many stores don’t actually carry them).
If you are sure you want a diamond that is in the Colorless range, you can opt for F color – it is the cheapest colorless grade, and the difference between it and D color won’t be visible with the naked eye.
If you want to pay as little as possible for a diamond that still looks colorless, look at diamonds in the Near Colorless range.
G and H colors look reasonably white, and the only time you may notice a difference between them and a Colorless stone is if you put them next to each another, and even then, the difference will be slight.
Don’t go lower than H color if you are going to set your diamond in a white metal such as platinum, which can make any yellow tints in a diamond stand out.
On the other hand, if your mounting is going to be made of gold, you can safely have a stone graded I, J or even K set in it, and the diamond will still look white against the yellow gold backdrop.
Diamond Clarity Grades
According to the G.I.A. grading system, diamonds are put in the following categories based on clarity: Flawless (FL), Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (grades VVS1 and VVS2), Very Slightly Included (grades VS1 and VS2), Slightly Included (grades SI1 and SI2), and Included (I1, I2 and I3).
The Best Diamond Clarity to Buy
The most important question when it comes to clarity is whether it is worth it to pay a premium for a Flawless or Internally Flawless stone. In reality, diamonds graded VS2 or SI1 do not look much different when worn.
It is true that the flaws in such stones are bigger and more numerous than those in FL or IF diamonds, but this difference is noticeable with a microscope, not so much with the naked eye.
So, if you want to get the best value for your money and buy a diamond with good clarity, take a look at stones graded VS2 or SI1, and pick one that looks clean to the unaided eye.
You can also look at SI2 diamonds – they may have some visible inclusions, but they will most likely be towards the sides of the stone, and if you set it in a mounting that conceals the diamond’s periphery, these flaws won’t be visible.
In sum, to save as much money as possible and still end up with a diamond that looks colorless and clean, focus on stones with H color and SI1 clarity.
If the setting for your diamond is going to be made of yellow gold, you can buy a J- or K-color stone, and if the mounting will show only the top of the diamond (as is the case with the full bezel setting, for example), you can even get an SI2-clarity stone.
Don’t Forget Diamond Cut
When picking color and clarity for your diamond, don’t forget that its cut is also very important. The more proportional it is, the more sparkle and brilliance the diamond will have.
A poor cut, in contrast, will cause the stone to leak light and appear dull, and as a result, the diamond’s inclusions will be more visible, and its color will look dark.
That’s why you should choose a diamond cut that is graded Good, Very Good or Excellent (on the G.I.A. scale).
All recommendations in this article pertain to diamonds with a classic round cut, which is designed to maximize brilliance.
Stones that are cut in a different shape, i.e., the so-called fancy-cut diamonds, usually exhibit less sparkle and do not conceal imperfections as well.
This is why for such diamonds, the minimum clarity and color that still look clean and colorless may be higher, and you will have to see stones of different grades to decide which looks acceptable to you.