Diamond Color vs Diamond Clarity - Which Is Important?

Diamond Color vs Diamond Clarity - Which Is Important?

Diamond Color vs Diamond Clarity - Which Is Important?

Posted by Sharif Khan on 7th Dec 2019

Diamond Color vs Diamond Clarity

Are diamonds still forever? Maybe, maybe not. But two things are for sure, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and they’re always expensive. Something about diamonds says “costly” and “valuable.” Maybe it’s the attention-grabbing magnificent sparkle of these stones, the beautiful dance of light or both. No wonder well over 70 percent of gems being sold in the jewelry industry right now are diamonds—the round cut type to be precise. Also, most of the engagement rings men and women are betrothing their significant others are  beautiful diamond engagement rings. That’s because diamonds aren’t only big-ticket accessories, but also special.

They have unique qualities that put them on top of the list of the most preferred gemstones. If you’ve done your research, you must have come across or at least heard of the  4Cs of diamonds quality. They’re the diamond’s cut, carat weight, color, and clarity. Cut, not to be confused with the diamond’s shape, is the proportioning of the facets (the several surfaces of a diamond—on the top, bottom, and sides). The shape is the outline that the diamond assumes after an excellent cut, hence heart-shaped stones, pear-shaped stones, square-shapes stones, etc. Carat weight refers to the stone’s weight in carats (ct). Side note: A stone could be big but have a small number of carats, and vice versa is true.

James Allen

And now to the topic at hand - diamond color vs. clarity. Diamonds are a naturally occurring substance. They form deep under the surface of the earth. Diamonds essentially forge out of a robust crystal-like form of pure carbon. The pure the carbon, the clearer and more colorless the diamond appears. So the chemical form or structure of natural diamonds is pure carbon, which means their natural color is colorless—the absence of color. However, natural diamonds can also be black, gray, pink, green, orange, or even red. Any coloration other than colorless should immediately tell you that a diamond is impure, meaning the presence of foreign substances other than pure carbon. Colorless white diamonds are some of the most valuable gemstones around owing to their purity and clearness. Colorless is also the highest color designation (D) on the  GIA color scale, as shown in the illustration below.

Clarity—on the other hand—is the absence of internal inclusions or surface blemishes on a diamond. Inclusions are a direct result of the enormous pressure and heat that diamonds are exposed to as they form. It could lead to small imperfections within the diamond whose number could be high or low. subsequently, it affects the quality of the diamond. A diamond is better off having a few to no inclusions for the sake of getting an above average clarity grading. A poor clarity grade also affects the obsolescence (rate of depreciation) of the stone.

Depreciation is higher if the inclusions are located under the table or extensively on the crown and girdle. Inclusions positioned in either of these parts of a diamond are readily visible, affecting the quality of the stone. The likelihood of breakage is also higher, making the stone prone to damage. Blemishes aren’t a desirable diamond feature either. They’re flaws found on the exterior surface of a diamond. It’ll come as a surprise to you to learn that most blemishes aren’t natural. When you see blemishes on a stone, there’s a high possibility that they were caused by human error while the stone was being cut and polished.

In most cases, it’s usually an issue of clumsy hands on the part of the cutter or mishandling of the stone. Both GIA and AGS grade stones for clarity. Take a glance at what their respective grade ranking systems look like in the comparison below.

A side-by-side comparison of the GIA and AGS clarity grading scale

FL stands for flawless, IF- internally flawless, VVS1-very, very slightly included 1, VVS2- very, very slightly included 2, VS1- Very slightly included 1, VS2- very slightly included 2, SI1- slightly included 1, SI2, slightly included 2, and I1, I2, and I3 – included degrees 1, 2, and 3 respectively. AGS uses a number scale from 0-10, but the rationality and  diamond clarity grading logic between the two agencies is more or less the same. To answer your question (between diamond color and clarity, what’s important?), the honest expert answer would be either of them. The ultimate decision is dependent on several factors. One’s obvious: people have different tastes and preferences. One diamond buyer could prefer a D color 2ct round excellent cut diamond. Another diamond shopper could be comfortable with an M color 0.5ct round very good  round cut diamond as their ideal stone of choice.

Heck, don’t be surprised to see people with light yellow excellent cut diamonds. It could be their cup of tea. When it comes to choosing between a stone’s color and clarity, the choice doesn’t stop with personal preferences. The other influencers that’re likely to trigger diamond buyers, jewelers and dealers at large to pit diamond color and clarity against each other include budgets or financial concerns, the cut and shape of the diamond, type of diamond (is it a natural or synthetic stone), etc. From diamond wholesalers to retailers to buyers and end-users, there could be several reasons, in the diamond industry, behind picking a particular diamond color over its clarity and vice versa. That’s the diamond color vs. clarity approach this article has taken, and it forms the basis of the comparison.

Personal Preferences

People have their beliefs, likes, and dislikes. It’s what makes them different. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with going low on both the color and clarity scales when picking out a diamond. It’s possible to have a very light gorgeous first degree slightly included stone. Ideally, all stones graded color K and below are tinted. And the yellow or brown hue becomes stronger further down the scale. But, it’s equally important to note that these color changes are only visible under strong jeweler’s loupe magnification. The industry standard recommended by the US Federal Trade Commission is X10 magnification. Diamond grading happens under controlled lab conditions. Typically, the GIA places the stones in a white background under controlled lighting. The special environment enables the separation of actual diamond color from the surroundings and the light source in use. Experts talk about the body color of the diamond.

That means the color viewed under X10 magnification in the special setup while the diamond is placed face or table down. That’s because the diamond is brightest when in this position, making the body color easily visible. Precise color categorization is harder under non-special conditions. It’s even harder when the stone is mounted on a setting. When set, the stone’s face up orientation would prove futile due to obstruction by the setting even under a special backdrop and lighting.

GIA produces results that are nothing short of an accurate color classification vis-à-vis the set of color master stones employed. The slight differences in color between one stone color and another above or below it is very difficult,if not impossible, to detect in standard lighting or environment. Putting your finger on the minor color differences isn’t a challenge restricted to the layman diamond buyer. It could also be tough even to certified diamond and jewelry professionals observing the diamond with their naked eyes.

Besides, the setting you choose for your stone could bring out its beauty better. For instance, a yellow gold mounting tones down the yellow hue on S color stones. The very mounting has an opposite effect on a colorless, say F color, diamond. On the contrary, white metal settings such as white gold or silver mounts make the yellow tint of a distant colorless diamond shout. Ask yourself: would there be any reasonable justification to buy a colorless or near-colorless stone, yet a faint or very light diamond would just as easily achieve the desired outcome? And especially if you have the stone set on an appropriate, complementary mount. As far as personal preferences are concerned, always ensure that the stone’s clarity is acceptable, meaning a clarity grade that hides inclusions and blemishes. And for good measure, only condone the non-harmful inclusions, for example, natural clouds.

As long as they’re small, they don’t affect the diamond ability to absorb and reflect or refract light. Cracks and dark spots, however, are a no-no. The former makes the stone susceptible to fracturing, especially if they’re close to the surface of the diamond or if the stone has a brilliant deep cut. While the latter may affect the diamond’s light performance, which spells negative consequences when it comes to fire and brilliance. The bottom line is that no color grade is good or bad. If you can get an SI1 or I1 (a 6 or 7 clarity on the AGS scale) that’s eye-clean, the color should be the least of your worries. But you can always climb up the color and clarity scale if you have the financial muscle that comes with it.


Diamond Color vs Diamond Clarity: From Financial Viewpoint

If the notion that material items can bring you happiness is anything to go by, then material possessions such as diamonds would most certainly qualify. Like with everything else, the more financially stable you are, the more likely it is that you can afford highly-priced luxuries. Whether fashion, cars, or jewelry, the bigger the spend, the more of a ‘statement’ you make in society. In the case of diamond color and clarity, the combination of a flawless (though very rare) and colorless stone (D-F colors) has the highest market value.

You’ll have to reach deep into your pockets to purchase that kind of stone: a situation that’s only possible when money isn’t an issue for you. Considering that inclusions and blemishes aren’t visible in an eye-clean diamond, does color outweigh clarity? Before drawing that conclusion, it’s always good to have the stone assessed to ascertain the facts of flaws on and in a diamond. Not all flaws inhibit the features of a diamond, but what about the unwanted and potentially dangerous ones? For instance, flaws in the pavilion of a shallow cut diamond could affect the angle at which light bounces off the pavilion facets before shooting out through the table and into the observer’s eyes.

Moreover, inclusions near the edges of a diamond increase the chances of chipping. Before growing fond of a diamond’s color grade over its clarity, make an effort of reading between the lines of the certificate. Be thorough because some diamond dossiers don’t contain detailed information on clarity other than a general clarity grade. The clarity grade alone doesn’t speak volumes in terms of the actual flaws that a diamond has. Play it safe by having the full picture of the type and specifics (size, number, position, etc.) of the inclusions and blemishes.

Unlike clarity, the other 3Cs of diamond quality are features that you can control. You can maximize carat weight, but you risk having a huge and dull diamond despite a good and above cut. The cutter can also maximize on the cut to give you a sparkly, brilliant diamond with an aesthetic color play. Color is also not that much of an issue. Side-by-side comparison of adjacent diamond colors isn’t a walk in the park. Besides, faint diamond colors and below can be illuminated by improvising and experimenting with different colored settings to even out the stone’s color tones. But flaws are a different ball game. While the cut, white and colored light performance can help hide flaws, it’s not enough to settle for color over clarity. You need to establish that the flaws on the diamond are nothing close to harmful.

Once that’s out of the way, you can now bother to consider a near colorless color. As a rule of thumb, it’s advised to go low on clarity and color and capitalize on carat size and cut. But it isn’t a vote of popularity or conventional wisdom. It’s about finances. Go for a colorless or near-colorless excellent cut stone and at least a clarity of VVS1 or VVS2 because FL and IF is in the realm of rarity. That’s an ideal diamond to buy if you have the power to break the bank and remain on your feet. You’ll have to drop much lower—a VSI2 or SI1 eye-clean, M color, very good cut stone—on the grading scales if you aim to cut cost on your diamond purchase. Final word: clarity is vital than color when you plan on a budget diamond purchase.

Diamond Color vs Diamond Clarity: The Cut and Shape of Your Diamond

Regardless of the shape of the diamond, the cutter can maximize on the cut to get a stone that has maximum sparkle, brilliance, and fire. A diamond color that has little to no yellow hue coupled with a good to excellent cut easily beats any clarity grade below VS2. Depending on the shape and cut of the stone, inclusions can be noticeable and visible. In emerald diamonds, for instance, cutters use the  emerald cut. It’s a brilliant cut similar to that of other stones whose facets have been proportioned using the step cut design.

The emerald cut does a good job of enhancing a diamond’s natural color, whether colorless or tinted. For emerald shapes, the stone’s clarity is more important than its color. But even if the stone color is faint or very light yellow, would you rather deal with the hue or detrimental flaws? Due to the step cut, inclusions on emerald cut diamonds could be visible affecting quality. To ensure you have an eye-clean diamond, get a stone with a clarity grade of VS2 and above. The Asscher cut is a sister stone to the emerald cut in terms of having a brilliant step cut. So, the same case applies:  Asscher diamond’s clarity is more important than its color. Stick to the clarity of VS2 or higher.

The round cut is the most expensive in the diamond market and for good reason. Apart from the princess cut, no other diamond cut and shape comes close to reflecting more light than round diamonds. They have a stunning color display that may hide the exact color of the stone, especially for colors J and above on the color scale. Color differences for colorless to near-colorless round-shaped stones are virtually undetectable to the naked eye. For round cut stones, the importance of color precedes that of clarity. A buyer can drop as low as SI1 or SI2 on the clarity scale. Such an excellent round cut stone should look eye-clean and more affordable than an internally flawless diamond.

Conversely, a princess cut stone is unique in that it reflects light from the center and in the corners. That’s how it’s able to have a versatile color emission. Similar to round cut diamonds, color differences in princess cut stones (especially I and higher on the color scale) are unnoticeable. However, the position of inclusions on the stone matters. Flaws at the corners of  the princess cut diamond make it prone to chipping and flaking. The clarity of a princess cut diamond is more important than its color. To be on the safe side, choose a princess cut stone of clarity SI1 and above.

Unlike other cuts,  cushion cut diamonds have particularly large tables. The table facet sits conspicuously above the crown. Thanks to a large table, cushion cut diamonds retain color just as much as an emerald cut enhances it. The color grade is crucial in comparison to the clarity of cushion cuts. A clarity below SI1 in cushion cuts reveals flaws, mainly when the observation is from an aerial view through the table. Talk about diamond observation; a radiant cut diamond has many facets and angles. If the cut is at least very good or excellent, a  radiant cut diamond should have no problem hiding minor flaws. It’s the same case for heart-shaped diamonds and the bow-tie effect. That’s why cutters work on stones with extreme caution and skill: despite having cutting-edge diamond development equipment. When buying a radiant cut diamond, prioritize color over clarity.

As long as the cut is good, SI2 and above clarity grade is enough. Above that clarity, you’ll only be buying features that aren’t visible. Pear, oval, and heart cuts have several similarities, notably their rounded edges. Only a few professional cutters can churn out several of these diamond shapes and meet the specifics of each stone’s proportions and facets. Hints of color are hard to find in well-cut heart, pear, and oval-shaped diamonds. If either of these stones is your preferred choice, worry about the clarity. Extend your search to online jewelry stores because you can get a satisfactory heart-shaped or pear-shaped stone at clarity of SI1.

Diamond Color vs Diamond Clarity: Synthetic vs. Natural Diamonds

It’s crucial to know that natural and synthetic diamonds have the same chemical composition. The lab-grown diamonds are just subjected to controlled conditions to produce a human-made stone. Natural white and colored stones as well as lab-grown white and  fancy color stones exist. To avoid ambiguity, it’s also key to note that fancy colors is the diamond industry term the GIA uses for all diamond colors outside its color scale. Fancy color doesn’t necessarily mean the stone is synthetic: there are fancy color natural diamonds (though rare). The GIA acknowledges that not all of these fancy colors have the same depth. For this reason, the color scale used to grade fancy colors makes room for the wide range of color tones and saturation in fancy color stones.

The scale ranges from fancy light, fancy, fancy intense to fancy vivid. The most expensive (and rare) fancy colors are the red and blue type. Pink, purplish, grayish, orange, and fancy green colors are considerably rare compared to fancy yellows and browns. For saturated fancy colors, minor color variations are easily detectable, which largely affects their value. Fancy color grading is overly complicated, and only a specialist grading agency can do it accurately. Fancy color diamonds with numerous flaws are still highly prized if they have an attractive face-up body color. If a fancy color reveals colored and reflective graining under powerful magnification, that’s considered an inclusion. Even worse are inclusions that reduce the useful life of a diamond. Color plays a significant role in determining the value of a fancy color.

The above are critical factors to consider in judging the significance of either a diamond’s color or its clarity. Buying a diamond is a sensitive decision to make for both casual jewelry purchasers and those making a milestone purchase (engagement rings and such). It’s not enough to know the 4Cs of diamond quality. You also need to have a clear interpretation of each C’s grade on the certificate. Bring out your notebook or organizer and get to work. Jot down your list of most important considerations between a diamond’s color and clarity. Do you have enough of an excess income to afford and buy a fancy color?

If not, why not go for an SI1 light round cut. It should serve as an ‘expensive’ engagement ring for her. Better yet, work out a plan to get a stone that centers around your diamond buying financial plan. Just be wary of flaws and blemishes. You want a diamond that’ll stand the test of time and hopefully end up as an antique gift for your great grandson’s or granddaughter’s wedding.

Ultimately, have a bona fide reason to back up your choice of diamond color over clarity. Depending on your assessment of a particular stone, clarity could also be your dominant C. Remember, your pick is between diamond color and clarity. But cut and carat weight work behind the scenes to arbitrate that predicament. After all is said and done, choose clarity over color. You can always go for an excellent cut and a get stone with impeccable brilliance despite the color.