When shopping for a diamond, two of the most important characteristics to consider are color and clarity. The color and clarity greatly impact the appearance of the diamond, as well as the overall value. So what are the most sought-after diamond color and clarity grades? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Diamond Color?
Diamond color refers to the presence or absence of color in a diamond. Diamonds can naturally occur in all colors of the rainbow, including yellow, brown, pink, blue, green, etc. However, the most prized and valuable diamonds are colorless or appear white.
Diamond color is graded on a scale established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The scale ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). Here is a quick overview of the GIA diamond color scale:
|Color Grade||Color Description|
|E, F||Near colorless|
|G, H, I, J||Near colorless to very light yellow|
|K, L, M||Very light yellow|
|N to Z||Light yellow to yellowish brown|
The finest and rarest diamonds have a grade of D, E or F, and are considered “colorless.” As you go down the scale, faint traces of yellow and brown become more perceptible.
What is Diamond Clarity?
Diamond clarity refers to the presence or absence of inclusions and blemishes inside and on the surface of a diamond. Inclusions are tiny natural imperfections trapped inside the diamond during its formation. Blemishes are imperfections occurring on the external surface.
Like color, diamond clarity is graded on a scale established by GIA. The GIA clarity scale contains the following grades from flawless to heavily included:
|FL||Flawless – no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification|
|IF||Internally Flawless – no inclusions visible under 10x magnification|
|VVS1, VVS2||Very, Very Slightly Included – minute inclusions difficult for skilled grader to see under 10x magnification|
|VS1, VS2||Very Slightly Included – minor inclusions visible under 10x magnification but not to unaided eye|
|SI1, SI2||Slightly Included – noticeable inclusions visible under 10x magnification and may be visible to unaided eye|
|I1, I2, I3||Included – obvious inclusions visible to unaided eye|
The highest clarity grades are internally flawless (IF) and flawless (FL). Over 99% of diamonds contain at least small inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification. As the grade drops, the inclusions and blemishes become more numerous and easier to see.
Most Popular Diamond Color
When it comes to diamond color, the vast majority of consumers prefer diamonds that appear white or colorless to the naked eye. While fancy colored diamonds certainly have their appeal, diamonds with little to no perceptible color tend to be the most sought-after.
According to GIA, approximately 60% of diamonds sold on the market today have a color grade between D and F. Together, D-F diamonds are commonly referred to as “colorless” in the industry, even though D is the only official colorless grade.
Within this color range, GIA reports the following popularity percentages:
|Color Grade||Popularity Percentage|
As you can see, GIA grades E and F are the most popular, representing 45% of diamond sales combined. Grade D, although rare and desirable, accounts for just 15% of diamonds purchased.
Consumers are willing to accept very faint traces of color that are imperceptible to the unaided eye in order to maximize carat weight and save money. A diamond graded F instead of D can represent significant savings. That’s why near colorless E and F grades hit the sweet spot between ideal color and price point.
Most Popular Diamond Clarity
When shopping for diamond clarity, most consumers aim for grades that offer optimal brilliance and fire while minimizing obvious inclusions and blemishes. According to GIA, the most popular diamond clarity grades sought after by today’s buyers are:
|Clarity Grade||Popularity Percentage|
Together, clarity grades SI1 and SI2 account for over half of diamond purchases. As the most affordable grades that are considered “eye clean,” SI1 and SI2 offer excellent value compared to higher grades.
VS2 is also widely sought after as it offers scintillating brilliance and only minuscule inclusions difficult to see with the naked eye. VS1 satisfies buyers who desire near flawless clarity with minor inclusions that take effort to spot under 10x magnification.
While internally flawless diamonds are incredibly rare and desirable, only 1% of diamond buyers opt for IF clarity. The extreme rarity drives costs up enormously compared to lower clarity grades.
Ideal Combinations of Diamond Color and Clarity
When selecting a diamond, most experts recommend prioritizing cut quality over color and clarity. If considering diamonds within the same cut grade, it’s helpful to know the most complimentary color and clarity pairings.
Here are popular combinations of diamond color and clarity for achieving gorgeous, eye-clean diamonds:
|Color Grade||Matched Clarity Grade|
|D-F||SI1 or better|
|G-H||SI2 or better|
|I-J||I1 or better|
These pairings ensure that faint color will be minimally perceptible and any minor inclusions will be difficult to spot with the naked eye. The diamonds will face up white and sparkling.
Some other popular combinations include:
– G color with VS2 clarity
– H color with VS1 clarity
– I color with VVS2 clarity
– J color with VVS1 clarity
Buying within your budget while maximizing beauty and brilliance is what it’s all about. An expert jeweler can help guide you to an eye-clean diamond pairing that fits your preferences and price range.
Impact on Value
Diamond color and clarity dramatically impact the gemstone’s overall value. As a general rule, the more colorless and flawless a diamond rates on its grading report, the higher the market price.
Between the Big Four C’s of diamond quality (Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight), color and clarity have the most significant influence on a diamond’s per-carat cost. When comparing diamonds of equal carat weights, a D color VVS1 diamond could cost upwards of 50% more than a J color SI2 diamond, for example.
As previously discussed, grades D-F in color and FL-VS2 in clarity are the rarest and most expensive combinations. Price gradually drops as color and inclusion ratings decline down the GIA grading scales.
However, excellent value can be found even in diamonds with lower color and clarity. An I or J color SI1 diamond can offer stunning sparkle at an affordable price point for many shoppers. Working closely with a jeweler to select optimal grades for your budget is key.
In summary, the most sought-after diamond color and clarity grades are not always the rarest and most flawless that money can buy. Grades E and F in color and SI1 and SI2 in clarity tend to be the “sweet spot” representing the best balance of beauty, brilliance and affordability.
Selecting a diamond with ideal cut quality for light performance, paired with a color/clarity combination that appears clean to the naked eye, is the ultimate goal for most smart shoppers. An experienced jeweler will be invaluable in navigating all of the 4Cs and determining your best diamond option.