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What makes a diamond sparkle more color or clarity?

Diamonds have fascinated people for centuries with their stunning sparkle and brilliance. Two of the main characteristics that determine a diamond’s beauty are its color and clarity. But which one actually contributes more to a diamond’s sparkle and fire?

Diamond Color

Diamond color refers to the presence or absence of color in a diamond. Most diamonds have a slight yellowish tint when under a jeweler’s loupe, with the intensity of the color graded on an alphabetical scale:

  • D, E, F – Colorless
  • G, H, I, J – Near colorless
  • K, L, M – Faint yellow
  • N to Z – Noticeably yellow

The closer to colorless a diamond is graded, the higher its value. This is because a lack of color allows more light to pass through the diamond, resulting in more sparkle and fire.

Diamond Clarity

Diamond clarity refers to the absence of inclusions and blemishes inside the stone. Inclusions are internal flaws like crystals, clouds or feathers, while blemishes are external characteristics like pits and scratches on the surface.

Clarity is graded on the following scale:

  • FL – Flawless, no inclusions visible under 10x magnification
  • IF – Internally Flawless, no inclusions, only minor blemishes
  • VVS1 – VVS2 – Very Very Slightly Included, inclusions difficult to see under 10x magnification
  • VS1 – VS2 – Very Slightly Included, inclusions faintly visible under 10x magnification
  • SI1 – SI2 – Slightly Included, inclusions visible under 10x magnification but not to the naked eye
  • I1 – I3 – Included, inclusions visible to the naked eye

Higher clarity means fewer imperfections inside the stone. This allows more light to pass through cleanly rather than being scattered by inclusions, contributing to sparkle.

Which Is More Important for Sparkle?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of diamond color and clarity, which one actually has a bigger impact on sparkle and brilliance?

Light Performance

Diamonds sparkle due to their high refractive index, meaning their ability to bend and disperse light. Both color and clarity affect how light performs inside a diamond:

  • Color – The less color in a diamond, the less the light spectrum is absorbed selectively. This allows for brighter, more vibrant flashes of light return.
  • Clarity – Higher clarity means there are fewer imperfections to disrupt the light’s path and cause leakage or scattering. This results in directed, sparkling flashes.

Overall, color has a slightly stronger influence over light performance and spread of white light flashes. Near colorless diamonds tend to exhibit exceptional brilliance.


Sparkle is also affected by contrast – the interplay between the bright and dark areas of a diamond. Here’s how color and clarity impact contrast:

  • Color – Minimal color means the diamond has a crystal clear background, providing superb contrast to the fiery flashes of light.
  • Clarity – Inclusions and blemishes can act almost like tiny mirrors inside the diamond, refracting more light. They also create separate facial planes with different light return.

While inclusions can positively contribute to contrast sparkle, it’s a fine line before they start reducing transparency and light spread. Color is safer for consistent contrast and sparkle.

Face-Up Appearance

The face-up appearance of a diamond – how it looks from the top – also impacts the visible sparkle.

  • Color – A colorless diamond has a crisp, white appearance that lets the light effects really stand out. Color can make the diamond look dull or dirty.
  • Clarity – Eye-visible inclusions in an SI1 – I3 diamond can be distracting and diminish the sparkling effect. Higher clarity keeps the attention on the diamond’s light play.

While inclusions hurt face-up appeal, minor differences in clarity under VS2 are difficult to see with the naked eye. Color has a more obvious and consistent influence on sparkle aesthetics.

The Verdict

So does color or clarity affect sparkle more in a diamond? The answer is color has a stronger impact. Though both characteristics play a role, exceptional color is more important for maximizing brilliance and fire.

Here are the key reasons why:

  • Near colorless diamonds allow more complete spectrum light return for brighter flashes.
  • Minimal color provides better background contrast to the light effects.
  • Colorless looks crisper and cleaner face-up, letting the sparkle take center stage.

For the most sparkle, prioritize a color grade in the D to H range. Clarity is less critical, but try to stick with VS2 or higher to avoid eye-visible inclusions.

The chart below summarizes how color and clarity impact diamond sparkle:

Color Clarity
Light Performance Near colorless allows full light spectrum return for maximum brightness and spread. Higher clarity means less light leakage and scattering for directed sparkling flashes.
Contrast Minimal color provides a high contrast backdrop to light effects. Inclusions can add some refracting contrast but hurt transparency.
Face-Up Appearance A clean white look allows the sparkle to shine. Eye-visible inclusions can distract from the diamond’s light play.

While excellent clarity never hurts sparkle, color is more important for maximizing the amount of light return, the contrast of light and dark areas, and the clean face-up visual appeal. Prioritize D to H color over flawless clarity for the most dazzling diamonds.

Differences in Sparkle by Diamond Cut

The cut of a diamond also significantly influences sparkle and brilliance. A well-cut diamond is precision faceted to optimize light performance and face-up appeal. Here are how some popular diamond cuts impact sparkle:

Round Brilliant

The classic 57-facet round brilliant has the ultimate sparkle factor. Its 360° symmetrical shape and precisely angled facets provide outstanding light return, contrast and scintillation.


This contemporary square cut has four pointed corners that act like extra facets to reflect light. Its sharp edges create a unique X-pattern of sparkle.


The pillow-shaped cushion cut has large, open facets to disperse light softly and uniformly across its surface. Its sparkle has a smooth, broad quality.


Similar to a princess cut, the radiant’s trimmed corners create a vibrant square silhouette. But its brilliant-style faceting produces intense, focused sparkle.


The emerald cut’s hall of mirrors effect adds reflective depth to its sparkle. Its long lines also create a dramatic sparkle bar effect.


This elliptical cut combines the sparkle spread of a round with a unique silhouette. Its elongated shape gives the sparkle a fluid, dancing quality.

While the round maximizes the amount of sparkle, other cuts create unique sparkle styles and optical effects. The princess, cushion, radiant and Asscher cuts also score highly for light return and brilliance.

Does Carat Size Affect Sparkle?

Diamond carat weight measures the physical size of the diamond. Does going up in size increase sparkle?

The answer is – not directly. Large diamonds over 1 carat can look more impressive overall, simply because they yield larger visual effects. A 1 carat diamond will show bigger flashes of light than a 0.3 carat diamond.

But this isn’t due to higher inherent sparkle. If two diamonds have the same cut, clarity and color, they’ll exhibit virtually equal light performance. Their sparkle depends almost entirely on their facet proportions and optical symmetry.

In other words, carat weight has no direct impact on sparkle and brilliance. It only enlarges the scale of the visible light effects. Between a 0.5 carat D VS2 excellent cut diamond and a 5 carat D VS2 excellent cut diamond, both will have superb sparkle – the 5 carat will just show it in a bigger, bolder way.

Maximizing Diamond Sparkle

To recap, here are some top tips for picking a diamond with sensational sparkle:

  • Prioritize D-H color grades for optimal light return and contrast.
  • Stick to VS2 clarity or higher to avoid distracting blemishes.
  • Choose a precisely cut round, princess, cushion or radiant shape.
  • Ideally, select an excellent cut grade for maximum light performance.
  • Carat size impacts scale more than inherent sparkle.

By understanding how color, clarity, cut and carat weight all influence sparkle, you can find the diamond that truly dazzles with brilliant light.


Diamond sparkle is a mesmerizing phenomenon, resulting from the complex interplay between light and this optically remarkable stone. While many factors are involved, a diamond’s color has the dominant impact on its light return, contrast and visual appeal. Near colorless grades in the D to H range are ideal for maximizing brilliance and fire.

Clarity also plays a role, with higher grades reducing light leakage from inclusions. But minor clarity differences under VS2 are difficult to discern, making color a more consistent driver of sparkle. Combine excellent color with a precision-cut round or princess shape, and you’ll have a diamond that dazzles and delights at any carat weight.