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Ask a Diamond Pro: Extremely Brilliant Round Diamond for $3,500

By Mike Fried,

If you’ve ever read our diamond buying guides, you’ll know that we emphasize prioritizing the features that have the biggest impact on a diamond’s appearance, such as its cut quality and carat weight, then aiming for high clarity and color.

This approach ensures your budget will be spent where it’s most effective — on the parts of a diamond you can actually see, not the ones that only exist on its certificate. 

Despite this, we often receive emails from readers interested in purchasing “perfect” diamonds — diamonds that have flawless color and clarity. 

For example, we were recently contacted by a reader interested in buying a diamond in the 0.40 to 0.50 carat range. They wanted a diamond with excellent brilliance and had picked out a stone from Blue Nile with exceptional cut quality, as well as extremely good color and clarity grades.

Here’s the reader’s email:

“Hi, I have been looking at your site and your articles and they were of great help. 

I am looking for a round diamond between 0.4 to 0.5 carats. Nothing too big but with a great sparkle. I have read that cut is very important but I’m confused about the best table and depth %.

I have been looking at this diamond: Blue Nile LD09725880 

Could you please help me with the decision?”

This diamond is beautifully cut — something that’s clear just from seeing it pictured. However, its color (D) and clarity grades (FL) are so high that they significantly increase its price, all with little to no impact on its appearance.

D/FL diamond from Blule Nilele
D/FL diamond from Blule Nilele

Instead of buying a “flawless” diamond like this (a topic we’ll touch on more below), it’s far better to aim for a diamond with eye-clean clarity and a colorless appearance, even if it doesn’t have a perfect grade for either characteristic on its GIA certificate.

We’ve discussed this more below and shared a few example diamonds that we think are better choices for this reader. 

Finding a Very Brilliant Round Diamond for $3,500

After receiving this reader’s email, we replied to let them know that we thought they’d be better off choosing a diamond with a similar level of cut quality, but with slightly lower color and clarity grades.

They emailed us back to let us know that their idea was to get something “rare and special” — a diamond with exceptional color and clarity. They wanted to be able to tell their future fiancé that it was a “very nice diamond.” 

This is a completely understandable idea, and it’s something we often hear from readers looking for diamond jewelry. 

In general, we strongly recommend against buying a diamond with a color grade in the D, E or F range (considered colorless), or a clarity grade of FL or IF

The reason for this is that diamonds in this color and/or clarity range are priced with a significant premium. However, for the most part, the appearance of these diamonds is identical to those in the G or H color range, or the VVS1 or VVS2 clarity range, at least to the naked eye.

When diamonds are graded for clarity, color and other characteristics, the process occurs in a specialist lab with bright lighting and magnification. As the American Gem Society explains, “overall clarity determinations are balanced between the diamond’s appearance face up in the loupe, the microscope at 10x, and eye visibility. Higher power is used to identify inclusions that are otherwise difficult to determine at 10x, which can often include VVS inclusions, however, the final grade is always determined at 10x, in four directions.”

In other words, the grading process — particularly for very high quality diamonds — often picks up inclusions that are invisible to the naked eye, particularly outside the environment of a diamond grading lab. It’s essentially identifying imperfections in a diamond that even the most perfect pair of eyes will never see.

To provide a more specific example, take a look at this 0.48 carat, D color, FL clarity round brilliant cut diamond sold by James Allen. It’s a modestly sized but stunning diamond that’s priced to match its GIA certificate at $2,480.

Next, look at this 0.46 carat, G color, VVS2 clarity diamond, also from James Allen. Does it look yellow in comparison? Are there visible inclusions? Even with studio lighting and magnification, it’s very difficult to perceive any significant differences between these diamonds. 

D diamond vs. G diamond
D/FL diamond (left) vs. G/VVS2 diamond (right)

Now, imagine how similar these diamonds would look without magnification, in “real life” lighting, in a ring on a person’s finger. How confident would you be that you could identify the D color, FL clarity and the G color, VVS2 clarity one?

Despite their virtually identical appearance, these diamonds have very different price tags. The G color, VVS2 clarity diamond is available for $1,230, which is half of the price of the D color, FL clarity stone. 

Choosing the diamond with the lower color and clarity grades (but still free of visible color and inclusions) frees up a significant amount of money that could be put towards a beautiful setting, improved cut quality or a larger diamond. 

Because of the facet pattern of the round brilliant cut, it’s a very good diamond shape for hiding inclusions. This means that many diamonds in the VS1 to VS2 clarity range appear eye-clean in a “real life” environment and can offer excellent value for money.

If you’re good at carefully checking for inclusions, you can even find eye-clean round diamonds in the SI1 to SI2 range. 

Similarly, most round cut diamonds with a color grade of G, H, I or J can look fantastic in a white gold setting. For a yellow or rose gold setting, it’s even alright to drop to the K or L range without the diamond displaying any unwanted color in its setting. 

Tips for buying a diamond

After a few emails back and forth, this reader agreed that choosing a diamond with flawless cut and color wasn’t a particularly good investment, and instead opted to put their budget towards a larger diamond. 

They picked several diamonds from Brian Gavin Diamonds for us to review, with this 0.74 carat, H color, VS1 clarity stone the most impressive of the lot. 

This diamond has absolutely exceptional cut quality and brilliance. It’s also completely eye-clean and free of any visible color. Instead of overpaying for a “perfect” diamond, this reader ended up with the option to purchase a stunning diamond with a larger carat weight for the same price.

Our Recommendation

When purchasing a diamond, it can be tempting to focus on getting something “perfect,” be it in terms of cut quality, clarity or color.

Instead of aiming for perfection, you’ll get a far better deal by choosing a diamond with excellent cut quality, then making sure it has eye-clean clarity and doesn’t display obvious color, even if its clarity and color grades aren’t flawless.

This approach allows you to maximize the amount you spend on visible features, such as carat weight and brilliance, all while ensuring you don’t overspend for a flawless clarity or color grade you’ll never even notice. 

If you need help picking a diamond, or would like us to give feedback on a diamond you’d like to purchase, feel free to contact us for personalized help. Our expert team is happy to help you find something that suits your tastes and budget.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online. For a limited time Save 25% during James Allen Valentine's Day!
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. Blue Nile have generously offered our readers an exclusive one-time use coupon. (Click Here to save $100 off $1000 purchase)

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What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
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