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When it comes to fancy-shaped diamonds, one of the most popular options is the princess cut — a timeless diamond shape that offers incredible elegance, combined with better value for money than the round brilliant cut.
As the second most popular diamond shape, we often receive emails from readers interested in buying princess cut diamonds.
Recently, a reader contacted us for help picking a princess cut diamond to match a setting they planned to purchase offline. The ring they had chosen was a channel setting with small G color, VS1 clarity diamonds.
Like many buyers of channel, pavé and side-stone settings, they were concerned about buying a center diamond that didn’t match the setting and wanted some expert help.
Here’s the reader’s original email:
“I have been monitoring your site for a while now and have found it very informative. I do not know the first thing when it comes to diamonds except what I have read on your site.
I am looking for a center stone, princess cut diamond for around $8000. I would like it to be from a 1.25ct to a 1.50ct for that price. I have a band already picked out. below is the attached link http://www.hydeparkjewelers.com/bridal-engagement-rings/engagement-ring-collection/tacori-rings.aspx
I know it is not a great picture but it is the best one I can find online. The jeweler that is selling this states that the diamonds in the channel are of G color and VS1 clarity. I have been looking into a center stone from jamesallen.com because they seem to have more reasonable prices than the place I am going to buy the setting from.
If at all possible I would like the diamond to be of G color and VS1 clarity. but, I am not sure if I should get the same color and clarity for the center stone. Let me know what you think.
Before we provide more specific recommendations, let’s get one thing out of the way. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no need to match diamonds perfectly for clarity.
This is because clarity only has a minor impact on a diamond’s appearance, with the exception of very poor quality diamonds (for example, diamonds with very large inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, like this diamond from James Allen).
Similarly, it’s okay for diamonds to be off by one color grade (for example, an H diamond next to G color channel-set diamonds) without any visible difference in color.
This means that this reader can safely drop down to a diamond with an SI1 or SI2 clarity grade, as well as an H color grade (even an I color will be OK), without the center diamond looking overly blemished or tinted once it’s set in the engagement ring.
Now, let’s get into a little more detail about the effects of clarity and color on the appearance of a diamond.
As we frequently discuss in our diamond education content, buying a great diamond is all about understanding how the diamond 4 Cs (cut quality, color, clarity and carat weight) affect the appearance and value of a diamond.
Of these four Cs, cut (the precision and symmetry with which a diamond is cut) and carat weight (the weight of the diamond) have the biggest impact on its appearance. A perfectly cut diamond will reflect and refract light very well, giving it incredible brilliance and fire.
Likewise, a 1.50 carat diamond will look significantly larger and more eye-catching than a more modestly sized 0.50 carat diamond.
A diamond’s color can also have an impact on its appearance. For example, a diamond with a D color grade (indicating a total lack of color) will have a very different appearance than a diamond with a color grade of M (indicating a noticeable yellow tint).
However, provided a diamond is eye-clean (meaning it has no inclusions that can be seen under “real-life” conditions with the human eye), its clarity grade doesn’t have that much of an effect on the way it looks.
As the GIA explains here, diamond clarity refers to the “absence of inclusions and blemishes.” These are the small, naturally-formed imperfections in a diamond that develop as a result of its exposure to heat and pressure inside the earth.
For example, compare the two princess cut diamonds below. On the left is a 1.21 carat, G color, IF clarity diamond. On the right is a diamond of the same size and color grade, but with a clarity grade of VS1 — a full three grades lower.
Despite the significant difference in clarity grade, both of these diamonds are eye-clean and look extremely similar, even under studio lighting and magnification.
Below the eye-clean clarity range, clarity does have an impact on a diamond’s appearance. For example, this 1.04 carat, H color, I1 clarity diamond has several large inclusions that clearly and severely affect its attractiveness and integrity, even in a “real-life” environment.
Provided you stick to eye-clean diamonds, a difference in clarity grade isn’t likely to have much of an impact on the way a large diamond looks next to smaller channel-set diamonds.
When it comes to color, it’s virtually impossible to detect any difference between diamonds that are only a single color grade apart (for our example, a large H color center diamond next to G color pavé or channel-set diamonds).
With small diamonds, such as those used in most channel-set engagement rings, even a color difference of two grades is virtually impossible to detect with the human eye outside of a studio or lab environment.
By aiming for an H color grade and focusing on an eye-clean appearance over a specific clarity grade, we can find some stunning princess cut diamonds for less than $8,000.
For example, this 1.20 carat, H color, VS1 clarity princess cut diamond is available from James Allen for $6,510, while this 1.25 carat, H color, VS2 clarity princess cut diamond from Blue Nile is priced at $7,020.
Both of these diamonds will appear colorless and free of inclusions in a channel setting, without the higher price tag of an equivalent stone with a G color grade.
Buying a diamond is all about allocating as much of your budget as possible towards the factors that have a noticeable impact on appearance, all while spending the minimum amount on those that don’t.
This means prioritizing cut quality above all else, then choosing a diamond that’s eye-clean and free of visible color once it’s inside an engagement ring.
By dropping down one color grade and aiming for an eye-clean appearance instead of “flawless” clarity, you can find a stunning diamond at a competitive price, freeing up more of your budget to put towards cut quality, carat weight or your preferred setting.
Similarly, dropping down one color grade to H instead of G can remove several hundred dollars from the price of a diamond, giving you greater choice and flexibility.
In the end, this reader chose an H color, VS1 clarity princess cut diamonds that looks absolutely beautiful in its setting. The diamond looks great, and most importantly, it was priced reasonably, allowing them to pair it with their preferred channel setting.
If you have questions about what diamond to buy, or need help comparing similar diamonds for quality and value, feel free to contact us.
We help hundreds of readers find and compare diamonds every month, and we’re happy to help you find a diamond that matches your tastes and budget.
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