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Diamond Color vs Clarity: Which Is More Important?

How to balance color and clarity to get the best diamond possible

By Mike Fried,

When choosing a diamond, the debate often centers around color versus clarity. Both significantly influence a diamond’s appearance, but which holds more weight? In essence, neither is universally ‘more important.’ It’s about striking the right balance for your preferences and budget. While color refers to the diamond’s tint, clarity assesses imperfections. For most, the goal is to select a diamond that appears white and is free of visible inclusions, ensuring both beauty and value.

In this article we discuss both diamond color and clarity and how to find the perfect balance for the perfect diamond.

importance of color and clarity

If you’ve searched online for information about buying a diamond engagement ring or any other type of diamond jewelry, you’ve almost definitely seen color and clarity mentioned as two of the most important characteristics that you should keep in mind as a customer.

Color and clarity both affect a diamond’s appearance, often significantly. A diamond with a poor clarity grade will often have blemishes and inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, making it far less elegant and beautiful. 

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A diamond with a poor color grade will often have a visible yellow tint, which can also affect its appearance. Combine a poor clarity grade with a poor color grade and you can end up with an unattractive, aesthetically subpar diamond such as this one from James Allen.

As we’ve explained in our diamond buying guides, getting the best deal on a diamond is about focusing on the factors that have the biggest impact on its appearance while spending less on those that have little, if any, effect.

Below, we’ve explained how color and clarity fit into this, as well as which of these two factors you should prioritize when shopping for diamonds.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

How diamond clarity affects the appearance
How diamond color affects the appearance
Diamond color and clarity chart
FAQs about diamond color vs clarity
Bottom line recommendation

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

How Diamond Clarity Affects Appearance

Before getting into the specifics of diamond color vs. clarity, it’s important to explain the basics of how color and clarity actually affect a diamond’s appearance.

As we’ve covered in our guide to diamond clarity, diamonds are graded for clarity on a scale that runs from IF (internally flawless) to I (included). The higher the grade, the clearer the diamond, with fewer inclusions and a cleaner, more perfect appearance.

One of the most common mistakes people make when purchasing a diamond is overpaying for clarity. 

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Instead of overpaying for flawless clarity, it’s much better to choose a diamond that’s eye-clean, meaning it doesn’t have any inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. Then, you can assign more of your budget to other factors that affect the diamond’s appearance. 

For example, compare this 1.05 carat VS1 clarity diamond from Blue Nile to an IF clarity diamond of the same cut, color and carat weight. Both diamonds are eye clean and will look almost identical in a ring, but the IF clarity diamond costs $1,155, or 31 percent, more than the VS1 diamond. 

By not spending the extra $1,155 on unnoticeable extra clarity, you’ll instead be able to spend it on a better color grade or a larger diamond. 

In short, it’s generally not worth paying for something you’ll never notice. When it comes to the clarity of a diamond, your goal should generally be to choose the most affordable diamond (at least from the perspective of clarity) that’s eye-clean.

How Diamond Color Affects Appearance

Diamonds are graded for color using a scale that runs from D (colorless) to Z (noticeable yellow or brown color). Most diamonds used for jewelry are between D and M on the scale, with lower grade diamonds typically reserved for industrial use. 

GIA, the worlds leading diamond certification laboratory, grades as such: “A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond has no hue, like a drop of pure water, and consequently, a higher value. GIA’s D-to-Z diamond color grading system measures the degree of colorlessness by comparing a stone under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions to masterstones of established color value.”

When it comes to color, the closer a diamond is to the D end of the scale, the less likely it is to display a visible yellow or brown tint. We’ve explained diamond color grading in more detail in our diamond color guide. 

While the color of a diamond matters to a certain point, it’s most important to choose a diamond that looks colorless in relation to its setting.

Just like with clarity, a common diamond buying mistake is to overpay for a diamond with a very good color grade, such as a D, E or F grade diamond. Often, diamonds in this area of the color scale look virtually identical to those in the G, H or I range, despite costing significantly more. 

For example, compare this 1.00 carat G color diamond from James Allen to this D color diamond of the same cut, clarity and carat weight. Even under magnification and bright studio lighting, the color difference between the two diamonds is very small and difficult to notice. 

Despite their very similar appearance, there’s a difference in price of $1,190 between these two diamonds. 

Different diamond shapes display color differently. For example, a round brilliant cut diamond will generally be good at concealing color, whereas an emerald cut diamond, which has straight facets, will display any internal color more obviously.

Diamond Color and Clarity Chart

This diamond clarity and color chart shows you where your sweet spot is when buying a diamond. Diamond clarity and color are both important factors in a diamond’s appearance. Both have an impact on a diamond’s appearance, and both are features that you’ll need to pay attention to if you’re shopping for a diamond. 

However, they’re not the only factors that determine how a diamond will look, or the first factors that you should look at when comparing diamonds. 

Color vs clarity graf

If you’ve read other content on our website, you’re probably aware of the 4 Cs of diamonds — cut, color, clarity and carat weight. These four factors play the largest roles in determining how a diamond looks, as well as how much it will typically cost. 

Buying a diamond is all about striking the right balance between the factors that affect the way it looks and those that have a minimal impact. 

One way to think of clarity and color is as “negative features.” Color and inclusions are features that you don’t want to see in a diamond. As long as these features aren’t visible, a diamond will look beautiful and impressive, provided it’s cut well.

Cut quality and carat weight, on the other hand, are “positive features.” You want to maximize them as much as possible. 

Of the four Cs, we recommend starting with cut quality. After you’ve limited your search to ideal or excellent cut diamonds, you can move on to clarity by checking which clarity grade brings up diamonds that are eye-clean. 

Once you’ve found the right clarity grade, then you can focus on color. Once you’ve identified a color grade that appears colorless in relation to your setting type, then you can put as much of your budget as possible towards the carat weight.

If you’re shopping for a diamond online, you can follow the steps below to make this process easier:

  1. Limit your search to excellent or ideal cut diamonds. A diamond’s cut is ultimately more important than its clarity or color, particularly when it comes to brilliance. Before looking at color or clarity, limit your search to excellent or ideal cut diamonds only.

    You can do this easily using the search filter options provided by online diamond vendors such as James Allen and Blue Nile.

  2. Only shop for GIA certified diamonds. The standards used to assess clarity and color can vary from one lab to another, with certain labs (such as IGI) generally applying looser standards than others.

    To make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when looking at different diamonds, we recommend only searching for diamonds that are certified by the GIA. This is the most reliable grading entity, with both offering reputable information.

  3. Focus on clarity first by choosing an eye-clean diamond. You don’t need to overpay for a perfect diamond — instead, focus on choosing a stone that’s free of any visible inclusions when it’s viewed with the naked eye.

    Diamond shapes display inclusions differently, with some shapes hiding inclusions better than others. We recommend using our diamond shape guides to find the recommended clarity grades for each diamond shape, then checking for eye-cleanliness yourself.

  4. Next, check that the diamond doesn’t appear yellow. Like with clarity, there’s no need to overpay for a perfect color grade. Choose a diamond that looks colorless in relation to its setting, meaning there’s no visible color when it’s set inside a ring.

    The ideal color grade can vary based on the metal you choose for your engagement ring and the specific shape of the diamond. In general, brilliant cuts are better at hiding color in a diamond than step cuts.

    Likewise, colored metals, such as rose and yellow gold, are better at hiding a diamond’s color than metals such as white gold and platinum. You can find color grade suggestions for each diamond shape and type of metal in our diamond shape guide.

  5. For halo and side-stone settings, check that the color and clarity match. These settings feature small diamonds (known as diamond accents) that either sit beside or surround the center diamond.

    If you opt for one of these settings, make sure that the center stone and accents aren’t more than one to two grades apart in color. This helps to make sure that the diamonds match and don’t appear overly white or yellow next to each other.

  6. Finally, adjust your desired carat weight based on your budget. By focusing on eye-clean clarity and choosing a color grade that looks white in relation to its setting, you should be able to free up more of your budget for a larger carat weight.

If you need help, feel free to contact us for personalized advice and assistance. Our expert team can help you choose a diamond engagement ring based on your budget, taste and a wide range of other factors.

FAQs About Diamond Color vs. Diamond Clarity

What is the No 1 diamond quality?

The highest-quality diamonds (in terms of clarity) are Flawless (FL) diamonds. These diamonds have no internal or external imperfections, even if viewed under intense magnification with specialized equipment. In terms of color, the highest quality diamonds are graded D, meaning they are completely colorless.

What is the lowest quality diamond?

The lowest grades for color and clarity are Z (for color) and I3 (for clarity). Z color diamonds are noticeably yellow, while I3 clarity diamonds have clear imperfections, easy to spot with the naked eye.

What is the best quality diamond on a budget?

If you’re on a budget, look for diamonds between VS2-SI1 clarity and H-J color. In this range, most diamonds appear colorless and free from imperfections under normal viewing conditions. This will save you a significant amount of money compared to higher grades, with little noticeable difference in the quality of the diamond.

Is color or clarity more important?

Color and clarity are equally as important when shopping for a diamond. You want to find a sweet spot where the diamond appears both eye-clean and colorless under normal viewing conditions. Though certain shapes or settings make clarity or color more important, in general, you need to consider both.

Bottom Line Recommendation:

When buying a diamond, it’s important to consider both color and clarity. Both have an impact on a diamond’s appearance, although they’re not the only features you should look for. But you need to make sure you find the right balance.

If Goldilocks had $10,000 to buy a diamond and she was hyperfocused on getting the best possible color and clarity, she would end up with this beautiful diamond that is too little (given her budget).

If Goldilocks would ignore the color and clarity completely, she would end up with a diamond that may be big like this one from James Allen, but looks horrible. But if she finds the right combination she will find this stunning diamond from James Allen that is just right.

We recommend that you start by checking that the diamond is eye-clean, meaning it has good enough clarity that there are no visible inclusions to the naked eye. Then, check that there’s no visible yellow tint to the diamond.

Beyond a certain point, paying for a flawless clarity or color grade just isn’t necessary and won’t have a major impact on a diamond’s appearance. At this point, it’s better to focus on cut quality and carat weight, both of which are much more visible.  

For more information, you can read our full guides to diamond color and diamond clarity, or contact us for personal help finding the right diamond.

Here are more specific color and clarity topics to browse:

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.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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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. 
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
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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