The Diamond Pro

Diamond Color vs Clarity: Which Is More Important?

By Michael Fried
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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, but looks horrible. But if she finds the right combination she will find this stunning diamond 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 clarity, or contact us for personal help finding the right diamond.


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. 

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.

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.

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 diamond clarity guide, 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. 

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 1.00 carat VS1 clarity diamond to this 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. 

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 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 vs. Clarity: Step by Step

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. 

If you’ve read other content on our website, you’re probably aware of the four 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 or AGS 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 or AGS. These are the two most reliable grading entities, 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.

In Conclusion

Color and clarity both play major roles in how a diamond will look. A diamond with a poor clarity grade may look dirty, with visible inclusions and blemishes. However, beyond the point at which a diamond becomes eye-clean, it’s not worth paying extra for a higher clarity grade.

Likewise, a poor color grade can make a diamond appear yellow. However, it’s not worth paying extra for flawless color — instead, focus on finding a diamond that looks white once it’s mounted in an engagement ring setting.

If you’re still under your budget after finding the right color and clarity grades, it’s best to spend it on something you’ll notice, such as a beautiful setting or larger carat weight diamond.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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