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If you’re looking to buy an engagement ring, you’re probably aware of the importance of color and how it can affect a diamond’s appearance.
All diamonds are graded for color on a scale that ranges from D (colorless) all the way to Z (a clear, easily visible yellow or brown tint). F color diamonds sit close to the top of the scale, just two grades below the highest D color grade.
A well cut F color diamond can look absolutely gorgeous, all while costing slightly less than a diamond with a D color grade. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that buying an F color diamond is your best option as a consumer.
Below, we’ve covered what an F color diamond is and how it compares to other diamond color grades. We’ve also looked at when it’s a good idea to buy an F color diamond, as well as when it’s better to choose a diamond with a higher or lower color grade.
As we mentioned above, all diamonds are graded for color. The diamond color scale starts at D (the highest possible grade, indicating a colorless diamond) and runs through the alphabet until Z (the lowest possible grade, indicating a strongly tinted diamond).
Within this scale, different grades are grouped together. For example, D, E and F diamonds are all part of the “colorless” range of the scale, while G, H, I and J color diamonds are categorized as “near-colorless” diamond color grades.
Although marketers and salespeople often stress the importance of buying a diamond that has flawless color, the reality is that there’s very little visible difference between the D, E and F color grades.
In most cases, only an expert gemologist can tell the difference between two different diamonds in these grades, usually with the help of bright laboratory lighting and strong magnification from a jeweler’s loupe.
To the naked eye and under magnification, an F colored diamond will appear almost completely colorless. Diamonds with this color grade look colorless in any metal, including white metals like platinum and white gold.
Just like with the other quality factors that make up the four Cs, the excellent color of an F color diamond comes at a price. Although F color diamonds are usually less expensive than D and E color diamonds, they’re quite a lot more expensive than G, H, I and J color diamonds.
As we mentioned in our guide to D color diamonds, there’s no need to buy a diamond that has a very high color grade for it to look colorless once it’s in its setting.
To give you an understanding of how an F color diamond looks in relation to other color grades, we’ve compared a variety of different F color diamonds to diamonds with both higher and lower color grades below.
Let’s start by comparing an F color diamond to a diamond with a higher color grade. Take a look at the two diamonds below. On the left, you can see this 0.80 carat, VS2 clarity, excellent cut, F color round brilliant cut diamond from James Allen.
On the right, you can see this D color diamond of exactly the same clarity, cut quality and carat weight:
Using these pictures, which were taken in bright lighting and under 20x magnification, can you see any difference in color between the F color diamond and the D color one?
Even when they’re compared from the side, the visual differences between the F color diamond and the D color one are almost impossible to see:
Both of these diamonds are in the colorless range of the color scale, albeit with a difference of two grades between them. Still, there’s a difference in price of $250 between them, with the F color diamond priced at $3,300 and the D color diamond at $3,580.
Given how tiny the difference in color between these two diamonds is even with bright lighting and magnification, do you think you (or anyone else, for that matter) could tell them apart in a real life setting?
Now, let’s compare an F color diamond to a diamond with a lower color grade. On the left is the same F color diamond as above. On the right is this H color diamond of the exact same clarity, cut quality and carat weight:
Just like in the example above, it’s very difficult to see any difference in color between these two diamonds. Only when the diamonds are viewed from the side, which reduces any concealment of the color due to light reflection, is it possible to see a very slight difference in color:
Despite looking almost identical even with bright lighting and magnification, there’s a noticeable difference in price between these two diamonds.
The F color diamond, as mentioned above, is available for $3,300. The H color diamond, on the other hand, is $2,970, providing a total saving of $330, or 11%, all for an almost identical appearance.
Now, let’s look at an F color diamond compared to an H color diamond in a different cut. Below, we’ve compared this 1 carat, VS1 clarity, F color oval cut diamond (left) to this H color diamond (right) of the same clarity and carat weight:
As you can see, in this cut, the difference in color between the two diamonds is much easier to see. While both diamonds still look excellent (and indeed, the H color diamond would be a fine choice for most settings), the F color diamond is visibly clearer and more colorless.
With this said, take away the bright lighting and magnification and spotting the color difference even between these two diamonds becomes much more difficult.
As colorless diamonds, F color diamonds are quite expensive on a per carat basis. While you won’t need to spend quite as much for an F color diamond as you would for a D color diamond, the difference in pricing isn’t as big as you’d think for a diamond without flawless clarity.
For example, if you look at the Rapaport diamond price list (the prices are changing, but let’s use the example we have in the article from August 2019), you can see that the average price for a VS1, D color diamond is 121 (in 100s for 1.00ct to 1.49ct diamonds). For a diamond of the same clarity in an F color grade, it’s 98, making the F color grade about 19% cheaper.
In practice, the difference isn’t always this big. For example, the 0.80 carat, D color, VS2 clarity round diamond we used for the comparison earlier only cost about 8% more than this diamond of equal quality in the F color grade.
Likewise, this 1.00 carat, D color, Vs1 clarity oval cut diamond from James Allen is $4,880. This diamond of the same shape, carat weight, clarity and a slightly lower cut quality is $4,530 — just 7% less expensive.
In short, the F color grade is slightly more affordable than the D color grade. However, the price difference isn’t as big as you might expect, at least for diamonds in the ~1 carat range.
Compare that to the difference in price between an F color diamond and an H color diamond of equivalent carat weight, clarity and cut quality.
This 1 carat, VS2 clarity, excellent cut, F color round brilliant cut diamond from James Allen sells for $5,830. Meanwhile, this H color diamond of identical carat weight, clarity and cut quality is only $4,980 — a full $850, or 15%, less expensive.
As we’ve covered before, by far the most important factor in determining how brilliant a diamond looks is its cut quality, not its color.
Because of this, we generally don’t think it’s worth overpaying for a D, E or F color diamond just because it’s graded as colorless rather than near colorless. Once the diamond is set in a setting and worn on your fiancé-to-be’s finger, the difference between F and H, for example, is virtually impossible to perceive with the naked eye.
However, there are a few situations in which buying an F color diamond can be a good decision.
The first is if your budget allows it. If you’ve already set your budget for an engagement ring and find that an F color diamond fits into it without affecting the diamond’s cut quality or carat weight, then there’s nothing wrong with choosing an F color diamond.
The second is if you’re choosing a side stone setting with larger and certified side diamonds. If they are in the F to G range, an F color center will match the side stones and either part will look warmer in color.
As for situations in which buying an F color diamond usually isn’t the best option, we’ve shared our recommendations for specific diamond shapes below.
Because the round brilliant cut is so good at reflecting light and disguising color, there’s usually no need to choose an F color diamond for this shape.
In general, we recommend the H to J color range for any round brilliant cut diamond that will be set in a white gold or platinum solitaire ring. While a grade higher than H will still look beautiful, you’ll ultimately be paying for a feature you won’t ever see or appreciate with your naked eye.
For yellow and rose gold settings, you can actually go even further down the color scale to a K to M color diamond. This is because the color of the gold will tint the diamond slightly, meaning that even a colorless D, E or F color diamond will look slightly yellow anyway.
Just like with round brilliant cut diamonds, an F color diamond in another shape will look great, but usually won’t offer anything special that can’t be found in a less expensive diamond with a lower color grade.
For the asscher, emerald and princess cuts, which conceal color fairly well, we recommend the G to I color grades for white gold and platinum settings. For yellow or rose gold, the J to K color grades offer excellent appearance and value for money.
For other diamond shapes, the F color grade can be a good choice. For example, an oval shape diamond set in a white metal such as white gold or platinum can look fantastic in the F color, as this shape tends to show color more than other cuts. But then again, a G/H diamond will look equally beautiful and will cost you much less.
F color diamonds fall into the colorless range of the color scale, meaning they’ll look colorless in a side stone, halo or pavé setting. With this color grade, there’s no need to worry about the side, halo or pavé diamonds appearing lighter than the center stone.
For many settings, you can comfortably drop down to the G/H color grade without having to worry about the appearance of your center stone.
F color diamonds look fantastic, with an almost completely colorless appearance that’s ideal for both white and colored metals alike. As the least expensive color grade in the colorless area of the diamond color scale, an F color diamond offer slightly better value than a D or E diamond.
However, most of the time, you’ll be better off buying a G or H color diamond over one with an F color grade. Despite being one to two steps further down the scale, G and H diamonds still look colorless to the naked eye, all while offering much better value for money.
Remember, any yellow or rose gold setting will create the appearance of a slightly yellow stone anyway, making the F color grade an unnecessary investment and reducing the amount you’re able to spend on more important factors, such as a diamond’s clarity and carat weight.
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