The Diamond Pro

H Color Diamonds: Near Colorless and Great Value for Money

By Michael Fried
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Considering an H color diamond but aren’t quite sure if it’s good enough for your fiancé-to-be’s engagement ring? 

H color diamonds fit into the “near colorless” range of the GIA’s diamond color scale. In the right cut, they can be tremendous value for money, offering almost identical looks to a colorless stone at a significantly lower price. 

Below, we’ve explained what H color diamonds are, as well as when this diamond color grade is worth considering for an engagement ring. We’ve also compared H color diamonds side by side with diamonds of other color grades to give you a full understanding of their appearance. 

What Are H Color Diamonds?

Diamonds can range a great deal in color, from totally colorless to quite strongly yellow tinted. In some cases, diamonds can even come in fancy colors such as pink and champagne. 

In our guide to diamond color, we explain that all diamonds sold with certification receive a color grade that’s based on the GIA’s diamond color scale. The scale ranges from D (colorless) all the way to Z (visibly yellow).

The stronger a diamond’s natural yellow tint, the lower its grade, resulting in a letter further into the alphabet.

A diamond that’s as close to perfectly free of color as possible will receive a grade of D. These diamonds are extremely rare and make up a tiny percentage of all diamonds sold. They tend to cost a significant amount more than diamonds with lower color grades.

H color diamonds are part of the “near-colorless” area of the GIA’s color scale. This means that they appear almost totally colorless when they’re viewed with the naked eye, but could show a slight yellow tint when they’re viewed under magnification by an expert gemologist. 

If you’ve read our guide to diamond color, you might have seen that we recommend the H color grade quite a lot — in fact, it’s our recommendation for many diamond shapes set in metals like white gold and platinum. 

This is because, contrary to what many diamond jewelers will tell you, the difference between a D color diamond and an H color diamond is often surprisingly difficult to spot, particularly for a non-expert without a jeweler’s loupe handy. 

However, the difference in price is very easy to see — something we’ll cover a little further down the page. 

Comparison: H Color Diamonds vs. Other Color Grades

As we mentioned above, the H color grade is part of the “near-colorless” range of the diamond color scale developed by the GIA. In fact, the H color is actually the second-highest color grade in this category (G is the highest, with D, E and F part of the “colorless” range). 

Because H color diamonds aren’t part of the “colorless” section of the scale, it’s quite common for people to assume that they must have an obvious, visible yellow color. 

However, this is not the case. Even in a brightly lit room and under magnification, it’s very hard to tell the difference between an H color diamond and a diamond with a color grade that’s in the colorless range. 

To illustrate this point, try for yourself. On the left side of the image below is this 1.04 carat, VS2 clarity, H color round brilliant cut diamond from James Allen. To its right is this diamond, which is almost equal in size, clarity and cut but with a D color grade:

As you can see, even under bright lighting and at 20x magnification, it’s very difficult to see any difference in color between these two diamonds.

Now, imagine trying to spot the difference between the diamond on the left and the diamond on the right in natural light, without magnification and with the diamond set in a ring that’s worn on your fiancé-to-be’s finger. 

Viewed from the side, the difference in color between the two diamonds becomes slightly more visible. However, it’s still very subtle even with bright lighting and magnification:

What isn’t subtle is the difference in price between these diamonds. The D color diamond costs $5,940 from James Allen. The H color diamond costs $5,190 — almost exactly 15% less. 

One reason that the difference in color between these two diamonds is so subtle is the cut. Both of these diamonds use the round brilliant cut, which is excellent at reducing the visible color of a diamond because of its pattern of light-reflecting facets. 

In other cuts, the yellow tint of an H color diamond is more obvious. Below, we’ve compared this 1.05 carat, VS2 clarity, H color marquise cut diamond to another marquise diamond of a similar size with a D color grade:

As you can see, the difference in color is more visible this time, at least with the help of lighting and 20x magnification. 

H Color Diamond Pricing

Just like cut quality and clarity, a diamond’s color grade can have a significant impact on how much it costs to purchase. 

In the right cut, an H color diamond can offer outstanding value for money. For example, the H color round cut diamond we featured in the comparison above costs almost $800 less than an equally large, clear and well-cut diamond with a D color grade.

By buying this diamond instead of a colorless diamond with a D, E or F color grade, you’ll have almost $800 extra that you can put towards a beautiful setting

In shapes other than the round brilliant cut, the pricing difference between a D, E or F diamond and an H color diamond can be even bigger.

For example, this 1.01 carat, VS2 clarity, ideal cut, D color princess cut diamond costs $4,660 from James Allen. This princess cut diamond has the same clarity, cut quality and carat weight with an H color grade. It’s available for $3,360 — a difference of $1,300, or about 28%. 

In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from 15% to 30% less for an H color diamond than you would for a diamond with a D color grade.

When is it a Good Idea to Buy an H Color Diamond?

If you’ve read our full guide to diamond color, you may have noticed that we recommend the H color grade quite often. 

H color diamonds offer a fantastic combination of aesthetics and value for money. Since they’re in the near-colorless range of the diamond color scale, they almost always look colorless when they’re set in a ring. At the same time, they’re significantly cheaper than D, E or F diamonds. 

Overall, we think that the H color grade is an excellent choice for most diamonds. However, as with all color grades, there are situations where a diamond with a higher or lower color grade is a better choice.

Below, we’ve listed our color recommendations for round diamonds, as well as other diamonds shapes. We’ve also explained how the setting you choose can affect the look of an H diamond and the value for money it offers.

For Round Diamonds

For round diamonds, the H color is a great choice. The round brilliant cut does a fantastic job of reflecting light, making it extremely difficult to see any difference in color between an H diamond and a colorless diamond even under heavy magnification.

In fact, we think the H color grade is the highest you should go on the color scale when buying a round diamond. If you choose a more expensive diamond with a grade higher than H, you’ll pay for a feature that you won’t ever be able to notice or appreciate.

As you may know, the metal you choose for your fiancé-to-be’s engagement ring can affect the appearance of the diamond. White metals, such as white gold and platinum, make color easier to see, while metals like yellow and rose gold can make clear diamonds look more yellow. 

We feel comfortable recommending the H color grade for round brilliant cut diamonds in metals such as platinum and white gold. Set in an engagement ring setting of any style, a well-cut H color diamond can look colorless and absolutely stunning. 

For colored metals such as yellow and rose gold, the H color grade is also fine. However, you’ll actually be better off choosing a lower color grade, such as a J color diamond, as the gold color of the metal will make any diamond appear slightly yellow anyway. 

For Other Diamond Shapes

The H color grade is a good choice for most diamond shapes. However, there are a few shapes that show color more readily than others, meaning you may want to choose a better color grade if you’re shopping for a diamond in one of these shapes. We’ve covered all of these below.

For the Asscher, princess and emerald cuts, an H color diamond is absolutely fine. Diamonds in these shapes don’t conceal color as well as the round brilliant cut, but they still reflect more than enough light to make an H color diamond look virtually identical to a colorless one. 

If you’re choosing a colored metal such as yellow or rose gold, you can even drop below the H color grade and choose an Asscher, princess or emerald cut diamond in the J grade. 

For other diamond shapes set in white metal, H is the lowest color grade we feel comfortable recommending. For yellow and rose gold, the H color grade is absolutely fine, although you can safely drop down to the I to J range without much of a visual difference. 

H Color Diamonds and Side Stone, Halo and Pavé Settings

As well as the metal you choose for your setting, the type of setting design you choose has an impact on whether or not a diamond color is suitable.

For example, halo, pavé and side stone engagement rings all feature small diamonds set near or beside the center stone. To avoid the center stone looking overly dark or yellow, these small diamonds need to be close in color to the diamond you choose for the center stone.  

For example, this trellis halo diamond engagement ring has small diamonds surrounding the center stone, as well as pavé diamonds. Because of the halo, it’s better to have an H or higher color center diamond to avoid any possible yellowness.

This is only an issue with halo settings. Side stone and pavé styles look amazing with an I color center. If you’re buying a solitaire setting, the center stone will be the only diamond in the ring, meaning there’s no need for you to worry about matching the color of the center diamond. 

Conclusion

For most diamonds, the H color grade is an excellent choice. A well-cut H color diamond looks colorless to the naked eye, all while costing anywhere from 15 to 30% less than a comparable diamond with a D color grade.

This means that you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars by picking an H color diamond over a colorless one, letting you choose a more beautiful setting or simply save money for your wedding, honeymoon or for your future together with your fiancé-to-be. 

In some cases, such as with a yellow or rose gold setting and a round brilliant cut diamond, you may be able to drop down to an I or J color grade without needing to worry about the diamond’s appearance. 

If you need help buying an H color diamond or choosing the right color grade, contact us. Our experts can help you choose the ideal diamond engagement ring for your tastes, preferences and budget.

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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