Diamond color is graded on a scale from D to Z, with D being the whitest (and thus the most desirable and expensive) color of diamond. Each grade going up from D indicates slightly greater appearance of color (usually yellow or brown) in the stone. However, below a certain point the human eye will not be able to tell the difference between a perfectly white D color stone and a less perfect version like a G color, unless they are sitting side by side in front of you. That differentiating line seems to be drawn around the K level, so we typically advise this as the lowest color grade you consider when shopping for a diamond. Here’s the color scale as it appears on GIA.edu.
The appearance of color in the stone is affected by many factors and two different diamonds within the same color grade can be quite different. However, the grading scale places the diamond in a relative color range that is pretty straightforward. Jewelers will often refer to K color or lower diamonds as “facing up white”, meaning that when you see the top of the diamond (as viewed in a setting) it will not look “colored”. The reason is twofold.
Firstly, a diamond appears much whiter from the top than it does when viewed from the side. Secondly, a diamond will appear whiter when placed it a setting than it does as a loose stone. In fact, with stones graded K color or lower (more colored diamonds), a gold setting can make the stone appear whiter because the human eye evaluates the relative differences in color between the setting and the diamond itself. Even a platinum or white gold setting will improve the visual appearance of color in a stone, good to keep in mind when you are evaluating your options. To see any color of stone set in a white gold, platinum, gold, or rose gold setting you can google something along the lines of “weddingbee K color platinum setting”. Weddingbee.com is a website where people share images of their engagement rings and it is conveniently grouped by different categories and tagged accordingly. Here’s an example of what the K color platinum setting search turned up. The K color looks very white, this is why most people end up buying a K color stone – when it faces up white in a setting you can hardly tell the difference versus a better color grading.
Appearance is everything when it comes to an engagement ring, so picking a diamond is about getting the best looking stone you can afford. When it comes to color, we recommend you start looking at J color and work your way up or down. The reason we like starting with J is that it gives you a buffer above K color so you can be confident that your stone will face up white.
There are a lot of moving parts but generally speaking we try to maximize carat size for our given budget by sticking to the lower end of the color ranges we specified and searching for VS2 or better diamonds. SI1 diamonds are great if they’re eye clean, but they are a pain to find and often end up costing just as much as a VS2 diamond would. If you need one-on-one advice, we offer free support to all our users – simply drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org