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May 31st 2023

I Color Diamonds: Good or Bad?

By Devin Jones

I color diamonds are the sweet spot for price and quality, which is why they're one of the most popular diamond color grades for engagement ring shoppers.

a chart showing the popularity of various diamond color grades

But will these more affordable diamonds still look totally white? Let's dive into the details with real images to see how I color diamonds stack up to the other color grades...

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What does I color mean?

I color diamond color grade chart

I color diamonds are the third grade of “near colorless” diamonds, the color grades G - J. Near colorless diamonds like I color are the most popular choice for engagement ring jewelry since they balance both beauty and affordability (relatively speaking of course).

I color diamonds (like most diamonds) may have a faint yellow hue when viewed from the side, but should face up white to an observer. But that's enough talk - it's easier to show you how subtle the differences are between different diamond color grades than it is to explain them.

I color diamonds are generally considered a great combination of value and aesthetic for use in diamond jewelry.

Checkout these 1 carat VS1 clarity diamonds which span the color grades from D - K color in order (all with none fluorescence). Do you notice a major difference in color? Most people can’t tell the difference between any of the below except the K color, but even then some K color diamonds are whiter than others to the naked eye.

magnified image of a D color diamond
magnified image of an E color diamond
magnified image of an F color diamond
magnified image of a G color diamond
magnified image of an H color diamond
magnified image of an I color diamond
magnified image of a J color diamond
magnified image of a K color diamond

Believe it or not the above diamonds are all different color grades ranging from D - K in order from top left to bottom right.

Now let's take a look at the above 1.01 carat I VS1 diamond priced at around $5,600 versus the 1.02 D VS1 priced at around $9,000. At nearly double the price, the D color diamond is truly a whiter stone - but to the average observer this will be almost totally lost. The better value is the I color diamond that looks similarly white but costs 37% less than the D color according to live diamond pricing data from our diamond price calculator.

1 carat D color diamond
1 Carat I Color Diamond Facing Up White

Above, a 1 carat D VS1 diamond priced at around $9,000 on the left and a 1 carat I VS1 diamond priced at around $5,600 on the right.

It’s worth noting, diamond color grades are not consistent across all of the grading agencies. When we discuss diamond color we are referring to the GIA grading scale which is widely recognized as one of the strictest and most consistent grading scales in the world. The AGS has a similarly stellar reputation while some other grading agencies tend to inflate the grades of their diamonds relative to these more respected institutions.

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What is the ideal carat weight for an I color diamond?

As a diamond’s carat weight increases, the appearance of color also becomes more obvious. Generally speaking, I color diamonds will look white to most people even in larger carat weights. Again, color sensitivity is a personal preference. However, going up or down 1 color grade affects price more significantly than stepping up or down in clarity (generally speaking).

1 carat I color diamond 1.5 carat I color diamond 2 carat I color diamond 2.5 carat I color diamond 3 carat I color diamond 4 carat I color diamond 5 carat I color diamond 6 carat I color diamond

The diamonds above are in increasing carat size: 1 carat, 1.5 carat, 2 carat, 2.5 carat, 3 carat, 4 carat, 5 carat, and 6 carat.

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Are I color diamonds a good choice for an engagement ring or earrings?

I color diamonds are a great choice for diamond jewelry like an engagement ring or earrings since I color diamonds offer a good balance of beauty and affordability. That said, you should be aware of how the size and shape of the diamond (as well as its fluorescence) can impact the appearance of color to the naked eye.

There are several variables that can affect the ideal color grade for your diamond. First, lower color grades are a better choice for smaller diamonds than they are for larger diamonds in general as a smaller diamond hides its color better than a larger stone. Second, a fancy cut diamond will tend to show its color better than a round diamond. Third, the color of your setting is going to affect the way in which a casual observer perceives the color of your diamond. A yellow or rose gold color grade will actually make your diamond look slightly whiter than it would in a white gold or platinum setting. Finally, a near colorless or faintly colored diamond with faint or medium fluorescence can look slightly whiter than an equivalent diamond with no fluorescence (read our diamond fluorescence guide to learn how this works).

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Which Clarity Grade Goes Best With I Color Diamonds?

I color diamond shoppers tend to understand the tradeoffs between quality and price better than most. What they're often optimizing for is an eye clean diamond that looks white to the human eye, without overpaying for a totally colorless diamond. Why pay up when you'll never notice the difference, right?

It's no surprise that I color diamond buyers tend to overwhelmingly gravitate towards VS2 clarity and VS1 clarity diamonds, the type of diamonds that should look totally eye clean without overpaying for a VVS stone.

The most popular clarity grades for I color diamonds are: 

  1. VS2 clarity I color diamonds (31%)
  2. VS1 clarity I color diamonds (29%)
  3. SI1 clarity I color diamonds (21%)
  4. VVS2 clarity I color diamonds (15%)
  5. SI2 clarity I color diamonds (14%)
  6. VVS1 clarity I color diamonds (10%)
  7. IF clarity I color diamonds (4%)
  8. FL clarity I color diamonds (<1%)

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What color setting works best with an I color diamond?

I color diamonds work well in any setting color including platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold. If you are nervous about the appearance of color then a yellow or rose gold setting is your best bet as darker settings can make a diamond appear slightly whiter. That said - the below I color VS1 clarity diamond looks brilliant and white in a platinum setting.


This diamond engagement ring features a 2.24 carat I VS1 centerstone on a platinum pave setting with large side stones.

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Which fluorescence grade is best for an I color diamond?

A little bit of diamond fluorescence can actually help a diamond appear slightly whiter in certain lighting conditions where UV light is present. However, too much fluorescence can actually be a bad thing. In certain instances the presence of very strong fluorescence can make a diamond look “oily” or “hazy”, so we generally recommend avoiding Strong & Very Strong fluorescence just to err on the side of safety.

For I color we recommend none, faint, or medium fluorescence (read more in our Fluorescence Guide).

I color diamond with none fluorescence I color diamond with faint fluorescence I color diamond with medium fluorescence I color diamond with strong fluorescence

The above diamonds are all 1 carat I color stones. From first to last: none, faint, medium, and strong fluorescence. Click the images to see more details.

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Are I Color Diamonds Too Yellow?

It’s important to remember that some people are more sensitive to color than others, but generally speaking I color diamonds are a great choice for most buyers and will face up white in white gold, platinum, yellow gold, or platinum settings. It is also important to note that the perception of color is relative and that a diamond will always look whiter once it’s been placed in a setting and yellower when viewed as a loose diamond.

Diamonds also look much whiter when viewed from above than they do when viewed from the size. Let’s take a look at two diamonds, both are 1 carat, VS1 clarity, and have very high cut scores above 9.0 (StoneAlgo’s measurement of a diamond’s expected sparkle and light performance).

1.8 carat D color diamond 2 Carat D Color Diamond Facing Up White

Click on the images to see full details for each diamond on Blue Nile’s website.

One of these diamonds is a D color and the other is an I color, can you tell which is which? Most people can tell the diamonds look slightly different but the difference is subtle.

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How much does an I color diamond cost?

The average diamond price of a 1 carat I color diamond is $5,600 according to our I color diamond price chart. I color diamonds cost about 19% less than H color diamonds and 21% more than J color diamonds according to our diamond price calculator.

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