Finding the right diamond color that balances price with aesthetics is one of the most important aspects of your diamond purchase. Before I dive into the most commonly asked questions, it’s important to say that color is a matter of preference - some people are hypersensitive to it and others are not. I’m going to write this from the standpoint of an average person, someone who doesn’t work with diamonds on a daily basis, and give you the general rules of thumb based on my real experience and the general consensus.
If you’re considering buying your diamond online, make sure you spend some time at a local jeweler looking at different diamond color grades of GIA or AGS certified diamonds to determine what color grades you’re comfortable buying. You should also make sure to see the diamonds in natural light to get comfortable with fluorescence in diamonds such as this 1 carat J VS2 with medium fluorescence from Parcel & Stone.
J color diamonds are a good choice for diamond buyers looking to get a larger carat size while staying in the near colorless range. The presence of color in a diamond is made more apparent by a number of factors that are important to consider up front. The shape of the diamond, presence of fluorescence, cut quality, and the setting color (white or yellow gold for example) will all affect the appearance of color in your diamond, sometimes in the opposite way you’d naturally expect. We’ll break down the main considerations below, but first let’s talk about what it means to be a J color diamond.
J color diamonds are part of the near colorless class of diamonds which includes grades G through J on the GIA grading scale. These diamonds can exhibit some color (typically yellow), but this color saturation is most visible when the diamond is viewed from the side. Luckily, diamonds are viewed from above when placed in an engagement ring or other jewelry setting which can help to hide some of the color. The point at which people begin to notice color is generally in the J to K range, which is why K color diamonds are part of the faint color group that includes L and M color as well.
It’s also why J color diamonds are such a steal relative to other diamond colors - people who are fine with going for a larger carat size and more saturation tend to go down to K color (since it is considered “faint colored' they perceive it as a better value play) and people are who are concerned about color tend to steer toward the higher end of the near colorless spectrum. It’s important to mention that J color is itself a range, with the “whitest' J color diamonds looking more similar to I color and the worst looking more similar to K color. We’ll also take this moment to note that some diamonds have a brown hue rather than a yellow color, and these diamonds are less desirable and tend to price lower. We’ll discuss this further momentarily.
The best shape to buy for a J color diamond is round brilliant cut (also known as round cut) because round diamonds typically offer superior light performance and this sparkle can help to hide the appearance of color when the diamond is viewed from above. Since diamonds are typically viewed from above when set in an engagement ring or jewelry, jewelers refer to a diamond that looks white from the top as facing up white. This term is typically used when describing J or K color diamonds that look colorless from above but show their color from the side. The remainder of this post will generally focus on round cut diamonds.
Let's see just how noticeable color in a diamond when viewed from above. Both of the excellent cut, 2 carat, VS1 clarity diamonds below face up white, but one of them is a D color and the other is a J color. One of the below is priced for approximately $50,000 and the other is less than $15,000. Keep reading down the page or click on the images to see the diamonds at Blue Nile and reveal their true color grades, but the point is - if you have to check, does color matter to you as much as you think it does?
The larger the diamond, the more apparent its color will be to the untrained eye. If you are choosing a larger round cut diamond (say 1.5 carats and up), it may be better to stick to I color or better as color tends to become more visible as the carat weight increases. That said, I’ve seen plenty of great J color diamonds that face up white in diamonds larger than 2.5 carats. In my personal opinion, people get too hung up on color and end up overspending here. Maybe that’s why stepping up a color grade is more expensive than stepping up a clarity grade. Since it’s easier to see color from the side check out the below 1 carat and 5.55 carat J VS1 diamonds. The larger 5.55 carat has a more noticeable yellow hue to it from the side. However, this diamond looks much whiter from above.
Every diamond picks up color from its surroundings, but this is actually a point in favor of J color diamonds relative to colorless diamonds. The difference between colorless and near colorless diamonds becomes less significant once they are viewed in a setting since both pick up some elements of color from the setting and reflect his out the top the stone. White gold and platinum settings do not hide color to the same degree that yellow and rose gold do, but they will still help disguise the diamond's natural coloration to a degree. So, the best setting color for a J color diamond is yellow gold or rose gold, but a platinum or white gold setting will still help to hide some of the natural color in the stone.
So, we’ve told you that the larger the diamond the more color will tend to show up to the casual observer, and that’s true. But this is all relative, and J color diamonds don’t look like you just stuck a lemon on someone’s finger. J color diamonds will almost certainly display some yellow (or brown) color when viewed from the side or facedown, however they typically do not show much or any color when viewed from above in an engagement ring setting. To prove the point I picked out a few 2 carat diamonds from Blue Nile’s recently purchased engagement rings page. In my opinion all of these 2 carat diamonds look nice and white in their various color settings.
This J color diamond in a white gold setting is a great example of how white a J color diamond looks even when placed in a simple solitaire setting. Even though the white setting does not help to make the diamond look as white as a gold or rose gold setting would, it looks like it could easily pass for a higher color grade.
This J color diamond in a platinum halo setting shows how side stones can help to disguise the color of the center stone. If you want to make your J color diamond pop you could choose side stones that are K color since the eye picks up on the differences in color and this will emphasize the whiter center diamond. J color side stones will also look nice and consistent.
J color diamonds in gold or rose gold settings often look much whiter than they would as a loose diamond, as you can see in the picture below. A higher color grade of diamond would be wasted on a gold or rose gold setting because the human eye picks up the relative difference in color and this stark contrast makes the center stone really pop, even in a K color.
The intensity of fluorescence within a diamond can directly impact the way that diamond interacts with UV light and thus affects the way our eyes perceive color. When the natural yellow color within a diamond meets the blue hue of a fluorescence revealed by UV light (including sunlight), the colors cancel each other out to a degree. For this reason, it is often a good thing to find faint, medium, or even strong fluorescence in a J color diamond and these diamonds don’t sell for much of a discount to those without fluorescence. In fact, sometimes they cost more. To understand the impact fluorescence has on pricing for J color diamonds check out this chart from our diamond fluorescence blog post.
Diamonds are a big investment, and one of the worst mistakes you can make from a financial perspective is overspending on color. The price increase from a 2 carat J VS2 to a 2 carat I VS2 is nearly 28% according to our diamond price calculator, a difference of $3,700. That’s a massive increase for a single color grade. For perspective, the same diamond would only cost 12% more to step up from I to H color, and the price increase from K to J color is just 14%. This means there is a huge price gap at this point of the market, indicating that this is where people feel the most sensitive to a change in color grade. If you’re willing to take the leap to purchase a J color over an I color, that single color grade could save you more money than any other decision you make this year.