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January 26th 2022

K Color Diamonds: Do They Look Yellow?

By Devin Jones

K color diamonds are an amazing value play but you should be sure to avoid some of the biggest and easiest mistakes when purchasing a K colored stone. Below we'll explore whether K color diamonds look yellow, what K color means in a diamond, and how K color diamonds look on hands in different engagement ring setting styles.

What Does K Color Mean?

K color diamond color grade chart

K color is the first of the “faint” colored diamond grades. The way a K color diamond looks differs depending on which diamond grading agency evaluated the diamond. Generally speaking the GIA and AGS grading systems have been the most stringent and consistent, and when we discuss K color diamonds we are referring to these agencies’ standards.

"K color diamonds are a popular choice for jewelery & engagement rings in particular. They look especially great in a yellow gold or rose gold setting."

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.

The above diamonds range from D - K in order from top left to bottom right.

Now let's take a look at the above 1.00 carat K VS1 diamond priced at around $4,100 versus the 1.02 D VS1 priced at around $9,000. While you can definitely see a difference in the tint of the diamond, this difference is color will become far less apparent once the diamond is placed in a setting. To help mask the color as much as possible we typically recommend a darker colored setting like yellow gold or rose gold.

K Color Diamonds From Different Angles

The presence of natural color within a diamond is most evident when the diamond is viewed from the side, which is why some diamonds that look fairly yellow from this angle can face up white (especially K color diamonds).

Below are two diamonds: on the left is a 1.82 carat D color VS1 clarity with a 9.6 cut score (StoneAlgo's measurement of how perfectly cut a diamond is) and on the right is a 1.80 carat K color VS2 clarity with a 9.0 cut score. Notice how the diamonds appear when viewed from above, there is a difference in color but it’s relatively subtle.

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

Now, look at these same diamonds when viewed from the side - the difference is much more obvious. But what's even more obvious is the price difference: the K color diamond costs $9,007 at the time of this writing while the D color costs $28,101.

D vs K color diamond side view comparison

If you feel like the above images showing the diamonds from the top view are still very clearly different, just remember that when a diamond is placed in a setting of any color it will look slightly whiter than it does when viewed as a loose stone. Yellow gold and rose gold settings are even more forgiving.

Which Clarity Grade Goes Best With I Color Diamonds?

K color diamond shoppers are typically looking for great value from their diamond purchase. It's no wonder that K color diamond buyers tend to shop for VS2 clarity and SI1 clarity diamonds, the best value plays for most shoppers targeting an eye clean diamond at a fair price.

The most popular clarity grades for K color diamonds are: 

  1. VS2 clarity K color diamonds (26%)
  2. SI1 clarity K color diamonds (21%)
  3. VS1 clarity K color diamonds (21%)
  4. VVS2 clarity K color diamonds (21%)
  5. SI2 clarity K color diamonds (18%)
  6. VVS1 clarity K color diamonds (9%)
  7. IF clarity K color diamonds (4%)
  8. FL clarity K color diamonds (<1%)

K Color Diamonds on Hands

Generally speaking, the appearance of natural color in a diamond is more obvious in larger diamonds than in smaller diamonds. That said, there are many factors that play into the appearance of color in a diamond such as cut quality, fluorescence, and setting color.

1 Carat K Color Diamond On Hand

This 1 carat K color diamond in a white gold setting faces up totally white. A 1 carat K color VS2 clarity diamond costs approximately $4,076.

1 carat K color diamond on hand

1.5 Carat K Color Diamond On Hand

This 1.5 carat K color diamond in an intricate white gold setting with pave diamonds looks beautiful and white. A GIA triple excellent 1.5 carat K color VS2 clarity diamond costs approximately $6,635.

1.5 carat K color diamond on hand

2 Carat K Color Diamond On Hand

This 2 carat K color diamond in a rose gold setting is a beautiful example of how to use a darker setting color to make a larger K color diamond appear even whiter. A GIA triple excellent 2 carat K color VS2 clarity diamond costs approximately $11,752.

2 carat K color diamond on hand

2.5 Carat K Color Diamond On Hand

Many people get nervous about buying larger K color diamonds but this 2.5 carat K color diamond in a yellow gold setting looks white and stunning. A GIA triple excellent 2.5 carat K color VS2 clarity diamond costs approximately $16,051.

2.5 carat K color diamond on hand

3 Carat K Color Diamond On Hand

If you are looking for a 3 carat diamond for under $25,000 then a K color diamond is your best bet. This 3 carat K color diamond is an absolute showstopper. A GIA triple excellent 3 carat K color VS2 clarity diamond costs approximately $22,976.

3 carat K color diamond on hand

How To Make a K Color Diamond Look Whiter

There are three main ways to help a K color look slightly whiter and I will describe them in further detail in the sections below.

  1. Choose a yellow or rose gold setting
  2. Pick a super sparkly diamond (use StoneAlgo’s cut score)
  3. Look for diamonds with faint or medium fluorescence

K Color Diamonds Look Great In Yellow Gold or Rose Gold Settings

The reason you should go with a lower color grade if you are considering a yellow or rose gold setting is because the diamond naturally picks up some of the color from the setting, which always sounded counterintuitive to me. So, if you think a K color diamond looks too yellow, you may want to simply consider a different engagement ring setting instead of a higher color grade.

K color diamond in rose gold halo setting

This 1.01 carat K VS1 diamond in a rose gold setting looks totally white to the naked eye. Blue Nile notes that the average color grade of the pave side stones is H color. we would typically advise going with the same color grade as the center stone but these side stones don’t overpower the K colored center stone in my opinion.

K color diamond in antique rose gold setting

This unique hexagonal shaped engagement ring setting shows off a considerable amount of rose gold around the edges of the K color diamond, helping it look whiter than it would in a platinum or white gold setting.

The logic behind this is that it wouldn’t make sense to place an icy white D color diamond (the highest color grade) in a yellow gold setting if it will pick up the color of the setting and no longer appear pure white. Instead, you can save a lot of money or get a much larger diamond for the same budget by going down in color grade.

There is another reason why a darker colored metal plays well with a lower color grade diamond: the perception of color is relative. If a K color diamond has a faint yellow hue but it is placed in a yellow gold setting, the diamond will look whiter relative to the color of the setting. Simply put, if you are buying a K color or lower diamond we highly recommend you consider a darker setting as well.

K Color Diamonds with High Cut Quality

If you are choosing a round cut diamond, you should focus on getting the highest degree of cut quality possible. The higher the degree of cut quality, the better the light performance of the diamond and the sparklier and whiter the diamond will appear to an observer. When a diamond sparkles it is reflecting white light in through the top of the stone and bouncing it back out toward the observer. This reflected white light will make the diamond look whiter regardless of its color grade.

The 1.2 carat Excellent cut K VVS1 diamond on the left scored 9.6 out of 10 points on StoneAlgo's cut quality score, ranking in the top 4% of all GIA Excellent cut diamonds. Meanwhile, the 1.2 carat GIA Excellent K VS1 diamond on the right has a lower cut score of 6.3 out of 10 which ranks in the bottom 6% of all GIA Excellent cut diamonds.

1.2 carat K VVS1 diamond facing up white due to high cut quality
1.2 carat K VS1 with bad cut quality

All GIA Excellent cut diamonds are not created equal - the diamond on the left will have far better light performance than the diamond on the right despite having the same "paper grade".

The StoneAlgo Cut Score was developed to help you find the very best GIA or AGS Excellent/Ideal cut diamonds. I personally look for diamonds with a cut score of 8.7 or higher. The diamonds are in the top 40% of all GIA Excellent cut diamonds. Another way of identifying high cut quality is to look for the well-defined pattern of 8 dark arrows pointing out from a diamond’s center.

Search for K color diamonds with high cut scores using our Diamond Search Engine.

Do K color diamonds look yellow?

K color diamond can look yellow depending on their size, shape, and the metal you choose for the diamond's setting. For example, a 5 carat K color emerald cut diamond in a white gold setting is going to appear somewhat yellow but a 1 carat K color round cut diamond in a yellow or rose gold setting is probably going to look white to the naked eye. Larger diamonds and fancy shapes tend to show their yellow tint more easily. So while K color diamonds are considered "faint colored" diamonds, they can look either white or yellow depending on the situation. If a K color diamond appears white when viewed from above it is referred to as “facing up white”.

K Color Diamonds with Fluorescence

One of the best ways you can combat some of the natural color in a K color diamond is by picking a diamond with faint or medium diamond fluorescence. But don't go overboard, a diamond with very strong fluorescence can look oily or hazy. We would, however, recommend that you see the diamond in person if it has Strong fluorescence to be sure there is no issue (and make sure to see it in natural light).

Are K color diamonds bad?

K color diamonds are definitely not bad, but they’re not for everyone. In fact, K color is a great choice if your goal is to maximize the carat weight of your diamond and especially if you are considering a yellow gold or rose gold setting.

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