Diamond Color vs. Clarity – An Expert’s Guide on Picking a Diamond

For whatever reason you need a diamond, the last thing you need is to be ripped off. You always want the best deal.

Whether you’re a novice or an expert on diamonds, everyone knows that the shinier the diamond, the better. But, no, don’t let that alone fool you into picking a diamond.

Diamond dealers will take advantage of your lack of knowledge in diamonds and sell you moissanite (an artificial diamond).

No worries though, with more two decades as an expert on diamonds, I’ll be taking you the secrets on how to best pick the right diamond.

Cut is King

diamond cut
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I know this article is about picking between diamond color and clarity. But for the sake of non-experts, it’s worth talking a little bit about a diamond’s cut.

Well, cut is king. And there is no doubt about that.

How a diamond was cut is the epitome of its brilliance. With a better cut, light refracts (or bounces) better through the diamond, thus sparkling at its peak.

Color and clarity only contribute to the diamond’s brilliance.

There are different types of diamond cuts, which bring about different shapes and sizes. And the cuts are graded from poor to excellence.

A poorly cut diamond will most likely have poor clarity, due to defects. Similarly, with an excellent cut, the diamond will have much better clarity.

Therefore, a diamond’s cut always influences its clarity. But never vice versa. Hence the need to consider a diamond’s cut before clarity.

On the other hand, while color adds some brilliance to a diamond, nothing brings more sparkle than its cut grading.

So, be very careful when buying a diamond, and focus on its cut grading before delving into its color and clarity.

Cut Grading vs. Cut Shape

Retailers will most likely mention a diamond’s cut shape (rather than cut grading), and then take you through its symmetry grading.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the cut shape and symmetry grading is the same as the cut grade. Check for the diamond’s GIA grading.

The GIA is renowned for its stringent grading process because it is a non-profit organization.

Nonetheless, the cut shape comes in handy when compromising either color or clarity, especially when looking to get the best deal.

Diamond cuts come in different shapes – round, emerald, pear, princess, Asscher, and cushion. Some of these shapes are good at concealing inclusions (defects).

For example, it makes sense to opt for a round-shaped diamond if you want to trade off clarity because a round diamond conceals inclusions well.

You should also keep in mind the significance of having a well-lit environment inside the diamond shop.

Apart from omitting the aspect of cut grading over cut shape, diamond dealers tend to shine impressive lights that will make the diamond sparkle.

So, be cautious.

When Clarity is Important

When Clarity is Important
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Clarity is highly influenced by a diamond’s cut and shape. A poorly cut diamond will have more inclusions and defects compared to a perfectly cut diamond.

Similarly, and as mentioned earlier, a round-shaped diamond will most likely conceal inclusion better than a cushion-shaped diamond.

Cushion-cut diamonds have expansive tables, which expose the inclusions to the naked eye. Therefore, clarity becomes important when the diamond is cushion-cut.

Clarity should also become your priority when the diamond shapes are Asscher, princess, and emerald.

In other words, when dealing with such shapes, make sure the GIA grading is not less than SI2.

N/B: Diamond clarity is measured from Flawless or FL (which is the purest diamond) to I3.

The clarity grading goes like this: FL >> VVS1 >> VVS2 >> SI1 >> SI2 >> I1 >> I2 >> I3

Defects and inclusions range from cloudiness to chips and feathering.

Let’s go back to clarity…

Apart from diamond cut and shape, clarity becomes a priority when you’ve decided to go with a low color grading.

That is, when you compromise on color, then it’s better to prioritize clarity.

With a low color grading a high clarity grading, you’ll not only be saving on cost but the diamond will be sparkly enough. It won’t be as brilliant, but it will be a great trade-off.

When it comes to clarity, the only caution you have is to make sure the diamond is eye-clean. This simply means the inclusions are only visible when checked using a magnifier.

Any GIA clarity grading of VS1 and higher are eye-clean and thus you’ll need a magnifier to spot their inclusions.

Even so, some of the clarity grading lower than the VS1 may be hard to spot their inclusions and defects. That’s because diamond dealers are good at hiding inclusions.

For example, for a wedding ring, it’s easy to hide diamond inclusions under the clasps holding the ring.

When Color Becomes Priority

diamond color chart 1
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Once again, for the novices, diamond color grading is measured from D to Z with D being the purest and Z the yellowish diamonds.

Most diamond stores rarely sell diamond colors graded less than K, unless they are intentionally selling yellow diamonds.

There comes a time when diamond color is preferable than a highly graded clarity.

Well, the obvious instance is when your budget is low. Or if you’re looking for a yellow diamond. But that’s not a compromise on color, but more of a preference.

Anyways, the other time when color becomes prioritized over clarity is if you’re going to put the diamond on a white setting.

This makes the diamond stand out. But you’ll have to be careful with the inclusions. Make sure the diamond stone is pure and doesn’t have visible tints; otherwise they’ll be noticeable.

Similar to clarity, color is also influenced by the diamond’s shape.

For example, for cushion-shaped diamonds, the color becomes a high priority over clarity. This is because cushion-cut diamonds tend to retain lots of colors. Therefore, go with a color grading of H and above.

Other shapes where color becomes of high priority include: Pear-shaped diamonds, which tend to show more color than other shapes; Oval-shaped; and Emerald.

NOTE: When comparing colors of different grades, it’s best to trust its GIA rating.

However, I highly recommend comparing the diverse grades by placing the diamonds next to each other. It’s the only way to see the difference between the color grading.

When Compromising Color

Compromising on color is perhaps easier than clarity since it’s all about gauging the different color shades.

The only time to trade off-color is when you don’t really care much about color. Some folks are not exactly fuzzed by the brightness of diamonds. What? I know.

It’s a rare thing but yellow diamonds are just as important. And there are reasons why such colored diamonds are preferred.

For instance, maybe it’s because a yellow diamond goes well with the wife’s hand. Or it’s because you’ll be using the diamond to decorate a yellow-lit setting.

Anyways, whatever reason it is, the color becomes a compromise if you actually prefer colored diamonds.

The other time to compromise color is when you’re looking to get a diamond with more carats. That is, the more the carats, the more expensive. But this requires digging a little deeper into your pockets.

Therefore, to lower the cost, it’s best to trade off-color.

When Compromising Clarity

For starters, you can compromise on clarity if you’re not exactly a perfectionist. That is, small blemishes and inclusions don’t bother you so much. But who doesn’t?

As expected, with low clarity grading (from SI1 to I3), the diamond costs a little bit lower. Just make sure the diamond is eye-clean.

To get the most for your money, I recommend focusing on grading VS2, SI1, and SI2. These are not only eye-clean but also inexpensive.

You can also compromise on clarity if the diamond’s shape is good at concealing inclusions.

For example, round and pear shaped diamonds are great at concealing inclusions and act as amazing lighting refractors. Which makes the diamond sparkly.

You can check out diamond clarity simulator just to be sure.

Final Thoughts

When picking a diamond, and you can’t decide between color and clarity, it depends on a number of aspects. But the two most important factors to take into consideration are the diamond’s cut and shape.

Check its GIA grading to make sure the cut is of high quality. And then pick the shape you want. It can be either round, emerald, Asscher, pear, cushion, princess, or oval.

For a round shaped diamond, it’s best to prioritize color over clarity, because round diamond conceals inclusions and defects. The same goes for pear and oval diamonds.

On the other hand, clarity become a priority over color if the diamond shape is either cushion, emerald, princess or asscher. This is because such diamond shapes tend to expose inclusions, thus compromising on the stone’s eye-clean feature.

Basically, between diamond colors vs. clarity, it depends on what you’re looking for. Are you on a budget? Is the diamond for the wedding ring?

There’s no need of focusing on clarity if the diamond isn’t meant for wedding rings.

Still, if you’re looking to compromise on clarity, make sure it’s eye-clean – which simply means you shouldn’t go any less than SI1 in diamond grading.

I highly recommend using the James Allen diamond simulator, which helps you determine what’s best for your money.

Otherwise, break a leg finding the best diamond for your needs.

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