I Color Diamonds: What Do They Look Like, and Are They Worth Buying?

woman's outstretched hand wearing engagement ring

Sparkling — and colorless — gemstones get most of the attention when it comes to shopping for diamond engagement rings, but near colorless diamonds should also be on your radar.

Choosing a diamond lower on the color spectrum can be one way to save money on an engagement ring without giving up carats or your dream cut. Everyone has different priorities when it comes to the perfect loose diamonds. If whiteness isn't yours, this is where you can compromise to get a bigger or brighter stone. However, certain color grades — like I color diamonds — spark a debate about quality because some people claim they look yellow. So, are they really worthy of your investment?

What are I Color Diamonds?

The Gemological Institute of America gives diamonds a grade based on their color quality. The diamond color scale ranges from D to Z and goes from no visible color (D) to light yellow (Z). Grades D, E, and F are considered colorless while grades G through J are called near colorless. It's worth noting that these diamonds are different from colored diamonds, such as fancy yellows or canary diamonds.

I color diamonds sit near the middle of the grades, meaning they do have a slight hint of yellow (or brown), but still have shine similar to that of colorless diamonds (though they might be slightly less sparkly). But even if we're talking about color here, it's worth noting that even GIA wouldn't call their color “faint.” You don't get to faint color until you're talking about diamond grades K, L, and M.

colorless versus yellow or brown diamond

Most of the time you won't see a significant difference between E, F and G diamonds and I colored diamonds. However, there's typically a noticeable price difference between E, F and G stones and I color diamonds, meaning you can get more diamond for less money. The actual price difference depends on a number of factors, but can decrease the cost anywhere from 10 to 15 percent.

Do I Color Diamonds Look Yellow?

As we mentioned, I color diamonds contain tiny traces of minerals that can create a slight yellow or brown color. But before you flip, know that this slight color is often only visible under specific lighting, like the lighting used by organizations (like GIA) that grade diamonds. Some I color diamonds look completely white when viewed from the top. Again, the color on these stones is so slight that GIA doesn't even call the hue “faint” yet.

diamond color grade - h, i, j, k

How to Make I Color Diamonds Look Whiter

We get it: You're willing to have a little yellow tinge in your diamond engagement ring to save some money, but you want to get rid of as much color as possible. There are a couple optical illusions you can use to make that happen.

  • Opt for a yellow gold metal for your diamond engagement ring. Yellow gold can make diamonds with a slight yellow tinge appear more white. More contrast — like using white gold or platinum — will make the color stand out more, while going for the same color as the stone has the opposite effect.
  • Choose specific cuts. Opting for round cut diamond is the best way to “mask” the tinges of yellow or brown in I color diamonds. Fancy-shaped diamonds like pear cut, oval cut and marquise cut diamonds tend to show more color around the points and edges. These should be your next choices if you really don't want a round cut diamond. Ideally, you should stay away from princess cut, asscher cut, emerald cut, radiant cut and cushion cut diamonds if you're worried about the yellow showing. They're still beautiful, but they tend to show off more color throughout the body of the stone.
  • If you choose cushion, avoid crushed ice. Unlike some other sources out there, we're not against crushed ice diamonds. But they do have a time and a place. Crushed ice diamonds mask inclusions better than their cousins with larger facets, but they accentuate color. So if you're opting for a lower color stone, such as an I color diamond, choose a cushion brilliant diamonds, which has facets similar to round diamonds.

Are these Diamonds Worth Buying?

Put two diamonds together — an I color diamond and an E or an F color diamond — and see if you can tell the difference. Chances are the differences will be minor (that is if you can see them at all). And while some differences are obvious when two diamonds are compared right next to one another, think about the circumstances. Are you going to be holding your engagement ring right next to a friend's featuring an F color diamond? Probably not. The major change will be in the price, with I color diamonds as a less expensive option (meaning you can get a bigger carat!).

So, are I color diamonds worth buying? Absolutely, yes! They're a great way to save money — and if you do buy a stone that looks yellow, you can use mind tricks to make it look colorless without spending extra. It's a win-win situation.

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