Diamond Basics: Clarity, Color and Carat

The importance of clarity, color and carat when buying a diamond.

Photo by Harriette Earnshaw

Diamond Color

Diamonds come in a surprisingly wide array of colors (yellows, blues, greens, and reds).

However, the most valuable white diamonds are completely clear ("colorless"); others may contain a slight yellow tint.

  • White diamonds are graded on an alphabetical scale from "D" to "Z".
  • A diamond with a grade of "D" is completley colorless (and very rare. D-grade diamond pictured above from Brilliant Earth).
  • As diamonds move closer to the "Z" grade, they begin to display more of a yellow tint.   

While the difference between these grade levels may be fairly difficult to see (unless you are a gemologist), the difference in price can be significant. For this reason, a diamond in one of the middle ranges usually offers the best value.

Diamond Clarity

Most diamonds contain a few minor flaws or "inclusions" that affect their clarity.

  • An inclusion is any spot, scratch, bubble, or line that occurred when the diamond was still being formed deep in the earth.
  • Most inclusions are not visible to the naked eye, so gem laboratories use a magnifying glass (at 10x magnification) to determine the amount, size, position, nature, and color of the inclusions.
  • The clarity of diamonds ranges from "flawless" to "included."

You should avoid diamonds with visible flaws that affect their overall beauty or durability, but it is not necessary to select a flawless diamond. To make sure that your diamond has no visible flaws, we recommend stones with a grade of SI2 or higher. However, some SI diamonds can provide great value as many are virtually flawless to the naked eye.

Carat Weight

Carat refers to the diamond's size and weight.

  • This word is often confused with "karat", a completely different term used to describe the quality of gold.
  • Since all diamonds must be cut and polished to remove the outer layer of "rough", large diamonds are rare.
  • The price of diamonds rises as their size and weight increase. Therefore, a two carat diamond can cost four times as much as a one carat diamond of the same quality.
  • Some gemologists describe diamond weight in terms of points, not carats. 1 carat = 100 points • 1/2 carat = 50 points • 1/4 carat = 25 points • etc.


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