Diamond Pricing and the Four C’s

The price of an engagement ring is greatly influenced by the cost of the center diamond. In fact, for a classic one carat diamond solitaire over 90% of the price of the engagement ring will be in the diamond. So an engagement ring shopper needs to be aware of the various characteristics of a diamond (known as the “Four C’s”) and how they ultimately affect the quality and price of the diamond.

The Four C’s of a diamond are its: Color, Cut, Clarity and Carats. This tutorial will cover all of these factors and show you how to get the best value and quality diamond for your budget.

Color

The most common type of diamond used in engagement rings is the colorless, or “white” diamond.

Diamonds that are actually colored (red, blue, green, yellow, etc.) are collectively referred to as “Fancy Colored Diamonds” and generally are much more expensive than colorless diamonds. This tutorial covers colorless diamonds. For more information on fancy colored diamonds see our Fancy Colored Diamonds article.

A perfect “colorless” diamond will have no impurities in its crystalline structure. If impurities (typically nitrogen) found their way into the crystal during its growth the diamond will take on a yellowish tint. The more yellowish tint the diamond has the less valuable it becomes. (The exception is when the diamond becomes very yellow, at which point it is classified as a fancy colored diamond)

Colorless diamonds are graded on the industry-standard GIA scale that ranges from D (colorless) through Z (light yellow).

diamond color

If price were no object, one would simply select a diamond in the “D” (colorless) range and be done with it. Unfortunately, for most of us price is an object and some compromises will have to be made.

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For example, suppose you have a budget of $5500 for your diamond. For that price you can purchase a very nice 1 Carat H Color (SI1 clarity and Excellent cut) diamond. The same diamond in D color would be over $7000. However, you can get a D colored diamond for $5500 if you are willing to drop to 0.9 carats (which actually isn’t too bad of a compromise). These are the kind of trade-offs you can make when diamond shopping.

Looking at the chart of Diamond Prices vs Color Grade, the numbers are the percentage relative to the price of a G colored diamond. (For example, a F colored diamond costs about 10% more than a G. An E is 25% more than a G, an H is 15% less than a G, a J is 35% less and so on…)

Below are some pictures of actual diamonds, all 1 Carat (VS1 clarity and Excellent cut) together with their price and Color rating. (Click image for larger picture)

D color, $15,170

D color – $15,170

G Color - $8,860

G color – $8,860

H color - $7,520

H color – $7,520

I color - $7000

I color – $6,710

J color - $5500

J color – $5260

K color - $4,970

K color – $4,970

Diamond Color Buying Tips

It’s best not to set a colorless diamond (D-F) in a setting with a yellow band as the yellow color of the band will show in the diamond and the whole point of buying a colorless diamond is lost.

If your engagement ring is going to have a yellow band, you might be able to select a diamond in the J or K range and put the money you save into selecting a larger diamond.

Due to lack of demand, most jewelers won’t carry anything above the M range.

So which color grade to choose? In general, most people find the best value in diamonds in the G,H,I (near colorless) range. Once mounted in a ring, they may appear as colorless as a D diamond and are often half as expensive.

…Continued in Part Two of Diamond Pricing and the Four C’s (Clarity).