Diamond Cut VS Color & Which One Affects Sparkle More

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Diamonds are very complex gems and the way they’re graded is a pretty good reflection of their quality. And since there are so many factors affecting a diamond’s quality, you need to take a very careful look at each and every one of them. One of the best ways to do so is to compare them, such as color vs cut, color vs carat size, cut vs clarity, and so on. As part of our diamond 4 Cs series, today we’re comparing diamond cut and diamond color.

Both are important in a diamond and affect the diamond’s overall look and performance. But one of them matters more, and affects the sparkle we all want to see in a diamond. So let’s take a look at what each of them does, how they affect a diamond, and which you should pay more attention to.

Diamond cut vs color

A diamond’s cut has a direct impact on the diamond’s sparkle, its light performance, and overall beauty, much more than diamond color. Most of the time a diamond’s color can appear an entire grade lighter if the diamond’s cut is perfectly executed. A perfectly cut diamond can also hide or disperse inclusions and make them less noticeable, is a diamond’s cut maters more than its clarity as well.

Overall the cut quality of your diamond is what gives it sparkle, the ability to split and bend light, and it affects how well the diamond performs. The cut quality is the one are where you should never compromise.

What is diamond cut ?

Diamond cut refers to the quality of the diamond cut, not the shape of the cut. Diamond cut looks at facet alignment, pavilion and table depth, crown and pavilion angle, whether there is a culet or not, girdle thickness, polish and symmetry, and so on. Really, a diamond’s cut grade is one of the most complex factors and is made up of a semi-mysterious set of  grades.

We say mysterious because when you look at your diamond’s grade report, not everything is explained there, just a few of the things that factor into cut quality. But if you were to look at the certification company’s guidelines for cut quality assessment, you’d see that there are many, many things the gemologist has to look at.

Most often you’ll see certificates from GIA for natural diamonds, and IGI for lab-grown diamonds. If you search online for their criteria you will surely find what each company looks at when assessing cut quality. Of course, the highest cut quality diamonds are the most expensive.

Overall, the cut quality ranges in label from Excellent to Poor, and this is the one area where you should not accept anything less than Excellent. While other diamond Cs may be easy to hide, like a poor color or a slight inclusion, the cut quality is the one that hides them. You need the best cut quality diamond. We’ll get into more detail after we also explain how color factors into a diamond’s grade.

Read also: Diamond Girdle Meaning & How To Protect It

What is diamond color ?

Diamond color refers to the yellow tint of a diamond. Diamonds are 100% crystalized carbon, but they have very, very slight traces of nitrogen in them. This very small amount of nitrogen is what gives diamonds that yellow tint. There are no diamonds without nitrogen, just diamonds with less than others.

So the less nitrogen there is in a diamond, the less yellow you will see. And the more nitrogen there is, the stronger the yellow tone. This is why a diamond’s color grade starts at D, and no A. There is no perfectly clear, white diamond, but there are colorless diamonds that have a yellow tint that is extremely difficult to see. The usual color scale is the one used by GIA, and most other certification labs:

  • D-F, colorless diamonds, no noticeable yellow trace
  • G-J, near-colorless diamonds, slight yellow tint, stronger as you get to J
  • K-M, faint yellow diamonds, these will appear warm
  • N-R, very light yellow diamonds, these are warmer
  • S-Z, light yellow diamonds, the warmest and bordering on fancy color

Colorless diamonds are, of course, the most expensive but they are not very common. Very few people afford them so most of the time you’ll see friends, relatives, and neighbors sporting near-colorless diamonds, unless your social circle is more upscale.

Now let’s take a look at how cut and color may affect diamonds, and why cut matters more than color.

Diamond cut affects sparkle much more than diamond color

A diamond’s cut directly affects the amount of light that enters a diamond, how well of reflects and refracts within the diamond, how much light exits the diamond, how much light is lost through leakage, how much fire vs brilliance there is, and finally how impressive the diamond looks.

If you’re looking for a very sparkly diamond then cut is the one thing you should prioritize over everything else, with clarity coming in second.

A poorly cut diamond will have a poor light performance, even if the rest of its specs are perfect (carat, color, clarity). This is because a poorly aligned facets, a table that is at an angle, a pavilion that’s skewed, a too-thick girdle, a large culet, all of these affect how well the diamond will play with the light. The result will be a dull diamond, either too dark or overly bright with no contrast, and you will be very disappointed.

Conversely, a diamond with an excellent cut will outshine and outperform other diamonds, even if it’s a cut shape that doesn’t usually sparkle that much.

Read also: What Is A Diamond Culet ? Should It Have One ?

For example we all know that the round brilliant is the absolute best when it comes to sparkle. But a poorly cut round brilliant will look dull compared to an excellent cut pear or princess cut. Even if you compare round to rounds, the difference between the perfect cut and any other quality is immediately noticeable.

Don’t skimp out on diamond cut quality, it really is key to getting a diamond that you will love. One word of caution: do not go by the report grade alone. A diamond can sound amazing on paper but be a bit under whelming in person. Always check the diamond in person, this way you will really see what it’s capable of.

Diamond polish and symmetry are very complex

Wondering why cut quality matters so much ? It take into account many, many things, and all of them make up the geometry of a diamond and its overall finish. You cannot affect the level of clarity or the color of the rough, but you can shape it into the best diamond anyone’s even seen.

Diamonds are a prism, in the end. Light enter through them, refracts into the rainbow, and then the table and part of the crown will tie the colors back together and aim them at your eyes. Some of the color will be back together as white light (brilliance) and some as fire (rainbow). The quality of the cut directly affects how much light enters and leaves a diamond.

The height from the table to the culet matters, as a diamond too deep will appear dark, and one too shallow will appear white all around and lack contrast. How well the facets are aligned affects the exact angles at which the light bounces off of the facets and then out of the diamond. How well the facets are polished affects how much light enters and how much light exits (think dirty vs clean window). An open culet will leak light, while a closed one will aim the light rays back into the diamond. A table or crown hat are at an angle will again offset the light angles, as will a culet that is off-center.

All of these things matter, and the interplay between them is crucial. Always aim for the highest cut quality your diamond retailer can offer.

Diamond color can be hidden with some cut styles/shapes

What about color, why doesn’t is matter as much as cut ? Well, the thing is diamond color only matters when the diamond starts to get too warm. Starting with K the amount of color in a diamond can dull the light within it, leading to a less sparkly diamond, one that throws mostly white light and not rainbow light.

And a lower color grade can be hidden by a very well cut diamond, and a good shape. So a diamond’s cut can affect the diamond color, or the way it’s perceived. Here’s what we mean.

In general brilliant cuts(round, pear, radiant, marquise, etc) are very good at mitigating color and clarity issues. This is because they have so, so many facets that act like tiny mirrors, and they can sometimes hide an entire color grade when the diamond is face-up.

The absolute best diamond for this is the round brilliant, followed by radiants and cushion cuts (as long as they are not elongated). Marquise, pear, oval, and princess cuts all have very shallow points or tips that have fewer facets and concentrate the color. So those are a no-go if you want to hide the diamond’s color.

Oval diamond showing warm color

Step cuts have far fewer facets (emerald cut, Asscher, baguette) and they will show the exact color grade your diamond is. So always err on the side of caution and get a whiter diamond if you get a step cut.

So your diamond’s color matters much, much less that your diamond’s cut quality. You can go pretty low with most diamonds in color, but this is also a matter of personal preference.

What’s the best value diamond for cut and color ?

If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to diamond color and diamond cut quality, we recommend going for the Excellent cut, and a G-H diamond in color.

The Excellent cut because it will be able to hide a bit of the color or inclusion the diamond may or may not have, and the G-H color because it’s still pretty white in color, without paying for the premium colorless range.

In terms of clarity you could go as VS1 if it’s a brilliant cut, but if it’s a step cut you should stop at a VVS2 clarity.

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