White diamonds are very common in engagement rings, and for good reason. They’re sparkly, they easy to source, and they offer a timieless look. But what about yellow diamonds ? Are they any better, or any good at all ? When does a very warm white diamond cross over into yellow diamonds ? Let’s take a look.
Yellow vs white diamonds
White diamonds will sparkle more than yellow diamonds, and are also more affordable than fancy yellow diamonds. A yellow diamond might have a poorer clarity than a white diamond, but here it’s important that the diamond looks eye-clean, regardless of the actual clarity rating. Fancy yellow diamonds are judged for their bright, intense color more than anything else.
What are white diamonds ?
White diamonds are those diamonds without a noticeable trace of color (usually yellow). They are not truly white, rather they are clear (colorless) but it’s simpler to refer to them as white. The color range goes from D to Z, as approved by the GIA, and it ranges from the colorless D to the noticeably yellow Z.
The GIA color grading scale for white diamonds works like this:
- D-F colorless
- G-J near-colorless
- K-M faint (yellow)
- N-R very light (yellow)
- S-Z light (yellow)
Once there is a slight yellow tint (starting with K) the diamonds are still considered ‘white’, as in not fancy yellow as they don’t exhibit enough color to be considered truly yellow. These diamonds, from K to Z, are considered ‘warm diamonds’. But the line between warm diamonds and fancy yellow diamonds get blurred the closer you get to Z, and we will touch on this topic.
What are yellow diamonds ?
Yellow diamonds are a type of diamond with a high amount of nitrogen within them, which gives them that yellow hue. You may also know them as canary diamond or canary yellow diamonds, as that is the vividness of their color. White diamonds that are noticeably yellow cross over into the fancy diamond category (another name for colored or non-white diamonds). This category includes red, purple, blue, grey, milky white, pink, and so on.
The GIA fancy color grading scale works like this, from lightest and least saturated to darkest and most vivid:
- fancy light
- fancy intense
- fancy vivid
- fancy deep
- fancy dark
Fancy yellow diamonds are judged by three factors: color (yellow in this case), brightness (lighter or darker), and saturation (more or less actual color in them). A fancy yellow diamond can also have an undertone, so it could be pure yellow, yellow-brown, yellow-green, yellow-red/pink. Any undertone at all will make the diamond less desirable, and thus drive the price down. This may be an advantage, especially if you’re on a budget since these diamonds can get astronomical. For now though, let’s discuss the key differences between white and fancy yellow diamonds.
Yellow diamonds are warmer and more colorful than white diamonds
The key difference between yellow and white diamonds is their color, of course. But this color is much stronger than the warm color you seen in an M or P diamond. This yellow is very noticeable, and cannot be mistaken for just a warm white diamond.
So if you’re wondering if a yellow diamond is for you, know that it is a very strong color, even in its lightest version. A fancy light yellow diamond will still have a stronger yellow to it than a Z color diamond, though they may be close enough to compare.
Overall though, if you compare the most common and best-selling diamond color (G-H) to the usual fancy yellow (fancy intense) you will see a significant color difference.
White diamonds may sparkle a bit more than yellow
A diamond’s sparkle is affected by several factors, including clarity, cut quality, cut style, polish, symmetry, and so on. But its color also matters. In a white diamond there is a small enough amount of nitrogen that it doesn’t affect the body color too much, and it does not distort the light too much either. The overall effect is that even a K diamond (warm) will sparkle if properly cut and polished and with good enough clarity.
Meanwhile a fancy yellow diamond will still sparkle, but a bit less. The higher amount of nitrogen gives a strong yellow tint, which can detract from the sparkle a little. It’s not a huge difference, like comparing yellow diamonds to yellow sapphires, or white diamonds to white sapphires.
It’s more like a difference between a perfectly clean white diamond and a smudged white diamond, worn for the past several weeks without a proper clean. Both are very sparkly and you won’t notice a difference unless you actually stopped to look closely.
Read also: Yellow Sapphire VS Yellow Diamond
Yellow diamonds may have poorer clarity than white diamonds
Yellow diamonds are judged mostly by their body color, meaning the stronger the color, the higher the price point. Clarity is not as important in these diamonds as it is in white diamonds. In fact you will find SI2 and I2 for very high prices, as long as their inclusions are not immediately noticeable and the color is very good.
Of course, finding yellow diamonds with a low clarity rating but eye clean is not easy but it’s completely possible. As long as the inclusions are not directly under the table/crown and/or don’t reach the surface of the diamond you should have a very fine looking yellow diamond. So for fancy yellow diamonds, even SI2 can work, as long as you find a good one.
For white diamonds, we don’t recommend you go lower then VS2, and even then you have to inspect the diamond very carefully for any issues. The truth is, white (colorless) diamonds simply make seeing the inclusions much easier, so you need a higher clarity rating for them. This will always raise the price.
White diamonds are much more affordable than yellow diamonds
Now, despite the huge difference in clarity and how important it is, yellow diamonds are far, far more expensive than yellow diamonds. Usually they go for at least double the price of a white diamond, but this is not for the same clarity or color intensity, merely for the same size.
Here’s a few examples. Let’s start with a 1 carat H VS2 diamond, in no particular cut style. These sell for an average of $7-10,000 per carat. If we bump up the clarity to VVS2 the price range doesn’t change that much, but if we keep that clarity and change the color to an F you can expect to pay $13-10,000 per carat. And you can go even higher, if you bump up the clarity and color even more.
Let’s also look at a 1 carat fancy yellow diamond, in no particular cut style or clarity, but with a Fancy color grade. These sell for an average of $6,500 per carat, with a mild yellow. Think of sticky-note yellow, as compared to banana yellow. Not let’s bump up the color to Fancy Vivid, and you get a range of $33-19,000 with the higher clarity ones costing more (such as VVS2 vs SI1).
Lets take a look at Fancy Deep 1 carat yellow diamonds, these are still very yellow but their color is much darker and a bit muddled. These sell for far less, around $8,000 per carat and may have a brown undertone to them.
So in short, the bright, saturated fancy yellow diamonds can get much more expensive than the ‘perfect’ white diamond with great color and near-flawless clarity, at just 1 carat each. of course, the more you go past 1 carat, the higher the prices. For this comparison we’ve looked at natural diamonds (white and fancy yellow) at JamesAllen.com. This is not sponsored, we’ve just looked at their online catalog as they’re one of the most well known diamond retailer.
Keep in mind, these were the prices for natural diamonds, not lab-grown. Lab-grown yellow and white diamonds are virtually the same in terms of pricing.
S-Z (light) diamonds may be a good compromise
Remember how we said very warm white diamonds and fancy light yellow diamonds kind of cross over to each other ? Well, you can use this to your advantage. Normally when you look at white/colorless diamonds the most expensive ones are towards the D end, with the least expensive towards the Z end. So why not consider the very pigmented but not-quite-fancy S-Z diamond color range, and get the warmest one you can.
Not only will it be a bit cheaper than a Fancy Light or just Fancy diamond, it’s fairly easy to help the color a little. Set your Z or Y color diamond in yellow gold, and the diamond will pick up some of that hue. This will make it a little more yellow, which will end up nearly as yellow as a Fancy Light diamond.
Surround it with a white diamond halo, or two white diamond side stones, and the yellow will pop even more !
I’m the main author for jewelrymaterialguide.com. I started this site after we did tons of research before our wedding and noticed that there is information about rings, jewelry, and so on that is really hard to find on the internet.