While the 4Cs play a crucial role in the quality and beauty of a diamond, knowing how to balance them can give you the best bang for your buck. Diamond color is arguably the second most important of the 4Cs after cut, but this doesn’t mean that you have to opt for the highest color grades. Let’s take a look at the I color grade, which comes further down the color scale. Affordable but tinted, should you buy or avoid I color grade diamonds?
The Color Grading System
First of all, let’s take a look at where the I color grade comes in relation to other color grades.
The basic diamond color grading system that’s used in the jewelry world was created by the G.I.A. (Gemological Institute of America). It contains 23 different color grades for colorless diamonds that specify the intensity of the diamond’s color (or lack thereof).
These are the basic color grades for colorless diamonds:
- D, E and F – These diamonds are colorless and show no tints. These are also among the most expensive diamonds, all else being equal.
- G, H, I and J – These grades are known as near colorless diamonds. Of these, G is noticeably less yellow than a J.
- K to Z– These grades are faint yellow diamonds, increasing in intensity with each subsequent grade. Most retailers don’t sell diamonds below the M grade.
I color diamonds fall near the bottom of the Near Colorless category but that still puts them ahead of most other diamonds. The Near Colorless grade is an excellent option for engagement rings due to its balance of value with beauty.
What Does An I Color Diamond Look Like?
To the naked eye, an I color diamond can appear colorless. To identify any hues in the stone, you would typically need to use magnification which would reveal any yellow tints within the stone. Another way to tell would be to look at the stone in profile – generally, a diamond viewed from the side tends to show more color than when viewed face up.
See this diamond in 360 degrees here and notice how the color changes depending on the angle the diamond is viewed at.
The good news is that most engagement rings are viewed face up, with the profile typically hidden in the mounting. This makes I color grade diamonds suitable for use in engagement rings, as they look more or less completely colorless to the naked eye. If there are some barely noticeable color to your I color diamond you can almost always mask them with the right ring setting and metal color.
I Color Grade vs. Other Color Grades
The main difference between the Colorless diamond grades (D, E, and F) and the Near Colorless grades such as I color diamonds is in how rare and prestigious they are. This also plays a big role in the price of diamonds hence the reason Colorless diamond grades are much more expensive than Near Colorless ones.
For example, compare this D color diamond to this similar I color diamond. While their specifications are almost the same, the main difference is in color and price – the D grade diamond is almost $3000 more expensive! The main difference between the I and D-F color grades you’ll likely notice is in the price tag.
As for how I color diamonds compare with the lower Faint Yellow diamonds, the difference there is more noticeable as the K, L, M and sometimes even J color grades to have more noticeable color. Even in these cases, the said color can be masked with carefully chosen ring setting and color.
One way to compare I color with others is to go to a local jewelry vendor and visually compare I color diamonds to other color grades, placing the diamonds side by side. Alternatively, you can check out the diamonds on James Allen’s site and compare their diamond using their Compare Tool.
Best Ring Settings for I Color Diamonds
An excellent way to downplay or flaunt a diamond’s color is by choosing the right metal color and setting to mount it within. Compare these two customer rings from James Allen, both featuring I color diamonds of similar quality.
I color diamond with platinum. See this ring here.
I color diamond with rose gold. Check price here.
While both ring settings make the diamond look stunning, the white hue of the platinum setting brings out a little of the I diamond’s color, whereas the rose gold setting below perfectly masks any color the stone may have.
In general, yellow and rose gold are ideal for diamonds lower on the color scale as their color overwhelms any tints of color that the diamond may have. On the other hand, white metals like white gold and platinum can contrast against the diamond’s color and make color more noticeable.
However, because I color diamonds have only very faint hues that are almost unnoticeable to the naked eye, you can opt for a white metal and still have a ring that looks stunning.
A couple of points to consider:
- Picking a ring setting that covers the sides of the diamond, be it a bezel or a halo setting will hide the profile of an I diamond, where the most color can be seen. Another benefit of protective ring settings is that they can also keep your diamond from harm. The tradeoff is that they limit the amount of light that goes inside the diamond and thus – reduce its brilliance.
- If you opt for a halo setting, ensure that the diamond melees used for the halo are of the same color as the center diamond. If the halo is made up of whiter diamonds, they will make the diamond appear warmer.
What are the Pros and Cons of I color diamonds?
In short, I color diamonds have lots of positives and very few negatives if any. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- I color diamonds are almost colorless to the naked eye, especially once they are mounted on a ring.
- As one of the Near Colorless grades, I color diamonds are always gorgeous to look at as long as they are well-cut and don’t have too many inclusions.
- I color diamonds look awesome on any ring setting design and with any metal color
- These diamonds offer a great and budget-friendly price/value bargain, particularly in the Colorless and Near Colorless grade ranges.
- Even though they are more budget-friendly than D-F and G-H diamonds, I color diamonds are still not “cheap”. If you’re looking for something that’s not just a bargain but is even more on the economical side, the lower color grades can save you even more money while still offering a nice look with the right setting and metal color.
- I color diamonds are of high quality but they are not as prestigious as D-F color diamonds. For diamond purists or those who are after only the very best, an I color diamond may appear slightly sub par.
Should You Get An I Color Diamond For Your Engagement Ring?
If you have a moderate budget and you’re looking to get value for your money, the I color range is the place to look. As one of the Near Colorless grades, its quality is indisputable but it’s not as expensive as the higher grades.
If you are on a tighter budget, we’d recommend the J or K color grades, but on the other hand, if you have the money to spend and want a diamond that’s completely colorless, you might want to look higher than the I color grade.