One of the most spoken about of the 4Cs of diamond appraising is the color. In this article, we will discuss one of the most misunderstood colors; the K color diamond.
The color scale against which all diamonds are graded actually runs from D to Z. The reason there are no A-C grades is historical and pre-dates the official GIA scale used today.
What is a K Colored Diamond?
A K-colored diamond is a natural diamond with a yellowish tint that falls between J and L on the diamond color scale. A K color diamond will typically show a yellowish hue that will be easy to spot as you bring the diamond close to your eye.
How Does Diamond Color Scale Work?
Prior to the 1940s, several scales were in use to grade diamonds on their color. There were scales that used Roman numerals, words like “water” and “river”, and one which used A, B, and C. This made things very confusing as dealers had to know how each scale worked based on where in the world they were. Even more confusing was the way the alphabetical scale used A, AA, AAA etc for increasing quality.
To cut ties with the old ways completely, GIA started the scale we know today at D. Now, this is the de-facto scale used around the world by all diamond dealers and jewelers. Click here to learn how to read a GIA certificate.
To most of us, a D color diamond is just about impossible to differentiate from a J color diamond. This is a key reason why an appraisal certificate from a recognized body is essential when buying a diamond. Without it, you’d have no reliable way of knowing what the color actually was.
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Hazelwood Earrings. Circa 1830.
What Makes A Diamond White?
Actually, it’s what doesn’t make a diamond white.
Traces of other elements are what cause otherwise white diamonds to be yellow, brown, and even red or blue.
In the most common non-white color of yellow, it is nitrogen that is responsible for the color being present. Nitrogen, whilst being the most abundant element in the atmosphere, isn’t particularly common in the earth’s crust. This makes it a little surprising that Nitrogen is the element most commonly found in diamonds, after carbon.
By the time we get to K on the color scale, the yellow tint is starting to become more pronounced. Based on this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that anything below J would be discarded and considered unsuitable for fine jewelry. But you’d be wrong to write off K color stones quite so easily.
How Yellow is a K Color Diamond?
As we’ve mentioned above, it’s unlikely that you or I would be able to see much yellow color in a K color diamond unless, perhaps, we had a colorless diamond sat beside it for comparison. On the old color scales, K was the equivalent of what was called “Tinted White”, as opposed the next grade of “Tinted Color”. This is a good indication that K belongs more to the top end of the scale than the bottom.
When set with platinum or white gold, the yellow tint in a K color diamond may start to become noticeable. However, this would still require close examination. With the usual viewing distance that you’d expect for an engagement ring (about 15-inches or so), any observer would be hard pushed to see anything but a colorless diamond.
Conversely, in a yellow gold setting, the slight warmth of the K color would be exaggerated. This versatility makes a K color diamond one of the most versatile there is.
J Color vs K Color?
Deciding between getting a J color or K color is a much more common question that you would believe. And it’s also a very hard question to answer objectively.
Here is a list of things to consider so that you can answer the question by yourself:
The difference in yellow-ish color is not so noticable (especially if the K color is an antique diamond)The price difference is quite noticable especially in diamonds larger than 2 carats.J Color diamonds are a little easier to sell and are more desirable (and rarer)Many feel that once a diamond already has a little bit of color (j color), it doesn’t really matter to have a little more in K color.J and K are in two different color brackets on the color-scale chart.
Undersanding Antique K Color Diamonds
Antique diamonds are becoming harder to find, but those that do survive, though, have a couple of distinct advantages over a modern cut diamond. This is especially true of those “officially classed as K color”.
Antique diamonds have something that modern stones will never have, a big advantage in the color.
Diamond grading is always done at 10x magnification, which makes seeing inclusions, flaws, and color tints much easier. With antique cuts like old mine and old European, the cut itself is a huge help to the apparent color.
Although classed as K color, most antique diamonds will actually present themselves quite differently from a top view angle. Many K color antique diamonds compare favorably to a modern J or even I color stone.
The old cuts somehow mask any tint at this level, making them appear much whiter than a 10x loupe examination would establish.
K Color Diamond Value
So, if a K color antique diamond looks like a J color, for example, is it such a big deal? Well, we’ve already said that the difference between J and K colors is very difficult for the naked eye to see, but it is still important.
The reason it is important is very simple. Cost.
Whereas a J color diamond will be around half the price of a D color with all other things being equal, so a K diamond may be as much as 20-30% lower in price than a J color. Most jewelers will consider K color to be the start of the tinted diamonds when really it should be the end of the colorless. When we consider the added benefits of the antique cuts in hiding color, the financial advantage becomes even more pronounced.
If you remember the information above next time you’re shopping for a diamond or a finished ring, you can grab yourself a real bargain by refusing to be seduced by letters. Think “antique” and think “K”, when shopping, and you’ll have more of your money in your pocket when you leave than you might have expected.
If you have doubts, ask to see both J and K colors side by side. We doubt you’ll be able to tell the difference, especially if the K is an old mine or old European cut.
D color diamonds are truly beautiful things, but there’s a reason why they are out of reach for many of us. Being a bit savvier about what colors down the scale really mean will make a difference.
Click here to browse our collection of K-color diamond rings and jewelry.
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