How Metal Color Affects Diamond Color
Your choice of precious metal not only has a defining impact on your diamond jewelry’s style, but can also dramatically affect your diamond’s color appearance. Metal color can change how your diamond looks when it's set in jewelry and cause it to appear whiter or more yellow than it actually is. Needless to say, this can affect how you feel about your jewelry’s appearance, so it’s important to keep color in mind when you pair a precious metal with a diamond.
If you’re wondering why metal color affects diamond color and how that will impact the look of your jewelry, read on. Below, we’re going over why metal color affects diamond color, how various precious metals affect diamonds with different color grades, and how metal karat, diamond shape, and fluorescence can also affect diamond color appearance.
Why Does Metal Color Affect Diamond Color?
Colorless diamonds, also sometimes called white diamonds, are transparent gemstones that are very reflective. They’re excellent at reflecting light and creating beautiful shimmer, but they also reflect their surroundings.
This brings us to how your metal color can affect your diamond’s color. When you place a diamond in a piece of jewelry, it will reflect the color of its setting. For example, the center diamond in a prong-set solitaire diamond engagement ring will reflect the color of the ring’s band and prongs. If the solitaire has a yellow gold or rose gold setting, the center diamond could reflect some golden yellow color. If the solitaire has a platinum or white gold setting, it could reflect a bit of white color.
Based on this information alone, you could assume that white settings are always the best option for colorless diamonds. However, this isn’t always the case. We’ll talk about why in our next section.
Precious Metal Colors and Diamond Color Grade
While they’re called “colorless,” completely colorless diamonds are very rare. Colorless diamonds can be anywhere from completely colorless to noticeably yellow in color.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades diamond color on a scale from D to Z. This diamond color scale breaks down as follows:
Colorless: D, E, F
Near Colorless: G, H, I, J
Faint Yellow: K, L, M
Very Light Yellow: N, O, P, Q, R
Light Yellow: S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
To most people, colorless and near colorless diamonds will look almost identical in color. And unless you’re a jeweler or a gemologist, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between nearby grades within the colorless and near colorless range. But once you start getting into the K to Z range, diamonds start looking noticeably yellow to the naked eye.
Depending on your diamond color grade and your choice of precious metal, your diamond’s color can appear true-to-color, more yellow than it actually is, or whiter than it actually is. Let’s go over how different precious metals tend to change the look of different diamond color grades.
Precious Metals for D to J Grade Diamonds
Diamonds that are graded D to J have little to no yellow tint, so they tend to look true-to-color in white metal settings. But G to J diamonds within the near colorless range may even look a bit whiter than they actually are when placed in white settings. Alternatively, colorless and near colorless diamonds will take on a bit of a yellow tint when placed in yellow gold or rose gold settings. Since more colorless diamonds are more expensive, having an added yellow tint can make the higher cost of a colorless or near colorless stone feel like a bit of a waste.
So, what if you want your D to J grade diamond to look as white as possible, but you also love the look of rose gold or yellow gold rings? Do you always have to choose a white metal ring setting if you want your diamond to look colorless? Not necessarily.
Some yellow gold and rose gold rings are designed specifically with this problem in mind. These designs will feature a warm yellow or rose gold band, but a prong or bezel enclosure crafted from a white metal like white gold. A colorless or near colorless center diamond will look noticeably whiter in white prongs than it would in rose or yellow gold prongs. While your center diamond may still pick up a bit of color from your ring’s shank, having white prongs or a white bezel should noticeably diminish golden reflection.
Precious Metals for K to L Grade Diamonds
The K to L color range is a transition zone between near colorless and noticeably yellow diamonds. These faintly yellow diamonds are more flexible in their color appearance, so you can go either way for your precious metal color depending on the look you desire. A yellow or rose gold setting can look harmonious with a faintly yellow diamond, while a white gold or platinum setting may make a faintly yellow diamond look a bit whiter.
Precious Metals for M to Z Grade Diamonds
Diamonds within the M to Z color range are noticeably yellow. At this point in the color grade scale, a white setting can actually make a diamond look even more yellow than it does on its own. While an M to Z grade diamond will still reflect the color of a white setting, the contrast in color between a white setting and a noticeably yellow M to Z grade diamond will look obvious regardless of metal reflection. Because of this, yellow gold settings and rose gold settings are generally best for M to Z grade diamonds. These warmer precious metals will look more harmonious alongside lower color grade diamonds and will not draw extra attention to the diamond’s warmer yellow tone.
Considering Gold Karat, Diamond Shape, and Fluorescence
There are a few finer details to consider as you decide on your metal color and your diamond color grade: gold karat, diamond shape, and diamond fluorescence.
How Gold Karat Affects Metal Color
Gold karat, not to be confused with diamond carat weight, is a notation that tells you how much pure gold is in a gold alloy. Pure gold, or 24 karat gold, is rarely used in jewelry because it’s fairly soft for a metal. Gold jewelry is usually made of a gold alloy, which is pure gold mixed with one or more harder metals. The karat of gold alloys like yellow gold, rose gold, and white gold tells you how much pure gold is in the alloy out of 24 parts. For example, an 18 karat gold alloy is 18 parts pure gold and 6 parts alloying metals, making it 75% percent pure gold.
It’s important to understand gold karat because it affects the color of the yellow gold and rose gold, thereby affecting diamond color in yellow and rose gold settings. Yellow gold is made of pure gold, silver, and copper. Higher karat yellow gold, like 18 karat gold, is more bright golden than lower karat yellow gold, which tends to be warmer and deeper due to copper content. Rose gold is made of pure gold, a significant amount of copper, and silver. Higher karat rose gold tends to be peachier, paler, and more golden compared to lower karat rose gold, which is more richly pink due to a high copper content. While all gold alloys are beautiful, it’s good to understand how their metal content affects their color, as this may affect which karat you prefer to pair with your center stone.
Technically, gold karat also affects the color of white gold, which is made of pure gold and white colored metals (usually nickel and zinc). Higher karat white gold will look more yellow compared to lower karat white gold. However, white gold jewelry is generally plated in rhodium, a bright white metal. So, unless it does not feature rhodium plating, white gold jewelry will look similarly white no matter the karat.
The Effect of Diamond Shape on Diamond Color
Some diamond shapes “hold” color better than others, which means they show color a bit more when viewed face up in jewelry. This makes them ideal for fancy colored diamonds, but it can also make a yellow tint more noticeable in colorless diamonds.
Which shapes show the color of a diamond more than others? The round brilliant cut diamond shape is excellent at disguising color, while virtually all fancy shaped diamonds show color more easily. Elongated fancy shapes like marquise cut, oval shaped, and pear shaped diamonds tend to show color particularly easily at their tips. Then, step cut shapes, like asscher cut and emerald cut diamonds, show color especially easily due to their open facets.
Because fancy shaped diamonds show color more easily than round diamonds, it’s generally a good idea to go up a grade or two when you’re deciding on color grading for fancy shapes.
The Effect of Fluorescence on Diamond Color
Around 25% to 35% of diamonds fluoresce under ultraviolet light. This isn’t something that can be seen when a diamond isn’t under UV light. However, fluorescence can still impact diamond color appearance even when a diamond isn’t under UV light.
Diamond fluorescence can be a variety of colors, but it's most often blue, followed by yellow. Yellow fluorescence can negatively impact diamond color appearance, as it can make a diamond look slightly more yellow. Yet, on the other hand, blue diamond fluorescence can have a positive impact on diamond color appearance, as blue fluorescence can cancel out some yellow coloring in a slightly yellow diamond. And, luckily, the vast majority of diamonds with fluorescence have blue fluorescence. Because blue fluorescence cancels out some yellow tone, it can work to your advantage and make a somewhat yellow diamond look a bit whiter.
Final Thoughts on Choosing the Perfect Metal Color For Your Diamond Jewelry
We hope this guide to how metal color affects diamond color has been educational to those who are looking for their perfect diamond and metal combination. There’s no right or wrong precious metal to pair with a diamond, but there are combinations that give distinctly different looks. By utilizing the information and tips shared above, you can decide which combination will play up your diamond’s strengths and help you achieve a look you love.