The Guide to M Color Diamonds July 8, 2019 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
The diamond industry can be a little confusing, at times, and the M color diamond is no exception. Dealers will insist that the whiter a diamond is, the better it is. Although that may be absolutely correct, in a technical sense, “better” is a very subjective word. For something which varies enormously in color and size from example to example, what is better for one person may be not so good for another.
Diamonds usually have a value based upon four things; color, cut, clarity and weight. Each will affect the final purchase price in some way, and one or more are often subject to compromise, in order to make the stone more affordable. For example, the clarity grade can be lower without losing much, if any, sparkle from the stone. Similarly, although diamond color ranges from D to Z, anything up to and including H or I color will appear absolutely colorless in most circumstances. The M color diamond falls a little whiter than the very center of the chart.
Understanding Overall Diamond Color
Diamond color is affected by how many, or how few, impurities are present in the polished stone. Also, the final color of the diamond will depend on which impurities they contain. Diamonds can occur in many colors, from colorless (white) to red, blue and even black. By far the most common non-white color is yellow. Unlike other colors, which are almost always in pretty vivid tones, yellow color can be anything from virtually invisible to very noticeable. This is why the GIA color scale only includes white to light yellow in the grades.
As mentioned above, the color of a diamond may not be as clear cut (pun intended) as it first appears. With clarity, cut and weight, they can all be measured reasonably objectively, certainly with weight and cut. Clarity requires some subjectivity from the appraiser, but the grading scale still contains definite steps to determine the given clarity. Color grade, on the other hand, is entirely dependent on the eye of the appraiser. The scale does define color very clearly from colorless (grade D) to light yellow (grade Z). However, it is up to the appraiser to determine how much color is actually present. What one gemologist will grade to be a particular color, another may grade higher or lower.
Diamond Color and Price
As you might expect, the whiter the diamond, the more expensive it is likely to be if all other aspects are equal. As we get further up the letters within the scale, the price will drop quite quickly. The GIA color grading scale doesn’t take into account what is known as fancy colored diamonds.
These diamonds have vivid colors, rather than a faint hint of color in an otherwise colorless stone. It also means they are often hugely expensive, due to their extreme rarity. The best white diamond, for example, won’t come close to its equivalent in fancy red color. As rare as that white diamond will be, it is most abundant in comparison.
The M color diamond however is not a fancy color, but will begin showing signs of visible yellow.
What is M Color?
To the untrained eye, any diamond down to I color, sometimes even J color will appear colorless. Only in certain light conditions will a hint of yellow be visible. By the time we get to M color, there is a definite yellowish appearance to the stones. For most dealers, so much color will mean that they will choose not to even consider stocking M color diamonds.
So should the rest of us just write them off? Absolutely not!
It is true that choosing an M color diamond does require a little extra thought over a colorless example, but the advantages can be huge. Size, metal type and even the cut of the diamond can make a big difference to the appearance of an M color diamond.
Choosing a Cut
Diamonds with faint color can lack a little of the “pure” sparkle we see in colorless stones. But they make up for it with stunning fire and have no shortage of brilliance. Too often, we are told that only colorless diamonds have sufficient brilliance, but this is simply not true. The brilliance from an M color diamond is slightly different than that produced by a D color, but that’s all. It is different, not “less”, or “worse”.
M color suits a modern round brilliant cut better than other cuts. Others will expose the color in a way which may not be totally satisfying. The depth of a modern round brilliant allows the color to just sing in the right setting.
Choosing a Setting
Because of the amount of color in an M color diamond, stone matching must be done very carefully. As a result, they work better either in high contrast settings or as solitaires.
Metal choice is entirely subjective. Broadly speaking, colorless diamonds work really well in white metals. Metals like platinum or white gold, however, can expose even the faintest hint of yellow in any diamond. But with M diamonds, due to the level of color present, we’re not trying to avoid showing the yellow tint. The contrast of white metal and faint yellow diamond can work really well.
Even better, though, is when a diamond with a high color level is set into yellow gold. The warmth of the yellow metal massively increases the apparent color level of the stone. What was a faint color suddenly becomes a lovely warm glow, and looks stunning.
The Pros and Cons of M Color Diamonds
The most obvious upside to an M color diamond is the price. Even between equivalent quality D and E colors, we can see a difference of hundreds of dollars in the value. By the time we get to M color, assuming it is perfect cut and clarity, it will be a fraction of the price.
As an example, a 2ct, D color, VVS1 clarity, round cut diamond can cost anything between $69,000 and $76,000. An M color of the same size and quality will usually cost less than $13,000 – $18,000. It brings large diamonds into a price range which is much more affordable for many buyers.
Aside from the stronger yellow color, the downsides aren’t that significant, actually. The M color is desirable for
Final Notes on M Color Diamonds
We mentioned earlier that a lot of dealers won’t stock M color diamonds. This can make tracking one down difficult in smaller towns or cities. But it is worth the effort if you are actively seeking a diamond with a noticeable degree of color. What you will save on the color element of the price, you can increase in the size, or the clarity grade.
The lesson, really, is don’t think that a colorless diamond is your only option. You will need to think about everything else – metal, setting etc – but it is worth the effort.