Jewelry Blog

The Guide to M Color Diamonds

M color diamond rings from different angles in graphic layout

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 certainly be correct, in a technical sense, “better” is a very subjective word. For something that varies enormously in color and size from example to example, what is better for one person may not be so good for another.

Understanding Overall Diamond Color

loose diamonds on and near tweezer

Diamonds usually have a value based on 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, 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.

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 depicted on the graph below, the diamond color scale is divided into categories of colorless, near colorless, faint, very light, and light. How much color is visible in a diamond will determine where it falls on the color scale and in which range it belongs.

diamond color scale highlighting M color diamonds
Diamond Color Scale

That being said, 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 present. What one gemologist will grade to be a particular color, another may grade higher or lower.

What is M Color?

14254 M color 1.44 carat old European cut diamond Briggs ring
1.44 Carat Old European Cut Diamond Briggs Ring from Estate Diamond Jewelry. SKU 14254

M color takes last place in the “faint” category, which sits in the middle of the diamond scale. In diamonds of higher grades such as I or J the color can be so faint as to be nearly undetectable to the naked eye. By the time we reach M color however, there is a definite yellowish appearance to the stones that can be detected even in regular lighting without comparing it against another stone.

As most people desire colorless looking stones, the noticeable color will lead many jewelers to not bother stocking M color diamonds. So should the rest of us just write them off? Not necessarily.

Choosing an M color diamond does indeed 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.

M Color Diamond Pricing

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.

M  color diamond pricing graph based on carat size
Market pricing as of 2024. Contact Estate Diamond Jewelry for exclusive pricing.

To get a better idea of how much an M diamond can cost, let’s look at a VS2 clarity graded diamond with an excellent cut. Note that the graph below reflects 2024 market pricing. Contact Estate Diamond Jewelry for exclusive pricing.

Carat WeightPrice in USD
.50 Carat$650
1 Carat$2,800
2 Carats$11,400
3 Carats$24,600
4 Carats$38,000
5 Carats$60,000
6 Carats$72,000

If we compare the above pricing to the lowest graded diamond in one color category above, we can see that a J color diamond of the same cut and clarity costs significantly more. Again using a VS2 round brilliant excellent cut stone, a 1 carat M color diamond will cost $2,800 while a J color costs around $4,300. The price gap only increases as carat size goes up as well.

Note: 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.

Choosing a Cut

14618 2.14 carats M color Chelmsford ring
2.14 Carat Antique Chelmsford Ring. SKU 14618

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 of 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 that 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

14062 M color diamond vintage engagement ring
1.72 Carat Hadlow Ring from Estate Diamond Jewelry. SKU 14062

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 exceedingly 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 rather well.

Even better, though, is when a diamond with a high color level is set into yellow gold. The yellow metal’s warmth massively increases the stone’s apparent color level. What was a faint color suddenly becomes a lovely warm glow, and looks stunning.

The Pros and Cons of M Color Diamonds

vintage old European diamond ring with cluster halo 13629
1.30 Carat Old European Cut Diamond Cranbrook Ring from Estate Diamond Jewelry. SKU 13629

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 that is much more affordable for many buyers.

Aside from the stronger yellow color, the downsides aren’t truly that significant.

Shop M Color Diamond Rings

Talk to a Diamond Expert

Afshin and Benjamin in Showroom with Rackcard and Estate Jewelry

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 don’t mind 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.

If you’re looking for a diamond for your engagment ring but are unsure where to start, reach out to one of our diamond experts at Estate Diamond Jewelry. We’ll help you find the best option based on your preferences and budget.

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D Color | E Color | F Color | G Color | H Color | I Color | J Color | K Color | L Color | M Color


About Benjamin Khordipour

Benjamin Khordipour is one of the jewelry researchers and gemologists at Estate Diamond Jewelry. He received his official gemological degrees from both the GIA and GUBELIN. He also regularly contributes to Business Insider, Forbes, Rapaport, CNBC, and Brides Magazine. Benjamin was born in New York and joined Estate Diamond Jewelry in 2014. He is passionate about vintage jewelry and diamonds. This blog was built on his strong belief that jewelers have a responsibility to properly educate their customers. In 2019, Benjamin co-authored the book The Engagement Ring Guide for Men. His favorite vintage jewelry era is the Art Deco Era and his favorite type of stone is the Kashmir Sapphire. He also collects rare antique pins.