I vs J Color Diamonds: 4 Differences to Know

I vs J Color Diamond

The main difference between I and J diamonds is that I diamonds show lighter shades of yellow compared to J, so the color is less noticeable. While the tints of color are faint in both gems, you’ll pay a premium for an I diamond because of its higher color grade.

My recommendation for round-cuts is start your search at I and find one that appears colorless to the naked eye. For fancy shapes, you may have to select at least an H color to achieve the same effect.

Online vendors often have a huge selection of diamonds in each of these color ranges and allows you to view them in high-resolution.

Let’s compare I versus J diamonds, including an overview of each, four differences, what they have in common, and how to decide which is best for your ring.

What are I Color Diamonds?

I color diamonds earn the sixth highest grade on the GIA color scale. They’re positioned below H and above J, which is on the low end of the near colorless section.

GIA Color Scale

An I color indicates there are shades of yellow visible at 10x magnification, but it’s often not apparent to the naked eye.

As an example, check out this one-carat diamond from James Allen, where I bought my wife’s engagement ring.

It earned an I color grade.

A gemologist uses two primary techniques to grade color.

The first is viewing it through a jewelers loupe, or a more advanced magnification tool. This identifies qualities that would otherwise go unnoticed.

The second is comparing it to other diamonds, called master stones. If the diamond has slightly less color than a master stone graded J but is darker than an H diamond, it would be labeled I.

Compare the I color diamond above it to the H color (left) and D color (right) below.

Diamond Color Comparison

While the difference between the I and H diamond is subtle, it’s more apparent when compared to a truly colorless gem.

This principle is also true when assessing I versus J color diamonds because they’re positioned next to each other on the GIA color scale.

What are J Color Diamonds?

J color diamonds earn the lowest position in the near colorless category. It’s positioned below I and above K, which is the highest grade in the “faint” section of the GIA color scale.

It indicates the clear presence of yellow when viewed with magnification, but similar to I diamonds, it’s not always identifiable to the naked eye.

Here’s an example of a J color diamond in high-resolution.

Even when you rotate the image to view the diamond at every angle, hints of color are barely visible. They’re more noticeable around the edges, which is what you’ll discover in round-cuts and fancy shapes like oval and marquise.

But that isn’t true in every case, especially when placed next to a colorless one.

The comparison below shows the color in a J diamond is more obvious when it’s viewed in relation to a D diamond.

J vs D Diamond

Again, this demonstrates how the most effective way to understand the differences in color grades, such as between J and I, is to place them next to each other.

But the reason both can work on an engagement ring is because it stands alone on the piece, and the viewer isn’t comparing it to the ideal.

What are the Differences Between I and J Color Diamonds?

1. J Color Diamonds Show More Yellow

When they’re set next to each other, a J color diamond will show more yellow than one graded I. 

This is the trait that results in its lower position on the scale.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison.

J Diamond and I Diamond

The tint of color is more obvious in the J diamond because of the high-quality image. The I diamond appears colorless in comparison.

But to the naked eye, they’ll likely both appear that way.

The strong brilliance of round cuts hides color, so it’s more pronounced in fancy shapes.

Here’s the same comparison of a J and I diamond, but with emerald cuts that have step-cut facets.

J and I Emerald Cut Diamonds

Even the I diamond has noticeable yellow, and it may be visible in the J diamond without magnification.

Again, the yellow is stronger toward its edges compared to its table.

If you want a diamond that doesn’t show color, the exact grade to choose depends on its shape. 

For round cuts, you can afford to go lower on the scale than fancy shapes such as Carre or Asscher cuts.

2. I Diamonds Sell for a Higher Price

If all the other qualities are equal, I diamonds are more expensive than ones with a J grade because buyers are willing to pay a premium for less color.

This is true across every letter on the color scale, as well as clarity and cut.

Each step up raises the price, and there’s often a higher jump when you move categories, such as from faint to near colorless to colorless.

To provide a real example of how color impacts price, I compiled prices on 164 diamonds from James Allen

They had the following grades:

  • Carat weight: 0.90
  • Clarity: VVS1
  • Cut: Ideal

Prices of I and J Diamonds

The J diamonds with those grades had an average price of $4,185. The range was $3,020-$5,340.

The I diamonds averaged $4,902, with a range of $3,740-$5,630.

That’s a 17 percent premium for I versus J diamonds.

That’s why I recommend focusing on how it looks when viewed in a normal setting. 

If an I and J diamond are identical without magnification, you’ll save on cost by choosing the lower grade.

You can put that savings toward other qualities like its carat weight, cut grade, or setting.

3. J Diamonds are Less Popular as Engagement Rings

For engagement rings, eye-cleanliness is paramount. 

This refers to a lack of inclusions and color. The engagement ring below is an example.

Eye-Clean Engagement Ring with I Diamond

Whether you zoom in on the diamond or rotate the image, you won’t find any hint of yellow.

It’s why J diamonds are generally less popular for engagement rings, especially when the center gem is a fancy shape. Buyers are willing to pay more to ensure there isn’t a hint of yellow that’s visible.

It’s even more important to choose color carefully when you’re buying an engagement ring online. You rely on images, which don’t always indicate how it’ll appear in person.

Although most leading jewelry retailers offer returns, it’s more convenient to make the right selection the first time.

Another reason I color diamonds are more popular is J diamonds are more likely to show color when they weight more than two carats

If you’re choosing a heavy diamond for an engagement ring, you’ll have to move up the color scale to compensate.

Shades of yellow are more likely to be visible when the diamond has a large surface area.

But if you’re choosing a diamond less than two carats, don’t eliminate J color grades from consideration. Not all will be colorless without magnification, but I’ve seen instances where buyers can earn tremendous value in that range.

4. I Diamonds are More Scarce

Most diamonds are sourced with significant shades of yellow and brown. If they were placed on the GIA scale, they’d land in the “very light” and “light” sections.

But if you’re browsing a local jewelry store, it’s a skewed sample. You’d think most diamonds were discovered showing little color to the naked eye.

That’s because there’s little demand for diamonds that score low on the color scale, especially for engagement rings.

Compared to J diamonds, ones with an I color grade are more scarce. This concept is true all the way up the scale.

In fact, it’s estimated that less than one percent of diamonds earn D-F grades. This helps explain the price premiums you pay as you move up the scale, including from J to I.

What do They Have in Common?

I and J diamonds also have several characteristics in common.

The first is they both land in the “near colorless” section of the GIA color scale.

While G and H color diamonds are the top two positions in this category, their placement indicates only slight yellow in these diamonds compared to ones graded K-Z.

Another similarity is that the amount of color they display is dependent on the setting.

For example, if you choose a white gold or platinum setting for a J color diamond, like in the example below, its color may be more noticeable because of the contrast with its setting. 

J Color Diamond with Platinum Setting

With a rose or yellow gold setting, the color passed from the setting to the diamond isn’t as apparent because I and J diamonds aren’t colorless.

Also consider the impact of side stones or halos. Avoid pieces where colorless accents bring out yellow in your center gem.

While you want the small diamonds on the setting to appear colorless, it’s best to opt for G or H diamonds as accents instead of D-F grades.

In some cases, settings will use I or J color diamonds as the accents. This benefits the buyer because it lowers the price of the setting, and it looks like they’re higher color grades.

The facets are small enough that they don’t show color in that range.

How to Decide Between I and J Color Diamonds

I and J color diamonds are fitting choices for many types of jewelry, including engagement rings. 

Most buyers want to avoid price premiums of colorless diamonds, so they work their way down the GIA color scale to find one that looks identical but costs far less.

If you’re deciding on an I versus J diamond, here are some tips.

Consider for an I color diamond if:

  • You’re choosing a fancy shape that has step-cut facets, and you’re confident the yellow still isn’t visible
  • You want to save on price compared to D-F diamonds
  • The setting is white gold or platinum

A J color diamond might be right for you if:

  • It’s a round cut that’s less than two carats, and you’ve had the chance to view it in person or through high-resolution images
  • You’re interested in putting the savings toward other traits or its setting
  • A yellow or rose gold band is appealing

By viewing several I and J color diamonds and pairing them with the right setting, you’ll learn which is right for your ring.

Picture of Jacob Clarke

Jacob Clarke

Jacob Clarke is the founder of TeachJewelry.com.

He earned an Applied Jewelry Professional Diploma from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and now brings you essential information about diamonds, settings, and more.

Jacob has consulted with leading jewelry brands, and his work has been cited in Clean Origin, Diamond Nexus and industry publications.

He's also a member of the International Gem Society.

He enjoys discussing jewelry with readers, so contact him with any questions at jacob.clarke@teachjewelry.com.

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Jacob Clarke

Jacob Clarke from Teach Jewelry

About Me

Greetings, my name is Jacob and I am the founder of Teach Jewelry. My aim is to guide you in making informed decisions when it comes to diamond and engagement ring selection. I provide comprehensive yet accessible advice and tips to ensure clarity, eliminating any concerns of overpaying for your diamond, engagement ring, or other jewelry. Whether your interest lies in selecting a top quality diamond, choosing its ring setting, or exploring other jewelry pieces, rest assured, you will attain the knowledge needed to select the right piece with confidence.

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