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A diamond’s color is one of many individual decisions in finding the right one for you.
In addition to other traits like carat weight, cut, and clarity, its color impacts the overall performance and aesthetic of your diamond ring.
Color is graded on a scale developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). It ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light).
I and J color diamonds are toward the top of the scale in the “near colorless” category.
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.
Let’s compare I versus J diamonds, including an overview of each, their three differences, similarities, 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.
An I color indicates there are tints of yellow visible at 10x magnification, but it’s often invisible to the naked eye. A gemologist uses two primary techniques to grade the color of a diamond.
The first is viewing it through a jewelers loupe, or a more advanced magnification tool, to examine it closely. This can identify 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.
As an example, check out this one-carat diamond that earned an I color grade.
Now compare it to the H color (left) and D color (right) below.
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.
The grade 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.
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 apparent when it’s viewed in relation to a 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.
How are I and J Diamonds Different?
Even though their differences are often indistinguishable at a glance, I and J color diamonds have unique characteristics you should know.
Beyond the letter that indicates their color grade, their qualities impact its appearance, price, and more.
Here are the details on three of those distinctions.
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 an image of a J diamond next to an 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.
Even the I diamond has noticeable yellow, and it may be visible in the J diamond without magnification.
So 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 are More Expensive
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, we compiled prices on 164 diamonds from James Allen.
They had the following grades:
- Carat weight: 0.90
- Clarity: VVS1
- Cut: Ideal
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 we recommend focusing on how it looks when viewed in a normal setting.
If an I and J diamond are identical without magnification, you can save on cost by choosing the lower grade.
It’s a way to find a diamond at the right value, and you can put that savings toward other qualities like its carat weight, cut grade, or setting.
3. J Diamonds are Less Popular for 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.
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. That’s because you have to 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 as the main diamond is because 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, you should consider ones with a J color grade. Not all will be eye-clean, but it’s worth the effort to search for one because of the savings.
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, its color may be more noticeable because of the contrast with its 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 the situation where colorless accents bring out color 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.
Is an I or J Color Diamond Right for You?
I and J color diamonds are fitting choices for many types of jewelry, including engagement rings.
Most buyers want to avoid the 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.
You should consider for an I color diamond if:
- You’re choosing a fancy shape that has step-cut facets
- You want to save on price compared to D-F diamonds but also increases the chances it doesn’t show color
- 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
- 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 in person and through high-resolution images, you’ll learn which is the right fit for your ring.