The surprising alternative to yellow diamonds

Forget everything you know about colour grading white diamonds. Beautiful yellow-tinged gems at the bottom of the scale can offer great value for money.

De Beers M colour yellowish white diamond ring next to a D colour diamond ring

Yellow diamonds are one of the rarest shades, making top-quality examples expensive. But for brides-to-be whose dreams of a yellow diamond engagement ring don’t quite match their budgets, there is a surprising alternative that could save a third on the price.

Simple Shank 14.28 carat radiant-cut diamond engagement ring
This 14.28 carat cushion-cut white diamond from De Beers 1888 Master Diamonds collection is graded on the colour scale as an X (£227,000).

When shopping for colourless or what we normally call “white” diamonds, one of the first rules you pick up is that you should seek out a stone with the highest colour grade you can afford – a D, E or F grade, if possible. D is the highest grading, giving you the most colourless diamond – a white sparkle with no yellow tinges. While you might come across G, H and I stones, not many people have seen what lurks in the grades below. But keep an open mind and you might be surprised to find that there are some truly beautiful diamonds to be found in these grades.

The diamond colour grading system drops all the way down to Z, with every letter descending from D adding more of a yellow tinge. So when you do get to those bottom grades, what you have is actually not far off a light yellow diamond, though the shade is more champagne than vivid lemon. Traditionally, any colour below K is known as a Top Cape or Cape.

An M-colour diamond, right, is up to 60% cheaper than a D-colour of a similar quality, left.

The reason these diamonds are not usually found in a jeweller’s window is that stones in these low grades tend to be heavily included, but it is possible to find top-quality examples that would match any D-grade white diamond in clarity and sparkle. And with an M-colour diamond up to 60% cheaper than a D-colour of a similar quality, and a Z-colour white diamond with a yellow appearance up to 30% cheaper than a fancy vivid yellow diamond, it is well worth the hunt.  

De Beers has been building up a stock of large, top-quality diamonds in grades of M and below since 2005, and presented them for the first time within its 1888 Master Diamonds collection in July. The beautiful stones have a lightness of sparkle and soft shade that makes them a serious contender to a yellow diamond engagement ring.

Old Bond Street 11.77 carat radiant-cut diamond engagement ring
The 11.77ct radiant-cut white diamond on this Old Bond Street ring from De Beers' 1888 Master Diamonds collection is a W-colour VS2 stone (£231,000).

“When rough diamonds are mined, the very bottom colours are, by volume, just as rare as the top colours. But because we, as consumers, place a higher value on the top colours, these equally rare low colours can be extremely good value for money,” notes Andrew Coxon, president of the De Beers Diamond Institute. “These diamonds are very popular at De Beers Diamond Jewellers and are bought by clients with many differing ideas. Some are looking for amazing value for money and others for something a little bit different.”

The only caveat to buying one of these diamonds, says Coxon, is that from an investment point of view, they will hold their value but might not increase on the same tangent as the top colour grades, as there will be fewer buyers for these stones. But for an emotional purchase like an engagement ring, thoughts of commodity come second to romance, and these rare stones are a great catch. 


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