The Jewelry Box Blog

What is a White Diamond?

A gold ring with a white diamond

Take a moment to think about what a diamond looks like—it’s clear and colorless (like a raindrop) and sparkles and shimmers from every angle. Now...imagine if a diamond was dipped into a glass of milk (don’t try this at home). The result is a diamond with a cloudy, “milky” white appearance, like an opal or moonstone. It’s opaque yet lustrous with an old-world charm and vintage feel. The best part of this mental exercise? White diamonds aren’t just a figment of the imagination; they really do exist! They are ultra-rare, however, as only 1% of all diamonds mined are white.  

As the color associated with purity, hope and new beginnings, a white diamond makes a lovely option for an engagement ring. It's also beautiful when worn as the center stone in other jewelry pieces, like a pendant necklace, or as a series of accent stones to enhance another gem. If your interest is piqued, keep reading to learn more about white diamonds, including how they get their white color (spoiler alert: not from milk!) and how they differ from colorless and colored diamonds. 


What is a White Diamond? 

A natural white diamond is a diamond with a distinct white body color that can be characterized as "milky," "cloudy," "hazy," or "snowy." The term "white diamond" is often used in the jewelry industry to refer to traditional colorless diamonds, which can be confusing because white diamonds are not colorless but are, in fact, white. White diamonds are sourced from India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Brazil. 


What Makes a White Diamond White?

To understand how a white diamond gets its color, you must look at its geological origin story, which dates back billions of years and 150 miles below the earth's surface. Like other natural diamonds, white diamonds formed when carbon atoms crystallized under intense pressure and heat deep in the earth's mantle.

It obtained its white color from nanometer- to micrometer-sized inclusions (impurities trapped inside the stone) believed to result from nitrogen within the diamond's pure carbon structure. These inclusions scatter light passing through the diamond, giving it a "milky," opaque, almost ethereal appearance. Jewelers refer to white diamonds as "opalescent" because you can see flashes of color when viewed face-up, mimicking an opal's faint play-of-color. 


How are White Diamonds Graded? 

Before you buy a white diamond, learn about the grading criteria used to determine its quality and value, otherwise known as the 4Cs: cut, color, clarity and carat. 



Cut refers to a stone's symmetry and shape. Jewelers cut white diamonds to display iridescent flashes of color. Most white diamonds are cut in traditional round or fancy cuts like pear, cushion, marquise, oval and heart. 



The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) uses a D to Z color grading scale to indicate the degree of colorlessness in a diamond (D is utterly colorless while Z is slightly yellow or brown). Since white diamonds fall outside this color range, they are categorized and graded as "fancy-colored diamonds.” Fancy white diamonds come in three shades: fancy white, near white and light white. 

  • Fancy white diamonds: Pure white with few flaws. Rare and expensive, hard to find.
  • Near-white diamonds: Falls between light white and fancy white in price and quality.
  • Light white diamonds: Off-white or slightly yellowish; less valuable than fancy white diamonds.



Jewelers grade a diamond's clarity based on whether it has inclusions, fractures or blemishes that affect its appearance and structure. Because of their cloudiness, white diamonds fall in the heavily included range and are characterized as opaque, or difficult to see through. The opaquer and the more distinct the white color, typically the more valuable the diamond is. 



Carat refers to a stone's size and weight. Most fancy white diamonds skew on the smaller side, with 75% weighing less than two carats. 


What Makes White Diamonds Different from Normal Diamonds? 

White diamonds differ from normal, colorless diamonds in three distinct ways: 

  1. White diamonds are white, not colorless. White diamonds look more like milk than water. They are opaque, not transparent. It’s as simple as that! 
  2. White diamonds are opalescent, not brilliant. While diamonds can sometimes “shimmer” due to their opalescence, but they lack the clear brilliance and sparkle of traditional colorless diamonds. 
  3. Inclusions enhance a white diamond’s appeal. They are typically not desired features in colorless diamonds because they make a diamond appear "cloudy" or "murky.” Ironically, this is what makes white diamonds so unique! 


White Diamonds vs. Colored Diamonds 

Even though white diamonds and colored diamonds belong to the same family of fancy-colored diamonds, they differ in the following ways:

Color formation: As discussed earlier, white diamonds acquire their color from submicroscopic inclusions that split light inside the stone. Colored diamonds, on the other hand, get their distinct hues from atomic-level defects (structural imperfections) or interactions with certain trace elements during their formation. The only other colored diamonds that get their color from inclusions are black diamonds

Familiarity: Little is known about white diamonds due to their rarity and because they are often mistaken for colorless diamonds. Colored diamonds, however, are more top of mind, thanks to pop culture and celebrity influences. For instance, you’re likely familiar with the blue Hope Diamond from Titanic or one of the engagement rings Ben Affleck gave Jennifer Lopez (a pink diamond in 2002 and a green diamond in 2022). 

Color Treatment: Most colored diamonds undergo heat treatment to enhance their color. Fancy whites, however, can only be seen in nature.

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