Diamond Color

Diamond Color Guide

The color of a diamond has a big impact on how the diamond is graded, and how it is priced. If you are shopping for the best diamond for that engagement ring, color is one main factor that you will need to consider.

It is such a significant element in the diamond world that colorless diamonds are graded differently from colored diamonds.

Let’s find out everything that you need to know about diamond color.

The absence of color

The more colorless a diamond is the rarer it is. The majority of the colorless looking diamonds will have a tint of yellow or brown. However, it is not visible to the naked eye. Purely colorless diamonds are not easy to come by. Many shoppers will search for these which causes their demand to rise. As a result, so will the price.

The GIA has a color grade starting from D to Z. The closer the diamond is to D, the less color that it has. Of course, D, E, F diamonds are the most expensive. This is when all other factors are equal.

James Allen Diamonds

The GIA color grade is divided into five sections.

D-F are the rarest diamonds and are the most colorless. They are the most expensive and the most valuable.

G-J section is for the near-colorless diamonds. The color will be unnoticeable by the naked eye and often only the trained grader will notice.

K-M is for the faint diamonds. There is a slight tint but the color is very difficult to see with the naked eye.

N-R is for the diamonds with very light color. In larger stones, it is possible to see the color with the naked eye.

S-Z are diamonds that have color that can easily be seen with the naked eye even on a small diamond. They could look slightly yellow or brown. However, they don’t have enough color to be considered fancy colored diamonds.

The main diamond color grades:

Following are the color grades of the diamond (D E F G H I J K L) discuss below.

Color grade D

This is the most expensive diamond because it is white and completely colorless. There is no tint of color in the stone. They are also the rarest which explains why their prices are so high.

Color grade E

There is very little difference between color grade D and color grade E. Usually only a master gemologist will be able to see after comparing the diamond with master stones. E is lower in price than D.

Color F

A specialist geologist will be able to notice the difference between color graded E and F. The average eye will not. F has a very slight tint and is lower in price than F.

Color G

These diamonds are nearly colorless and will appear colorless to the naked eye. However, the only way to tell the difference is to compare with higher color grades D, E and F. The price is lower than F.

Color H

This color is often considered the boundary between colorless diamonds and slightly tinted diamonds. To the naked eye, it will still appear colorless and will only be determined after comparing with a higher-grade stone such as G. The price will be lower than G when all other factors such as diamond cut are equal.

Color I

Generally, these diamonds will be considered slightly tinted. However, the type of setting can make it appear completely colorless. It is a great choice when you are on a budget and still want something that will look colorless in the right color setting.

Color J

These are also slightly tinted diamonds. When set on a yellow gold setting however, they will appear colorless. They are a great choice for people on a budget as well and will be cheaper than the color I.

Color K

The price goes down farther as you get to grade K. You may notice a very slight tint in the diamond and when set in yellow gold, they will appear colorless.

Color L

You are also able to see the tint in color grade L. They are a good choice when on a budget and a yellow gold setting will improve the appearance of the diamond.

The grading laboratory

The differences in color between diamonds, especially those higher up on the diamond color scale can be so small that the naked eye will not notice them. However, they can have a big difference in the prices.

This is why grading diamonds is best left for grading labs that have the processes and the equipment to evaluate the color in diamonds.

This is achieved by placing the diamond table down. It reduces the complex look of the diamond that is caused by the may faceting.

The diamonds are also compared to master stones that are held by the grading labs to determine which grade to give the diamond. This process, however, is for colorless diamonds.

When it comes to colored diamonds, the grading process by the GIA is different. But what exactly are colored diamonds?

These are not diamonds that have a tint of color. They, however, are vividly colored and can be anywhere from green, gray, blue, yellow, brown, purple, orange and even black.

They are better known as fancy diamonds or fancy colored diamonds. The more color the diamonds has, the more preferable it is.

When grading fancy diamonds, the stone will be evaluated face up. Instead of the D-Z grading system, they are ranked as faint, very light, light, fancy light, fancy, fancy dark, fancy intense, fancy deep and fancy vivid.

When buying a colored diamond, it is crucial to check how vivid the color is. Fancy vivid and fancy dark stones have more color than fancy light diamonds and are thus more expensive. However, another important factor to consider is the tone.

Take for example a diamond that is graded fancy black. This may be less valuable than one graded fancy intense.

Fancy colored diamonds are rare. They are estimated at 2% of the total diamond rough. Because of this they have high demand and can, therefore, be quite expensive.

Diamond treatment

Diamonds can be treated to enable color or to completely remove color. This is through a process called, high-pressure high-temperature treatment.

Some brown colored diamonds can be treated using HPHT until they turn colorless. Others can turn into green, yellow, gray and orange colors as well as other colors.

As far as the price goes, treated diamonds are much cheaper than untreated diamonds. The seller is required by law to disclose the information to the buyer.

Other methods are used to treat the color of a diamond such as the annealing process and the irradiation process.

Diamond fluorescence

Fluorescence refers to light that is emitted by some diamonds when they are exposed to ultraviolet light as well as fluorescent lamps.  However, once the light source is removed, they no longer produce the light.

The main fluorescent color is blue but there are instances where it could be yellow, red and other colors. When a yellow diamond has blue fluorescence and is exposed to the sun, it may appear completely colorless. This is because the yellow and blue colors are opposites of each other and will cancel each other out.

A diamond’s fluorescence can be graded from faint to very strong. When a diamond has a lot of florescence it may appear oily or hazy and less clear.

However, it’s important to note that the fluorescence is most only visible under ultraviolet light. It is not possible for the naked eye to tell the difference apart. Because of this, it has no significant impact on the color of the diamond.

The ring setting can influence color perception

The type of metal that you use as a setting for your diamond will influence the perception of color in the diamond. For example, gold and platinum are excellent on the colorless diamond as they emphasize the lack of tint in the stone.

On the other hand, a gold setting will bring out more yellow in a colored diamond.

The reason for this is because a diamond is essentially many small mirrors on its surface. The faceting act to reflect light through the diamond as well outside the diamond.

Diamond color grade buying tips

If a diamond appears to the naked eye as colorless, go for the stones in the color grade G-J. Note that it is easier to spot color when the diamond is large. If the stone is over 1 carat go for G-H. On the other hand, if the stone is less than 1 carat, go for I-J.

When set on an engagement ring, they will appear as higher color grade diamonds. Focus not mainly on the color of the diamond but it’s cut. Of course, you want a diamond that has fire and brilliance.

Note that diamonds that have more facets have more brilliance. This fire means that the diamond can hide color better than one that has a few facets. If you are concerned about the color, avoid diamond cuts such as the Ascher, the emerald cut and go for the princess the brilliant-cut or the round cut.

You may want a great diamond but you are on a budget and are concerned about the carat weight of the stone. A round diamond in the K-L color grade set on yellow gold is an excellent choice.  Again, the cut grade is an important consideration. A lower color grade diamond with high cut grade will have more brilliance than a higher color grade diamond with a low cut grade.

When shopping, make sure that the seller gives you the specific color grade of the diamond you are interested in. If they were to give you a color range say K-M, there is a very high chance that the stone is not certified by the GIA and the dealer is only using estimation.

If you are on a budget, you can get a great deal by going for the H color grade. This is normally considered the border between tinted diamonds and premium colorless diamonds. Still, it would be hard to notice any tint in this diamond unless held side by side with a much whiter diamond.

White diamonds

Of course, in the GIA color grade, the D color commands the highest price. This is because it is completely colorless and is referred to as a white diamond.

That said it’s important to keep in mind that up 98% of diamonds will have a tint of color even while this is not visible to the naked eye and sometimes hard to spot by gemologists themselves.

The tint is from the nitrogen importunities in the stone and the fewer impurities that the stone has, the more colorless it appears.

The cape diamonds

Diamonds that have a tint of yellow but are not fancy yellow diamonds are often referred to as cape diamonds. This is a term that is used by dealers to market the less colorless diamonds. Some sellers will stock just these diamonds from the K-Z diamond scale.

They are a great choice diamond when on a budget and yet you still want a great looking stone.

Lemonade diamonds

This is another term that is used by sellers to market diamonds in the color scale W-Z. They can also be termed as near fancy diamonds.

Multiple gold color settings

Dealers are all too aware of what value a diamond setting has on the stone. Because of this, there is growing popularity on rings that feature shanks that are of a different color than the bridges or even the prongs. If you want to enhance the white color of the stone, you can use white prongs and a white gold bridge and yellow gold for the shanks.

This setting will cause the diamond to appear whiter. The yellow gold on the shank causes the diamond to appear even much whiter in contrast.

What to keep in mind when going below the J grade

If you are planning to buy a diamond that is in the J and below color grade, keep in mind that the color in the stone will be easily noticeable by the naked eye.

Some people will prefer a bit of color compared to the icy look of the diamonds higher up on the color scale. Maybe it reminds them of soft mellow moments such as when sitting in candlelight. That said it is important to remember that you should not pay a high price for these diamonds.

Another factor to take advantage of is diamond fluorescence.

Diamond Florescence

Fluoresce refers to a diamonds ability to emit light when exposed to ultraviolet light.  A third of all diamonds will florescence. Out of these up to 90% will have blue fluorescence.

A diamond on the higher color grade will be slightly cheaper if they fluorescence since it tends to lower the clarity of the stone. On the other hand, stones that are much lower on the diamond color scale will cost more if they florescence.

This is only limited to blue fluorescence and is because blue cancels out yellow and makes it appear more colorless. It, however, doesn’t hold with yellow fluorescence as this will only increase the yellow tint.

That said price may be higher with fancy yellow diamonds with yellow fluorescence as it will enhance the yellow color.

Professional diamond color grading

With diamonds that are in the G and above color scale, it is very difficult to tell the difference between them. The tint in the stone is not noticeable by the naked eye and geologist will also have a hard time noticing the difference.

If that is the case, how are they assigned a particular color grade? Well, diamond graders use master diamonds that represent the higher and lightest color in the grade for comparison.

Professionals will take the test stone and compare wit with two stones in the master set. These are the stones between which the test stone lies. This means that one will be lighter and the other will be darker and these stones represent where the test stone color lies.

The test stone will be given the color grade of the lighter master stone. Simply put if the test stone is between I and J, it will be given the I grade. Keep in mind that this master stone will show the lightest color that is possible for the grade.

This means that I will have some darker color variations before reaching J.

Evaluating diamonds and the table

When evaluating diamonds, the professionals will place the diamonds with the table or face down. The pavilion is where most of the color is going to be concentrated. The aim is to find the diamonds with the least color.

However, with fancy colored diamonds, the aim is to find diamonds with the most color. Because of this the diamond will be placed with the table or face up.

Neutral colors and white light

When evaluating the diamonds and comparing with the master stones, wearing even colored clothes will throw the analysis off balance.

The master diamonds are placed on a trough-like structure that has a white color background. Then neutral and white light is shone on them. This ensures that the diamond only reflects backs its natural color or tint and that the surrounding doesn’t affect it.

Evaluating the color online

It is crucial to see the diamond before you buy and this is true with colored diamonds. Note that the color grade of the more colorless diamonds will be based on the body color and they can be misleading at times.

Pay more attention to the face-up color and the best way to get this is through 360-degree videos of the stone or by looking at its images.

Diamond color and shape

The shape of a diamond affects the color. More brilliant diamonds that have greater sparkle will hide color. If you are on a budget and you buy a diamond on the H scale, you may want to ensure that you hide the tint of yellow as much as possible.

Going for a shape such as the brilliant cut, the round or the princess cut is a great choice. The fire from these diamonds will mask the tint in the stone.

On the other hand, if you are more interested in fancy diamonds such as blue or yellow, you want to go for a diamond that has less sparkle. In this case, the Asscher cut, the emerald, and the radiant cut are a great choice. Since they do not shine as much, they display the diamonds true color.


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