Diamond Color Explained (Critical Buying Tips)

Wondering what diamond color is and how it affects the price of diamond?

Perfect, you're in the right place!

In this Learning Jewelry guide, you'll learn:

  • What diamond color is
  • How color of a diamond affects price
  • What the diamond color scale is and the types of colors on it
  • And our buying advice when it comes to considering color
diamond color explained and buying tips

As opposed to a diamond's clarity, diamond color is an easy indicator of beauty and value. Even as we try to understand the different spectrums of diamonds, the general vibe about diamonds is the icier the stone the better the sparkle. Yes, colorless diamonds are the best: but just how colorless should they be?

So, we’ll be having a round up on the different scales (from D to Z) of diamond color, including how each section affects a diamond’s sparkle and just about everything else you’ll need to know about color. Also keep in mind, the color grading in this article is only meant for normal diamonds and does not apply to fancy/colored diamonds.

What Is “Diamond Color”?

When looking at diamond color, we determine the extent of color present in a diamond. In fact, white diamonds are graded with respect to the absence of color in them. An icy-white (colorless) diamond will exhibit maximum fire because all the light passing through is bounced right back, giving the stone a bright sparkle.

Read Also: How does a diamond's cut affect it's price?

Depending on the amount of hue, diamonds with brown or yellow tints may not give as much “fire” as its colorless counterparts. As we go down the color grades, the transparency, scintillation, and ultimately the sparkle of a diamond reduces.

How Does Diamond Color Affect Price?

Color is one of the 4Cs of a diamond that affects its price. Typically, the more pronounced the color of the diamond, the less valuable it is. Each subsequent level of clarity raises the value of the diamond. You may not be able to identify each color grade with your naked eye but the difference in price is definitely noticeable!

Honestly, I think finding the right price using color is a matter of honor, rather than quality. Otherwise, if you want to have the best bang for your buck, go for the slightly lower grades without compromising the beauty or the cut.

What Is The Diamond Color Scale?

The diamond color scale was formulated by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), in a bid to grade diamonds consistently based on the extent of color they exhibit. It’s important to know that this grading system is recognized internationally as the standard.

Read Also: What're the best earrings for round faces?

To determine these grades, gemologists usually place the diamonds facing down on a white background and then examine them under controlled lighting. For accurate inferences and comparison purposes, master diamonds on each grade are also used as a way of maintaining consistency. Color grades range from D (colorless) all the way to Z (light brown/yellow).

Colorless Diamonds (D, E, and F)

Diamonds within this color range are purely colorless and will have virtually no secondary hue at all! In particular, D and E are perfect, even when viewed under a 20x microscope. However, F colored diamonds may have minute amounts of color only detectable by an expert gemologist. Diamonds in this range are the most expensive and very rare.

Here you can see just how colorless a "D" color diamond is!

Nearly Colorless Diamonds (G, H, I, and J)

Diamonds within this color grade will appear colorless when placed face up but tend to have slightly yellow tints when viewed from the sides. Near colorless diamonds are the most popular in ring settings as you won’t be able to distinguish the tints from above. If you want to save some money, look out for diamonds in this range.

Here you can see an "H" color diamond on James Allen's website. Notice the yellow hue.

Faint Tint (K, L, and M)

Faint color diamonds give you a slight color hint when viewed from the top. They’ll fancy those who prefer the warm, sun touched look of diamonds. This setting will be much better on yellow gold ring settings as the diamond will pick up the gold color on top of its own hue.

Very Light Tint (N, O, P, Q, and R)

Very light tint diamonds have a rather noticeable shade of yellow but are much less expensive than higher color grades. Interestingly, these diamonds are not so many on the market not because of their rarity but rather due to a lack of demand.

Light Tint (S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z)

Diamonds in this grade have tints visible from a reasonable distance. For many, the color is just too much for a white diamond. It is also easier to confuse diamonds in this color grade to fancy colored diamonds with lighter shades.

Diamond Color Myths Debunked!

Now, even though the color of a diamond is crucially important, it is also very much exaggerated. I understand the importance of color but seriously, some truths need to be told! Consider these tips a bit of friendly advice from someone who cares about getting the best value for your money.

Diamonds Adopt Color From Ring Settings

Simply put, don’t go for D grade diamonds if you want to purchase a yellow gold ring. Diamonds tend to absorb whatever color that is closer to them and in a gold setting, your piece would look more yellow than white. A smart move would be going for the lower grades (preferably I to L) and you’ll save yourself some bucks!

Larger Diamonds Equals More Color

Larger diamonds tend to show more body color as compared to smaller diamonds. While buying loose diamonds in a particular color grade (excluding D and E), a 2 carat diamond will show more color than a 0.5 carat diamond in the same color grade. Therefore, it is advisable as you go down the color scale, pick smaller diamonds because they’ll still have a fairly colorless hue.

Diamond Color and Shape

A diamond’s shape can mask the color in some instances and bring out the stone’s brilliance. For example, a round brilliant cut diamond is the most popular shape used to enhance brilliance but not the best in showing out a diamond’s real color grade.

If you want to mask the color then you don’t have a lot of options here. Other fancy shapes (emerald, oval, marquise, etc) bring out the body color making them quite obvious.

Fluorescence And Diamond Color

It is important to know that almost all diamonds exhibit some level of fluorescence, noted in the grading report. Fluorescence is typically a blue radiation diamonds emit when exposed to UV rays. When buying a diamond in the lower color grades, inspecting the amount of fluorescence will come in handy.

Since lower grades tend to have yellow hues, a higher fluorescence means that the two colors (blue and yellow) sort of blend, bringing out a whiter diamond in the naked eye. This is a very nice “trick”, especially for budget shoppers. Diamonds between the I to M grades will have the best effects on this. On the flip side, you should avoid buying high fluorescent diamonds in the upper color grades (D to H).

Read Also: What're the best earrings for sensitive skin?

Best Diamond Colors For White Gold

The most popular diamond color is G, even for white gold. But if you ask me, that might not be the best value for your money. With a few finesses, you can select lower ranges without affecting the beauty of your diamond.

Now, as we mentioned earlier, almost all cuts except round cut, bring out a diamond’s body color. Setting a fancy cut diamond with white gold requires diamonds in the higher color grade but if you decide to go lower, consider choosing a round brilliant cut diamond. In essence, a round cut diamond may do well in the H range but cuts like emerald or Asscher may reveal the tints a little more.

We really like the Assher cut diamonds in "G" color for white gold.

If you’ll be going for fancy shaped diamonds, strive for the higher color grades to avoid compromising the diamond’s blend with white gold. Again, if you compare F color and E color diamonds in a white gold engagement ring, the visual appeal is more or less the same. However, E color diamonds are a bit expensive, so for me, I would go with F color diamonds.

Best Diamond Colors For Yellow Gold

As opposed to white gold, buying diamonds for yellow gold settings does not put too much pressure on the whiteness of the color. Since a diamond’s secondary hue is closer to gold, lower color grades tend to compliment the overall piece.

In essence, diamonds from I to L Color range is what you’re looking for. Even though an L Colored diamond may display some hints of yellow, setting this diamond in yellow gold pretty much cancels out the color, making it appear whiter. 

Remember most of these grades are only discernible from a 20x magnification and not exactly with the naked eye. Sites like James Allen will really help you differentiate the color grades as they have a top-notch imaging technology. 

But once you buy, no matter how low your color grade goes (up to L), no one will really come to you with 20x lenses!

My Recommendation When It Comes To Diamond Color

Summing up, getting the best diamond involves scraping through all important elements that deeply influence the diamond’s brilliance: color is one of them. The Diamond Shape and Cut may be crucial determinants of value, but without a clear understanding of Diamond Color, your investment might as well go down the drain.

Finding the right balance between ring settings and the type of metal you use could land you a great colorless diamond that doesn’t have to be in the D color grade. Whether you’re looking for a warm-looking diamond, larger cuts, or just a touch of uniqueness, knowing how color affects your choice is an indispensable tool. 

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