Diamond Color Explained (Available Types & Which to Choose)

Last Updated on August 14, 2023 by Juli "Jewels" Church

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 its 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 Grades

Diamonds within this color range are purely colorless and will have virtually no secondary hue at all! They are like pure, crystalline drops of water, allowing their brilliance and fire to shine through unhindered. The top-tier grades within the diamond color grade scale are D, E, and F, representing the pinnacle of colorless beauty. 

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

D Color Grade

At the very top of the color grade scale sits the prestigious D grade. Diamonds in this category are truly exceptional, exhibiting an immaculate absence of color. D grade diamonds are extraordinarily rare and possess a remarkable purity that creates a breathtaking display of brilliance. Their pristine whiteness allows for a stunning contrast against the metal setting, amplifying their radiance and allure.

E Color Grade

Just a whisper away from the D grade, E grade diamonds maintain an almost imperceptible hint of color. They exude an ethereal beauty that is revered by diamond connoisseurs and discerning buyers alike. E grade diamonds possess an exquisite elegance, with their subtle colorlessness creating a captivating play of light. These diamonds are highly sought after for their near-perfect appearance, offering exceptional value and sophistication.

F Color Grade

Sitting gracefully within the colorless spectrum, F grade diamonds possess a captivating brilliance that is second to none. With only a minute trace of color discernible to the trained eye, F grade diamonds emit a mesmerizing sparkle that enchants all who behold them. Their exceptional beauty and allure make them a popular choice for engagement rings and other exquisite jewelry pieces.

Nearly Colorless Diamond Grades 

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.

G Color Grade

The near colorless journey begins with the G grade. Diamonds within this range showcase a subtle and delicate hint of color that is nearly imperceptible to the untrained eye. G grade diamonds exude a captivating brilliance, with a whisper of warmth that enhances their character.

These diamonds strike an excellent balance between quality and value, making them a popular choice for those seeking a beautiful diamond without venturing into the higher price range.

H Color Grade

Just a step below G, the H grade represents near colorless diamonds that maintain an enchanting allure. These diamonds possess a touch more warmth than their G grade counterparts, but their beauty remains timeless and captivating. H grade diamonds continue to display an impressive level of brilliance and sparkle, making them a popular choice for engagement rings and other exquisite jewelry pieces.

I Color Grade

Moving further along the near colorless spectrum, the I grade diamonds exhibit a gentle hint of warmth. This warmth adds character and uniqueness to the stone, creating a distinctive charm.

I grade diamonds maintain their inherent beauty and radiance, reflecting an abundance of light and captivating onlookers with their mesmerizing sparkle. They offer an excellent balance of value and quality, appealing to those who appreciate a touch of warmth in their diamonds.

J Color Grade

At the edge of the near colorless range, J grade diamonds possess a subtle tint that adds a touch of character to the stone. While slightly more noticeable than the previous grades, the gentle warmth within J grade diamonds can create a beautiful contrast and a distinct personality.

These diamonds still emit an impressive level of brilliance and fire, making them an attractive option for those seeking a larger diamond size without compromising on quality.

Faint Color Diamond Grades

Faint tint 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.

K Color Diamonds

Diamonds in the K color grade display a faint hint of color that is readily noticeable. While they may not be completely colorless, K color diamonds can still exhibit beautiful sparkle and brilliance. These diamonds often offer a more budget-friendly option while maintaining a striking appearance.

L Color Diamonds

L color diamonds continue to exhibit a faint tint of color, typically in the yellow or brown range. While the color is more pronounced than in higher grades, these diamonds can still be attractive and emit a noticeable amount of sparkle and fire.

M Color Diamonds

Diamonds in the M color grade show a slightly more pronounced tint of color compared to K and L grades. The presence of color is noticeable, giving the stone a warm and unique character. M color diamonds can be a cost-effective choice for those seeking a larger diamond without compromising too much on quality.

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 that 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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