Most diamonds found in jewelry stores run from colorless to near-colorless, with slight hints of yellow or brown. The diamond color scale begins at D (colorless) and ends at Z (light yellow). Diamond color is often difficult to discern when a diamond is viewed face up.
GIA’s color-grading scale for diamonds is the industry standard. The scale begins with the letter D, representing colorless, and continues with increasing presence of color to the letter Z, or light yellow or brown. Each letter grade has a clearly defined range of color appearance. Diamonds are color-graded by comparing them to stones of known color under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions.
Many of these color distinctions are so subtle as to be invisible to the untrained eye. But these slight differences make a very big difference in diamond quality and price
Diamond color is one of four major characteristics that are considered when determining a diamond’s quality and value. Understanding these four characteristics, and how they interact, will help you choose a diamond that suits your tastes and your pocketbook.
Diamonds are not all colorless, but it’s the colorless diamonds, sometimes called white diamonds, which all other shades are judged against.
The diamond color scale begins at D (colorless) and ends at Z (light yellow). Diamond color is often difficult to discern when a diamond is viewed face up. Therefore, gemologists typically evaluate diamonds facedown against a pure white surface, illuminated by carefully controlled lighting. The diamond is then compared to master stones of predetermined color.
Highest-quality color grade a diamond can receive. A D-color diamond is extremely rare and emits unrivaled brilliance.
Contains minute traces of color. Also a rarity, an E-rated diamond emits a high level of brilliance.
Minute traces of color can only be detected by a trained gemologist. This is a high-quality color grade.
G,H (Near Colorless)
Contains noticeable color only when compared to higher color grades. Appearing colorless to the untrained eye, a G or H color diamond provides an excellent value.
I,J (Near Colorless)
Contains slightly detectable color. An I-color or J-color diamond is an excellent value, as it typically appears colorless to the untrained eye.
K,L,M (Faint Yellow)
Faint color is noticeable. Even with the presence of color, these grades of diamonds can emit fire and beauty.
Selecting a Color Grade
Color is an important factor to consider when choosing a diamond, as it is noticeable to the unaided eye. Below are some points to keep in mind when selecting a color grade:
Those who prefer a colorless diamond should select a stone in the D-F range with a fluorescence rating of “None” or “Faint”.
Near colorless diamonds with a rating between G and J are excellent values, as their color is typically undetectable to the unaided eye. If you are considering a diamond in this color range, a Brilliance diamond and jewelry expert can review the stone to ensure the color cannot be seen with the naked eye.
A near colorless diamond can appear whiter when set in platinum or white gold metals. Yellow gold settings complement diamonds with lower color ratings.
The presence of fluorescence can enhance the visual appeal of a diamond with a lower-color rating in the J through M range. The fluorescence helps to cancel out any faint yellow in the stone, resulting in a colorless appearance.
A common misconception is that only colorless diamonds exude brilliance. In reality, a well-cut diamond can emit fire and beauty even with traces of faint yellow, although the presence of color will decrease the stone’s value.
Fancy Colored Diamonds
Diamonds that exhibit a color other than light yellow or brown, as well as diamonds that possess a more intense yellow or brown than the ‘Z’ color rating, are considered “fancy colored”. With only one out of ten thousand diamonds possessing a natural color, these types of stones are extremely rare. Depending on the coloration, intensity, and hue of a diamond, color can either detract or enhance its value. Naturally occurring diamond colors include gray, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, olive, pink, purple, brown, and black. Red stones are the most rare of the fancy colored diamonds.
Similar to the process for grading colorless diamonds, a diamond’s fancy color is graded by comparing it to master stones of predetermined color. Unlike colorless diamonds, fancy colored diamonds are graded face up. The most important factors in determining the value of a naturally colored diamond is the strength of its color. The value of a fancy colored diamond increases with the intensity of the most prominent hue within the stone.