Diamond Color & Grading
Natural diamonds as well as lab diamonds, are available in many colors and tints. The traditional "clear" stones found in most engagement and wedding rings are known as known as white diamonds. Whereas fancy colored diamonds are the vivid shades like pink, green and yellow. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has standardized diamond color grading on a D-to-Z scale. Similarly to IGI (International Gemological Institute), who also uses a D-to-Z scale but for lab grown diamonds. All diamonds on this letter scale are considered "white," although on the lower end they can have a tinge of yellow.
Here's some irony for you: Diamond color, in terms of grading, is determined by the lack of color in a diamond. The less color a diamond has, the higher the color grade. Diamond color subtly distracts the eye from seeing sparkle, so colorless diamonds will appear to sparkle more than yellowish or brownish tinted diamonds.
Keep in mind that color is natural
Color is a natural element in diamonds. As the gems grow under the earth over millions of years, trace elements can cause a yellowish or brownish tint. (We know what you’re thinking, and no, diamonds aren’t formed from coal. They are actually made from carbon deposits.) It's more common for diamonds to have some of this tinting — which varies in hue, tone and saturation — than to be absolutely colorless.
Diamond color is graded by evaluating the body color of the diamond on a pure white background, face down. Gemologists will compare the diamond to master stones, or a GIA-verified set of cubic zirconia, with grade color shading. If the diamond has more yellow than one but less than the other, it will receive a grade in that range. (For example: More yellow than F, but less than G, would be a G color diamond. You might also hear these referred to as “G+ color diamonds” to indicate that they’re at the top of this specific color range, or whiter than other stones in the same color grade.)
Understanding the Diamond Color Scale
In the letter-grade diamond color scale, D (colorless) is the highest and best grade, and Z is the lowest. Diamond used to be graded like gemstones on a range that included AAA, AA, A, and B, so the new scale started at D to avoid confusion. This color chart shows how the color of a diamond changes visually across the scale. Which diamond color is best? That depends on what you're looking for.
In the color grading scale, D is the highest color and Z is the lowest. This color chart shows how the color of a diamond changes visually across the scale.
Diamond Color D-F: Colorless - diamonds in this range have no color, or very minute traces of color, that can only be identified by trained gemologists. They typically need to be compared to higher or lower graded diamonds to accurately identify the color. Fewer than 1% of all gem-quality diamonds fall in this range. Learn more about D-F colored diamonds.
Diamond Color G-J: Near Colorless - these diamonds have minor traces of color that may be identified by trained eyes. The G/H color diamonds are most popular because they balance value and lack of color. Minor sparkle distractions can be noticed in I/J colors, however these diamonds still sparkle very brilliantly and have great value, when balancing the other C’s. The near colorless range represents the top 15% of all gem-quality diamonds. Learn more about G, H, I & J color diamonds.
Diamond Color K-M: Faint - diamonds with K, L and M colors tend to have a faint yellow or brown tinge. The color affects the diamond’s sparkle by very slightly dulling it. When examined, the color may be recognized in jewelry, although there are ways to minimize this. These diamonds represent the top 40% of all gem-quality diamonds. With Clarity does not carry colors below L. Learn more about K, L, and M color diamonds.
Understanding each Diamond Color Grade
Think you know which diamond color you want to go with? Or maybe you're not so sure how to get the best look within your budget. Read more about each specific diamond color below for more about what sets them apart and what you should know before picking out a diamond of that color grade.
D Colorless: A D color diamond possesses the highest color purity and is a symbol of perfection. It is considered extremely rare and has no recognizable shades of color. When looking at a diamond with the naked eye, E and F colors can also look similar to the D color diamond. A D color diamond looks best when set in white gold and platinum, as the white color of the metal further highlights the colorless quality. However, D color diamonds can also look beautiful in rose and yellow gold, but some color from the setting will come through the stone.
E Colorless: An E color diamond is visually stunning and has very high color purity. It is incredibly rare and has almost no recognizable color shading. To the naked eye and even under 10X magnification, an E color diamond will not show any tinges of yellow color.
F Colorless: An F color diamond has excellent beauty and contains a minute shade of color that is undetectable by the untrained eye. It is also very rare and considered to have high color purity. When looking for a diamond that will not exhibit shades of yellow to the naked eye, and F color certainly fits the bill and can be more affordable than a D or E color diamond.
G Near Colorless: A G color diamond is exquisite and has minor traces of color that can be identified only by diamond professional. It is also the most popular diamond color and provides a great blend of beauty and value. A platinum or white gold setting can work to hide traces of yellow color in the ring, however a G color diamond is versatile and can look great with rose and yellow gold.
H Near Colorless: An H color diamond has gorgeous appeal as its slightly identifiable shade of color does not affect the diamond’s brilliance. It is one of the most popular colors because of its visual attractiveness and value. An H color is a good balance between these factors and can be a great choice if you're trying to maximize for other characteristics like carat or clarity.
I Near Colorless: An I color diamond delivers excellent brilliance even as some shading of color can be identified by a gemologist. The color is still not recognizable to an untrained eye and provides excellent value. Depending on the diamond, an I diamond can be a good choice as the yellow color is not too perceptible. However, it is a good idea to ask a gemologist to help you find a stone that faces up white before making your purchase.
J Near Colorless: A J color diamond has exquisite sparkle and value (as long as you’re getting a stone that’s cut well, of course). It has a shade of color that is only detectable by trained professionals and allows for a larger size or higher clarity that may be more palatable to your budget. Talk to a gemologist to help you find a stone that faces up white and discuss the diamond shape you’re considering, as some amplify the color of your diamond.
K Faint Yellow:A K color diamond is considered a white diamond that does not compromise the stone’s sparkle. Some shading of color may reflect in light, but it is still difficult for the untrained eye to identify the color grade. Keep in mind, though, that a K color diamond can look yellow to the naked eye, especially in larger diamond sizes over 1.50 carats.
L Faint Yellow: An L color diamond is scintillating and considered a white diamond that does not distract from the diamond’s sparkle. Slight color may be detectable to the untrained eye, especially when viewed from the side. It looks best in yellow gold settings, which minimize contrast between the diamond and the setting. Check with a gemologist before purchasing an L color diamond to ensure that it is the correct color for you.
Diamond Color Prices: How to choose
While changes in diamond color are very subtle, pricing changes are not. The price difference between each color grade (all else being equal) ranges from about 8% to more than 25% in the higher colors. For the perfectionist, D through F color diamonds are a great choice. For a more value driven decision, consider an I through K color. It’s extremely important to keep in mind that diamonds of all colors show fire and brilliance. Consider all other elements like the full budget for the ring and your preferred metal.
Purchasing a lower-color diamond concedes only small visible differences, but the savings can be very noticeable. The most noticeable cost difference is often from G to F color grades. The most popular color grade is a G, for this reason, with H closely behind.
Factor your metal choice into your decision
Metal color can play a role in which diamond color you should select. A lower-color diamond can actually look beautiful (and more white) in a yellow gold setting. That’s because a yellow gold setting decreases the contrast between your diamond and the setting. A little yellow tint will appear more yellow by comparison if placed in a white gold setting.
But the color of the metal isn’t the only factor here. Additionally, the amount of metal, and the type of setting, can show off more or less of the diamond. Depending on this, you may want to select a lower or higher color on the scale.
The shape and size of your diamond matter too
Fancy-shaped diamonds (shapes other than round cut) tend to show more color. Pear, oval and marquise cuts exhibit more color near their points and edges. The princess, emerald, Asscher, radiant cut and cushion cuts reflect more color in the body. If you love the look of a G color diamond in a round cut, assume you'd want an F in another diamond shape.
With diamonds of any shape, as the carat weight increases, color can be more obvious. With larger sizes, it's important to choose higher colors. You can also learn about the other factors that affect diamond pricing.
We ranked the importance of the color grade (1-10: 1 least important, 10 important) as it relates to the shape of the diamond. Shape is a critical element in determining how much color is shown:
|Round||4/10||Their brilliant facets can mask color. Therefore, with this shape you do not have to get an overly high color grade. You can balance color with other factors like cut to get the best value and look.|
|Princess||5/10||The color shows more than rounds due to the depth and size of the body in the diamond|
|Emerald||6/10||The open, deeper body of the diamond tends to show more color. The larger facets don't allow sparkle to mask color|
|Asscher||6/10||The open, deeper body of the diamond tends to show more color. The larger facets don't allow sparkle to mask color as well. If gettng a smaller asscher diamond, something that is below 1 carat you may not have to get as high of a color. When purchasing one larger than a carat, pay closer attention to color.|
|Oval||7/10||Elongated shapes, specifically ones with points show less color in the body, but much more near the edges and points. Again if opting to get an oval that is larger than 1 carat, pay closer attention to the color. Look at also how shallow or deep the diamond is. Deeper diamonds will show a little less color.|
|Marquise||8/10||Elongated shapes, like the marquise will show more color along the points. If getting a marquise that is elongated, be sure to look carefully at images and videos of the diamond to understand color.|
|Pear||8/10||Elongated shapes like the pear will show more color in the points of the diamond. Be careful as to how narrow or fat the diamond is. With a more narrow point, color will show easily.|
|Heart||8/10||With a pointed bottom and an edge that curves inward at the top, a larger diamond can show color. However, color showing may not be a large concern with heart shaped diamonds that are smaller than 1.25 carats.|
|Radiant||9/10||Radiant diamonds can show color fairly easily due to the type of faceting. Be sure to consider color when choosing.|
|Cushion||9/10||Cushion diamonds can show more color based on the type of faceting. With a brilliant cut cushion, color showing is less of a concern. However, with one that has larger and more open facets, color can show more easily. Take a close look at your diamond to decide and have a gemologist explain to you which kind of faceting it has.|
Lastly: factor diamond type
As you might know, the white diamond market now also offers lab/lab grown/lab made/man made/cultured diamonds. Lab diamonds are special because they share the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as of a mined/natural diamonds. The two main differences between lab vs mined diamonds are: price and origin. When once chooses to purchase a 1 carat lab diamond, they can save up to 30-40% versus purchasing a 1 carat natural diamond (with identical cut, clarity, color, and carat specs).
Man made (white) diamonds put equal important on color grade, just like its natural counterparts. The reason is because yellow tints in white diamonds can be distracting when looking at the stone for sparkle. At With Clarity, lab diamonds are graded on the same letter scale GIA uses. However, we rely on the International Gemological Institute (IGI) to grade our lab stones instead. IGI is an independent laboratory that has international headquarters, and ensures consumers get a true deal on their diamonds.
Does Fluorescence Impact Color?
One final factor affects a diamond’s color: fluorescence. But unlike those diamond myths you may have heard, diamond fluorescence is your friend. Fluorescence is the diamond’s reaction to UV light (otherwise known as black light). Fluorescence is caused by naturally occurring trace elements, such as boron, that become part of diamonds as they grow. In very rare instances, it affects the visual properties of diamonds.
It is recommended that in higher colors (colors D-G), fluorescence should be faint or none. Fluorescence can whiten a diamond for those that are on the lower (more yellow) end of the color spectrum. When the diamond is already colorless, although very unlikely, it can give it a whitish, grayish tint. This is typically the case in less than 1% of all diamonds with fluorescence. The more common impact is color improvement in lower colors.
In colors such as I-L, we recommend considering medium or strong fluorescence. It can improve the visibility of a yellowish tint, thereby visually making the color appear a shade whiter. A diamond with fluorescence is also generally cheaper than one without. Especially choose fluorescent diamonds in J, K or L colors, as they also provide excellent purchase value.
Diamond Color Buying Tips
We get it: Although our expert gemologists are always here to answer questions and guide you through this process, sometimes you don’t have time to pick up the phone or draft an email. So when you just need a list to refer to of expert insights on choosing a diamond based on color, you can use the one we pulled together below:
- For the best balance of value and look, G through J is a great range. This rule applies to most carat weights. However, if you're looking for a diamond above 1 carat, consider staying with G or H. (Remember, that's because color can show more easily as the diamond carat size goes up.) Once set in a ring, the diamond will look equally as good as a higher color diamond. Factor the shape into consideration when deciding on a color range; fancy shapes will show more hue.
- If you want a larger diamond, don't compromise on the color. Along with cut, color is the most important factor when choosing a diamond. These two factors deeply impact the look and beauty of the diamond.
- Color becomes much harder to detect once a stone is set in a ring. An H color diamond may look as colorless as a D when set in a ring under normal lighting conditions, especially if the two are not compared side by side. (And, really, when are you ever going to compare your ring to someone else’s side by side?)
- The color of the mounting will affect the diamond's color. Yellow gold makes slight amounts of yellow in a diamond less obvious, while white metal mountings make color more apparent. Rose gold can have a similar effect, but to a lesser degree. Platinum and white gold will make yellow tints most obvious.
- A ring setting that covers more of the diamond, like a bezel or channel setting, will hide color. One that showcases more of the diamond, such as a solitaire, will be less useful in hiding any yellow.
- Don't fret if a color grade isn't perfect. Most untrained observers (and many gemologists) can't distinguish a color grade from the next unless the diamonds are compared side-by-side in a controlled environment.
If the color's effect is unclear, call to speak to a diamond and jewelry consultant who can view the diamond to ensure its tint doesn't adversely affect sparkle. Contact us by phone at 1(844)-234-6463 or email at [email protected]. Our Live Chat is available during business hours Monday - Friday, 10 AM - 5:30 PM ET.
Buying Tips for D-F Diamonds
With D, E and F diamonds, you can be assured that the diamonds have no trace of color and look crystal clear. With this color range, any metal setting will look great and bring out the sparkle of the diamond. As D and E color diamonds are quite rare and valuable, you will see large price jumps when moving up color grades within that range. Unless you are immensely particular about color, you can safely get an F color diamond. To the naked eye, an F color diamond will look as good as a D or E color diamond with little difference seen, except on the price tag.
Buying Tips for G-J Diamonds
G, H, I and J color diamonds are considered colorless by GIA and IGI. For most diamond sizes and shapes, they can be a good option. If getting a diamond that's as close to colorless as possible is important to you, stay within the G or H ranges. J and I color diamonds can be good options, but the amount of yellow they display varies based on size, shape and fluorescence. If you're choosing yellow or rose gold, you can move down a color grade. The metal color will make the diamond look slightly whiter.
Buying Tips for K-L Diamonds
K and L color diamonds are not considered colorless. They have a faint to soft yellow hue that can be visible to the naked eye. Avoid K and L color diamonds for diamonds larger than 1 carat as the color is more noticeable. If color is the least important factor for you, K and L colors can be considered. But you should keep in mind that if you’re opting for a setting with a lot of accent diamonds, like pave or halo settings, these smaller stones may make your center diamond look more yellow. Here at With Clarity, all of our accent diamonds are within the G color grade. You'll see quite a big price drop from higher color ranges, though. This color range can also be an option for those who want a vintage- or antique-inspired ring.
Diamond Color and Accent Diamonds
Matching smaller accent or side stones with the center diamond is a crucial aspect of making high-quality jewelry. Color is the most important factor in ensuring a match. Larger diamonds tend to show color more easily, so ensure your accent stones are within a couple color grades of your main stone, particularly with halo and three-stone ring settings.
However, don't be too concerned if the grade is not an exact match, as color and inclusions are harder to see in smaller accent diamonds. At With Clarity, we always use G color diamonds for our accent stones because we want you to love the overall look of your ring. These stones match a large range of center stone grades, from D color diamonds to J color diamonds, but you might see some contrast if you choose a stone lower than that.
Fancy Colored Diamonds
Diamonds that have color beyond the D -Z scale or have traces of color other than the typical yellow or brown are considered fancy colored. (A fancy shaped diamond is any shape other than round.) Fancy colored diamonds are extremely rare. Only one diamond in 10,000 is a color other than yellow or brown. Depending on the color saturation, intensity, and hue of a diamond, color can either detract from 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 and have the greatest value. There are only about 40 to 50 red diamonds in the world. Diamonds are graded by laboratories on a scale with 27 different color hues. Popular fancy color brand names include cognac, champagne, chocolate, icy and canary.
Fancy colors are graded by GIA by evaluating the strength of color and the undertones of all colors present. Diamonds can have multiple undertones, with dominant colors such as Fancy Light Orangy Pink or Fancy Yellowish Green. We typically recommend seeing the diamond in person before purchasing due to the importance of hue, tone and saturation. An image or video will rarely accurately capture the diamond's fancy color and brilliance in this particular category.