Diamond Color Guide

DIAMOND COLOR GUIDE

When industry experts discuss a diamond's color, they are typically referring to a diamond's transparancy, or lack of color. Diamonds composed of 100% pure carbon without any impurities render completely colorless diamonds. However, almost all diamonds contain some degree of color impurity caused by lingering traces of nitrogen, boron, hydrogen or other elements. Most diamonds are affected solely by nitrogen traces, which create pale yellowish or brownish tints.

If you’re shopping for a diamond, be aware that the most valuable diamonds have the least amount of color, no diamond color. However, it is important to note that there is a class of diamonds known as fancy diamonds which are actual colored diamonds, including blue diamonds, pink diamonds and even yellow diamonds, if in fact you are looking for colored diamonds.

What Color Grade Should I Choose?

Color is the most important factor in determining diamond price after carat weight. The difference in appearance between diamonds graded as colorless and near colorless is generally not detectible to the average consumer, but prices vary quite considerable between these two color groups. Take a look at some certified diamonds in person while window shopping and see if you can discern between different color grades. If you have difficulty differentiating between different color grades, which you probably will, then you may want to consider a nearly colorless diamond to save on your purchase.

Assuming that you are looking for a round brilliant diamond, you have a bit more flexibility in your color grade, because the sparkle and shine the brilliant cut gives it makes it more difficult to detect color. In this instance, anything over I color is usually more than adequate, and will appear completely colorless to the untrained eye unless held up against a diamond that is at least 3 color grades above it, such as an F or E colored diamond. By going with a lower color grade you save a significant amount that can go towards increasing carat weight for a larger diamond, or consider a diamond with a better cut, thus providing you with a more shine and sparkle.

Let’s take a look at some examples for comparison:

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D colored diamond
diamond without incl
H colored diamond
diamond without incl
M colored diamond

There are also many gemologists and diamond experts who claim that a completely colorless diamond creates light refraction that is too harsh and is unpleasant to the eye. Imagine if you are looking into a very bright spotlight- other than the glare, you can’t really see anything. However, when the light is slightly dimmed you can actually see more detail and the viewing experience is more enjoyable. According to these experts, it is preferred to get a diamond with a small amount of color, which will soften the light and make it easier to view the entire spectrum of color that is given off when the diamond scintillates.

If your setting is made of yellow gold, you have even more flexibility in the color. Since the color of the diamond is usually only noticed when comparing it to an item that is white or colorless, whencompared to a yellow gold background, there will be far less contrast and the color will be even less noticeable, as opposed to white metal settings, such as white gold or platinum. With a yellow gold setting, you can even opt for a diamond with a J color and it will still appear to be colorless to the untrained eye.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. Diamonds with pointed ends, specifically marquis, radiants, trillion, pear and sometimes even princess shaped diamonds tend to concentrate color in these pointed corners. With these shaped diamonds, it is usually best to stay with a color grade of H and higher. If you have a pronged setting, though, the prongs may hide this color concentration.

When you are looking for ring settings with sidestones, always make sure that the color gradings of all sidestones and your centerstone are comparable. Especially with 3 stone diamond rings, make sure that the color ranges are at least within 1 grade of each other for all stones.

Color Grading: How it Works

When grading a diamond's color, the stone is examined face-down under carefully controlled light. The diamond's color is then compared to a "master stone" which has a predetermined diamond color.

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Master Stones

The Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) color grading system is the diamond industry's standard for diamond color grading. The GIA's color grading system begins with D, being the whitest, and continues through the alphabet to Z, for stones that are yellowish or brownish. Before the GIA developed their universal diamond color grading standard several other diamond color scales were being used by the international diamond community. The GIA's intention was to completely differentiate their new system from the others. As such, they chose letters D-Z, letters that had never been used for diamond grading before.

Take a look at how the GIA grades color:

Diamond Colors

  • D100% Colorless. The highest color grade a diamond can receive. D graded diamonds are extremely rare and very highly priced.
  • E,F Exceptionally transparent. Extremely difficult to detect the traces of color in an E or F graded diamond. These diamonds are rare and highly priced.
  • G,HNearly Colorless. Unless these diamonds are compared next to a master stone of higher color grade, color is nearly indiscernible. When face up these diamond appear nearly colorless. These diamonds are still rare, but slightly less expensive and are considered a good value.
  • I,JNearly Colorless. Color in these diamonds is slightly detectable. The slight amount of color is imperceptible by the unaided eye once the diamond has been mounted. These diamonds are of superior value, and therefore compose the majority of diamonds that are used for engagement rings, earrings and pendants.
  • N-Z Very Light or Light Yellow. Noticeable color. These diamonds are not fit to be sold as gemstones, unless you specifically would like to have a diamond with an amber color.

 

What is Fluorescense?

Many diamonds, when placed under UV light, emit a light glow in the same way that a white T-shirt does. Because there are a small amount of UV rays in regular daylight, some diamonds also exhibit fluorescence in natural light. On more recent GIA Diamond Grading Reports, the fluorescence of a diamond appears as a graded characteristic. Fluorescence can be graded as Inert, Faint, Medium, or Strong. To this day there is still no consensus among industry experts regarding the general impact of fluorescence on a diamond. This is because strong fluorescence in a diamond with a high color grade (D-H) can cause the diamond to appear milky or cloudy, while strong fluorescence in a diamond with a low color grade can make the diamond appear whiter. Most of the time, fluorescence has no impact on a diamond's appearance under regular lighting conditions.