The Ultimate Diamond Color Scale Guide and Color Chart

The PriceScope Diamond Color Scale Guide and Color Chart

WHAT IS DIAMOND COLOR?

 

Diamond Color Guide - Octavia Asscher Cut Diamond
Posted by kenny
1.34 carat H Color Octavia asscher cut diamond

Diamond color is a primary quality factor along with the other 4Cs:  Diamond Clarity, Diamond Carat Weight, and Diamond Cut. When we talk about diamond color, we are referring to how colorless or yellow/brown the diamond appears. Diamonds that are completely colorless are rare; most diamonds have hints of color, and even subtle color differences have a big impact on diamond prices.

Typically, colorless diamonds (DEF grades ) are the most desirable, while diamonds on the lower end of the grading scale (D-Z) are less appealing as they lack the crisp, white light return that we associate with diamonds.

Diamonds that have vivid color (pink, blue etc) are known as fancy color diamonds and are graded separately from colorless diamonds.

Diamond color is a significant part of the diamond buying process in terms of both price and appearance. Overlooking diamond color could result in a disappointing diamond with an unsightly tinge, but allocating too much budget to color will result in overspending on a quality factor that cannot be appreciated by eye.

HOW IS DIAMOND COLOR GRADED?

There have been methods for grading diamond color since the 1700s. Colorless diamonds have always been valued for their rarity and purity of crystal.

There have been methods for grading diamond color since the 1700’s. Today, diamonds are generally evaluated by a diamond color scale that was developed in the 1950’s by GIA’s Richard T. Liddicoat. The Color Grading Scale starts with the letter D and ends at Z. D colored diamonds have the least amount of color and Z colored diamonds have the most color in the range of D-Z. Beyond Z is the fancy color range and grades are assigned very differently.

GIA Diamond Color Grading Scale
GIA

 

*Fun Fact – When GIA developed the D-Z grading system they avoided A-C because some dealers use A1 to C3 for ‘in-house’ grading systems.

 

Diamond graders assess color by placing a diamond in a lighting unit that simulates daylight. The diamond is positioned face down rather than face up, so the grader can evaluate body color. The diamond will be compared to master-stones of similar color. Master-stones are sets of diamonds that represent the D-Z color scale.

 

Diamonds presented face down for diamond color comparison
Diamonds presented face down for color comparison

DO DIFFERENT LABS HAVE DIFFERENT COLOR GRADES?

With the exception of AGS Labs numerical color grading scale (which also synchs up directly to the GIA scale), most diamond grading labs utilize GIA’s D-Z scale. Not all laboratory color grading is equal, as there are differences among the labs. There is a certain amount of subjectivity among human color graders, and labs utilize several graders to assess the final color grade. Click on the links below for different lab color grading methods.

 

Grading Laboratory

GIA AGS Labs International Gemological Institute (IGI) EGL USA HRD Antwerp

 

Grading Format D – Z scale 0.0 – 10.0 D – Z scale D – Z scale D – Z scale
Overview A reputation for grading color rigorously and with consistency A reliable lab with a thorough approach to grading Grading sometimes lacks consistency. Diamond color grades often inflated  Color grades that are often inconsistent and inflated Strict on color, particularly in the colorless/near colorless brackets

 

Our community of Pricescope diamond experts are skilled at navigating the disparity between gem labs and their grading systems, however first-time buyers will find opting for ‘top tier’ grading labs such as GIA and AGS is a straightforward way of ensuring a reliable diamond color grade. Diamond Color – The Nitty Gritty

WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE DIAMOND COLOR?

D colored diamonds are the rarest and most expensive of diamonds within the D-Z scale. Certain fancy colored diamonds will command the highest prices overall, and these will be discussed in separate tutorial. Many people enjoy diamonds in the near colorless range G-J, as they find a balance of size, clarity, and price to meet their needs.

*Compare diamond prices of different color grades.

CHOOSING A DIAMOND COLOR

The color grade you select for your diamond will be driven by budget and personal taste. However, understanding how diamond color interacts with other quality factors will allow you to find a diamond with a colorless appearance without overspending on a grade that cannot be appreciated by eye.

Well-cut, round brilliant diamonds will hide their color better than poorly cut stones of the same shape. Certain fancy shapes such as emerald cuts, ovals, and pear cuts will reveal more color, because they have broader facet arrangements.

We have created this table for your reference which suggests advisable color grades for various shapes and settings.

 

Diamond Shape Yellow Metal Setting White Metal Setting Accent/Pave Notes
Round I – K G – J F – I The brilliant facets are adept at masking color
Princess I – K G – J F – I Princess cuts display color slightly more than rounds due to the depth and body – however, they are still good at masking color
Asscher G – J G – I F – I Close attention to color needed – step cuts cannot rely on sparkle to mask color
Emerald G – J G – I F – I An open, deep body and long, horizontal facets make emerald cuts good for making fancy colors more vivid, but poor at masking color
Other H – J F – J G – I Elongated shapes such as pear or heart will display more concentrated in the points and curves. Assess on a stone to stone basis

 

It is important to note that when it comes to metal color, there are two opposing schools of thought.

  • The first is that setting a diamond with a yellow/brown hue against a yellow or rose gold background will make the diamond appear whiter.
  • The second is setting a diamond with a yellow/brown hue in a white metal will encourage white light reflections, giving an overall brighter/whiter appearance.

A diamond will reflect the hues of the metal it is set it, how you perceive color is entirely personal. This is why observing diamonds in context is so important.

WHAT CAUSES COLOR IN DIAMONDS?

Diamonds are carbon essentially, but most diamonds will have trace impurities that create color. For example, nitrogen impurities cause yellow color. Nitrogen is the most common impurity in diamond, so the majority of diamonds you’ll see in the marketplace will have varying degrees of yellow tint. Brown color in diamond is thought to be caused by internal graining, which results from structural irregularities often in combination with an impurity like nitrogen. Colorless diamonds are very rare, as they contain little to no impurities.

Take a look at our Fancy Color tutorial for an in-depth look at diamond color

DOES DIAMOND FLUORESCENCE AFFECT COLOR?

Diamond fluourescence is largely an identifying characteristic only observable under a black light.  Blue is the most common color of fluorescence and can theoretically cancel some yellow color in environments with ample sunlight.  Diamond Fluorescence may therefore sometimes make a warmer colored stone appear more colorless. The effects of fluorescence should be judged on a case-by-case basis, as the impacts vary greatly.

HOW IMPORTANT IS DIAMOND COLOR?

As with all of the 4C’s, color is subject to personal preferences which depend on cultural, social, and personal background. Diamond cut is considered widely as the most important of the 4C’s. Cut should be a top priority but how you use the rest of your budget is up to you. Some cultures prefer higher clarity diamonds and are prepared to sacrifice color for “purity,” while others deem high color paramount, and will hold it above the other 4Cs. For many, size is the ultimate factor, and they are willing to go lower in color to get the size they desire for the right price.

DIAMOND COLOR COMPARISONS

Most people cannot tell the difference between diamond color up to two grades apart, but this is largely subjective; some people are particularly sensitive to color while others barely notice a difference. However, the price difference can be significant.

When viewing diamonds, consider their context. If you view a loose J colored diamond next to a D, the J will look yellow or brown by comparison – but in the right setting, a J color diamond can be beautiful.

Diamond Color - 1.01 ct J-vs2 diamond for color comparision
1.01 ct J-vs2 diamond
diamond Color - 1 ct d-vs2 diamond for color comparision
1 ct d-vs2 diamond

 

A strict comparison may lead buyers to over-spend on color, but as the image below shows, a J color diamond when it’s set can be stunning, even when it is an unforgiving emerald shape.

 

 

Diamond Color - Platinum Tacori Emerald Cut Diamond Ring
Posted by emeraldlover1
2.75 carat J color emerald cut diamond in platinum

If you are partnering your diamond with side stones, pave or setting it next to another diamond ring, differences in color may become more obvious.

Diamond Color - O-P Solitaire paired with F-G Eternity
O-P Solitaire paired with F-G Eternity – Posted by Haven

The image above shows an O-P graded diamond against an F-G eternity band. Some of our contributors would avoid such a disparate combination of diamond color, while others find the difference to be enhancing. Again, personal taste is very much the operative factor. 

DIAMOND COLOR CONCLUSION

Brilliance, fire and scintillation…diamond buyers know what they are looking for and the smartest buyers know that the key to unleashing these qualities lies primarily in the cut. The more precise the cut, the more brilliant and colorless the diamond will appear from the face-up view.

Shopping for diamonds in the ‘near colorless’ bracket is a failsafe, but those in the know will observe color on a stone to stone basis, which allows for personal preference and budget flexibility. Take advantage of Pricescope/s extensive diamond resources and crowdsource knowledge to inform your diamond color decisions.

 

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