Diamond Color: The Ultimate Newbie Guide

Author picture

Have a question? Not sure which one is the right diamond?

contact us

My blog is reader-supported; when you purchase through links on my site, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. This enables me to provide you with free content.

Some retailers understand that the diamond buying process can be overwhelming. For that reason they are willing to share a portion of their profits with me if I can make this experience more simple for you.

In this partnership, you benefit from complimentary content and personalized consultations. If all sides are happy and you decide to buy, the retailer (and not you) compensates me.

While many diamond retailers have approached me, I hold the highest standards, choosing to collaborate only with those whose services and pricing I can confidently endorse. Your satisfaction and access to quality service are my top priorities. Therefore, you can trust that I maintain an unbiased perspective, without compromising the integrity of this blog.

diamonds color featured image

Bottom Line Recommendation

Ultimately, the savvy diamond buyer with a limited budget will opt for a stone within the J-H color range such as this one, appearing colorless to the naked eye, allowing more budget for crucial elements such as cut, carat weight, and clarity. This strategy yields a radiant, visually appealing diamond without the hefty price tag attached to entirely colorless diamonds.

Remember, it’s vital to prioritize the cut quality, as superior light performance can conceal any subtle yellowish tones present in J-H color diamonds. Observe your diamond under various lighting scenarios to confirm its near-colorless appearance across conditions. Therefore, I recommend purchasing your diamond from a trustworthy retailer like this one which offers authentic videos displaying the diamond’s actual color. This ensures a transparent transaction without any undue influence or unfair pricing practices.

My top picks by Diamond Color

1. Best balance

1.17 Carat H VS1

2. Largest diamond

1.39 Carat J VVS2

3. Most premium

1.06 Carat E VS1

Deal Alerts!

RECOMMENDED RELIABLE SELLERS ONLY.

25% off engagement ring settings promo & instant $100 off when signing up + 10% off selected lab-grown diamonds at James Allen

15% off for military, healthcare, first responders, educators and enrolled students + instant $50 off when signing up at Blue Nile

Instant $100 off when signing up + 3% discount on wire transfer at Whiteflash

Table of Contents

Diamond Color: A Prime Factor in Gemstone Selection

Journeying to find your perfect diamond involves a key focus on diamond color. The belief that diamonds are exclusively colorless is a myth; many diamonds carry subtle yellow or brown hints owing to the trace elements they contain. Meanwhile, fancy-colored diamonds, which lie outside the standard diamond color scale, exhibit a rainbow of hues that often enhance the diamond’s value.

Deciphering the Diamond Color Spectrum

Diamond color is all about the stone’s hue, ranging from utterly colorless to near-colorless with tinges of yellow or brown. Some color diamonds, however, offer vibrant shades like purple, green, red, orange, pink, blue, brown, or yellow. The GIA diamond color scale, set by the Gemological Institute of America, provides a definitive tool for diamond color grading, with a spectrum stretching from D to Z.

  1. D color diamonds: These are colorless gems devoid of brown or yellow color. Therefore, they are the most coveted on the diamond color scale.
  2. Z color diamonds: These exhibit the most noticeable tint, making them less appealing within the standard color range.

Fancy Colored Diamonds: A Category of Their Own

Remember that the GIA diamond color scale doesn’t encompass fancy-colored diamonds. These unique stones undergo a distinct grading process due to their diverse color tones, depths, and saturations. With color intensities labeled as “Light,” “Intense,” and “Vivid,” the GIA employs a separate grading system for these gems.

The Delicate Balance of Diamond Qualities

When choosing a diamond, it’s essential to balance color with other quality attributes such as cut, clarity, and carat weight. The color significantly sways its price – colorless diamonds are more valuable than those with perceptible tints. In the case of fancy-colored diamonds, their worth is determined by their rarity and color intensity.

diamond the 4c's cut

Navigating the Diamond Color Scale: From Colorless to Light Yellow

Colorless (D, E, F): These colorless diamonds are the pinnacle of quality in diamond color. Entirely devoid of any discernible hue when viewed under normal lighting conditions, these gems are a rare find and hence, quite valuable.

D

D color diamond side view

E

E color diamond side view

F

F color diamond side view

Nearly Colorless (G, H, I, J): The diamonds in this category exhibit a very slight yellow tint, often invisible to the naked eye. These nearly colorless diamonds maintain high quality. They are a popular choice for those looking to balance quality and budget.

G

G color diamond side view

H

H color diamond side view

I

I color diamond side view

J

J color diamond side view

Faint Yellow (K, L, M): Diamonds within this color grade have a noticeable light yellow tint, even when viewed without magnification. Although their color is more visible, they can still be desirable for those seeking a more budget-friendly diamond.

K

K color diamond side view

L

L color diamond side view

M

M color diamond side view

Sub-Grades: The key to success

Here’s a nugget of wisdom to guide you in your diamond color selection, which could elevate you from a novice to a savvy diamond shopper. Despite diamonds being labeled with the same color grade, let’s say F grade, there’s a spectrum within that grade. Some F graded diamonds might exhibit a more radiant and clear color, while others may show a stronger hint of yellow. This applies across all grades. We often refer to these variations as “high F” and “low F” (or any other grade).

high F color and low F color

Consequently, you might come across H graded diamonds that appear more colorless, or others that contain a significant amount of nitrogen, lending them a yellowish tint.

high h color and low h color

When you’re in the process of diamond shopping, it’s beneficial to inspect the diamond from the side-view. This perspective allows the diamond to disclose its true color. Moreover, if you place two diamonds side by side in this view, you can directly compare their colors and make an informed choice.

Delving into the GIA Diamond Color Scale

The GIA Color Scale, formulated by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), is a key tool for assessing diamond colors. This scale provides a standardized grading system, offering a consistent and reliable approach to understanding a diamond’s color characteristics.

The GIA scales range from entirely colorless to near-colorless, presenting subtle shades of yellow or brown. The scale categorizes these colorless and near-colorless diamonds from D (completely colorless) to Z (displaying the most pronounced yellow or brown tint). This grading system makes comparing and selecting diamonds based on color quality straightforward and easy.

VS2

The Impact of Color on Diamond Value

A diamond’s color significantly influences its overall aesthetic appeal, value, and light performance. The absence of any yellow or brown tint is considered optimal for colorless and near-colorless diamonds, enhancing light performance. Conversely, fancy color diamonds, not included in the D-Z range, are cherished for their vivid and intense colors.

Finding the Sweet Spot: Preferences and Budget

With the help of the GIA Color Scale, prospective diamond buyers can find a balance between their budget and personal preferences. For instance, choosing a near-colorless diamond with a slight yellow tint could be cost-effective while maintaining a desirable appearance.

For instance, check these two H color diamonds. A well-picked H color such as this one will look utterly colorless to the naked eye. On the contrary, a bad H color like the following may show tint, even from distant inspection.

Grading Fancy Colored Diamonds

The GIA Color Scale does not apply to fancy colored diamonds as their value is derived from their intense color, not the absence of it. These unique diamonds are evaluated using specialized scales and controlled viewing conditions, taking into account their hue, tone, and saturation.

The Significance of the GIA Color Scale

  1. Transparency: This scale provides a universally accepted method for assessing diamond color, ensuring buyers make well-informed decisions and pay a fair price.
  2. Comparability: This scale makes comparing the color quality among different diamonds easy.
  3. Confidence: This scale instills trust between buyers and sellers by serving as a reliable reference for diamond color.
  4. Education: Understanding the color scale helps buyers appreciate the intricacies of diamond color and its effect on the overall value.

Avoiding Overpayment

The diamond color scale plays a crucial role in safeguarding buyers from overpaying for a diamond. It’s often challenging for the naked eye to discern the difference between a completely colorless diamond (D-grade) and a near-colorless diamond with a faint yellow tint. The color scale prevents buyers from mistakenly paying a premium for near-colorless diamonds, believing them to be completely colorless.

The GIA Gemologist Grading Process

GIA gemologists use a systematic approach to accurately grade diamond color. Usually, they employ a set of master stones, which are diamonds with known color grades, for comparison. The diamond is placed face down to minimize light reflection and sparkle and examined from a side view. This allows the gemologist to concentrate on the diamond’s natural color without distractions. The diamond’s color is then compared to the master stones and assigned a color grade that best matches a point on the Diamond Color Scale.

Which diamond is colorless to the naked eye?

If you ask me, “Yaniv, what is the best color for a diamond?” I’ll immediately reply, “The one that appears colorless to the naked eye.”

The concept of a “colorless diamond to the naked eye” refers to diamonds that may not be utterly colorless according to the GIA Diamond Color Scale but still appear colorless or nearly colorless when viewed without magnification or specialized equipment. These diamonds typically fall within the J-H color grade range, offering a more affordable alternative to the higher-priced, truly colorless diamonds (F-D).

When selecting a diamond in the J-H range, a well-cut stone with excellent brilliance and sparkle can help conceal any slight yellowish tint that may be present. The diamond’s cut quality plays a crucial role in this regard, as a superior cut can maximize light reflection, dispersion, and scintillation, effectively masking any subtle color.

Buyers can allocate a significant portion of their budget to other important factors, such as cut, carat weight, or clarity, by opting for a diamond in the J-H color range that appears colorless to the naked eye. This approach allows for purchasing a visually stunning diamond that delivers exceptional beauty and brilliance without incurring the higher costs associated with truly colorless stones.

J color: Visible tint vs. invisible tint

J color with visible tint to the naked eye
J color that is colorless to the naked eye

Extra things to keep in mind while picking a colorless diamond to the naked eye

To make an informed decision when selecting a colorless diamond the naked eye, consider the following tips:

  1. Prioritize cut quality: A well-cut diamond will have optimal light performance, which can help mask any yellowish tint present in J-H color grade diamonds.
  2. Examine the diamond under different lighting conditions: Observe it in various lighting environments to ensure it appears colorless or nearly colorless under different circumstances.
  3. Seek professional guidance: Consult with a trusted jeweler or gemologist who can help you identify diamonds that offer the best balance of color, cut, clarity, and carat weight for your budget.
  4. Consider the diamond’s setting: The choice of metal and setting style can influence the appearance of the diamond’s color. For example, a yellow or rose gold setting can make a near-colorless diamond appear more colorless. In contrast, a white gold or platinum setting might emphasize any yellow tint.

How To Choose Your Diamond Color Grade

How to inspect diamonds color properly

Evaluating the actual color of a diamond is crucial to making an informed decision, and understanding how to do it properly can prevent unfortunate experiences or poor decision-making. When selecting a diamond, you are looking for any color tints in the stone, such as a yellow color, rather than the reflections of light that create a spectrum of colors known as ‘fire.’

One common pitfall for many buyers is the influence of store lighting. When you walk into a jewelry store, you’ll likely notice the dazzling bright lights illuminating every corner of the room. These intense lights are strategically used to make diamonds appear brighter and more colorless than they actually are. They can even make a less desirable diamond seem vibrant and full of brilliance and sparkle. But remember, this effect is often exaggerated and may be less pronounced in a different lighting environment.

Therefore, the first rule of thumb when inspecting a diamond is to always inspect it under natural light, such as LED. This light closely mimics natural daylight, providing a neutral environment for color inspection. It also lets you see how UV light influences the diamond’s overall appearance, including any fluorescence effects.

Color can be subjective, and backgrounds of different colors may affect your perception. When you view a diamond, it’s recommended to do so against a neutral background, preferably white. Moreover, turn the diamond face-down and look at it from a side view, especially when it’s mounted. By viewing from the side, you can see any color within the diamond more accurately. The top of a diamond or ‘table’ can reflect light, masking the actual color.

In addition, compare the diamond with other stones of known color grades. This can give you a better understanding of where your diamond falls on the color scale. Under UV light, some diamonds can exhibit a characteristic known as fluorescence, which can impact the diamond’s color appearance. Fluorescent diamonds can appear hazy or oily and may have a bluish tint. While in some cases, fluorescence can make a lower-color diamond appear more white, it’s something you should be aware of.

Finally, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. A trained gemologist or jeweler uses standardized conditions and expert knowledge to accurately assess diamond color.

By following these steps, you’ll be well-equipped to accurately inspect a diamond’s color, helping you make an informed decision. Remember, your ultimate goal is to choose a diamond that is beautiful to your eyes. After all, personal preference should be your guiding principle.

Pick the right color for your diamond shape

The shape of a diamond greatly influences the perception of its color. With its unique faceting arrangement, each diamond cut can either magnify or subdue its inherent color. Understanding this relationship is crucial for making an informed diamond selection for your engagement ring.

Round brilliant cuts are renowned for their superb light performance, often reducing the appearance of the color. Their symmetrical facets maximize light return, making them popular for those seeking nearly-colorless diamonds. Conversely, fancy shapes like emerald, Asscher, and radiant cuts highlight color due to their larger, light-reflecting facets, suggesting a higher color grade is desirable for these cuts.

Elongated shapes, including marquise, oval, and pear cuts, often display color more intensely towards the tips. Therefore, inspecting such diamonds from multiple angles when choosing your engagement ring is essential. Your ultimate choice should align with your style while considering how color will present in your diamond shape.

Pick the right diamond color for your engagement ring

When searching for the perfect diamond for your engagement ring, it’s important to ensure that it appears white and stands out as the brightest focal point of the entire setting, regardless of the material used. Choosing the right diamond color for your chosen setting can make all the difference in achieving the desired look.

Platinum or White Gold Settings:

Platinum and white gold are popular choices for their icy-white appearance. If you opt for one of these settings for your engagement ring, consider selecting a diamond with a color grade of J or better. This will ensure that the diamond appears brighter than the ring itself, creating a stunning contrast and allowing it to truly shine.

Yellow Gold or Rose Gold Settings:

Yellow gold and rose gold settings can impart a yellowish tint onto the diamond’s color, mainly if the diamond is colorless or near-colorless. For this reason, if you decide on a yellow gold or rose gold ring for your engagement, you can save on your budget by selecting a diamond with a color grade of K, L, or M. These diamonds will still appear beautiful within the warmer-toned setting. The color of the ring may enhance its appearance.

Yellow or Rose Gold Settings (Alternative Approach):

While it’s true that selecting a diamond with a color grade of K, L, or M can save on your budget when paired with a yellow gold or rose gold setting, there’s another approach worth considering for your engagement ring. If you desire a stronger contrast between the ring and the diamond, choosing a colorless or nearly colorless diamond for your yellow or rose gold setting can create a striking visual impact.

In this case, a colorless or nearly colorless diamond will stand out as the brightest main focal point, especially when it’s expertly mounted on yellow gold or rose gold setting for your engagement ring. This contrasting effect accentuates the diamond’s brilliance, drawing attention to its exceptional quality and creating a truly eye-catching piece of jewelry.

gold vs platinum

Diamond fluorescence and how it affects the overall color

Selecting the perfect diamond requires considering not only the diamond color grade but also its fluorescence and impact on the overall diamond color. Fluorescence refers to a diamond’s reaction to ultraviolet (UV) light, which can alter its perceived diamond color. In this guide, we’ll discuss how fluorescence affects diamonds across different diamond color grades on the GIA diamond color scale to help you make an informed decision.

Major grading labs, like the GIA, evaluate diamonds under UV-free light to eliminate the influence of fluorescence on diamond color grading. However, natural daylight contains UV light, so a diamond’s color may appear different from its certified diamond color grade to the naked eye. Fluorescence is graded into five categories: none, faint, medium, strong, and very strong blue.

Selecting the perfect diamond requires considering not only the diamond color grade but also its fluorescence and impact on the overall diamond color. Fluorescence refers to a diamond’s reaction to ultraviolet (UV) light, which can alter its perceived diamond color. In this guide, we’ll discuss how fluorescence affects diamonds across different diamond color grades on the GIA diamond color scale to help you make an informed decision.

Major grading labs, like the GIA, evaluate diamonds under UV-free light to eliminate the influence of fluorescence on diamond color grading. However, natural daylight contains UV light, so a diamond’s color may appear different from its certified diamond color grade to the naked eye. Fluorescence is graded into five categories: none, faint, medium, strong, and very strong blue.

Here’s how fluorescence can affect each diamond color group on the GIA diamond color scale:

Faint Tint (K, L, M): Diamonds in this category have a yellowish tint. A subtle amount of fluorescence (faint or medium) can make the diamond color appear brighter from the face-up view to the naked eye under natural light. Still, the side view may show a more noticeable yellow tint. Strong fluorescence can enhance the diamond color brightness but may also result in an unappealing “petrol” color in some cases.

Nearly Colorless (G, H, I, J): These diamonds have a minimal yellowish tint, and some may seem colorless to the naked eye. Introducing fluorescence could intensify the tint, causing a diamond with medium or strong fluorescence to appear as if its diamond color grade is one level lower than its actual grade to the naked eye.

Colorless (D, E, F): Diamonds in this range with fluorescence might exhibit a yellow tint to the naked eye. Strong fluorescence could make the diamond color look two grades lower in color. In contrast, medium fluorescence might result in a one-grade difference in diamond color.

When shopping for diamonds, examining their appearance under different lighting conditions is crucial. James Allen, for example, offers consistent photography conditions that enable accurate diamond color comparisons using side views. If a fluorescent diamond is more affordable than a non-fluorescent one with a similar appearance in diamond color, it might be a great deal. However, inconsistent photography can make diamond color comparisons challenging with other online retailers.

Tip: Avoid diamonds with very strong blue fluorescence, as they can significantly affect the diamond’s color in daylight to the naked eye and may cause haziness.

d color diamond fluorescence

The Impact of Diamond Color on its Price Tag

Natural diamonds color price comparison

In the following section, we extensively compare all color grades, complete with their pricing and side-view images of diamonds, emphasizing the price shifts across the grades. This array of 1 Carat VS1 natural diamonds, each possessing an ideal cut and free from fluorescence, vary exclusively in color. By exploring these, you’ll understand whether the premium for a higher color grade genuinely merits the price difference. To delve deeper into any diamond, click on the corresponding image for a full preview.

The Intricacies of Diamond Color Grading

When it comes to the cost of a diamond, its color plays a significant role. Diamonds are ranked on a color scale that starts at D, indicating a perfectly clear diamond, and extends to Z, which signifies a noticeable yellow tint. Diamonds that score high on the scale, like D, E, and F, are more precious and scarce and have a steeper price. However, the color variations between these grades and slightly lower ones, such as G, H, or I, can be barely detectable to the untrained eye, especially when the diamond is set. Despite this, the price difference can be pretty significant.

Striking the Right Balance

Choosing the ideal diamond is more than hunting for the highest grade. It’s more about striking the perfect balance to optimize visual appeal without leaving a hole in your pocket. The optimal color for a diamond is subjective, relying on personal preferences, the shape of the diamond, the type of metal used in the setting, and, of course, your budget. Interestingly, certain metals like yellow or rose gold can beautifully offset diamonds with lower color grades, making the need for a higher color grade unnecessary and potentially saving you a tidy sum.

The Bottom Line

While the diamond color is essential, it only holds significance to a certain point. When a diamond appears clear to your eyes, going for a higher color grade may force you to compromise on other aspects like size, sparkle, or clarity. So, despite being a head-turner, a D color diamond might not offer the best value for your money. In contrast, a G color diamond could provide a similar visual charm and allow you to keep up to 30% of the cost in your wallet.

Fancy-Colored Diamonds: The Vibrant Spectrum

The Intriguing World of Fancy Diamonds

Fancy-colored diamonds, affectionately termed ‘fancy diamonds,’ are a special class celebrated for their vivid colors. Unlike conventional diamonds prized for color absence, these gems boast intense hues that supersede the standard D to Z color grading scale.

Fancy diamonds range from blue, green, yellow, and brown to rarer shades like pink or red. The source of these colors is impurities or structural defects causing selective light absorption. For instance, nitrogen gives rise to yellow diamonds, while boron creates blue ones.

diamond the 4c's red color

Color Intensity and Cut: Key to Fancy Diamonds

1. Color Intensity: This is vital when evaluating a fancy diamond. The more vivid and pure the color, the higher the diamond’s value. The GIA grades fancy diamonds from Faint to Fancy Deep based on color depth.

2. Cut: Unlike white diamonds, the cut of a fancy diamond is intended to enhance its color, not brilliance. Hence, cuts like radiant or cushion are common as they better showcase color.

It’s worth noting that some fancy diamonds undergo treatment to enhance their color. Nonetheless, naturally colored fancy diamonds are more valuable than treated ones.

Fancy-Colored Diamonds: Rarity and Value

Fancy diamonds are not just breathtaking but also valuable, often retaining high resale value due to their rarity and unique appeal. However, their exquisite beauty and scarcity come with a hefty price tag. Certain hues, like blue, pink, or especially red, are so rare and expensive that they may be unaffordable for many.

Lab-Grown Fancy-Colored Diamonds: The Affordable Alternative

There’s a fantastic alternative for those captivated by fancy diamonds but deterred by the price: lab-grown fancy-colored diamonds. These stones, created in controlled environments replicating natural diamond formation conditions, possess the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as natural diamonds. This includes the potential for stunning, vibrant color.

Lab-grown fancy diamonds are not only affordable but also offer ethical and environmental benefits. As they don’t involve extensive mining operations, they are more sustainable. So, if you dream of owning a fancy-colored diamond without breaking the bank, consider a lab-grown variant. Remember, whether natural or lab-grown, a diamond’s actual value lies in the joy it brings to its wearer.

Conclusion - My personal experience

In wrapping up this comprehensive guide, remember this key point. The idea of “colorless” diamonds is subjective. If a diamond appears colorless to the unaided eye, it’s a winner. Without a side-by-side comparison, a well-chosen diamond could look completely colorless. You could comfortably opt for a J color diamond (if chosen wisely), an I color for peace of mind, or an H color to find that perfect middle ground. By opting for such diamonds, you could pocket some savings or invest in a larger, impeccably cut diamond.

Looking For a Diamond?

Let me do the hard work for you

Best Place to Buy Natural and Lab-Grown Diamonds

My no-nonsense reviews are based on my personal experiences, knowledge, and high standards. Explore my top-rated critiques of leading diamond sellers, curated to help you make the best choice.

5/5
4.5/5
4/5
3.5/5
Author: Yaniv Hadar

Looking For a Diamond?

I'm On Your Side.

Find the most valuable diamond within your budget, without risking your money and wasting time on research.

SHOP MY #1 TOP RATED
DIAMOND PROVIDER

DEAL ALERT!

SAVE 25% ON STUDS & EARRINGS | 10% OFF SELECTED LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS

PRINCESS CUT DIAMOND

Do you want help picking the best diamond?