Diamond Color

Color grades range from D (colorless) to Z (yellow / light brown). Unlike the diamond cut the color of a diamond is a great place to save money. I will talk about this in a moment. The color grades D, E and F belong to the colorless category, the color grades G, H, I and J belong to the near colorless category and the color grades from K onwards belong to the Faint Color Group.

About the diamond color grading system

The more colorless a diamond is, the better its light absorption and thus the visible sparkle. For this reason people usually desire the more colorless diamonds. Most diamonds in nature contain a slight hue in their body. Really colorless diamonds are very rare and are sold at a high premium price. However it is very difficult to distinguish between even several color grades so that is is definitely not necessary to go for the best color grade.

Just have a look at the examples below taken from James Allen.

Colorless Diamonds (D-F):

Diamonds within the colorless range are the rarest diamonds. D/E colored diamonds will display virtually no color. They are icy white. F colored diamonds on the other hand display a nearly undetected amount of color but only when viewed face down by a professional gemologist.

I myself have never been able to distinguish between a D and F colored diamond when they are not directly next to each other in the face-down position.

D colored diamonds E colored diamonds F colored diamonds
D Color E Color F Color

Near Colorless Diamonds (G-J):

Diamonds within the near colorless range appear colorless in the face up position. However when viewed face down near colorless diamonds exhibit a slight amount of body color. In order to see that body color the diamond has to be viewed against a perfectly white background.

However, once the diamond gets mounted onto a ring setting the color will not be detectable by a layman. Therefore, near colorless diamonds are the best option for getting the biggest bang for your buck!

G colored diamonds H colored diamonds I colored diamonds J colored diamonds
G Color H Color I Color J Color

Faint Color Diamonds (K):

Diamonds within the faint color group show a slight hint of color in the face up position. They are a particularly good choice for people who like the warmer look of K colored diamonds. They are also a great way to get the best bang for your buck for people who want to set their diamond onto a yellow gold ring setting. As diamonds pick up quite a lot of the color of a yellow gold ring setting it would be a waste of time to overspend on color:

K colored diamonds
K Color

In this article I will be talking about the white diamond color grading system shown above. It basically applies to all white diamonds.

As you might know, there are also the so-called fancy colored diamonds which have colors like blue, organge, pink and red. Here I will only give you a brief outline of the classic, colorless white diamonds but you can read my post on the fancy diamond color grading system here.

Which diamond color grade to choose?

If you have no idea where to start, the most popular color is the G color grade. But this does not mean that you have to choose a G color grade to get the biggest bang for your buck. In fact I would recommend to never choose a color grade better than G! The reason is quite simply that as a normal customer you would most likely not even see a difference between a G and a D color if they were held next to each other. You would end up paying way more for a premium feature which you cannot even appreciate with your bare eyes apart from the color grade you will see on your grading report.

On the pictures below you can see two different diamonds. The one on the left is a D colored diamond with the face-up view and back view and the one on the right is a G colored diamond with its face-up view and its back view:

D colored diamond viewed from front and back G colored diamond viewed from front and back

Now, I guess that you can see a difference between both diamonds in terms of its color. But you have to consider that you can only see it because both diamonds are shown in 10x magnification and are directly compared to each other! Furthermore you are comparing loose diamonds to each other! Most diamonds, however, are bought to be mounted onto a ring setting. A diamond mounted onto a ring will invariably pick up some of the metal’s color!

If you did not compare both diamonds to each other like that the G colored diamond would appear to be completely colorless. Even diamond grading experts from GIA and AGS who are doing nothing else but grading diamonds all day long can only estimate the color of a diamond by comparing the diamond to a set of master diamonds. This is done under best lighting conditions you can imagine. I know from experience that many people would even consider an I or even J colored diamond to be colorless if they would not directly compare it to a D colored diamond!

So, which is best color grade to choose? It will largely depend on what kind of diamond and what kind of ring metal you intend to use. I am going to explain it in an orderly fashion.

I want you to get the biggest bang for your buck which means that you get a diamond that looks completely colorless but in fact does not have a D color grade. In fact you should get a diamond several color grades below that which will cost you much less. This way you will have more money to spend on the cut and carat weight of a diamond. As most diamonds are either mounted onto a yellow gold ring settings or white gold ring settings you have to be very well aware that your diamond will pick up some of the color of your ring metal.

A diamond will invariably pick up some of the color of the ring setting

Diamond in a Yellow Gold Ring Setting Diamond in a White Gold Ring Setting

(Pictures are courtesy of James Allen)

Diamonds in yellow gold settings pick up more of the yellow gold hue compared to diamonds set in a white gold ring setting. For this reason, diamonds set in yellow gold don’t have to have such a good color grade as you would choose for a diamond set in a white gold ring setting.

Just have a look at these examples of diamonds on yellow gold ring settings and these examples of diamonds on white gold ring settings. It is quite apparent that diamonds in yellow gold ring settings absorb much more of the ring setting’s color. You can take advantage of this knowledge and save yourself quite some money!

Furthermore the diamond shape will have an impact on the diamond color as well. The proportions and facetting patterns of various diamond shapes differ. For this reason certain diamond shapes are more prone to showing off their body color.

The round cut diamond is the diamond shape the least prone to showing off its body color. Princess cut diamonds, emerald cut diamonds and asscher cut diamonds are a little bit more prone to show of their body color and therefore it is advisable to take one color grade higher than you would choose for a round cut diamond.

All the other diamond shapes especially the elongated diamond shapes like oval cut diamonds, marquise cut diamonds and pear cut diamonds are even more prone to showing off their body color. In these shapes the body color can be easily seen near the pointed tips. You will have to chose an even better color grade for these diamond shapes.

During the years I have come to the conclusion that according to your diamond shape and the ring metal you use these are the best color grades to choose:

Best color grades for your diamond

I guarantee you that if you use the color grades according to the table above every normal person will think that you bought a perfectly colorless diamond.

Price differences between different color grades

The best thing about choosing a diamond color as in the tabe above is that you get to save a lot of money! You are not “wasting” money on a premium feature which you won’t be able to appreciate with your bare eyes, anyway!

Of course, I do be well aware that many people want to get the best diamond color because this is supposedly a matter of honor. And this is absolutely fine. I just want to make you aware that you can save a lot of money with regard to the diamond color if you want to.

Diamond color price relation chart

All the other 3Cs being equal you can clearly see that you pay a large premium for the D color because it is very rare. A diamond with an H color set into a ring setting will appear completely colorless, too. And will save you a lot of money!

Diamond color regarding larger sized diamonds

Large diamonds trap more body color in their bodies than smaller sized diamonds. If you took a 0.5 carat diamond and a 3 carat diamond with the same diamond color and directly compared it to each other you would likely find the smaller diamond to look more colorless.

If you buy a really large diamond (from 2 carat upwards) you might consider getting a color grade better than you would normally have done according to my “best bang for your buck color grade table” above.

Blue Fluorescence

The last important thing to know about diamond color is that some diamonds exhibit fluorescence. Whether and to what degree a diamond exhibits fluorescence is always noted on the grading report.

If you don’t have much money to spend and want to buy a diamond in the I-K color range you might consider buying a diamond with medium blue fluorescence. Please be aware that I do not recommend buying diamonds with fluorescence apart from diamonds in this particular color range. You can find more information about how blue fluorescence might help you boost a diamond within the I-K color range in my post about diamond fluorescence.

If you have any more questions, please contact me and I will be more than glad to help you out!

Diamond Color
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About 

Sebastian Naturski loves to write about diamonds and share his knowledge with his readers.
When he is not working on his website he is studying law at Humboldt University of Berlin.
He has taken part in several international law competitions and likes to broaden his horizons.
His other big passion are languages. He is fluent in German, English, Polish and Japanese and got basic skills in French and Spanish as well.

32 Comments

  1. Hi Sebastian,
    First of all, your website has been all knowledge and skill and I appreciate your help, this has been the best site yet. I was wondering if you think I made the right choice of a 0.5 carat radiant cut D colour VVS1 diamond with double halo and white gold band. Should I have opted for a lower colour grade?, any suggestions on everything would be great thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your wonderful feedback! Color and clarity are subjective. Most buyers would opt for the highest grades due of supply and demand. But in reality, the differences between D-G color or VVS1-VS2 for a 0.50ct diamond is hardly noticeable.

      You can actually go as low as G-VS2 and still get a neat gem. If it seems a bit darker, you may move up a notch. Color and clarity are where you can save money, just make sure your diamond is eye clean and looks good enough to you. 🙂

  2. Hi Sebastian
    I would like to say that your website is one of the best websites that contain practical information about choosing diamonds. From the table above, you have indicated that depending on the cut and setting color, it is possible to optimise the white diamond color that will give the best value. I would like to ask if the color setting is rose gold, would it be possible for you to provide an optimised diamond color to get the best price value. I hope you can help with this as I am trying to get a rose gold ring with white diamond for engagement. Thanks heaps.
    Gibs

    • Hi there, Gibs!

      Thanks for your feedback. 🙂 To answer your question, yes, it’s definitely possible. I would recommend any color grade from J-M for round cuts and I-J for other shapes. Please refer to this article to know more about the best diamond color for rose gold settings. Cheers!

      • Thanks Sebastian. I have been reading your site yesterday and it really contains so many valuable information about diamonds. And I am very impressed with your knowledge about diamonds and your optimization methods for getting a diamond for a ring.

        • You’re welcome, Gibs! I’m glad to share my knowledge and eventually help you guys get the maximum value for your money. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  3. Hi There,
    I have inherited a 2.38 European Round cut diamond measuring 8.7-8.8×5.0mm. Clarity is VS and color K-L. Suggestions for band? I am not a huge yellow gold fan. It is set currently with 20 European round cute diamonds, 10 on each side and I am wanting to know what it would look like as a solitaire? Need help, thank you in advance

    • Hi Lindsay,

      If you’re not a fan of yellow gold, why not try a rose gold setting? Round cuts between J to M grades will look good on this color. Take a look at this diamond set on a rose gold solitaire ring with almost the same 4Cs as yours to give you an idea. Let me know what you think! 🙂

  4. I’m considering a 2.5 round cut I Color SI2. It is ideal cut, polish and symmetry. Graded by AGS. My worry is the color. I have seen the diamond and it looks ok, but I haven’t chosen a setting. Would you recommend searching for a better color, or better than SI2?

    • Hello Cindy,

      The I color is usually okay with white gold/platinum settings, but since you have a 2.5 carats, you might want to upgrade because bigger diamonds tend to trap more body color. Why not see the diamond set on a white gold/platinum setting first. If it doesn’t look good to you, then you may opt for a G color. 🙂

      • Thanks Sebastian! I’m having it set in white gold, and am hoping that it looks great. I’m a bit apprehensive because I didn’t see a lot of colour ( sintilation?) in the diamond when looking at it at the jewellers. Can you please tell me what you mean by body colour? I will most likely be sleepless until I upgrade. 😄🙈……. At this point, it’s just a matter of the best we can do for the money. H

        • Hi Cindy,

          I think you meant scintillation or the sparkle/flashes of light when the diamond is viewed in motion. If you didn’t see enough light performance, maybe you can view it in a different light setting or in 20x-40x zoom. It should sparkle nicely since it’s an Ideal cut. And what I meant by body color is the natural color of the diamond. Color grades from K to Z tend to have a faint to light yellow hue. Bigger gems display more color, so it’s advisable to upgrade if you want a colorless looking diamond.

          Anyway, if your I-colored gem looks colorless to you when viewed without magnification, then there’s no need upgrading. Goodluck! 🙂

          • Thankyou Sebastion. That is exactly what what I meant ( apologies for the spelling error). Thankyou also for the body colour explanation. You have been an enormous help during a stressful time. I’m so greatlful to have found your help! 3vLS

          • You’re welcome, Cindy! Glad to be of help. 🙂

  5. Hello Rick
    I am pricing 2 diamonds for a stud necklace, .75 in size. Both very good cuts. Both s2. One is I color and the other is K color. I honestly can’t see any yellow in the K diamond and will save close to $400 by choosing the K. They both look excellent, almost identical to my untrained eye anyway.. Do you think a K color is acceptable for a stud necklace in white gold?

    • Hi Mark,

      I would normally recommend H-J color for round cut diamonds set in white gold, but if you can’t tell the difference between the two and you’re okay with K, then go for it. It’s really up to your preferences anyway. 🙂

  6. Hi
    I bought a 3.0 carat I color,SI2 diamond… it is radiant cut, certified by EGL USA lab.
    I was skeptical about the color but went ahead and had it set in platinum. Well when I picked it up I saw yo much color. I’m so disappointed from everything I read online it seemed to me an I was ok. So now I m in the process of picking a new stone. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Donna,

      First off, never trust grades given by EGL and IGI. Such labs have very low grading criteria in color and clarity that their grades are 2 or even 3 grades higher. I would recommend GIA or AGS grading reports as you can be pretty sure that your diamond will be graded accurately.

      Also, the color visibility must be because of your 3 carat diamond. Bigger gems tend to show more color, so it’s advisable to opt for higher grades, not lower than H color. If you want to kind of wash the color, you may choose a yellow gold setting, so it can make the diamond appear whiter than it is. And as long as your diamond is eye clean, SI2 is okay.

      Lastly, if you’re not too stern on the 3 carat mark, you may check out the 2.90-2.99 carat mark. They’re basically the same in size, but the latter is more affordable. With the difference, you can definitely upgrade in color, clarity, and of course, the best cut! Read more about the 3 carats diamond here!

      Goodluck! 🙂

  7. Hi sebestian,I am about to take diamond for astrological purpose.Astrologer told me to take 1 carat brilliant cut,K color,clarity Vs1/Vs2. I will put it in a gold ring.Does the specification worthy for my purpose?Please suggest me your views.Thank you in advance.

  8. Dear Sebastian,
    I am about to purchase an engagement ring (setting: solitaire, platinum ; stone: round cut). First of all, I want to point out how helpful your site was! Much obliged.

    I have a few questions you are most certainly will be able to address: It appears to me, the medium blue fluorescent diamonds in the color grades I-K are slightly more expensive than the equivalent color grades without any fluorescence. I guess I am wondering whether a K colored diamond with medium florescence would be preferred over a J color graded diamond lacking any fluorescence? Would they appear similar in terms of color? Would a K colored diamond with medium florescence be acceptable for a platinum ring for the inexperienced eye?

    Thank you so much! 🙂

    • Hi Eddy,

      Thanks for your wonderful feedback! To answer your question: The slight price difference you noticed could be dependent on a few other factors like cut, carat, and clarity. As far as I know, a J colored diamond would still be a better choice especially if your opting for a lighter gem.

      This is because the diamond color whitening effect of medium fluorescence is only visible in daylight, an environment with UV light, and not in all lighting conditions. Thus, in general, when not subjected to UV light, a non-fluorescence J color diamond will look a little bit brighter than a medium-fluorescence K color diamond.

      I would also recommend choosing the H – J color range and avoiding K color if you’re considering a platinum ring. Take a look at this article to know more: http://yourdiamondteacher.com/diamond-4cs/color/best-diamond-color-for-platinum-settings/

      If you have further questions, feel free to write to me anytime. Cheers! 🙂

  9. hello i have the option of either 1.5 carat K colour diamond or 2 carat O colour diamond . both have very good cuts and s2 clarity. which one should i go for and what setting should i use ?? yellow gold or white gold??

    • Hello Harshita,

      It’s advisable to see the diamonds before buying, especially in the SI2 range, so you can make sure that it’s eye clean. And for size and color, it actually depends to your liking. Just bear in mind that with bigger diamonds, body color is more evident.

      If you want to wash out the yellow, then you may opt for the K color and use a yellow gold setting because the gem will appear lighter against a darker backdrop. But if you’re good with yellow and would like to highlight it even more, then you may use white gold.
      You can read more about metal types here: http://yourdiamondteacher.com/rings/metals-comparison-best-metal-engagement-rings/

    • Hello Rosa,

      It’s good that it has excellent cut and it’s eye clean, but you don’t really have to go for the highest color and clarity grades as I’m sure you’ll find superb quality in the F-H and VS1-VS2 range as well. 🙂

  10. i am choosing between an si1j cushion or a si2h roundth both no fluoresence which one would u choose

    • Hi Shawna,

      I would choose the latter for three reasons: First, round cuts produce better sparkle. You just have to make sure that it has excellent or ideal cut. Next, H color is a much better color than J (if you want a bright diamond), but it’s not too expensive like the D-F range that’s also considered as overkill. Lastly, both SI1 and SI2 can be eye clean diamonds, so if the SI2 gem is eye clean, then you’re going get a more affordable gem without visible inclusions. 🙂

  11. I am looking for a light champagne diamond (not brown) but with brown or rosey tones rather than yellow/green tones. Fancy colors are too dark. Which grade is most likely to give me this – I have been looking at O to Z diamonds.

    • Hi Sylvia,
      yes, if you want to have a champagne diamond, a diamond within the fancy colored range will indeed be too dark for you.
      Basically, champagne colored diamonds are diamonds with the hue “light brown” or “light pinkish brown”. Quite apparently, you prefer the “light pinkish brown” diamonds. “Light pinkish brown” diamonds are more expensive and even rarer to find than just “light brown” diamonds.
      The normal color scale from D-Z does not apply to champagne colored diamonds. On older grading reports you will find information like “w to x range” and on newer grading reports you will only find the information “light brown” or “light pinkish brown”.
      In the end, you must trust your eyes and decide whether you like the color or not. There is no specific range that will give you the perfect answer because there are different kind of champagne hues. The “light brown” hues that I find to be champagne-like and that are not within the fancy color grading scale are usually within the W to Z range.
      With your preference for a rosey champagne diamond the range of O to Z will certainly be right. As long as your diamond is “light brown” or “light pinkish brown” your diamond will certainly belong into the champagne category.
      If you have any more specific questions, you can always drop me a mail!

    • Hallo Rick,
      yes this is absolutely okay if you wanna make a good deal. A diamond picks up some of the ring setting’ metal color. This effect is the strongest with yellow gold.
      Thus, it would not make much sense to pick a better color grade for your specific constellation of diamond and ring setting.
      And don’t worry: The diamond will still appear to be colorless.

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