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.
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!
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:
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:
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
(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:
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.
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.
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!