Society has painted the quintessential diamond before our eyes. And the classic gem, if not icy-white, has no color. It is luminescent, transparent, and the non-pigment we perceive is actually the dance of light that makes diamonds so mesmerizing!
So, what do we mean by Diamond Color if the perfect diamond should have no color? Nope, we’re not talking about fancy colored diamonds with evident flushes of the shades of the rainbow. They belong to a whole other spectrum. The thing is, white diamonds aren’t all faultlessly white.
In fact, most diamonds are born with a hint of yellow or brown. These shades go from color D to Z! In this post, we’re delving into these different color grades; how each category impacts the diamond’s sparkle, and which one will give you an icy-white diamond without going for the most expensive grade.
Diamond Color in a Nutshell
As one of the steerers of the Diamond 4Cs, color affects the diamond’s overall appearance. When light reflects into the diamond’s prismatic facets, it bounces to a range of hues we call “fire.” And if there’s noticeable color in a diamond, it won’t be able to reflect light as much as a colorless diamond can.
Ultimately, lower color grades will exhibit lesser transparency and scintillation compared to diamonds with no discernible color at all. Thus, the more colorless a diamond is, the better its light absorption and visible sparkle. For this reason, people usually go for colorless diamonds. But this doesn’t make diamonds with warmer colors less desirable.
The Diamond Color Grading System
Color grades range from D (colorless) to Z (yellow/light brown). Gemologists grade diamonds facing down on a white surface and controlled lighting as it’s hard to evaluate color when diamonds are viewed face up. Unlike the diamond cut where you should always opt for the best, the color of a diamond is a great place to save money!
Colorless Diamonds (D, E, and F)
Diamonds within the colorless range are the rarest ones. D and 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 gemologist. Even I have never been able to distinguish a D and an F-colored diamond when they are not directly next to each other in the face-down position.
Diamonds in this category are best mounted in platinum or white gold since yellow gold and other colored settings will take away from the high luminosity of the color grades.
Near Colorless Diamonds (G, H, I and J)
Diamonds within the near colorless range appear colorless in the face-up position. However, when viewed face down, they exhibit a slight amount of body color. In order to see it, the diamond has to be viewed against a perfectly white background.
But once the diamond is mounted on 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, L, and M)
K to M graded diamonds show a slight hint of color in the face-up position. They resonate with people who like the warmer look of faint color diamonds. This is a sure win for those who want to set their diamond in a yellow gold ring setting. And since diamonds pick up quite a lot of color from a yellow gold ring setting, it would not be wise to overspend on color.
Diamonds Adapt Color from the Ring Setting
As mentioned earlier, most diamonds are bought to be mounted on a ring setting, and a diamond attached to the ring will invariably pick up some of the metal’s color!
(Pictures are courtesy of James Allen)
Diamonds in yellow gold settings adapt more of the yellow gold hue compared to diamonds set in a white gold. For this reason, diamonds in yellow gold don’t have to have such a good color grade as you would choose for a diamond in a white gold ring.
Just have a look at these diamonds on yellow gold ring settings and these diamonds on white gold ring settings. It is quite apparent that diamonds in yellow gold ring settings absorb much more of the ring color. You can take advantage of this knowledge and save yourself some money!
Diamond Color for Fancy Shapes
Furthermore, the diamond shape will have an impact on the diamond color as the proportions and faceting patterns of various diamond shapes differ. For this reason, certain shapes are more prone to showing off their body color.
The round cut is the shape that’s least prone to showing off body color. Princess, emerald, and asscher cut diamonds are more likely to display some. So, it is advisable to choose one grade higher than what you would choose for a round cut diamond.
All the other diamond shapes especially the elongated ones like oval, marquise, and pear cut diamonds are even more prone to body color. In these shapes, color can be easily seen near the pointed tips. Thus, you would have to choose an even better grade!
During the years, I have concluded that these are the best color grades according to your diamond shape and the ring metal you will use:
I guarantee that if you use the color grades above, untrained eyes will think that you bought a diamond with the highest color grade!
Diamond Color for Larger Diamonds
You should also take note of color’s effect on big diamonds. Larger diamonds trap more body color compared to smaller diamonds. If you take a 0.5-carat diamond and a 3-carat diamond with the same color and directly compared them to each other, you’ll see that the smaller diamond is more colorless.
Also, if you buy an even larger diamond (from 2-carat upwards), you might consider getting a color grade better than you would normally have chosen – according to my “best bang for your buck color grade table” above.
Another interesting fact is that some diamonds exhibit fluorescence. No matter what degree, it's always noted in 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 or strong blue fluorescence since they are usually sold at a discounted price.
Though 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 it could help you boost a diamond within the I-K color range in my post about diamond fluorescence.
Price Differences Between Different Color Grades
The best thing about choosing a diamond color with the table above is that you are not “wasting” money on a premium feature that you wouldn’t be able to appreciate with your bare eyes.
Of course, I am 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 let you know that you can maximize your budget if you want to.
Now, all the other 3Cs being equal, you can clearly see that the D color is priced at a large premium because it is rare. Though a diamond with an H color set in a ring setting will appear completely colorless, too. And will save you a lot of money!
Which Diamond Color Grade Should You Choose?
The most popular color grade is G, but this doesn't mean that you can only choose this grade to get the biggest bang for your buck. What's more vital is never to choose a color grade better than G!
The reason is quite simply that as a typical customer, you would most likely not 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 an invisible feature, apart from the color grade you will see on your diamond certificate.
On the pictures below, you can see two different diamonds. The one on the left is a D-colored diamond, and on the right is a G-colored diamond. Both exhibit their face-up and back views:
Now, I guess that you can see a difference between both diamonds in terms of color. But you have to consider that you can only see it because both diamonds are shown in 10x magnification, and are directly compared. Furthermore, you are comparing loose diamonds to each other!
Without this comparison, the G-colored diamond would appear to be completely colorless. Even diamond grading experts from GIA and AGS who are grading diamonds all day long can only estimate the color by comparing the diamond to a set of master diamonds.
This is done under the best lighting conditions. I know from experience that many people would consider an I or even a J-colored diamond as colorless if they weren’t able to inspect it next to a D-colored diamond!
The best color grade will largely depend on what kind of diamond and ring metal you intend to use. I want you to get the biggest bang for your buck which means you get a diamond that looks completely colorless, but in reality, does not have a D color grade. And you’ll find this from G and below!
But then again, color is subjective, and you have the final say in this. Whether you’re a diamond purist who's ever-enamored with the gem’s translucence, or you belong to cultures that see warmer tones as more amusing, you’ll have a wide selection of shades to choose from.
Should you have any question about diamond color, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me! My advice is free. 🙂