Diamond Color Chart - Education & Buying Guide
Color refers to the natural body color of a diamond and not to the reflection of spectral colors that flash when a diamond moves. Most diamonds naturally exhibit slight hints of yellow and brown. This color is caused by natural trace elements of nitrogen that were present when the diamond formed under the Earth's crust. It's more common for diamonds to have some of this tinting, which varies in hue, tone and saturation, than to be absolutely colorless. The less color a diamond exhibits, the higher the rarity, and therefore the higher the value.
Tinted Diamond Colors.
Diamonds with less color allow more light to pass, releasing more brilliance and fire. A diamond acts as a prism by dividing light into a spectrum of colors and reflecting this light as colorful flashes called dispersion or fire. Similar to looking through colored glass, color in a diamond will diminish the spectrum of color, or fire, emitted by acting as a filter. A diamond with a higher color grade, i.e., one with less color, demonstrates more colorful fire.
Generally, the less color a diamond has, the more valuable it is. Natural diamonds have a wide range of colors ranging from completely colorless to slightly yellow, or brown. Other colored diamonds come in concentrated colors like pink, yellow, and blue, but are graded on a different scaling system.
The color grading system for natural colorless diamonds uses the letters of the alphabet from D through Z. "D" represents the least color, and is therefore the rarest and most valuable grade. "Z" grades have the most color within a normal range and are the least expensive. It is hard for the unaided eye to see variations in color grades D through J unless the stones are observed side by side.
Diamonds should be color-graded under exacting conditions by an expert grader. Using specially filtered cool, white light, these graders compare sets of diamonds with known colors, graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) against their master set. To obtain the most accurate color grade, graders usually place diamonds on their sides or upside-down against a neutral background, to help decrease the play of spectral colors that diamonds reflect.
Diamond Color Chart
Select Diamond Color
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Near Colorless Slightly Tinted
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Very Light Color
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D to F G to H I to J K to M N to R S to Z Fancy
The International Diamond Color Scale.
Diamond Color Chart Description
Completely colorless diamonds (such as D and E) are much rarer than others which is why they come with a higher pricing premium. The key question is always where to draw the line when choosing the color of a diamond - how far can you compromise color before the diamond is too tinted? The answer to this question is relative to your budget and quality expectations.
D is the highest color grade attributed to a diamond, denoting that the stone is completely colorless (white); as such, they are extremely rare and command the highest prices. When looking at a diamond with the naked eye, E and F colors can also look similar to the D color diamond. A D color diamond looks best when set in white gold and platinum, as the white color of the metal further highlights the colorless quality. However, D color diamonds can also look beautiful in rose and yellow gold. Yellow gold reflects color and some color from the setting will come through the stone, negating the diamond's colorless effect.
An E color diamond is visually stunning and has very high color purity. It is incredibly rare and has almost no recognizable color shading. To the naked eye and even under 10X magnification, an E color diamond will not show any tinges of yellow color. The color difference between a D and an E graded stone is usually only visible to an expert gemmologist using master stones as a comparison, and rarely by the untrained eye. D-F diamonds should only be set in white gold/platinum. Yellow gold reflects color, negating the diamond's colorless effect, although E graded stones are slightly cheaper.
An F color diamond has excellent beauty and contains a minute shade of color that is undetectable by the untrained eye. It is also very rare and considered to have high color purity. When looking for a diamond that will not exhibit shades of yellow to the naked eye, the F color certainly fits the bill and can be more affordable than a D or E color diamond. The color difference between an E and an F is only visible to an expert gemmologist using master stones as a comparison, and rarely by the untrained eye. D-F diamonds should only be set in white gold/platinum. Yellow gold reflects color, negating the diamond's colorless effect. F grades are the lowest and therefore least expensive of the premium colors.
A G color diamond is exquisite and has minor traces of color that can be identified only by diamond professional. It is also the most popular diamond color and provides a great blend of beauty and value. G stones appear colorless especially once set and therefore offer excellent value for money. A platinum or white gold setting can work to hide traces of yellow color in the diamond, however a G color diamond is versatile and can look great with rose and yellow gold.
H colored diamonds are near colorless diamonds which still appear totally white or colorless if they are not compared side by side with higher color graded stones. The H color is generally considered the watershed between colorless diamonds and slightly tinted diamonds. An H color diamond has gorgeous appeal as its slightly identifiable shade of color does not affect the diamond's brilliance. It is one of the most popular colors because of its visual attractiveness and value. An H color is a good balance between these factors and can be a great choice if you're trying to maximize for other characteristics like carat or clarity.
I colored diamonds are very slightly tinted diamonds, however, once set in jewellery, these stones may appear colorless. An I color diamond delivers excellent brilliance even as some shading of color can be identified by a gemologist. The color is still not recognizable to an untrained eye and provides excellent value. Depending on the diamond, an I diamond can be a good choice as the yellow color is not too perceptible. However, it is a good idea to ask a gemologist to help you find a stone that faces up white before making your purchase. If you are looking to maximize your budget, then an I colored diamond offers great value for money.
J colored diamonds are very slightly tinted diamonds, however, once set in jewellery, especially in yellow gold, it is harder to see the slight yellow tint which the J grade produces. A J color diamond has exquisite sparkle and value (as long as you're getting a stone that's cut well, of course). It has a shade of color that is only detectable by trained professionals and allows for a larger size or higher clarity that may be more palatable to your budget. Talk to a gemologist to help you find a stone that faces up white and discuss the diamond shape you're considering, as some amplify the color of your diamond.
K colored diamonds are slightly tinted diamonds, however, once set in jewellery, especially in yellow gold, it is harder to see the slight yellow tint which the K grade produces. A K color diamond is considered a white diamond that does not compromise the stone's sparkle. Some shading of color may reflect in light, but it is still difficult for the untrained eye to identify the color grade. Keep in mind, though, that a K color diamond can look yellow to the naked eye, especially in larger diamond sizes over 1.50 carats.
An L color diamond is scintillating and considered a white diamond that does not distract from the diamond's sparkle. Slight color may be detectable to the untrained eye, especially when viewed from the side. It looks best in yellow gold settings, which minimize contrast between the diamond and the setting. Check with a gemologist before purchasing an L color diamond to ensure that it is the correct color for you.
Diamonds in the N-R color range have an easily seen yellow or brown tint, but are much less expensive than higher grades.
For almost all customers, S-Z diamonds have too much color for a white diamond.
Natural fancy yellow diamonds begin where the colorless D-Z grading scale ends.
Diamond Color Scale Grading
Diamond color is graded by evaluating the body color of the diamond on a pure white background, face down. Gemologists will compare the diamond to master stones, or a GIA verified set of cubic zirconia, with grade color shading. If the diamond has more yellow than one but less than the other, it will receive a grade in that range. (For example: More yellow than F, but less than G, would be a G color diamond. You might also hear these referred to as "G+ color diamonds" to indicate that they're at the top of this specific color range, or whiter than other stones in the same color grade.)
The picture below shows an approximate guide to a master set used by gemologists to grade color in diamonds. Each diamond to be graded is compared to the master set to determine where it should fall on the diamond color scale. The colors you see below are slightly exaggerated, since viewing diamonds face down makes their body color more pronounced. The face down orientation makes the detection of body color easier because brightness and fire are minimized when the diamond is face down:
Diamond Color Scale Grading.
Diamond Color Prices
While changes in diamond color are very subtle, pricing changes are not. The price difference between each color grade (all else being equal) ranges from about 8% to more than 25% in the higher colors. For the perfectionist, D through F color diamonds are a great choice. For a more value driven decision, consider an I through K color. It's extremely important to keep in mind that diamonds of all colors show fire and brilliance. Consider all other elements like the full budget for the ring and your preferred metal.
Purchasing a lower-color diamond concedes only small visible differences, but the savings can be very noticeable. The most noticeable cost difference is often from G to F color grades. The all other elements like the full budget for the ring and your preferred most popular color grade is a G, for this reason, with H closely behind.
Princess Shape - Diamond Color F Vs. G Grade.
Factor Your Metal Choice Into Your Decision
Metal color can play a role in which diamond color you should select. A lower-color diamond can actually look beautiful (and more white) in a yellow gold setting. That's because a yellow gold setting decreases the contrast between your diamond and the setting. A little yellow tint will appear more yellow by comparison if placed in a white gold setting.
But the color of the metal isn't the only factor here. Additionally, the amount of metal, and the type of setting, can show off more or less of the diamond. Depending on this, you may want to select a lower or higher color on the scale.
The Shape & Size Of Your Diamond Matter
Fancy-shaped diamonds (shapes other than round cut) tend to show more color. Pear, oval and marquise cuts exhibit more color near their points and edges. The Princess, emerald, asscher, radiant cut and cushion cuts reflect more color in the body. If you love the look of a G color diamond in a round cut, assume you'd want an F in another diamond shape.
K Faint Yellow - Diamond Color In Shapes.
With diamonds of any shape, as the carat weight increases, color can be more obvious. With larger sizes, it's important to choose higher colors. You can also learn about the other factors that affect diamond pricing below.
We ranked the importance of the color grade (1-10: 1 least important, 10 important) as it relates to the shape of the diamond. Shape is a critical element in determining how much color is shown:
|Round||4/10||Their brilliant facets can mask color. Therefore, with this shape you do not have to get an overly high color grade. You can balance color with other factors like cut to get the best value and look.|
|Princess||5/10||The color shows more than rounds due to the depth and size of the body in the diamond.|
|Emerald||6/10||The open, deeper body of the diamond tends to show more color. The larger facets don't allow sparkle to mask color.|
|Asscher||6/10||The open, deeper body of the diamond tends to show more color. The larger facets don't allow sparkle to mask color as well. If gettng a smaller asscher diamond, something that is below 1 carat you may not have to get as high of a color. When purchasing one larger than a carat, pay closer attention to color.|
|Oval||7/10||Elongated shapes, specifically ones with points show less color in the body, but much more near the edges and points. Again if opting to get an oval that is larger than 1 carat, pay closer attention to the color. Look at also how shallow or deep the diamond is. Deeper diamonds will show a little less color.|
|Marquise||8/10||Elongated shapes, like the marquise will show more color along the points. If getting a marquise that is elongated, be sure to look carefully at images and videos of the diamond to understand color.|
|Pear||8/10||Elongated shapes like the pear will show more color in the points of the diamond. Be careful as to how narrow or fat the diamond is. With a more narrow point, color will show easily.|
|Heart||8/10||With a pointed bottom and an edge that curves inward at the top, a larger diamond can show color. However, color showing may not be a large concern with heart shaped diamonds that are smaller than 1.25 carats.|
|Radiant||9/10||Radiant diamonds can show color fairly easily due to the type of faceting. Be sure to consider color when choosing.|
|Cushion||9/10||Cushion diamonds can show more color based on the type of faceting. With a brilliant cut cushion, color showing is less of a concern. However, with one that has larger and more open facets, color can show more easily. Take a close look at your diamond to decide and have a gemologist explain to you which kind of faceting it has.|