Diamond Color & Grading

Diamond color is a visual characteristic that makes them unique and affects sparkle. Diamonds are available in many colors and tints. While fancy color diamonds are highly valuable, the majority of people prefer white diamonds for engagement rings. Fancy colored diamonds, those that have more vivid shades like pink, green, yellow and others are graded on a different scale. White diamonds are graded on a different scale. GIA is the worldwide standardized and most commonly accepted scales to grade diamond color. Prior to this standardization, various terms like cape, light yellow, very light yellow, numeric scales, jager, river and wesselton were used in different color scales. However, GIA has standardized the diamond color grade on a D-Z scale. Always be sure to purchase a certified GIA diamond scale to ensure that you are getting the true value of your purchase. All diamonds on the GIA D through Z scale are considered white although on the lower end they can have a tinge of yellow color. Color is a natural element in diamonds. As diamonds grow under the earth over millions of years, trace elements commonly exist in diamonds causing a yellowish or brownish tint. It is more common for diamonds to have some of this tinting than to be absolutely colorless. This shading of color varies in hue, tone and saturation.

Diamond color is difficult to identify but subtly distracts the eye from seeing sparkle. The human eye will rarely know the color is the problem, but colorless diamonds will sparkle more, while yellowish or brownish tinted diamonds will sparkle slightly less. Color is one of the 4 major C’s of diamonds. Diamond color, in terms of grading, is determined by the “lack” of color in a diamond; less color a diamond has means higher the color grade. Color is based on overall body color of a diamond. Because the changes in color hue, tone and saturation are so subtle, GIA developed a grading scale, commonly known as the D to Z scale. Diamonds are assigned grades based on where they fall in the ranges between letters from D to Z.

Diamond color is grading by evaluating the body color of the diamond on a pure white background, face down. From the image below, you can see the diamond has no tint of yellow. This is a D-color stone. Gemologists will often use master stones or a GIA verified set of cubic zironia with the correct grade color shading. If the diamond has more ywllow 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. Grading color is subjective and requires multiple sets of eyes to validate and verify the accuracy of the grade. After the body is examined, the stone is flipped over and also viewed face up once to further confirm the grade. After all, diamonds are rarely viewed face down - their face up appearance is what counts most!

a face down diamond in a color shading paper used for determining the diamond's color grade Shop Diamonds By Color

Color Scale

the GIA color grading scale from D - Z showing diamonds with their color shading
M - Z diamond colors with a noticeable yellow color in the diamond diamonds with G - L colors for near colorless and faint color top 1% of diamonds that are colorless with no visible yellow tint

In the color grading scale, D is the highest color and Z is the lowest. This color chart shows how the color of a diamond changes visually across the scale.

D - F: Colorless - diamonds in this range have no color or very minute traces of color that can only be identified by trained gemologists and typically need to be compared to higher or lower graded diamonds to accurately identify the color. Less than 1% of all gem quality diamond fall in this range. Learn more about D-F colored diamonds.

G - J: Near Colorless - these diamonds have minor traces of color that may be identified by trained eyes. The G/H color diamonds are most popular because they balance value and lack of color. Minor sparkle distractions can be noticed in I/J colors, however these diamonds still sparkle very brilliantly and have great value, when balancing the other C’s. The near colorless range represents the top 15% of all gem quality diamonds. Learn more about G, H, I & J color diamonds.

K - M: Faint - diamonds with K, L and M colors tend to have a faint yellow or brown tinge. The color does affect the diamond’s sparkle by very slightly dulling it. When examined, the color may be recognized in jewelry. These diamonds represent the top 40% of all gem quality diamonds. Four Mine does not carry colors below L. Learn more about K, L & M color diamonds.

face down D color diamond with no visible color

D Colorless: Your D-color diamond possesses the highest color purity and is a symbol of perfection. It is considered extremely rare and has no recognizable shades of color. D color diamonds have a perfect color. When looking at a diamond with the nked eye, E and F colors can also look similiar 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 D grade. However, D color diamonds can also look beautiful in rose and yellow gold.

Browse D Color
face down E color diamond for grading that is colorless

E Colorless: Your 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.

Browse E Color
an F color diamond that is colorless

F Colorless: Your 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, and F color certainly fits the bill and can be more affordable than a D or E color diamond.

Browse F Color
a G color diamond face down for grading

G Near Colorless: Your 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. A platinum or white gold setting can work to hide traces of yellow color in the ring, however a G color diamond is versatile and can look great with rose and yellow gold.

Browse G Color
face down H color diamond that is near colorless

H Near Colorless: Your 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 and can be a great choice if you're trying to maximize for other factors like carat, cut or clarity.

Browse H Color
near colorless I grade diamond

I Near Colorless: Your I-color diamond delivers excellent brilliance even as some shading of color has been 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 before making your purchase.

Browse I Color
face down J color diamond with a faint yellow tint

J Near Colorless: Your J-color diamond has exquisite sparkle and value. 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. Be careful with a J color if buying a step cut diamond as the color can show more easily.

Browse J Color
face down K color diamond with a faint yellowish tint

K Faint Yellow: Your 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. A K color diamond can look yellow to the naked eye, especially in larger diamond sizes over 1.50 carats.

Browse K Color
L color diamond with a faint yellow tint

L Faint Yellow: Your 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. It looks best in yellow gold settings. Check with a gemologist before purchasing a L color diamond to ensure that it is the correct color for you.

Browse L Color
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Pricing Effect & Selecting Color

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, a D – F color diamonds are a great choice. For a more value driven decision, consider an I – K color. Diamonds of all colors show fire and brilliance. Within a ring, consider all other elements like the full budget for the ring and your preferred metal. With these factors in mind you can determine your diamond budget. Factors like metal color can play a role in determining which diamond color you should select. For example, a lower color diamond can actually look beautiful and more white within a yellow gold setting. 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 of higher color on the color grading scale. Color can be seen without magnification for the lower range, however with the higher color range, you may need magnification to see the color imperfections.

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 most popular color grade is a G color with H color closely behind.

Fancy shaped diamonds (shapes other than round cut) tend to show more color. For example, Pear cut, Oval cut, Marquise cut show more color near their points and edges. Princess cut, Emerald cut, Asscher cut, Radiant cut and Cushion cut diamonds reflect more color in the body. If you’re considering a G color diamond, for example, in a round cut diamond, then assume you would require an F color diamond in another diamond shape. With diamonds of any shape, as the carat weight increases, the appearance of color can be more obvious. Therefore, with larger sizes, it is important to choose higher colors. You can also learn about the other factors that affect diamond pricing.


Fluorescence: Impact on Color

One final factor affects a diamond’s color: fluorescence. Fluorescence is the diamond’s reaction to UV light (black light). Fluorescence is caused by naturally occurring trace elements, such as Boron, present in diamonds during growth. In very rare instances, it affects the visual properties of diamonds.

It is recommended that in higher colors (colors D - G), fluorescence should be Faint or None. Fluorescence can whiten a diamond for those that are on the lower (more yellow) end of the color spectrum. When the diamond is already colorless, it can given it a whitish, grayish tint. This is typically the case in less than 1% of all diamonds with fluorescence. The more common impact is color improvement in lower colors.

In colors such as I - L, we recommend considering Medium or Strong fluorescence. It can improve the visibility of a yellowish tint, thereby visually making the color appear a shade whiter. Especially choose fluorescent diamonds in J, K L colors as they also provide excellent purchase value.


Buying Tips

Purchasing a diamond can be confusing. Especially when there are so many color grades and factors that are taken into account when a diamond is purchased. A few tips can be kept in mind when making a decision between different color grades.

For the best balance of value and look, a great range to stay within is the G through J color range. This rule applies to most carat ranges. However, if you are looking for something in the above 1 carat range, you can consider staying within the G through H range. This is because color can show more easily as the diamond carat size goes up. Once set in a ring, the diamond will look equally as good as a higher color diamond.

If your primary aim is to get a larger diamond, don't compromise on the color.

Color becomes much harder to detect once a stone is set in a ring and placed in an environment that contains color (as opposed to the all white background used in diamond color grading). For instance, an H color diamond may look as colorless as a D when set in a ring under normal lighting conditions, especially if the two are not compared side by side.

Another factor that affects a diamonds's apparent color is the color of the mounting itself. Yellow gold makes slight amounts of yellow in a diamond less obvious, while white metal mountings make the color in yellow diamonds more apparent.

The vast majority of untrained observers (and many gemologists) cannot distinguish a color grade from the one just above or below unless the diamonds are compared side by side in a controlled environment.

If the color's effect is unclear, call to speak to a diamond and jewelry consultant who will review the diamond to ensure the tint of color doesn't adversely affect the diamond's sparkle. Contact us by phone at 1-844-234-6463 or email at service@fourmine.com. Our Live Chat is available during business hours Monday - Friday 10AM - 6PM ET.

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Buying Tips for D-F Diamonds

D, E and F diamonds have no visible traces of color. Most commonly diamonds can have a yellow tint but can also have other tints like brown. With these three grades you can be assured that the dimonds have no trace of color and look crystal clear. With this color range, any setting metal will look great and bring ou thte sparkle of the diamond. As D and E color diamonds are quite rare and valuable, you will see large price jumps when moving up color grades within that range. Unless you are immensely particular about color, you can safely get an F color diamond. An F color diamond will look as good as a D or E color diamond to the naked eye with little difference seen.


Buying Tips for G-J Diamonds

G, H, I, J color diamonds are considered colorless by GIA. This means that more most diamond sizes and shapes they can be a good option. If striving to get a diamond that is as close to colorless as possible stay within the G or H ranges. J and I color diamonds can be good options, however the amount of yellow tinge becomes a bit more subjective based on size, shape and even fluoresence of the diamond. If choosing yellow or rose gold, you can move down a color grade as the metal color will make the diamond look slightly whiter. The best way to compare diamonds is to consult with a gemologist and ask their unbiased opinion on one diamond versus another.


Buying Tips for K-L Diamonds

K and L color diamonds are not considered colorless. They have a faint to soft warm yellow hue that can be visible by the naked eye. Avoid K and L color diamonds for diamonds that are larger than 1.00 carat as the color is more noticeable. While some people like the soft yellow hue, most prefer the colorless diamond look. If color is the least important factor for you, K and L colors can be considered. You will see quite a big price drop between the previous color ranges. This diamond color range can also be an option for those who want a vintage or antique inspired ring.


Fancy Colored Diamonds

large fancy purple and pink diamonds in round and oval shapes

Diamonds that have color beyond the D - Z scale or have traces of color other than the typical yellow or brown are considered fancy colored. This is similar to fancy shapes, which is any shape other than round. Fancy colored diamonds are extremely rare. Only one out of every ten thousand have colors other than yellow or brown. Depending on the color saturation, intensity, and hue of a diamond, color can either detract from or enhance its value. Naturally occurring diamond colors include gray, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, olive, pink, purple, brown, and black. Red stones are the most rare and have the greatest value. There are only about 40-50 red diamonds in the world. Diamonds are graded by laboratories on a scale with 27 different color hues.

Fancy colors are graded by GIA by evaluating the strength of color and the undertones of all colors present. Diamonds can have multiple undertones and dominant colors such as Fancy Light Orangy Pink or Fancy Yellowish Green. We typically recommend seeing the diamond in person prior to purchasing due to the importance of the hue, tone and saturation. An image or video will rarely accurately capture the diamond's fancy color and brilliance in this particular category.