Diamond Color

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How to Examine Color

Interestingly enough, diamond color is actually examined face down. The reason is that other factors affecting diamond sparkle such as clarity or cut can influence how the color looks face up. When GIA grades a diamond’s color, the loose diamond (not set in jewelry) is flipped over, table side down and is compared to a Diamond Master Set to determine its color by a trained observer. The Master Set are primers that represent each color and can be used to compared the color. To ensure an accurate diamond grade, proper lighting and special equipment is necessary to prevent distractions. Color determination is a subjective practice and is typically verified and checked by multiple gemologists. The color chart is looked at to determine the value of a diamond. Diamonds that are higher on the color chart have a higher monetary value. While this can be somewhat subjective, GIA is an accurate grader of diamonds. Therefore, it is safe to go by the GIA certificate to ascertain the look and value of the diamond.

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