Diamonds come in lots of colors but are actually graded for the absence of color. The lesser the color, the better the color grade and the higher price a diamond can command. Learn about the different color grades and which grade you should buy.
Diamonds Fall into Color Categories
As diamonds can exhibit a range of color, they are divided into 5 general categories for easier classification. These categories range from “Colorless” to “Light Yellow”. Our focus is on the first two categories as those are the most popular with online retailers. These categories are colorless and near colorless. Each category, in turn, is made up of a series of color grades represented by a lettering system from D to Z. The letter represents the amount of color present in each diamond when graded by a gemologist.
As an example, a colorless diamond with D color grade is the best grading value that can be obtained as the diamond is totally free from color. A diamond with a near colorless J color grade, on the other hand, exhibits a small amount of color giving it a slightly warmth in tone. This difference in color, while almost imperceivable to the eye, translates into a very perceivable difference when it comes to price.
How to Pick a Color Grade
When purchasing a diamond, the general rule of thumb is to buy a diamond with the least amount of color as your budget allows. This being said, there are several ways to save money – the first of which is buying towards the lower end of a color category. For example, buying this 0.80-Carat Round F color diamond ($2,843) instead of this 0.80-Carat Round D color diamond ($3,196) will knock a few hundred dollars off the price while still allowing you to confidently say the diamond is colorless. The second (and best) way to save money is to shop in the near colorless range. Because the difference between color categories is so small, it’s very difficult to tell a colorless diamond from a near colorless diamond. Here’s what we mean. Take a look at the two stones below.
One of these stones is an E color, Ideal Cut, VS1 Clarity, 0.80-Carat Round and the other is a J color, Ideal Cut, VS1 Clarity, 0.80-Carat Round. The price difference between them is a little over $1000 USD. Can you tell which one is which? In truth, most people who admire a diamond can’t tell the difference – especially given that fact that the diamond will be much much smaller than what’s on your screen (about 6.0 mm in size) AND not side by side with another diamond. For these two reason, buying in the near colorless range is a great choice!
How Diamonds are Graded:
Diamonds are graded for color face down, against a white background. Graders are looking at the actual body tone (hue) of the stone and comparing it to a reference set of master stones graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The diamond is then assigned a letter grade as seen on the chart above. The GIA grades color alphabetically from D (totally colorless) to Z (yellow). Because the D-Z scale is continuous, the difference between grades is very small. Most diamonds used for jewelry purposes fall into the Near Colorless Category – G to J. Anything below J color should be avoided.
Colorless Diamonds (D-F)
Diamonds in the colorless range are the most valuable as they are the most rare in nature. Diamonds with D/E color are completely colorless whereas F color diamonds show a minute trace of color, detectable only to a trained gemologist. To an average person, an F color diamond will look identical to a D color diamond.
Near Colorless Diamonds (G-J)
Like their counterpart, Near Colorless (or “face white”) diamonds appear colorless when viewed from the table (face up position). It is only when viewed from the pavilion (face down position) do these diamonds show a slight amount of color against a white background. The slight tint of color is masked by the brilliance when viewed through the table. As diamonds are mounted face up in a setting, a near colorless diamond will appear identical to a colorless diamond (to the untrained eye). Because of this, near colorless diamonds offer superb value for your money.
How a Diamond’s Color Grade Affects its Price
As with all diamonds, the rarer the diamonds the higher the asking price for it. The same applies for diamond color. A diamond color grade of D is only awarded to rarer, totally colorless diamonds. As such, colorless diamonds are more expensive than light yellow diamonds. The further you move down the spectrum of color, the lower the asking price for the diamond. In order to make good use of your budget, we recommend selecting a diamond in the H-I color range (or J if going with yellow gold). This gives you a stone which appears colorless without having to pay extra for it being truly colorless.
Now that you got the theory, let's look at some real examples
Colorless Diamond Range (D – F)
The high end of the color scale with diamonds exhibiting a clear, sometimes icy look with no absolutely no warmth. Diamonds at this end of the color scale cost the most.
Near Colorless Diamond Range (G – J)
The first thing to notice here is that the difference between colorless (above) and near colorless (below) is imperceivable to an average person. From a cost perspective, the difference can be substantial. This is why “near colorless” is the range we recommend shoppers buy from. Shoppers can get a colorless looking stone while saving money which can be spent on other aspects of the diamond ring.
How Lighting and Photography Affect Color
Colors Grades Carried by Online Diamond Retailers
When purchasing a diamond for an engagement ring, it’s important to note that many online retailers who hold themselves to a higher standard only carry “Colorless” or “Near Colorless” diamonds. Anything outside of these ranges may be carried but sold as “Fancy” colored diamonds.