As one of the 4 C’s, Color is very important when it comes to assessing the quality of a Diamond but what is color when it comes to Diamonds?
That is what I’m going to cover in this post as I break down all the things you need to know about color in Diamonds and it doesn’t matter whether you are just looking to learn or are in the process of buying a Diamond or engagement ring, there is some useful information in here for you.
Just so you know that this isn’t some generic post, I’m Paul Haywood FGA DGA and I’m a fully qualified gemologist and ran my own jewelers selling these magical gems, so let’s get started…
What is Color in Diamonds?
Color in Diamonds refers to the body color of the stone and there are two ways that color is assessed:
The first is how free from color the Diamond is, which applies to around 98% of all Natural Diamonds and even though they are referred to as colorless Diamonds, in reality this can range from them being completely colorless to having a notable tint, which is commonly yellow but can also be brown or grey.
When it comes to assessing the colorless Diamonds, the most commonly used grading scale is the one developed by the GIA, which ranges from D (colorless) to Z (tinted).
The second is Fancy Color Diamonds, which makes up the other 2% of Natural Diamonds and these are Diamonds that possess a notable body color such as Pink, Blue, Yellow or very rarely Red and they are graded on the three following criteria:
- Hue – this is the characteristic color of the stone and this can be singular such as Pink or Blue or include modifiers such as Brownish Pink (the main hue is always listed last)
- Saturation – this is the strength of the color within the Diamond and can also include how evenly the color is distributed across the stone
- Tone – this is how light or dark the color is within the Diamond
Saturation and Tone are combined and used to describe the Diamond, for example “Light”, “Fancy” or “Fancy Vivid”, which is then combined with the Hue to give the descriptive name for that Colored Diamond, such as “Fancy Yellow” or “Fancy Intense Pink”.
As one of the 4 C’s, Color is not only used to assess the quality of the stone but also has an impact on a Diamond’s price, with stones having a better color, generally being worth more.
Diamond Color Chart
As the majority of Diamonds are “colorless”, let’s take a look at these grades in more detail, so that you have a better idea of what you are looking at when it comes to buying a Diamond.
D – F Color (Colorless)
The top three grades for Diamond color are D, E and F and all of these are colorless, meaning that there is no visible color in the Diamond when viewed table up or from the side but if they are all colorless, then what is the difference between them?
Having looked at a fair few D – F color Diamonds, the only way I can describe it is that D color Diamonds look brighter than an E color, which looks brighter than an F color and this is something that is difficult to see in images but is noticeable when you see stones in person.
G – J Color (Near Colorless)
The next 4 grades are classified as near colorless, meaning that there is a very faint tint of color that can be seen in the Diamond.
But I don’t quite agree with all 4 being included in this category as G color Diamonds are also colorless when viewed table up and from the side but not as bright as D – F color Diamonds and most people only start to notice any hint of color at H and this is only when the stone is viewed from the side, they look colorless when viewed table up.
I and J color Diamonds having a more noticeable tint, especially when viewed from the side and the tint starts to become noticeable table up.
K – M (Faint Tint)
The next three grades are the lower end of the color grades that are sold by the majority of retailers as these Diamonds have a much more noticeable tint that can be seen when the Diamond is viewed table up and is obvious when viewed from the side.
N – R (Very Light Tint) and S – Z (Light Tint)
Even though the GIA will grade Diamonds in this range, they are most commonly referred to as Tinted Diamonds as the tint is very noticeable in the stone, whether viewed table up or from the side and these Diamonds are actually quite difficult to buy as most Diamond retailers and dealers don’t like to stock them as they aren’t very desirable.
This is because they aren’t really colorless but the color isn’t strong enough for it to be classed as a Fancy Color, putting them in a kind of no-man’s land that only appeal to a small number of potential customers.
What Color Diamond Is The Best & Which One Should You Buy?
The best color for Diamonds is a D color as this is the highest grade for colorless Diamonds but should you actually buy one as natural D color Diamonds sell for a premium due to their rarity?
There are only really two reasons why you would realistically buy a D color Diamond over an F or G color and they are:
- You have a very good budget that allows you to buy a very high quality stone (ideally you would want to match a D color with Flawless Clarity and Excellent Cut if this is the case)
- You want to brag that you have a D color Diamond and you will have to tell people as no-one will know just by looking at it
This is because when a Diamond is mounted in a piece of jewelry, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between a D color and F/G color Diamond as they are both colorless when viewed table up (which they will be when they are set), especially if you don’t have other Diamonds to compare it to.
For the majority of Diamond buyers, going for a F, G or H color Diamond that has good Clarity, such as a VS1, VS2 or good SI1 and very good or excellent Cut quality is going to the best option as you will get a beautiful looking stone that to most people will look as good as a D Flawless without the premium price tag.
How Are Diamonds Color Graded?
So we know what the color grades for Diamonds are and also which one you should consider buying but how are Diamonds actually assigned a color grade?
Well, there is a very well-defined process for doing this and in order to be able to color grade effectively, you need:
- The Diamond to be loose and clean (only estimates can be given for stones set in jewelry)
- A neutral environment, this is usually a slightly darkened room that has white or grey walls, the grader should also be wearing neutral colors
- A controlled light source, this is usually a daylight lamp
- A white background for the Diamonds to be viewed against, such as a grading tray (pictured below) or GIA Diamond Dock
- A set of master stones to compare the Diamonds that are being graded to
- Training and experience
But the equipment and environment are only part of the grading process, the other involves actually looking at the Diamonds and this process involves:
- The grader needs to get their ‘eye in’ by observing each of the master stones in the controlled grading environment before looking at the stone to be graded, this is usually done by placing the Diamond table down and looking through the pavilion of the Diamond (I usually look between ⅓ and halfway between the girdle and culet) as this gives a truer color than looking through the table
- The grader will then place the Diamond to be graded, table down in the grading area to give themselves an initial estimate of the color
- They will then take a master stone of the color they initially estimated an place it in the center of the grading tray and place the Diamond being graded around 1cm to the left of the master stone and check the color, they will then move the Diamond being graded to the right of the master stone and check the color again, with there are three possible outcomes:
- If the Diamond being graded appears darker when it is to the left of the master stone but lighter when on its right, then the Diamond being graded has a color which is the same as the master stone
- If the Diamond being graded appears darker when to the left of the master stone but the same color when on the right, then the Diamond being graded is darker than the master stone
- If the Diamond being graded appears equal to the master stone when placed on its left and lighter when placed to the right, then the Diamond being graded is lighter than the master stone
- If the stone is lighter or darker than the master stone, then step 3 will have to be repeated with a master stone that is a higher or lower color grade and this may need to be done multiple times until the correct color grade is found
With gem labs such as the GIA, more than one person will independently grade the color as this increases the chances of the grade being accurate.
If a Diamond is mounted in a piece of jewelry, it makes accurately grading the color very difficult and it will only be given an estimated color grade.
Color is one of the most important factors when it comes to the quality of a Diamond and it can have a big impact on the value of a Diamond as stones with better color are worth more.
But after reading this post, you should have a much better understanding of:
- What color in a Diamond means
- The different color grades
- Things to consider when buy a Diamond
- How the Diamonds color is graded
But if you have just jumped straight to the conclusion and are looking for some quick advice, then:
- D – H Color Diamonds are all colorless when viewed through the table
- You will only start to notice a hint of color through the table at an I color
- For most buyers, an F, G or H Color Diamond will be perfect
- M – Z Color Diamonds are known as tinted diamonds and are quite difficult to buy
So I hope that you not only enjoyed reading this post but also found it helpful.