What is Diamond Color?


Diamonds come in different shades of color and can range from colorless to varying shades of yellow. Even though most diamonds appear colorless to the naked eye, many have slight tones of yellow that affect its value. The closer a diamond is to colorless, the more rare and valuable it is.



In the industry, we often use the expression “white diamond” to describe a colorless diamond. White or colorless diamonds are graded on a color scale from D (colorless) to Z (heavily tinted yellow). This grading system was developed by a non-profit organization known as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)  in the 1950s and has been used by industry experts ever since. This grading is done in a special, controlled environment because the difference between each shade is very subtle and often unnoticeable to the naked eye. There are two methods used by industry experts to grade the color of diamonds: firstly, the diamonds are turned upside down against a flat white background, and secondly, using a colorimeter. A colorimeter uses full-spectrum analysis to accurately grade diamond color. This machine has the ability to break down one color into five subdivisions.


Method I: Flat White Background

(Source:  GIA)


Method II: Diamond Colorimeter

(Source: Mehta Tools)

💡 FUN FACT: When observing the color in the diamond, one can see it more easily at the tips when grading. Therefore, color is more easily observed in pointed fancy shaped diamonds like pears, marquise, and ovals.



In addition to the D – Z color scale, natural fancy color diamonds such as deep yellows lie outside the white diamond color range and are extremely rare and valuable. These natural fancy-colored diamonds are graded according to the intensity of their color. The more intense and vibrant their shade, the higher their value. It’s important to note that a diamond with a yellow tint and a natural fancy color yellow diamond is not the same. A white diamond with a yellow tint is subtler in color that can negatively affect its value, while a fancy color yellow diamond is highly desirable and comes in various shades of richer, more vibrant yellow.


Fancy Color Yellow Diamond posted by PS Member Madelise.




(Source:  GIA)


D: Absolutely colorless. The rarest and valuable. Less than 1% of diamonds mined worldwide are graded as color D.

E – F: Also considered colorless, even though it is a minimal trace of color that can only be detected by an expert gemmologist. Less rare than D, and more valuable than G – H.

G – H: Near-colorless.  To the naked eye, these diamonds appear clear and colorless, although they also contain minute traces of color. Less rare than E –F, but more valuable than I – J.

I – J: Near-colorless with a faint tint of yellow. Less rare than G – H, but more valuable than K – L.

K – L: A faint yellow tint that is visible to the eye.  Less rare than I – J, but slightly more valuable than M – N.

M – Z: A very light yellow tint, easily identified by the eye.  Least valuable of the diamond color grade.


💡 FUN FACT: Near colorless diamonds (G, H, I, and J) have the best value and are commonly sold in the market to make engagement rings. 


There are two aspects that general consumers can often be caught off guard with when it comes to shopping for diamonds: firstly, lighting and secondly, certification.



There is a correlation between diamond color and lighting. Brick-and-mortar retailers can often use the store lighting to their best advantage. Bright LED lighting shows off how sparkly a diamond is so a consumer with less knowledge won’t pay close attention to the color. As long as the diamond sparkles to the naked eye, one would be enticed to make a purchase and walk out the store hoping that the diamond will sparkle the same elsewhere. If someone purchases a diamond based on the way its sparkles under one type of lighting, they never see the diamond in all conditions. People don’t normally notice a diamond’s color too much unless it is placed next to another diamond. For example, if you have a solitaire diamond ring – color will not be as important as a diamond ring with lots of big diamonds next to it because the subconscious mind will compare the diamond color only when it is next to others. 



It is important to note that some for-profit laboratories such as the European Gemological Laboratories, or EGL, are more lenient in their grading system when it comes to certifying diamonds.  What happens here instead of paying a non-profit laboratory to grade the diamond such as GIA. Jewelers may also pay a cheaper laboratory to grade a diamond higher than it should be, so one could be paying the price of an H colored diamond for a K or L colored diamond. 


This is why a certificate from GIA is more dependable when it comes to the quality of the diamond as opposed to seeing it in a brick-and-mortar store. Artificial lights and a low-quality certificate can fool unsuspecting buyers.  


💡 FUN FACT: Color does not equal beauty. Color equals rarity. 


It is important to note that cut is regarded as the most important characteristic of a diamond, irrespective of the color. In a brilliant cut diamond, chances are it will still look appealing to the eye irrespective of its color. The cut of a diamond maximizes its beauty, brilliance, fire, and sparkle. 

For more information on diamond color, visit our guide or leave a question or comment in the section below.


Written by Bianca Mac Donald

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