What is Diamond Color? A Complete Guide

What is diamond color?

Diamond color is a primary quality factor along with the other 4Cs of Diamond Clarity, Diamond Carat Weight, and Diamond Cut. Most diamonds have hints of color, and subtle color differences have a big impact on diamond prices. Diamonds are actually found in many colors, but the majority of diamonds available will have tints of yellow or brown.


Octavia Asscher Cut Diamond
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1.34 carat H Color Octavia asscher cut diamond

What is the Diamond Color Scale?

There have been methods for grading diamond color since the 1700s. Colorless diamonds have always been valued for their rarity and purity of crystal.

Today, diamonds are generally evaluated by a diamond color scale that was developed in the 1950s by GIA’s Richard T. Liddicoat. The Color Grading Scale starts with the letter D and ends at Z. D colored diamonds have the least amount of color and Z colored diamonds have the most color in the range of D-Z. Beyond Z color, diamonds are graded as Fancy Color with a separate set of parameters.

GIA Color Grading Scale

*Fun Fact – When GIA developed the D-Z grading system they avoided A-C because some dealers use A1 to C3 for ‘in-house’ grading systems.


How is diamond color graded?

Diamond graders assess color by placing a diamond in a lighting unit that simulates daylight. The diamond is positioned face down rather than face up, so the grader can evaluate body color. The diamond will be compared to masterstones of similar color. Masterstones are sets of diamonds that represent the D-Z color scale.


Well cut diamond vs. poorly cut diamond
Diamond Color is graded face down


What Is The Most Expensive Diamond Color?

D colored diamonds are the rarest and most expensive of diamonds within the D-Z scale. Certain fancy colored diamonds will command the highest prices overall, and these will be discussed in separate tutorial. Many people enjoy diamonds in the near colorless range G-J, as they find a balance of size, clarity, and price to meet their needs.

*Compare diamond prices of different color grades.


Diamond Color – The Nitty Gritty


What causes color in diamonds?


Diamonds are carbon essentially, but most diamonds will have trace impurities that create color. For example, nitrogen impurities cause yellow color. Nitrogen is the most common impurity in diamond, so the majority of diamonds you’ll see in the marketplace will have varying degrees of yellow tint. Brown color in diamond is thought to be caused by internal graining, which results from structural irregularites often in combination with an impurity like nitrogen. Colorless diamonds are very rare, as they contain little to no impurities and are essentially chemically pure.

*Stay tuned for our Fancy Color tutorial, where we will discuss cause of color in depth.


Does diamond fluorescence affect color?

Diamond Fluorescence may potentially make a warmer colored stone appear more colorless. About 30% of all diamonds fluoresce blue, and blue will make diamonds with yellow tint generally appear “whiter” than their non-fluroescent counterparts. The effect of fluorescence should be judged on a case-by-case basis, as diamonds will fluoresce to varying degrees.


How does diamond cut affect color?

Well-cut round brilliant diamonds will typically hide their color better than poorly cut stones of the same shape. Also certain fancy shapes like emerald cuts, ovals, and pear cuts will reveal more color, because they typically have broader facet arrangements. The brighter the cut, the less color you will see from the face-up view. However, color will still be visible from the pavillion.


Do different labs have different color grades?

With the exception of AGS Labs numerical color grading scale, most diamond grading labs utilize GIA’s D-Z scale. Not all laboratory color grading is equal, as there are differences among the labs. There is a certain amount of subjectivity among human color graders, and labs utilize several graders to assess the final color grade. Click on the links below for different lab color grading methods.

GIA Color Grading Scale

AGS Labs Numerical Color Grading Scale

International Gemological Institute (IGI)


HRD Antwerp


Ring metals and diamond color

Precious Metals can change the overall apparent color of a diamond. Diamonds reflect light back to the viewers eye, and they also reflect light of surrounding metal. Metal choice is a personal preference, and there are two general schools of thought about diamond color and metal. Some prefer to set warmer colored diamonds in white metal to help them face-up a bit whiter, while others find the contrast of yellow or rose gold and diamond to be desirable. Additionally, some prefer to see warmth in their diamonds, so that should be considered when choosing the color of metal.


Platinum Tacori Emerald Cut Diamond Ring
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2.75 carat J color emerald cut diamond in platinum

Diamond color is personal

As with all of the 4C’s, color is subject to personal preferences which depend on cultural, social, and personal background. Some cultures prefer higher clarity diamonds and are prepared to sacrifice color for “purity,” while others deem high color paramount, and will hold it above the other 4Cs. For many, size is the ultimate factor, and they are willing to go lower in color to get the size they desire for the right price. Remember, the choice is yours.


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