The Ultimate Guide to Diamond Color
May 02, 2023
If you’ve ever shopped for a diamond, whether it was for an engagement ring, a pendant, or some other fabulous piece, you’re familiar with the 4Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat. Each of the four contributes to the overall diamond grade, and they each lend something specific and unique to the stone’s appearance and value.
Color is certainly no exception. It’s also a bit more straightforward than other measurements like cut. Keep reading to learn all about diamond color, why it’s important, and how it’s determined. Having a more thorough understanding of diamond grading (and diamonds in general) helps as you search for your perfect stone.
What is a Diamond Color?
It’s tempting to assume that diamond color is exactly what it says it is - the color of the diamond. That isn’t quite true. Instead, diamonds are typically evaluated based on an absence of color. With some exceptions, most people want a clear and colorless stone. A diamond with a yellow tint, for instance, isn’t as desirable as its colorless counterpart. While some of that comes down to personal taste, it also affects the grading.
Think of a diamond as you would think of water. You want something that is clean, clear and doesn’t hold any sort of hue. Diamonds work the same way. The highest-quality stones are like perfectly clear water, white lower-grade stones have a tint or hue to them.
Why Is It Important?
A diamond’s color can drastically influence its appearance, especially when you get to the lower grades. While some color differences are hard (sometimes even impossible) to spot with the naked eye, others are obvious enough to detract from the beauty of a stone. Even if you like the look of colored diamonds, most people aren’t eager to reach for a stone that holds an unappealing tint of yellow or even brown.
Beyond the presence (or absence, preferably) of color, it affects other aspects like brilliance. Colorless, clear stones tend to have more dramatic light play. You’ll get brighter flashes of white and appreciate the depth of the shadows more. Color isn’t important merely because your stone might look slightly yellow. Those hues and tints affect other qualities, too. The 4Cs, which of course include color, all work together to form the final product.
What Is the Most Popular Diamond Color?
The highest grade diamond is D, which is completely colorless. Completely colorless diamonds are the rarest, too, and cost significantly more as a result. A D-grade diamond likely won’t fit into every type of budget, so it’s not exactly the most popular even though it’s highly desirable. Beyond that, each grade has its own merits and holds popularity among different crowds.
- G-H-I-J - These grades are nearly colorless. If you want the look of a D-E-F diamond but need to stay within a certain budget, these four grades are great options and are purchased often. G-H diamonds, in particular, will give you the look you want, without paying the sometimes remarkable price for a true D-grade stone. I-J diamonds are solid options too, and while they hold a bit more color than G-H, they work well with yellow and rose gold. The warmth of the metal balances well with the slightly yellow stone.
- K-L-M - While these grades certainly have more color, they’re also a lot more affordable. People can afford to purchase larger stones as a result, so personal taste comes into play. When choosing your stone, ask yourself what you value most. If you want a larger stone, you may compromise on color. K-L-M diamonds can balance and complement warm metals, like rose gold and yellow gold, and are certainly still beautiful.
Overall, G-H diamonds are some of the most popular. They’re a great balance between the colorless look and budget and represent a happy medium.
How Are Diamond Colors Graded?
A lot goes into grading diamonds. After all, the ultimate grade has a big influence on the final value of the stone. The industry standard grading scale for diamonds runs from D all the way down to Z.
Experts use stones of known and agreed-upon grades and compare them to the new stones they’re grading. It takes keen observational skills, as some of the differences are so slight that it simply can’t be done with a standard look. Many people simply can’t spot the subtleties within certain ranges.
Generally speaking, there are five categories, with a range of grades falling within each one.
- Colorless - D-E-F diamonds fall into this category, with D being the pinnacle of a colorless diamond.
- Near Colorless - G-H-I-J diamonds are practically colorless but hold a whisper of yellow. It’s a bit more pronounced in the I-J diamonds.
- Faint - K-L-M diamonds have more yellow than near-colorless diamonds. It’s still at a level that can be offset by settings and metal, or just appreciated as its own look. They’re less expensive than near-colorless options, too, and remain popular as a result.
- Very Light - N-O-P-Q-R diamonds stray more into the yellow and brown territory and their color is more noticeable, even to the naked eye.
- Light - Grades S through Z fall into this category, with Z holding the most color of all. These tend to be the least desirable diamond grades and are the least expensive as a result.
How Can I Tell the Color of a Diamond?
It’s not always possible to determine a diamond's color simply by looking at it. The best way to know with certainty is to check its grade. It will correspond to one of the letters above, and you’ll know what that means for your diamond’s color. The differences between grades G and I, for example, are so subtle that you simply won’t see them at a glance. The differences between a D and Z-grade diamond, however, will be obvious.
Diamond color is only one of several factors involved in choosing a diamond, but it’s important. Unless you have a strong preference for diamonds with color, most people aim to get a stone as colorless as possible. There are plenty of options to do so. Don’t feel like you need to find that flawless D stone.