Diamond Color Explained

Diamonds come in an array of dazzling colors. Along with cut, clarity, and carat weight, color is one of the 4 C’s of diamond quality and is an important attribute for assessing your stone. Color has a significant impact on the appearance and value of your diamond and is crucial to think about when looking to buy or sell.

Diamond Color Grades Explained

In this article, we will answer the following questions:

What Is Diamond Color?

Diamonds are assessed by how close to colorless they are (the exclusion to this is fancy colored diamonds). While a diamond may appear white to the naked eye, few diamonds truly are. They generally range from colorless to slight hints of yellow or brown. The GIA, considered the industry standard in diamond grading, ranks diamonds D (completely colorless) to Z (slight hints of yellow or brown). D-color diamonds are the most valuable and Z-color diamonds are much less desired on the market. These D to Z gradings are used across the industry and can be an important way to assess the quality of your diamond. The color gradings can be interpreted as the following:

  • D, E, and F – colorless (generally all appear colorless to the untrained eye)
  • G, H, I, and J – near colorless (very common; often still appear colorless to the naked eye)
  • K, L, M – faint (slight visible tint)
  • N, O P, Q, R – very light (more visible tint)
  • S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z – light (brown or yellow tint is very noticeable)

A gemologist assesses color grade by comparing a diamond to a set of “master stones”. These are diamonds that range from D-Z.

diamond color

What Is Diamond Fluorescence?

Another important aspect of diamond color is fluorescence. When a diamond has fluorescence, it means that the diamond emits visible light. When put under ultraviolet light, a diamond with fluorescence will appear to glow. GIA grades fluorescence from faint to medium to strong to very strong. It is often very difficult to distinguish between a diamond with fluorescence and a diamond without—both appear very similar.

Fluorescence can have both positive and negative effects on a diamond’s appearance and value. Sometimes, a very strong fluorescence can create a hazy color appearance. In these cases, fluorescence often decreases a diamond’s value. On the other hand, blue fluorescence can make yellowish diamonds appear more colorless, increasing their appearance and value.

What Are Fancy Colored Diamonds?

Diamonds that fall outside of the D to Z color range are considered fancy colored diamonds. Fancy colored diamonds are incredibly rare and come in colors including fancy pinks, fancy blues, fancy greens, fancy violets, fancy yellows, and more. Fancy colored diamonds are assessed based on three attributes—hue, saturation and tone.

Hue- This refers to the actual color of your diamond—whether it be pink, blue, yellow, orange, etc. Many colored diamonds also exhibit secondary hues. For example, blue diamonds often contain secondary gray colors. If a blue diamond exhibits a secondary gray tone, it may be labeled as either grayish blue or gray blue. These terms can be applied to all colored diamonds with secondary colors. These terms differ slightly:

  • “Grayish blue” diamonds - exhibit some gray hue but primarily a blue hue (ie. 20% gray and 80% blue).
  • “Gray blue” diamonds – exhibit an even larger amount of gray but are still mainly blue (ie. 40% gray and 60% blue)

When describing a diamond, the first adjective (in the above examples either grayish or gray) is considered the modifier and blue is considered the primary color. If the modifying color is more valuable than the primary color, the modifier will increase the stone’s value. If the modifying color is less valuable than the primary color, the modifier will decrease the stone’s value. In the case above, because gray is a less valuable stone color than blue, a grayish blue or a gray blue diamond will be less valuable than just a pure blue stone.

  • Tone- This signifies how light or dark the color of the diamond is.
  • Saturation- This refers to the strength or weakness of the color.

Depending on its hue, saturation, and tone, your fancy colored diamond will be categorized as one of the following color intensities (ranging from least intense to most intense):

  • Fancy Light
  • Fancy
  • Fancy Intense
  • Fancy Vivid
  • Fancy Deep

This color label will have a large impact on the appearance and value of your diamond. The more color present, the more valuable it is.

How Does Color Affect The Value Of My Diamond?

Color has a significant impact on the value of your diamond. As color grade decreases, price can drop significantly. Below is a real-world example of price differences based on color grade between otherwise identical 1-carat diamonds:

Color Grade Price Per Carat % Drop in Price From Next Highest Grade
D $7250
E $6500 12%
F $6100 7%
G $5450 12%
H $5000 9%
I $4300 16%
J $3600 19%
K $3150 14%

As carat weight increases, the price difference between different color grades increases even more dramatically.

How To Find Out The Color Grade Of My Diamond?

If you are unsure of the color of your diamond, it can be helpful to consult any certificates or paperwork you may have about your stone. GIA certificates are the most trusted form of information in the industry and provide very accurate color assessments. If you do not have any papers about your diamond, a local jeweler will typically be able to give you an approximate idea of color grade free of charge. Alternatively you can come in for an appointment at our New York or Birmingham (UK) headquarters. Once you know the color grade, clarity grade and carat weight, we are able to provide you with a free price quote. Simply fill out the online form and one of our in-house diamond experts will be in touch shortly with a price quote.