Diamond Color Scale: Understanding the GIA Chart

Sharif Khan
Sharif Khan
Last Updated    EST 
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Color plays a critical role in determining the quality and value of a diamond. As one of the 4Cs, the color of white diamonds is a yellowish hue that negatively impacts a diamond's brilliance. Colorless diamonds in the D, E, and F range command higher price points than lower color grades like J, K, and M. Diamonds in the near colorless range, particularly G and H colors, are also regarded as relatively premium color grades.

The color of diamonds is influenced by natural chemical interactions with carbon during a diamond's growth and formation process. In exceptional cases, other minerals naturally combine with carbon, resulting in various distinct colors. For instance, rare blue diamonds like the famed Hope Diamond owe their color to the presence of the mineral boron in the diamond.

In summary, here are the key factors to consider while considering the color grade of a diamond.

  • After cut and carat weight, color is considered the third most important "C" when evaluating the brilliance of a diamond.
  • When shopping for a premium quality diamond, in addition to a premium color grade, make sure the diamond is also well cut with an exceptional clarity grade.
  • Avoid fluorescence in colorless diamonds. However, it is not as much of a negative factor in H, I, or lower color grade diamonds.
  • When choosing between color or clarity, compromise on the latter

This guide is for the D to Z color scale of white diamonds. Fancy color diamonds are assessed based on different criteria, i.e., transparency and intensity of color.

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Diamond Color Key Insights

Colorless Diamonds
Diamonds falling within the D-F color range are categorized as colorless and are the top color grades. However, D and E colors are pricier due to the scarcity factor. 
Near Colorless

G color diamonds are exceptional and exhibit minimal discernible difference from colorless diamonds. For example, this 1 carat G VS2 diamond and 1 carat F VS2 diamond have a $1,000 price difference,  but they offer a great value. H and I color grades are also considered excellent choices within a constrained budget.

Avoid fluorescence in colorless diamonds. However, the presence of faint to medium blue fluorescence can prove beneficial for diamonds falling within the H-J color range.
Color vs. 4Cs
Prioritizing color over clarity is a better strategy because when a diamond is visually clean to the naked eye, its brilliance is less susceptible to clarity than color. Nevertheless, as illustrated in the four scenarios below, it remains essential to accord equal priority to all 4Cs (Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight). When buying a larger diamond of 2 carats or more, the significance of color becomes paramount. Larger stones tend to display color more prominently than their smaller counterparts.
When selecting settings for diamonds with I and below color grades, metals like rose or yellow gold can serve as favorable options. These choices can counterbalance the subtle yellow tint that might be present in white diamonds.

Full illustration of Diamond Color Scale

Diamond Color Grades Scale

The D to Z diamond color grade scale indicates the degree to which coloration is apparent within a diamond. Stones with minimal visible coloration achieve higher color evaluations, whereas diamonds with lower color grades exhibit a yellow tint that can be seen with the naked eye.

diamond color comparison options

Understanding diamond fluorescence is vital while considering a diamond's color grade. The absence of fluorescence typically benefits colorless diamonds (D-F) since blue fluorescence can create an excessively bluish appearance. Nevertheless, blue fluorescence can benefit diamonds in the H and above color grades, imparting a whiter appearance. This phenomenon occurs because blue is complementary to yellow, and the interplay between the two hues enhances the diamond's perceived whiteness.

Moreover, the color of the metal used for the diamond's mounting can influence the perceived color of a slightly yellow diamond. Opting for a rose or yellow gold setting is advisable when selecting an H or higher color diamond. The metal's reflective properties contribute to the diamond's perceived whiteness. Conversely, for D-G color diamonds, white gold or platinum mountings are the ideal choice unless you prefer yellow or rose gold.

Diamond Color Chart

Grading labs evaluate white diamonds along a spectrum from colorless to yellowish or brownish hues. AGS's scale ranges from 0 to 10 (colorless to elaborate yellow), and GIA's scale spans D to Z (colorless to light yellow).

Diamond Color Scale

GIA's diamond color grades are outlined as follows:

  1. Colorless D, E, F

Differences in color between D, E, and F diamonds are discernible primarily through gemological side-by-side comparisons and rarely apparent to the untrained eye. D-F diamonds are best suited for white gold or platinum settings, as yellow gold can reflect color and compromise the diamond's colorless essence.

  1. Near Colorless G, H, I, J

G-J diamonds contain faint traces of color and harmonize well with platinum or white gold settings, which adeptly mask any hint of color within the diamond. Given the relatively more common nature of I-J diamonds compared to higher grades, they generally offer excellent value. An I-J diamond might retail at around half the cost of a D diamond. Prices within the G-J range typically escalate by 10-20% between each diamond grade.

  1. Faint Color K, L, M

K diamonds may exhibit a more easily noticeable color, often a yellow tint, detectable by the naked eye. They are better suited for settings in yellow gold. These warm-colored diamonds possess a unique appeal and can represent exceptional value. The L and M diamonds may manifest a significant color presence. Due to the discernible color tint, a K diamond often comes at roughly half the price of a G diamond.

  1. Very Light Color N - R

Diamonds falling within the N-R color range may exhibit a distinct yellow or brown tint, albeit not as pronounced as in higher-grade diamonds.

  1. Light Color S - Z

For most customers, S-Z diamonds possess a substantial color presence that may not align with the desired appearance of a white diamond.

Which Color Grade Represents the Best Value?

While white diamonds tend to be more frequently mined worldwide, a diverse range of fancy colors also exists. Interestingly, a diamond's color can either diminish or enhance its value.

White diamonds are evaluated against colorless counterparts using a grading system developed by GIA, forming an industry benchmark and being categorized. Conversely, a wholly separate evaluation is conducted for fancy-colored diamonds. Stones with rarer and more vibrant hues in such diamonds command a premium due to their distinctiveness.

Diamonds that fall within the white category and receive a colorless grade are considered precious. The greater the yellowish tint in a white diamond, the more its value diminishes.

Full diamond color chart

The best value is often found among diamonds falling within the G to H range of color grades, as they appear nearly colorless to the naked eye. Additionally, they are considerably more affordable than colorless diamonds. J to L color grades can also provide excellent value for budget-conscious buyers, as the faint yellow hue in these diamonds is only subtly discernible and doesn't significantly affect their overall appearance.

Fancy vs. White Color Diamonds

Fancy color diamonds distinguish themselves from their white counterparts. More than 90% of traded diamonds fall within the white category, which are graded based on a standard industry grading scale. In contrast, colored diamonds lack a standardized grading system. Fancy color diamonds are highly sought after for their rarity, value, and elegance, especially when boasting intense color and high clarity.

fancy color engagement rings

When shopping for colored diamonds, buyers will often notice that the price tag on these stones surpasses that of their colorless counterparts. Given their potential as valuable investment options, fancy color diamonds prove an excellent choice for those with the means.

Colored diamond stones also exhibit a captivating play of light, influenced by carat weight, cut, and shape factors. Nevertheless, the visual spectacle of colored diamonds illuminated by light is remarkable. The spectrum of diamond colors is vast; in this context, it refers to the hues of the finished stones offered to buyers. While white or colorless diamonds remain popular, those with non-white colors are termed fancy diamonds. Among these fancy colors, pink, yellow, blue, green, and purple reign. Notably, jewelry enthusiasts often favor shades of pink and yellow, though other fancy colors also have their devotees.

Among the array of colors, certain ones hold higher price tags, a consequence of factors such as uniqueness and accessibility in obtaining these gemstones. Pink diamonds, in particular, tend to command the highest prices. Each color category contains subcategories delineated by variations in intensity: mild, regular, intense, and vivid. Generally, the lighter-colored stones are more budget-friendly when contrasted with their vibrant counterparts.

Fancy color diamonds also prove more challenging to acquire than colorless or white gems, increasing their allure. Due to scarcity, people are drawn to obtaining pink gems over colorless ones. While a few red diamonds exist with extremely high prices per carat, they remain scarce in today's market.

When seeking to buy a fancy color diamond, a few tips are worth considering:

  1. Determine a suitable price range, as it will guide you toward the desired gem color and variety.
  2. Educate yourself about fancy stones to make informed selections.
  3. Keep an open mind regarding fancy colors, as assistance may be needed to acquire a specific stone. However, other options might prove equally or even more appealing than the initial choice.

Balancing Color & 4Cs

 Our experience shows shoppers often use the following approach when prioritizing the 4Cs.

Ideal Proportions

Scenario 1: Individuals opt for the pinnacle of color and clarity within this category. They buy diamonds within the D to F and FL to VVS range, an impeccable cut, GIA or AGS certification, and no fluorescence. These diamonds, often called investment grade, are exceedingly rare and hold substantial value.

Scenario 2: Under this choice, shoppers prioritize both quality and size. Aiming for a 1.5-carat stone, they gravitate towards G to H color grade, VS1-2 clarity, and a very good to excellent cut. These diamonds also come with GIA or AGS grading; faint to medium blue fluorescence is acceptable in this range. This category is particularly appealing due to its relatively premium quality at a more reasonable budget range.

Scenario 3: Within this range, buyers set their sights on maximizing size while targeting an eye-clean, respectable color grade stone. Consequently, they may venture into the SI1/SI2 clarity range and consider diamonds in the I or J color spectrum. Even strong blue fluorescence is not a significant concern in this range.

Scenario 4: This alternative involves a conscious trade-off in one of the 4Cs to amplify the impact of the remaining three. Under this scenario, buyers compromise on color to secure a diamond of high clarity and exceptional cut while achieving a more substantial carat weight. The resulting stone maintains optimal brilliance despite bearing a subtle warm yellow hue—a characteristic some individuals even find endearing.

In conclusion, the quest for the ideal diamond necessitates careful consideration of the factors that substantially contribute to its beauty. Beyond the selection of shape and cut, factors such as color must be thoughtfully weighed while buying a diamond full of brilliance and fire.