The 4 C’s: Color
Diamond Color Guide
The Color Rating of a diamond signifies the absence of color within a stone. Stones range from yellow to colorless. The less color in a diamond, the higher value it has.
In this educational series from The Diamond Room, learn about how gemologists rate the color o fa diamond, the GIA color scale, and how the color of a diamond affects its value, reflectiveness, and more!
How is Diamond Color Determined?
To the untrained eye diamond color can seem subjective, and in a way it is. It takes the eye of a trained expert to be able to classify a diamond by its color.
Diamonds are rated on color using the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) color scale. This scale classifies each stone with a letter between D and Z. D means the least color, increasing in color to Z, meaning the most color.
Gemologists have a set of master stones that contain a diamond that represents each rating in the scale. When they are rating a diamond, they will compare it to the set of master stones until they find the right color. This takes a lot of expertise to be able to master the process. Diamonds are graded for color on their side, and compared to the master set stones also on their side.
The GIA Diamond Color Scale
It is very rare to find a diamond that does not have any color at all. Because of that, they are very expensive. Going down in the color scale (less pure), is a way to save some money without compromising too much beauty.
- Colorless: Any diamond rated between D – F
- Near Colorless: Any diamond rated between G – J
- Faint Yellow: Any diamond rated between K – M
- Very Light Yellow: Any diamond rated between N – R
- Light Yellow: Any diamond rated between S – Z
So, How Does Color Affect Value?
Simply put, the less color a stone has the rarer it is, and there for the more value it will carry. The larger the stone, the less likely it is to find a colorless diamond, so as the size of the stone goes up, the clarity will also carry a larger price tag.
What Color Diamond Do I Want?
The highest grade for a diamond would be a colorless diamond. This diamond will have zero traces of yellow or warm tones, and is purely colorless. Colorless diamonds are great for any setting in white gold or platinum. The second level on the scale, near colorless, is where most diamonds are purchased for engagement rings, earrings, and most fashion jewelry. If you are considering a yellow gold or rose gold setting, try looking at colors in the G-J range, as having the color contrast of the yellow or rose gold, can hide the warm tones in a diamond once it is set. Also, if you prefer size and are setting the diamond in a yellow gold or rose gold setting, try looking at some diamonds in the K-L range that are well cut, as this will hide even more of the color, yet save money, or put that money towards size or something else that’s a priority.
While some say color effects the sparkle of a diamond, this is not necessarily true. Sparkle is determined by the cut and accuracy of the faceting and polishing of each diamond. In fact, a well-cut diamond that reflects a significant amount of light, can actually make a diamond appear more colorless. The is especially true with round diamond that tend to have the most sparkle. If you want to either save money, or spend your money where you can see it, try lowering the color and focusing on how the diamond appears to the eye. If you haven’t compared different colors in person, be sure to do so as the color scale in diamonds is deceiving thru pictures and videos, and cannot truly be differentiated as easily in person.
Diamond Color FAQs
Why Does the Color Rating System Start at the Letter D?
Before the GIA created the universally recognized system, there were a wide variety of systems that were used to rate the color of a diamond. These systems were confusing and were not universally applied. One of the systems rated diamonds either A, B, or C. To avoid confusion, the GIA started the scale at D so it would not be confused with any previous system.
What Are Fancy Color Stones?
Fancy color stones are stones that do not rank on the standard GIA color scale. Diamonds coming in a rainbow of colors naturally in the earth, and can be lab-created in the same rainbow of colors using different treatments. The most commonly seen fancy color diamonds are yellow diamonds, blue diamonds, brown diamonds (sometimes referred to as chocolate diamonds). They do not get a color grade on the GIA scale and can be some of the most expensive diamonds in the world due to their rarity.
How Does a Stone Get Color?
Stones get color during the growing process. It depends on the purity of the elements that the stone is exposed to while it is growing. One common example of this is Nitrogen. A stone can turn yellow based on the nitrogen that is present when the diamond is forming. If a diamond has a green hue, it’s because it was exposed to radiation. Different elements like this will change the color of the diamond.
What Do I Need to Know About Precious Metals for Settings?
The metal you choose to display your stone with will not affect the true color of the stone. However, certain settings can disguise or emphasize the coloring of your stone.
For example, yellow-gold is a good option for a stone that has a lower (towards the end of the alphabet) rating. The hue of the gold distracts from the yellow-ish impurities that a diamond has. However, if you invested in a colorless diamond, white gold or silver are a great metal to show off the beauty!
Diamond Educational Series
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