Diamond Color 101: What Is It and How Does it Impact the Value Of Your Stone?

When purchasing a loose diamond, most buyers are quickly educated on what is known as the “Four C’s of Diamond Buying.” While it is a rather simple guideline to understanding the value of a stone before purchasing, it is a very helpful tool for anyone looking to invest in a quality diamond. These “C’s” stand for cut, clarity, carat weight and color. These characteristics can greatly impact the look and value of a diamond, but color in particular can completely change the appearance of your stone and the way it looks in its final setting.


What is Diamond Color?

When purchasing a standard diamond, color does not mean a hue such as those found in chocolate diamonds or pink diamonds, it instead is actually based on the absence of color. A pure diamond, has no hue, and is therefore deemed colorless. This is considered to be a structurally pure diamond, and therefore a more valuable stone. The GIA has a diamond color-grading scale that measure the color of different stones and it has become the most widely accepted way to grade diamond color in today’s market.
The scale starts with D, which represents a perfect, colorless stone and graduates based on the presence of color. The scale proceeds as follows going from colorless, to a light yellow tinge, with a Z rating being the lowest possible color on the scale. The scale is broken down in the following way.

  •  D: This is the highest level of colorless diamond on the scale. This serve as the most rare and most expensive diamonds.
  •  E: May contain minute traces of color only when comparing to D color stone but very high in brilliance level.
  •  F: The lowest color in the Colorless level of diamonds. Contain a very slight trace of color but very high in brilliance like D & E.
  •  G: The highest color of the “Near Colorless” group with very slightly noticeable trace of color. G color diamond will face very white to the naked eye.
  •  H: Very small level of color trace when compared to “Colorless” diamonds but will hold a great value and reflect great brilliance.
  •  I: Contains a small trace of color but typically appears almost colorless to the naked & untrained eye.
  •  J: Similar to I color grade but with a slightly more fiery tint.
  • K, L, M: Faint to more noticeable shade of fiery yellow color.

Most of the color distinctions between stones are so subtle that they are nearly undetectable to the untrained eye, unless you are comparing stones of drastically different color side by side.  Typically, any stone that is rated J or higher, has color that is unnoticeable to the average person.
It is important to note that this is a scale for naturally colored diamonds, not fancy colored diamonds. While some diamonds on the GIA scale are technically yellow in color, this is not the same as a yellow-colored fancy diamond.

Factors That Impact Perceived Diamond Color

The GIA ranks diamonds by comparing each stone to a “master stone” that represents known colors on the scale. This keeps the color ranking of each stone fairly standard across the market meaning most G diamonds will look the same in color no matter what their cut, size or where they came from. However, there are other factors that can impact the perceived color of a diamond, no matter what color grade it has: the setting it’s set in and the fluorescence of the stone.

Matching the color of the stone with the setting

The setting of a diamond can impact how the color of a diamond looks to the average person. In yellow gold settings, stones lower on the color scale will still look white, while the same stone may look yellow if it was placed in a white gold setting. This means, if you want to save money on a stone for a yellow gold or rose gold setting, you might be able to get a diamond that is lower on the color scale and still have a stone that looks colorless or near colorless. It is important to note, if you are planning on putting a stone in a platinum or white gold setting, stones with even a subtle amount of color can look yellow.

Another factor to consider is the light that these diamonds emit. Most diamonds give off a visible fluorescent light when exposed to UV radiation, such as the radiation from the sun. This doesn’t happen in all diamonds, but it does happen in some. Typically the stone will have a strong blue fluorescent hue that can make a light brown or yellow diamond look colorless in the right light as the blue will mask the yellow tinge. However, a stone that has too much fluorescence can look cloudy, or “oily” when in the sun, which will lower the color value of the diamond.

How Does a Stone’s Color Impact It’s Value?

While the average person on the street may not be able to come up to a diamond and see that it’s very light in color or colorless, these distinctions in color can make a huge difference in the value and quality of a stone. For the buyer, these differences can make a huge difference in the price.

Stone color and value are highly correlated, and many experts believe that after cut, color is typically the next most important characteristic to look for when selecting a diamond. When it comes to assessing the value of any polished diamond, it all comes down to rarity. Colorless diamonds, no matter what the shape, cut or size are more rare, and therefore more valuable. As a buyer, you are going to spend much more on a diamond of the same size that is a D, E or F than you are on one that is a K, L or M.

When attempting to buy a particular diamond, it is important to note that most diamonds available on the market today will have some small tint of yellow or brown. Pure, colorless, D-rated diamonds are very hard to come by. This color may not be noticeable to you or to the average naked eye, and it may be even more undetectable when placed in a particular setting, but it may still be there. What is most important is how that diamond looks to you, the buyer, in the setting and whether the price of that diamond and its color matches up to your perceived value of the stone.

One of the best ways to determine whether or not a loose diamond’s color will impact the overall look in a piece of jewelry, is to place it next to a similar stone with a higher color rating. You may find there is no noticeable difference, or you may suddenly feel as though your stone is dingy and yellow. So, while improvements in colors directly increases the per carat price of a stone, ultimately, the most important value to consider is the value that the stone has to you.

The less color the stone has, the more you will pay per carat, but when it comes to color there is much more room for interpretation than with the other “four C’s” of diamond buying. This is why when it comes to color, buyers need to take their time, compare the stones and ultimately choose a diamond with a color that best fits their needs.