One of the most important aspects of any diamond is the color, and it’s one of the main 4Cs of any diamond characteristics, in this article we will go over this in-depth and will take a look on a diamond color chart that will explain in details each color and the letters associated with it, let’s begin…
Diamond color is graded on a scale from Colorless to Yellow, with colorless diamonds being higher priced (and supposedly higher quality). On a diamond certificate or when looking at diamond characteristics online you will see a single letter notation of D for colorless down to J for the lowest graded colorless diamonds.
As for the colors of the fancy diamonds, beyond the Z range, like yellow or brown being the most common colors but less valuable than other colors. These rare specimens come in every color of the spectrum, including, most importantly, blue, green, pink, and red being the rarest colors. However, not all fancy colored are considered to be highly-priced.
Look at this D color diamond for example, on a color scale, this diamond has no color, and that’s why it’s priced at $7590 (1 carat), while an “almost” identical in all other factors (clarity, cut, polish, symmetry) diamond but with a J color is priced at around 60% of the first one, just for having a J color! So what’s the deal here?
Technically speaking, there are many more diamond colors than this (D to J), this page deals only with white diamonds and does not get into the fancy color diamonds (The chart below will only include the K grade) which are a subject for a different page, Wikipedia has a nice article on diamond color with a diamond color chart.
Update: Since the Wikipedia chart goes into many details that are not necessary for a lot of readers, I have created my own Diamond Color Chart (below) where you can see actual photos of diamonds and not an illustration. I think that seeing the actual photos will give you a better idea of the small differences between each step in the grading system.
Is it Always “Higher Color Diamond” Better?
While most retailers or online diamond sites will try and tell you that getting as high a diamond color grading as possible is preferred for the beauty of the stone, the truth is not always as they say, so please don’t take their word for it.
For example, James Allen claims that “when shopping for a diamond, it is generally preferred to have the least amount of color possible”, see how they used “generally”, which means not always, because later on the same page they state that “Most people find it very difficult (if not impossible) to tell the difference from one color grade to another. The difference in price, however, can be significant.”
The reality is much closer to the 2nd statement. Unless you are comparing the diamonds, side by side under a proper light and on a white background it will in fact be impossible to tell the difference between 2 diamonds colors that are just one grade apart on the diamond color scale, for instance, a G and H,
Do you know that even when you take 2 stones that are a bit further apart (for example an F and H) you will likely only notice the difference when you hold the 2 diamonds side by side? Looking at each stone individually, there is no chance to spot the difference between the diamond color of 2 stones. Diamond colors are subjective, not an exact science, so don’t ever think that someone can tell you exactly what color is this diamond without comparing it with other diamonds (that their colors are known).
This image shows a higher level scales for diamond colors along with grades, so as you see, hide any right & left diamond for any grade, and see yourself if you can spot the correct color:
Use a Diamond Color Chart And See For Yourself
Need proof? Take a look at my diamond color chart below that shows actual diamond photos from James Allen’s own diamond color chart and look at some colors that are adjacent to each other. Can you tell the difference?
Even on James Allen Color Scale which is an illustration that in my opinion overstates the differences, you will still have a hard time seeing the difference.
What some jewelers might also neglect to tell you is that there are other factors that affect the perceived color of a diamond, like fluorescence. Even the setting that the diamond will be set in effects how the color will look in the actual ring. If the setting is yellow gold even an E color diamond may look slightly yellowish so why spend the extra money on this?
My Own Diamond Color Chart With Real Diamond Images
Here is a diamond color chart that I put together showing you similar diamonds with only the color being different. All the diamond images below are real diamonds listed on James Allen at the time of this writing. Each image is clickable and will take you to a larger view for the diamond so you can see for yourself.
These diamonds have been selected where other factors are equal, they are all between 1.0 and 1.05 carat and is an Ideal cut VS1 Round diamond. The only major difference between them is the color. See if you can tell the difference between two adjacent grades.
|Color Grade||Description||Sample Image
D Colorless diamond are one of the most rare diamonds ever, they are truly colorless (along with E grade).
D Grade is also one of the most valuable grades you can ever find.
Most gemologist can tell the difference between D & E grades by comparison side by side, only a few of them can detect that in naked eye without having the other grade in hand.
E grade is coloreless as well, can't detect any color on it, it's valuable as D grade (almost).
You need an experienced gemologist to tell the difference between D & E as stated above.
F is colorless; almost!
Because when a gemologist looks at an F grade diamond as faced down, he/she can notice a very (undetectable) amount of color.
D, E & F grades should be in set of white gold or platinum, because color is reflected in yellow gold, it won't appear nice because it will negate the colorless effect in those grades.
G is the first line of near colorless grades.near colorless grades.
G is the most expensive grade among the near colorless grades, thus, you may see more of I & J in retail markets
Also note that price tend to decrease 10%-20% from grade G down to J. So a $1000 J diamond may cost around 60%-80% more if it was G grade.
H is a bit less expensive that G, but still more than J & I.
It can set (along with all near colorless grades) with platinum or white gold settings.
You will see more & more of I & J in retails because they are much cheaper than other graded colorless & near colorless diamonds.
Roughly speaking, I & J are almost half the price of D grade diamond.
Same as I, it's the cheapest (cheaper that I), most people prefer to get it since it's the most affordable near colorless diamond.
Yes, colorless & near colorless grades are much more expensive, but the K grade colored grade has a huge audience of fans, a lot of people love to see some color in their diamond, so they go shop for a K grade diamond, which shows a decent amount of color (compared to previous grades).
Mentioning the price, K grade is almost half the price of G grade diamond.
How Diamond Color Impacts Price
I’ve come across this quickly in the table, but I think it’s worth more details on the color effect on price.
While there is a jump in price between each of the colors on the scale the single largest jump is between G and H colors. There is no technical reason for this – both are still near colorless diamonds and as I said before- there is no way you will tell the difference between them. See my Guide to Diamond Pricing for a better understanding of how the jumps between colors relate to pricing.
To prove my point here are links to 2 diamonds with actual photos on the James Allen web site and a “Virtual Loupe” that lets you see the diamonds in detail. They are very similar except that this one is an E color diamond and this one is an F color diamond. Zoom in as much you want, can you honestly tell the difference? (Neither can she 🙂 )