It has always been fascinating to all of us; the ability of women to discriminate among colors and actually seeing more color gradations than men. And for this specific reason, color shouldn’t be taken lightly; especially when it comes to diamond color! Check this reference if still in doubt.
Color is considered to be one of the main 4Cs of the diamond characteristics. It’s also one of the most important aspects to look at when considering buying any diamond.
We said “one of” and not the most important, because we know for a fact that the most important factor among the 4Cs of a diamond is the Cut!
In this article, we will examine a diamond color thoroughly and will take a look at a diamond color chart that will explain in detail each color and the letters associated with it. Shall we?
Diamond color is graded on a scale from Colorless to Yellow; colorless diamonds being higher priced (and supposedly higher quality).
On a diamond certificate or when looking at diamond characteristics online, you will clearly see single letter notations starting from D for colorless (most valuable) down to J for the lowest graded colorless diamonds.
There are more color grades on the scale down until Z, and beyond the Z range, some of the exotic colors exist (most common are yellow and brown)! It’s worth mentioning though, that these have less value than other diamond colors!
And as the great Jerry Lee Lewis sang once on breathtaking colored diamonds in the famous classic Big Blue diamonds:
Big diamonds, big blue diamonds, on her finger
(On her finger)
Yes, ‘stead of a little band of gold
(Big blue diamond)
Big diamonds (big blue diamonds)
Big blue diamonds (big blue diamonds)
Tell a story of the love
That the one man could ever hold
(Of them all)
When talking about rare specimens, these gems come in every color of the spectrum, including blue, green, pink, and red; the rarest colors ever found. However, not all fancy colors are considered to be highly priced.
Look at this D-color diamond for example. On a standard diamond color scale, this diamond has absolutely no color, that’s why it’s priced at $7,590 (1 carat), while an “almost” identical gem in all other factors (clarity, cut, polish, and symmetry) but with a J-color is priced at almost 60% of the D-color one, for the sole reason that it has a J color!
So what’s the deal here exactly?
One point though, we focus in this article only on the common diamond colors (D to K). However, technically speaking, there are way fancier diamond colors which we will not be getting into details in this blog.
Since the Wikipedia chart gets into many details that are not really necessary for a lot of our readers, we took the liberty to create our own Diamond Color Chart (below) where you can see actual photos of diamonds and not just an illustration.
We believe that seeing the actual photos will give you a better idea of the small differences between each step in the grading system.
What is Diamond Color Scale (Chart)?
When GIA wanted to define & grade diamonds based on their color, they came up with a diamond color scale, which is now a reference for most reputable certification labs out there.
The scale is organized in two levels:
- Each grade is labeled with a letter that tells how much color the diamond has, D is considered the highest grade possible (no color at all), all the way down to Z (yellow)..
- Every set of adjacent letters is grouped into a categorization of how overall this group of grades is standing against having color, the groups are ranging from 3 grades up to 8 grades.
The image here shows how each adjacent colors are grouped, with first group being “Colorless” and last being “Light Yellow”, as you see there is a huge difference between S to Z, but they ended up putting them all together in one group.
Why this is important? Because these groups are a very attractive selling points! People will always try to stay in the colorless group, because they think G or H will show some yellow color.
That’s why the price difference between F & G colors for example is higher than the difference between E & F, because you’re jumping from a group to another as we will see below!
Truth is… Let’s see:
Is it Always “Higher Color Diamond” is Better?
While most retailers or online diamond sites will try and encourage you to get the highest diamond color grade possible, and even convince you that it is the preferable choice for the beauty of the stone, the truth is far away from that.
For instance, James Allen claims that “when shopping for a diamond, it is generally preferred to have the least amount of color possible”. Well, “generally” doesn’t mean always!
But they did a good job (for the buyer side) when they later mentioned on the same page 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 actually much closer to the 2nd statement. Therefore, 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 diamond colors that are just one grade apart on the diamond color scale.
The best example is the difference between G and H, while we always tell our readers that you shouldn’t get a diamond from “Colorless” group, the first option after it is G color, and to be honest, H is almost impossible to differentiate from G!
Anyhow, there’s absolutely no chance that a naked eye could spot the color difference between 2 stones when looking at each one of them individually!
Even when you take 2 gems 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, but in most cases, you can’t tell how many grades they are apart from each other!
Diamond color is subjective and doesn’t stand as a science by itself, so don’t ever think that someone can tell you exactly what color is this diamond without comparing it with another set of diamonds (that their colors are known).
To demonstrate, here are two almost identical diamonds (cut, clarity, carat, polish, symmetry, fluourescence), the only difference is that one of them is F color, while the other is E, so one grade difference only:
Can you guess which is which?
Here are the links for both diamonds, the one to the left is the E color (link), and if you guessed the right one to be clearer, then you spotted the F diamond (link), feel free to check the diamonds under 20x (and even 40x; latest imaging technology from James Allen)
You can zoom in as much you want, can you honestly tell the difference? (Well, spoiler alert, neither can she!)
Use a Diamond Color Chart And See For Yourself
Still not convinced? Check out our 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?
James Allen has their own Color Scale, which is an illustration for how different diamond color grades look like, but in our opinion it overstates the differences, you can do the comparison on real diamonds on JA and see the difference.
What some jewelers might not tell you (and to be honest, we consider this as negligence), 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 affects how the color will look on the actual ring.
If the setting is yellow gold even an E color diamond may look slightly yellowish so why spend extra money on that?
Our Own Diamond Color Chart With Real Diamond Images
Here is a diamond color chart that we put together showing similar diamonds (all factors are constant) varying color only. All diamonds here have been selected to be between 1.0 and 1.05 carats, ideal cut, VS2 clarity, and round shape.
All the diamond images below are real diamonds listed on James Allen (at the time of writing this blog), each image is clickable zooming into a larger view for each diamond.
As you’ve probably noticed, the only major difference between the gems is the color. See for yourself if you can tell the difference between two adjacent grades.
Grade, Category, Description and a Real Image
D - Colorless
E - Colorless
F - Colorless
G - Near Colorless
H - Near Colorless
I - Near Colorless
J - Near Colorless
K - Faint Color
How Diamond Color Impacts Price
In spite of us mentioning this in the table briefly, we’ll give you a little secret for diamond color effect on pricing.
While there is a jump in price between each of the colors on the scale, the single largest jump is found to be between the G and F colors.
Actually, there is no obvious technical reason for that, besides, the actually reason is that WE control this! Because most people will try to get F to stay in the colorless group, which makes it a “hot” selling point for diamond whales, and price that accordingly.
And again, there is no way an untrained eye can tell the difference between them.
We saw the same thing in carat pricing, a lot of people prefer to get at least 1 carat, this exact 1 carat point is overpriced, because a jump between 0.9 carat to 0.95 will not be the same as a jump between 0.95 to 1 carat! But people freak out when they hear “less than 1 carat”!
Also, read our Guide to Diamond Pricing for a better understanding of how jumps between colors relate to pricing.
Happy diamond shopping!