Understanding Diamond Color

Inspecting lab grown diamond color under loupe

Because of the way laboratory-grown diamonds are created in a lab, they exhibit identical chemical, physical and optical characteristics to mined diamonds. This means, just like their natural counterparts, lab-grown diamonds exist in a scale or range of colors.

What is Diamond Color?

Diamond Color Is Actually Its Lack of Color - Diamond color is the natural color or ‘whiteness’ of the diamond. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) refers to diamond color as the lack of natural color visible within a diamond.

In white diamonds, color describes how clear or yellow the diamond is and affects how light passes through the diamond. Diamonds with less natural color allow more light to pass through and result in more sparkle, brilliance, and fire and therefore, have a higher value.

By norm, higher quality diamonds are ‘colorless’, while lower quality diamonds often have a slight yellow tint. Diamond color is not only a measure of quality but also a measurement of its rarity. The more colorless the diamond, the rarer it is, so and the higher value it has. However, there are “fancy colored” diamonds that have non-white, unique colors and are considered even rarer than colorless white diamonds.

With white diamonds, color in diamonds is caused by different trace elements present while the diamond is formed. Color in diamonds is the result of 3 components: hue, tone, and saturation. Hue is the basic tinge or impression of color such as yellow, brown, gray, pink, or another color. Tone is the relative lightness or darkness of color, and saturation refers to the strength, purity, and intensity of the hue. Colorless or near-colorless diamonds rarely have vivid saturation.

Most diamonds used in jewelry are colorless or nearly colorless with tints of yellow or brown. Though even with these diamonds, there is variation in color that is measured on a scale from D (colorless) to X (light yellow).

Diamond Color Scale and How it is Measured

Since diamond color actually refers to the absence of color, a chemically pure and structurally accurate diamond has no hue and higher value. Diamond color is measured using GIA’s globally accepted color scale that starts from D (colorless) and goes until Z (light yellow or brown in color). 

Diamond color grades are measured and determined by comparing each diamond, under controlled lighting, to a master set, (i.e., a predetermined set with established diamond grades). Each letter grade represents color and how noticeable the color is. The lower the letter, the more color there is and the lower the diamond quality.

  • D color is the highest grade and means the diamond is of the highest quality, extreme rarity, and highest value.
  • E & F color are the next highest ‘colorless’ grades with nearly no color, even under magnification.
  • G color has nearly no color and appears nearly colorless to the naked eye.
  • H color is nearly colorless to the naked eye but may display a faint yellow tint under magnification in bright lighting.
  • I color is also near-colorless with a yellow hue, especially visible when compared to diamonds of a higher color grade.

Though the color-grading system rates diamonds from D to Z, only diamonds that fall in the D to M grade range are usually used in jewelry. However, our lab-grown diamonds do not come in a color grade below I color because they have a noticeable yellow tint that no longer makes them appear ‘colorless’ and thus they do not meet our color quality standards.

How Color is affected by Diamond Size, Diamond Shape & Setting

While diamond color is an important factor of a diamond, it is the 4C’s (carat, cut, clarity, and color) that collectively determine a diamond’s quality and value and so they should be considered in totality when buying a diamond entirely.

Color is more visible in bigger diamonds. For example, you may consider choosing H/I grade for small diamonds, especially to set in jewelry because their slight hue is invisible to the naked eye. But we recommend choosing an H-grade and grade for stones over 1 carat in size.

Some fancy-shapes hide color better than others. For example, a round brilliant cut is better at hiding color than an emerald cut. Besides the shape, the cut of the diamond also affects the amount of light that passes through it, increasing its sparkle.

Similarly, the diamond setting and color of precious metals play a role in the perception and view of diamond color. For example, yellow gold emits a warm glow and compliments diamonds with faint colors. Platinum or white gold makes near-colorless diamonds look whiter/icier.

Like the 4C’s, diamond color affects its price. Thus, by knowing your size, shape, and setting preferences and how diamond color affects these attributes, you can make an informed color choice and valuable diamond purchase. 

What are Fancy Color Diamonds?

Diamonds, both natural and lab-grown, come in the natural rainbow spectrum of colors such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple, brown, gray, and more. These are known as colored or fancy-colored diamonds. Fancy-colored diamonds are diamonds with a unique color that is outside the ‘normal’ color range (D-Z). Since yellow hue in white diamonds undesirably reduces diamond brilliance, Z-graded diamonds are not considered fancy-colored.

Since such colors are rare and unique, with fancy color diamonds, the more intense the color, the rarer and more valuable the diamond. These exclusive diamonds are graded on a separate color scale and are more expensive than white diamonds.

Diamond Color Tips to Remember

  • Lack of color in diamonds implies higher quality and is one of many factors of good value.
  • Diamond color differences may be very subtle and indistinguishable to an untrained eye. Therefore, diamond color should always be graded by a professional. It is advisable to seek a GIA certificate that states diamond color due to the relativity and variedness of color degrees.
  • To get the best value when buying a diamond, it’s important to balance color with the three other Cs. Read more about the diamond 4 C's here