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Understanding Diamond Color A Guide

Gemstone being held by a tweezer against black background

When it comes to choosing a diamond, most would often consider its carat, or size, and its cut, or sparkle. Albeit true, it’s also important to consider the color of the diamond as well, since its hue influences the overall impression of the piece.

In the jewelry world, a diamond’s color is gauged upon its lack of color. In this regard, less is more – a diamond with less color is generally more rare, and thus more valuable than its hued counterparts. There is a caveat to this, though, as some heavily colored diamonds are extremely rare and stand on a class of their own – these diamonds are designated as “fancy colored”.

Understanding Diamond Color Grading

Just like measuring clarity by the absence of inclusions and blemishes, diamonds earn a higher place on the scale due to the absence of color. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) uses an alphabetical grading scale from D – colorless – to Z – noticeably colored – to gauge the amount of color, or lack thereof, in a diamond.

Diamond color education chart
Fig 1. This illustration displays the comparative color profiles of diamonds across various color grades.

The scale is as follows:

D, E, and F: Diamonds in this category are considered colorless. These diamonds exhibit no discernible color and are the rarest on the GIA Scale. Diamonds labeled D are the highest grade of the colorless category.

G, H, I, and J: Near colorless diamonds have some color, but it’s not easy to spot unless compared side-by-side with colorless diamonds. These diamonds are valuable but do not command the same premium as higher-grade diamonds.

K, L, and M: Diamonds in the faintly colored grade have more noticeable hints of color, especially when compared to higher grade diamonds. With faint yellow and brown tints, these diamonds decrease in value.

N to Z: Diamonds in this range are very light to light in color, exhibiting yellow or brown pigments. The closer a diamond is to Z, the darker the color and the lower its value.

Fancy Colored Diamonds: Fancy colored diamonds, which fall outside the GIA Color Scale, have intense hues in various shades like pink, blue, yellow, green, and red. Some fancy colors, like blue and red, are extremely rare and can be more expensive than colorless diamonds due to their rarity and unique appearance.

How Does Nature Determine Color?

The color of a diamond is significantly influenced by trace elements present during its formation deep within the earth’s mantle, as well as structural defects in its crystal lattice.

Yellow gemstone sitting on a white flat surfaced

Nitrogen impurities can give diamonds a yellow or orange tint, while boron can lead to a rare and desirable blue hue. Nickel might contribute to a gray or yellow color, and hydrogen is associated with violet and gray colors in some diamonds.

Lattice distortions during formation can alter the absorption and reflection of light, leading to different hues and colors. The interplay between trace elements and lattice structure results in the spectrum of colors observed in diamonds.

Diamond Color - Choosing the Right Diamond.

When it comes to selecting a diamond, it’s important to consider its color among its other attributes, such as clarity, cut, and carat. Even though the diamond’s color grade can influence the impression of the piece as a whole, it’s wise to consider how this attribute interplays with the other Cs in forming the right piece for you.

Whether you opt for the classic elegance of a colorless diamond or the unique charm of a colored one, a diamond’s color helps tell of its history and its journey from the earth to your jewelry.

If you’re in the search for a new diamond, our team can help. As custom jewelers, we are intricately familiar with the nuances of diamonds, and can help you select the perfect one for your budget. With over 40 years of experience servicing the Chestnut Hill area and beyond, come and see why Bostonians trust us for their jewelry needs.