Diamond Color Grades Explained

Color in the diamond trade usually refers to the amount of yellow in a stone, but can also indicate brown or gray and sometimes all three. The most treasured and requested diamond color is actually the “colorless” grade — one without any color at all. There is a big increase in requests and popularity for Fancy Color diamond in recent years.

Today’s standard color grading scale was first developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Other color scales are still used in other parts of the world. If you are looking at diamonds with non-GIA certificates, see our comparison chart of the major color scales, below. We will explain more about color grades in the next lesson of this tutorial.

The GIA scale starts with D for perfectly colorless stones, and gives a Z color grade to diamonds having a noticeable yellow tint, with every letter inbetween indicating the many gradations possible. Most people find colors D through I to be the most attractive, and they are the most rare as well. This means they are more expensive, especially the colorless range of D-F colors, since rarity and popularity combine to create value. Some people prefer the pronounced yellow tints, so their chosen diamond will be much less expensive. There is no way to know what she wants, until you ask her!

Diamond Colors

Below are samples of several diamond colors (with variations depending on your monitor). Note the subtle differences among colors as you go down the alphabet from D (perfect, colorless) to Z (the most yellow and least expensive). …In the chart below, for instance, the Colorless range includes : D,E,F colors, and the Near Colorless range includes : G,H,I,J colors.

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Most people never imagine that diamonds of other colors, called “fancies,” are also available in very limited supply. Diamonds with more color yellow than the Z shown above include fancy yellow, canary yellow, and others. Here is a photo of a few variations of natural diamond colors ::

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The more expensive and treasured stones have pure tints with very little brown or gray tones to wash out the bright fancy hue. Colors such as “intense purplish pink,” perhaps the most rare and treasured of fancy diamond colors, might sell for as much as $250,000 per carat for 1-carat stones, or more, and that is wholesale!

Here is a chart I made to show how the various color grading systems (for white stones) compare around the world. The GIA system is by far the best known and is used by almost everyone in the trade. GIA is the one to know.

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NEXT :: Diamond Shapes  >>

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