Your Guide to Diamond Quality: Color

If you’ve been following my jewelry journey these last few years, you may have heard me refer to diamonds in some very specific terms. VS-1, seventy-five pointer, F color. To me, and those who have worked in the jewelry industry for a long time, these words tell us key factors about a diamond, but to those who aren’t so familiar, it can sound a bit confusing. 

In this series of blog posts, I am going to teach you the fast facts about diamond quality, and what makes a good diamond. Last time, we discussed carat weight, as well as talked a little bit about the history of grading diamonds and other gemstones.

A Quick Recap

Diamonds are graded on 4 main criteria, known as the 4Cs: Carat Weight, Clarity, Cut, and Color. This process of grading was implemented by the Gemological Institute of America (or GIA) in the med-1920s, as a way to simplify the jewelry industry and provide a universal means of grading gems. 

As discussed previously, carat weight is a measure of the mass of the diamond. Lots of people assume bigger is always better in regards to diamonds, but the other 4Cs tell us that this isn’t necessarily true. 

So, What Do You Mean By Diamond Color?

When we talk about diamond color, we are really looking at the lack of color. The highest quality diamonds will be colorless, a clear, bright color with lots of sparkle. Chemically pure and structurally perfect diamonds will be crystal clear, like a drop of water; like large-carat diamonds, these are harder to find, thus making them more expensive. 

Diamond color is graded on a scale from D to Z, with D being “colorless” and Z being “light”, containing a yellow-ish tint to the diamond. This scale was implemented around the time the GIA created the 4Cs system, again as a way of standardizing how diamond color is described. Other systems used terms such as “A”, “B”, and “C”, or Roman numerals, but there were no set guidelines in how these diamonds were categorized. When implementing their color-grading system, the GIA chose to forgo all other systems that were in place at the time and give the system a fresh start; thus, the current diamond color scale starts with “D”.

Most diamonds found in fine jewelry and in  jewelry stores will rank near the top of the scale, being colorless or near-colorless, with only slight hints of yellow or brown. The exception to this is what are known as fancy color diamonds; these diamonds can come in a full range of colors, with yellow and brown being the most common. Fancy colored diamonds are graded on a different scale from colorless diamonds, and aren’t considered Z-color stones. 

Determining diamond color is a more subjective process than determining carat weight. Many of the different distinctions in diamond color can be hard to see with an untrained eye, so diamonds should be color graded by a GIA-trained expert. Not only will they have the expertise to accurately color-grade the diamond, but they will also have the right tools; color-grading diamonds requires controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions. The GIA expert will compare the stone to other stones of known color under the optimal conditions in order to determine what color the diamond should be classified as. 

Why Does Color Matter?

As with all things diamonds, the more rare something is, the higher the price of the diamond will be. Colorless diamonds are valued for their bright white color, as they are a favored stone in engagement rings and other jewelry pieces.

For colorless diamonds, the less color the stone has, the higher the value. While lab-grown diamonds will be uniform in color all the way through, earth-grown diamonds will have more variation. Natural diamonds are formed under intense heat and pressure, and this process isn’t always the most accurate. As they form, the carbon that grows into diamonds can mix with other elements, creating a range of color within the diamonds. To encounter a truly colorless natural diamond is a rare find.

While less is more for colorless diamonds, the opposite is true of fancy colored diamonds. To have natural diamonds with a rich, deep color such as pink, green, or blue is a rarity; most fancy diamonds will not have a deep color saturation, but a faint hue. The deeper the color of a fancy diamond, the higher it is valued. 

What Can I Do To Get the Best Color Diamond in My Price Range?

  • Choose a flattering setting – If you are planning to set your diamond in yellow gold, you have some room to play with in color. Against yellow metal, even an H/I colored diamond will look bright white. Similarly, if you plan to mix colored stones like sapphires with your center diamond, the stark contrast will make the diamond look whiter.
  • Sometimes light fluorescence on a diamond can make it appear whiter. Be careful though. you’ll need a well trained eye to assess this quality. Fluorescence on a diamond can also give it a cloudy look which we definitely do not want! Fluorescence is one of the factors on a GIA diamond report that will impact its value.

Want to Learn More?

Dig further into diamond color with these sources: