Choosing The Best Diamond Color

When it comes to shopping for a diamond, there are lots of variables to consider. You have probably heard or the 4 C’s: Cut, Carat, Clarity and Color, but how do you choose the best of each without sacrificing quality or breaking the budget? In this article we would like to discuss the diamond color.

What is a diamond color? How is it measured?

The most widely used diamond color grading system was originally developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the 1950s. Many well known and highly respected gemological laboratories from around the world use the same system and language to describe the presence (or lack) of color in a diamond.

Most diamonds range from colorless or near-colorless to light yellow or brown. The standard diamond color grading scale distinguishes between them using a letter grade with D being colorless and Z being light yellow or brown. Diamond colors are often grouped into five categories: colorless (D-F), near-colorless (G-J), faint yellow (K-M), very light yellow (N-R) and light yellow (S-Z).

Diamond Color Scale

Picking the Right Diamond Color

Detecting color in a diamond is difficult even for the most experienced diamond grader. The first thing to consider is whether your ring, pendant or earrings will be made in White, Yellow or Rose gold.  The color grade of your diamond will be much less significant if the ring is in Yellow or Rose gold, it would probably be impossible to notice even a J-K colored diamond when it is set in one of these gold settings, all diamonds would appear white compared the color of the gold.

As such, if your ring is Yellow or Rose, the first thing I would compromise on would be the color.  Such a compromise would allow you to get either a larger diamond or a better clarity one for the same price.

If your gold setting is white, a low colored diamond would be noticeable and therefore you need to consider a colorless or near colorless diamond.  Take into account that diamonds that are set in a ring are usually more “forgiving” in terms of color.  A color difference between F and H which is noticeable when the diamonds are loose but is not very noticeable when the diamonds are set in rings.  For this reason we usually recommend a G or an H colored diamond and a better clarity to get the best value for your money.

Another thing to consider is the type of setting you are getting.  A ring with a halo would usually show the color of the diamond more since there is more gold and diamonds around it.  On the other hand, A plain solitaire ring will show the clarity more than it will the diamonds color.

F or H color ring comparison
The ring on the left is set with a 1.5ct F/SI2 diamond, the ring on the right with a 1.5ct H/SI2 diamond

Loose Diamond color comparison
The diamond on the left is the 1.5ct F/SI2 diamond, the diamond on the right is the 1.5ct H/SI2 diamond

Diamond color comparison Face up
The same diamonds set on a flat white surface. The color is more visible in this case than when set in a ring.

Colorless Diamonds

If you’re after the perfect diamond, settle for no less than a perfectly white diamond. In the colorless category, there are three grades: D, E and F. Even for a highly trained diamond grader, determining between the three grades is extremely difficult.

While diamonds in the colorless range are very beautiful, they are more rare and command top prices, usually choosing one of those would mean compromising on clarity (provided that you have a fixed budget) and that is not always the best decision.

Best Value Diamonds

Most diamond engagement rings are set with a diamond that has a color grade of either G, H or I. These diamond colors offer the best value for shoppers. It is virtually impossible to see traces of color in these diamonds, especially once they are mounted. They look nearly the same as a colorless diamond for a fraction of the cost.

As mentioned above for a diamond that will be set in a yellow or rose gold mounting, you can choose a diamond color of J, or even K, and still have a “white” appearance.

To make sure that your diamond looks as white or colorless as possible, be sure to select side stones that are the same or lower in color than the center diamond. So for example, if your center diamond is H color, the side diamonds should be H, I or J color. Choosing side diamonds that are significantly higher in color could make the center diamond appear more yellow.

Fancy colored diamonds

Diamonds that are light yellow or light brown are very fashionable and when set in the right type of mounting can rival higher colored diamonds for beauty.  Perfectly Yellow or Brown diamonds are considered fancy colored diamonds and are usually also expensive.  A great way to get a similar appearance is to get a white diamond with a low color grade.  These do not fall into the fancy colored diamonds and thus are far less expensive.

How is the diamond graded?

Grading a diamonds color by looking at it face up is very difficult and in most cases impossible.  The sparkle and reflections make it hard to notice color differences (one of the reasons choose a lower color grade in rings is a good idea for a compromise).
As such, the grading is best viewed from the side of the diamond and usually in comparison to other diamonds.  It very difficult for our eyes to determine the color without comparing it to another diamond.

Below are the same diamonds as above now from a side view where its much easier to notice the color difference (H on the left and F on the right)

F and H Diamond comparisonF and H Diamond comparison - Side

Diamond Florescence

Don’t be concerned if you walk into a night club and notice that your diamond is glowing blue! About one-third of all gem quality diamonds have an effect known as fluorescence which causes them to glow when they are exposed to ultraviolet radiation.

Historically speaking, fluorescence has been treated as an undesirable trait and diamonds that have fluorescence can sell for up to a 15% discount compared to non-fluorescent diamonds. Fluorescence, however can actually have a positive effect on a diamond and appeal to savvy shoppers who want a bargain.

Diamonds with traces of yellow color (J – M) can appear much higher in color if they display medium to strong blue fluorescence. The reason for this is that fluorescence can be stimulated by UV rays present in sunlight and many artificial light sources. Blue and yellow are complimentary colors, and since most diamonds fluoresce blue, they essentially cancel each other out, making the diamond appear significantly whiter.

So diamonds with Florescence usually appear whiter and also cloudier. A diamond with very slight Florescence can be an advantage but more than that would have a “cloudy” look and it will lack the sparkly and brilliance you would want in your diamond.

Diamond with slight Florescence
As you can see, a diamond with slight florescence is much whiter but has some cloudiness to it, like a photo with no contrast.