September 23, 2020

Diamond color refers to the absence of detectable color in a diamond. It is one of the 4Cs used to determine diamond quality and value. This guide covers GIA's color grading scale, how color affects appearance, and how to choose the ideal color grade.

What is Diamond Color Grading?


Diamond color grading assesses the presence of color, or rather the lack of it, in a diamond. Most diamonds used in jewelry show some degree of yellow or brown hue. The closer to being colorless a diamond is, the higher its value.

Color is evaluated by gemologists face-down against master comparison diamonds for consistency. Diamonds are assigned a letter grade from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow/brown).

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed the universally accepted D-Z diamond color grading scale used around the world today.

GIA Diamond Color Scale

  • D, E, F - Colorless
  • G, H, I, J - Near Colorless
  • K, L, M - Faint Yellow
  • N to R - Very Light Yellow
  • S to Z - Light Yellow/Brown

The finest and rarest diamonds fall into the colorless D-F category. These diamonds have essentially no detectable yellowish hue to the naked eye.

As the scale progresses, the presence of a yellowish tint becomes more apparent in diamonds graded G-Z. However, near colorless grades still face up white and are popular diamond choices.

See our diamond color chart

How Color Affects Diamond Value

Whiter diamonds are exponentially more rare, driving up their value. For example, an H color diamond may cost 30-50% less than a comparable D color diamond.

That said, once a diamond is in the near colorless range (G-J), differences are difficult to detect. Many buyers opt for excellent cuts in a G-I at significant savings.

Diamonds over 1 carat start showing perceptible color, so larger diamonds over 3 carats face steep premiums for better colors.

Choosing the Best Diamond Color

  • Carat weight - Larger diamonds show more color. Stick to near colorless for big stones.
  • Metal setting - Yellow gold pairs well with diamonds graded K-M. White metals best complement D-F.
  • Cut quality - Well-cut diamonds refract light better to mask color. Choose higher colors with poorer cuts.
  • Budget - Opt for nearer colorless grades (G-I) to allocate more budget to maximizing cut.
  • Eye clean - Innately eye-clean diamonds (no visible inclusions) can drop 1-2 colors and still face white.

While D-F is the pinnacle, excellent sparkle and beauty can be found in more affordable near colorless diamonds graded G-J. Work with your jeweler to find the ideal balance for your needs and budget.

Takeaway Tips

  • Diamond color measures the absence of yellow/brown hue.
  • The GIA grading scale ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow).
  • Near colorless grades (G-J) offer excellent value and face up white.
  • Larger diamonds show more perceptible color.
  • Whiter diamonds are exponentially more rare and valuable.
  • Cut quality can help mask color. Focus budget on maximizing cut.

Choosing the right diamond color grade for your budget and style is key to getting the beauty you desire. Let us know if you have any other questions!

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