September 18, 2019

Diamond Color Chart

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What is the best color for diamonds? And how much does color affect the price? Read on for our diamond color chart and the rule of thumb for diamond buying.

Why Diamond Color Is Not Important

Many people think that a whiter diamond will appear more brilliant. But this is NOT true.

Color refers to the yellow tint commonly seen in white diamonds. It has absolutely nothing to do with how shiny or sparkly a diamond is. Cut is the factor that affects brilliance, so that should be of highest importance.

Most people cannot tell the difference between colorless and near colorless diamonds. But the price difference is huge. So put your money instead towards a better cut or bigger stone or fancier setting (things that people CAN see).

That said, color still contributes to the overall beauty of ring. So let's take a detailed look at diamond color and what to look for.

Bottom Line Recommendations:
  • D–G diamonds are priced at a premium and are not necessary. But should you choose one, it should only be set in platinum or white gold.
  • H–I diamonds are the best value for platinum and white gold rings.
  • J–K diamonds are most affordable and look great set in yellow gold or rose gold rings.

Diamond Color Chart

The GIA (GIA) grades color on a sliding scale from D–Z (best to worst). They're arranged into 5 groupings:

Diamond Color Scale
Diamond Color Scale © CreditDonkey

  • D, E, F (Colorless)
    These diamonds are super rare. D is absolutely colorless. E and F are considered colorless because only an expert gemologist can detect tiny, tiny traces of color. There is no visible difference among these diamonds.

    Colorless diamonds come at a much higher price. If you like knowing you've got the best, you may not mind paying the premium, as long as you understand that it's not necessary.

  • G, H, I, J (Near Colorless)
    A slight yellow tint can be detected by an expert gemologist. However, the average person most likely will not be able to see it in G, H, and I diamonds. They look just as white as colorless diamonds.

    At the J grade, the tint becomes a bit more apparent when compared to a diamond of higher color grade. But they offer great value, especially if you prefer a warmer look to your jewelry.

  • K, L, M (Faint)
    A yellow color is more noticeable at this point, even without comparing to another diamond. Usually, online retailers don't sell diamonds for engagement rings less than a K. But K diamonds are beautiful when set in yellow or rose gold.

  • N–R (Very Light)
    Very noticeable yellow tint and looks like a poor quality diamond, even to an untrained eye.

  • S–Z (Light)
    Color at this range can start to have a brown tint. Needless to say, there is very little demand for these.

Can You Really See a Difference?

Let's use some real diamonds as a test to see if you can really see a difference in color. Here are 8 diamonds in order from grades G–K:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

D Diamond / E Diamond / F Diamond
G Diamond / H Diamond / I Diamond
J Diamond / K Diamond

At which point do you start to see a very noticeable yellow tint?

When you're looking at diamonds side-by-side like this, it may be easier to pick out which diamond looks more yellow than its neighbor. Plus, these diamonds are magnified. But the naked eye cannot see the difference in color so easily. Especially when the diamond is mounted in a ring.

If you're examining diamonds in person at a store and not sure whether a diamond will appear yellow (without all that bright store lighting), here's a trick you can do.

Fold a pure white business card in half and place the diamond in the crease. Look at it away from the spotlights. If you see any yellow at all, it will also appear yellow when set in white gold or platinum. This diamond is most likely at best a J or K.

How Diamond Color Affects Price

The difference in price as you go up and down color grades is truly staggering. Here's an idea of how wildly it swings.

All these round diamonds from James Allen are 1 carat with a clarity of VS2 and an Excellent cut. The only difference is the color.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

As you can see, the price difference between H color grade and D is over $1,300. And there is no visible difference to the casual observer. So don't waste your money just to buy something that looks better on a piece of a paper.

Which diamond color is the best value?

For the best value for your money, we recommend H color grade. H is commonly thought of as the tipping point between colorless diamonds and diamonds with a slightly noticeable tint. It appears perfectly white to most people. H is a safe choice for any diamond shape and color metal.

How Setting Affects Color

The color of your setting makes a big impact on how white the diamond appears too.

A diamond will naturally pick up the color of its surroundings (in this case, the band). If set in a yellow gold band, even the most colorless, iciest of diamonds will take on a warmer, yellowish tint. So it'll be a waste of money to spend the premium on a colorless stone.

Take a look at this example. Which diamond looks whiter?


The one on the left is actually a Colorless E diamond, but it appears more yellow because of the gold setting. The I diamond on the right is several grades lower, but it looks whiter when set in platinum.

Here's another example. Both diamonds below are grade J (bottom of Near Colorless range). The one set in platinum appears yellow against the white setting. But the one in yellow gold complements the band well and looks way whiter.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Here are some very rules to go by:

  • D–G diamonds should only be set in platinum or white gold in order to appreciate the icy color.

  • H–I diamonds are great value and can be set in any band color.

  • J–K diamonds look great in yellow/rose gold bands. They will appear yellow against platinum/white gold.

Diamond Color and Shapes

The shape of your diamond also plays a role. Some shapes hide color better. And some shapes are more likely to display the yellow tint, so it's more important to choose a higher color grade.

Here's the general rule of thumb:

  • Round
    Most brilliant and, therefore, best at masking color. Focus on getting the best cut instead. With an excellent cut, you can get away with a diamond lower in color.

  • Princess, Cushion, and Radiant
    These shapes show more color than round. We recommend no less than H or I for a colorless look.

  • Oval, Pear, and Marquise
    These diamonds have pointed ends that trap color. Go no less than H for platinum/white gold rings, and J for yellow/rose gold rings.

  • Emerald and Asscher
    These diamonds have a large open table straight into the depth of the stone. Thus, they display color more. Go no less than H for platinum/white gold rings, and J for yellow/rose gold rings.

How Fluorescence Affects Color

Fluorescence is another factor that affects diamond color, but often in a good way.

Fluorescence is when a diamond shows a soft glow under UV light (usually blue). This is caused by certain minerals in the diamond. This effect is totally natural, appearing in one-third of all diamonds.

Here's how it can help: Fluorescence improves the color of diamonds with lower color grades (H and below). A medium-to-strong blue fluorescence counteracts the slight yellow tint and makes it look whiter—usually by one whole color grade.

For example:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Above are two J color diamonds. The first one has no fluorescence, while the second one has a strong fluorescence. You can see how the second one looks whiter and brighter.

This means you can save money by buying a lower-grade diamond with fluorescence, and have it appear whiter.

Usually, fluorescence has no negative effect for diamonds H and lower. However, for high-grade diamonds, it could cause cloudiness. Stay away from diamonds with Medium-Very Strong fluorescence if the diamond is G or above.

Final Tips About Color

  • Always focus on cut first
    The cut of the diamond (proportion, symmetry, and polish) makes the biggest impact on how bright, and therefore "white," the diamond appears. A lower color but well-cut diamond will appear brighter than a poorly cut, colorless diamond. So we always recommend putting your money towards a better cut than a higher color grade.

  • Matching side stones
    If your ring setting has side stones (like the three-stone style), it's important that the center stone at least matches the color of the side stones. You do NOT want your main stone to appear yellow. Usually, sites like James Allen will tell you the color of the side stones.

    Single stone settings (like solitaire) don't have to worry about this.

  • Larger stones
    Larger diamonds will show more color, since the facets are larger. If you're purchasing a large diamond 2 carats or over, you'll also want to upgrade the color a grade higher than our recommendations.

Bottom Line

Diamond color is not as important, but it does still affect the overall beauty of the ring. The average person can't tell the difference between colorless and near colorless diamonds, so there's no point splurging on a feature you can't see.

If you're not sure, H is a safe choice for any shape and band color. It offers great value in terms of price and beauty. For yellow gold and rose gold rings, you can save even more money by going down to J or K.

First think about what kind of setting and diamond shape you want. Then you can follow our guidelines to choose the best color for your ring.

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