Grading Diamond Color

Understanding Diamond Colors

It’s becoming more and more fashionable to select engagement rings together rather than relying on the tastes of the groom to be alone. For one, weddings are about partnerships between two loving individuals. Why not start the partnership at the beginning by selecting an engagement ring together.

Getting engaged is one of the highlights of every woman’s life, so it only makes sense to get the perfect ring. Let’s face it, a man’s taste in jewelry can be questionable, and if the ring is going to last a lifetime, the right one should be picked the first time. Diamonds are the ultimate and most popular gemstones used in engagement rings. Diamonds are crystalline minerals made from pure carbon under intense heat and pressure deep within the earth.

When shopping for diamonds, buyers should keep in mind the “four C’s.” The four “C’s” refer to characteristics of a diamond that help to determine an individual stone’s worth. They are carats, clarity, cut, and color. Certain traits are more favorable and/or rarer than others and command premium fees and prices in jewelry shops around the world. One of the most important of the four C’s in determining the price of a diamond is color.

What Gives a Diamond Color?

The first thing that people notice about a diamond after its size in carats is the color of the stone. Diamonds are often thought of as being pure white and colorless, but the fact is that those are the exception. Most natural diamonds are tinged with colors ranging from brown and yellow to exotic colors like blue, green, and red. Brown diamonds are the most common color of the stone and are used primarily for industrial purposes.

Diamonds are made of pure carbon that has been subjected to tremendous heat and pressure. Pure diamonds are classified as white and are highly sought after for jewelry making. Most diamonds are colored to some extent. The different colors in diamonds are caused by the addition of impurities into the crystalline matrix of the diamond or by irregularities in the diamond’s structure. White and yellow diamonds are the most common stones used in jewelry and are graded on their own scale.

Diamonds also exist in exotic colors like blue, red, deep yellow, orange, pink, and even green. These colored diamonds are referred to as fancy diamonds. Once, colored diamonds were looked down upon because of their impurities, but in recent years, the demand for fancy colored diamonds has boomed. As a result, fancy colored diamonds are among the most expensive gemstones in the world and command premium prices. Rare colors such as green and red diamonds can cost millions of dollars per stone.

White Diamonds

White and yellow diamonds are graded on a scale that uses letters of the alphabet to differentiate between the color grades of the stone. The highest graded stones are Grading Diamond Colorclassified as D. These are the brilliant white diamonds that shine with unparalleled fire and that are the diamonds that most people instantly recognize.

Unfortunately, D graded diamonds are the most rare and sought after stones. This makes them the most expensive out of the white and yellow diamonds. White diamonds are also referred to as being colorless.

As diamonds progress down the alphabet from D to Z, the color of the diamond goes from pure white to faint yellow in color.

The more yellow the diamond, to a certain extent, the less valuable the diamond is and the poorer quality of the stone. (Extremely yellow stones cross the line into fancy colored diamond classification.) The top grades of diamonds on this scale are D, E, and F.

These are considered to be colorless or white and fetch the highest prices.

Next, near colorless diamonds are classified as G, G, I, and J. After this, the yellow color of the stones is much more noticeable from grades K through Z. When shopping for a colorless diamond for an engagement ring, it’s best to pick the highest grade color, even if the stone is smaller.

These stones will only appreciate in value over the years as pure, white diamonds are rare and in high demand. Grade D, flawless diamonds can demand prices as high as $10,000 per carat, while lesser grade diamonds, like grade K or L, can cost several hundreds of dollars per carat.

Fancy Colored Diamonds

In recent years, fancy colored diamonds have enjoyed tremendous popularity. Naturally colored diamonds that are blue, red, pink, orange, vivid yellow, and green are highly sought after by collectors and jewelers. Pink diamonds, in particular are popular choices for engagement rings, since the color pink has become associated with love and romance.

Because of their popularity and rarity, fancy colored diamonds are extremely expensive and can cost tens of thousands of dollars per carat, which is ironic considering that white diamonds increase in value as the number of impurities and imperfections diminish. The more vivid and intense the color, the higher the price is. Some specimens can cost millions of dollars and may never actually make it to market, being sold only in high stakes wholesale auctions.

Where the Colors Come From

Different minerals and impurities cause the diamonds to pick up exotic colors. Also, in the case of green diamonds, exposure to radiation can cause the color to develop. Yellow diamonds are by far the most common fancy diamonds.

Yellow diamonds are only classified as yellow, fancy diamonds if the intensity of their yellow is so high that it creates a beautiful and vivid shade that looks completely different that a murky looking Z grade diamond. Yellow diamonds are created when nitrogen atoms are introduced into the carbon matrix of a pure white diamond.

The more nitrogen that is in a diamond, the more yellow it will appear. As is the case with all fancy colored diamonds, the brighter and more intense the color of the stone, the higher the price will be. The inclusion of the element boron gives blue diamonds their beautiful azure hue. Blue diamonds are some of the most sought after diamonds in the world and are in very limited supply. One of the most famous blue diamonds in the Hope Diamond found in the Smithsonian.

Green and Red Diamonds

Natural green diamonds are among the rarest of the fancy colored diamonds and are formed when regular colorless diamonds have been exposed to radiation for millions of years deep inside the earth. Finally, the rarest diamonds of all are red diamonds. These diamonds are the result of deformation of the diamond crystal under tremendous heat and pressure.

As the diamond is strained, the optical properties of the stone change, resulting in a deep red color. Pink diamonds are formed in the same way, but are more common, yet still very rare. When shopping for engagement rings, it is uncommon to see natural colored diamonds except yellow, which are sometimes called canary diamonds.

Other Factors That Influence a Diamond’s Color

Besides natural impurities, other reasons can influence the color of a diamond. One natural characteristic that can affect a diamond’s color is a property called fluorescence. Certain diamonds glow when exposed to ultraviolet light.

These diamonds are said to be fluorescent. Fluorescence can be a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to value. White grade D diamonds often shine brighter and with more fire when they have a small amount of fluorescence. However, too much fluorescence can make a diamond seem cloudy, thus diminishing its value.

Also, the cut of the diamond has a great influence on the strength of the color of the diamond. As a general rule, the larger the stone, the more intense the color will be. Different cuts are also better for showing off a diamond’s color.

Cuts like a princess cut or a brilliant cut expose more surface area of the diamond, enhancing the color of the stone. Finally, one of the other of the four C’s, clarity, plays a role in the color of a diamond. Clarity can affect the intensity the color and the amount that it sparkles in the light.

Synthetic Diamonds

Since the price of naturally colored diamonds are unaffordable for many people shopping for an engagement ring, synthetic colored diamonds are an option for those seeking an affordable, colored stone. Synthetic diamonds should not be confused with imitation diamonds. These diamonds are chemically the same as naturally occurring diamonds. The only difference is that they have been formed in a laboratory.

Generally, one can expect to save between 70-85% when purchasing a synthetic diamond of the same size, color, and clarity of a naturally formed stone. The intensity of the color may also be higher in most cases. One drawback with synthetic, colored diamonds is that they have little resale value and will not appreciate in value like natural diamonds.

However, if purchasing the stone for an engagement ring, many times this is not an issue. If purchasing a naturally colored fancy diamond, it’s important to have the diamond authenticated and certified in terms of the four C’s, because even to the trained eye, synthetic diamonds can appear to be natural.


After the size of the diamond, color is the most important characteristic of a stone. Most couples that are looking for engagement rings shop for white, colorless diamonds. Depending on the quality of the stone’s color, prices can vary tremendously.

When shopping for a diamond engagement ring, buyers need to strike a balance between price and quality, remembering that the value of a high quality diamond will only increase. If looking for a colored diamond, buyers should realize that naturally colored stones are exceptionally rare and cost premium prices, however, synthetically produced diamonds are available that can satisfy their needs.

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