Diamond Color Guide: What Is the Diamond Color Scale
Alicia Briggs and Kimberly Zerkel | August 1, 2023
Alicia Briggs and Kimberly Zerkel | August 1, 2023
Selecting the perfect lab-grown diamond can be both exciting and overwhelming. Choosing your favorite diamond shape is only the beginning. Understanding the 4Cs - cut, color, clarity, and carat - is essential when buying a diamond. Diamond color will have a major impact on the overall beauty and value of your center stone. But what does diamond color mean and what’s the best diamond color for your engagement ring setting?
Below, we cover everything you need to know about diamond color with expert advice from GIA Graduate Gemologist and VRAI Diamond Expert, Queena Chang. Familiarizing yourself with the diamond color scale will help you determine which VRAI created diamond is meant just for you.
What Is Diamond Color?
Diamond color actually refers to the absence of color. It helps determine a diamond’s beauty, quality, and value.
Gemologists grade a diamond on the absence or presence of color to give each diamond a letter grade that corresponds with the color scale — from D, a truly colorless diamond, to Z, which is brown. The closer to colorless a diamond is, the rarer and more valuable it becomes.
While diamonds can come in a variety of colors, such as white, yellow, and pink, diamond color grades are what is listed on a diamond certificate, not the physical color of a diamond.
Does Diamond Color Matter?
Diamond color is essential for determining the quality of your diamond, the diamond price, and its overall appearance. How much diamond color matters, however, depends on your preferences, the diamond shape, and the ring setting.
Each diamond shape shows color differently and certain ring settings will enhance any hints of yellow, so the diamond color grade will matter more or less depending on these details. However, moving up and down the color scale will always affect a diamond’s price.
Our diamond experts can help you decide on what color grade range works best for your budget, diamond shape, and setting.
Diamond Color vs. Clarity
Diamond color and clarity are often confused with one another. This is because both color and clarity affect a diamond’s general appearance. But where diamond color measures the lack of color, clarity measures the lack of inclusions and blemishes.
You can use both the diamond color and clarity chart to select your diamond. If you’re unsure whether to prioritize color or clarity, speak with a VRAI diamond expert who can give you personalized guidance in choosing the right diamond grade. But generally, which one is more important depends on the diamond shape and the engagement ring setting.
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What Is the Diamond Color Scale?
The diamond color scale measures color grade. The scale starts at D, the highest color grade, and goes through the alphabet all the way to Z.
D through J diamonds are considered colorless or near colorless. These diamonds will appear clear to the naked eye, but anything beyond J will have slight hints of pale color.
The diamond color scale starts with D because of the nearly universally accepted standards set by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Before the GIA set these standards, some gemologists would give diamonds the color grades A, B, and C or the numbers 1-10. When the GIA began to enforce stricter standards of diamond grading, they started their scale at D to eradicate any confusion.
Diamond Color Grading and the Diamond Color Chart
Below you’ll find each diamond color grade, from highest to lowest. While the diamond color scale goes to Z, any diamond with a color grade below M is not considered jewelry grade.
|Diamond Color Grade||Diamond Color Category||Description|
|D||Colorless||D is the highest color grade. D diamonds show no color when viewed with the naked eye and under magnification.|
|E||Colorless||The difference between D and E is only visible under magnification.|
|F||Colorless||F color diamonds still appear colorless to the naked eye. Only visible under magnification|
|G||Near Colorless||Most consumers will not see their slight color traces in G diamonds. Gemologists can see their tint under inspection.|
|H||Near Colorless||Most consumers will not notice the hints of color or notice the difference btween G and H.|
|I||Near Colorless||I color diamonds will appear virtually colorless to most. Gemologists can see traces of color.|
|J||Near Colorless||J diamonds are the last grade before the naked eye can detect color tints.|
|K||Faintly Colored Diamonds||K diamonds show a hint of yellow that’s noticeable to the naked eye.|
|L||Faintly Colored Diamonds||L color grade diamonds have a yellow tint that is visible to the naked eye.|
|M||Faintly Colored Diamonds||M color grade diamonds have a noticeable tint that is best seen from the side.|
Colorless diamonds have a color grade of D, E, or F and are the highest color quality available. D-F diamonds do not have any color that's visible to the eye. They are ideal for any white gold and platinum engagement ring or jewelry design that won’t further imbue them with color.
D Color Grade Diamonds
D is the highest color grade. A D diamond has nearly no color and is colorless both when viewed with the naked eye and inspected under magnification.
E Color Grade Diamonds
E is the second highest color grade and is considered colorless. The difference between D and E might be a tiny trace of color that is only visible under magnification.
F Color Grade Diamonds
F color diamonds are at the bottom of the colorless range, but they still appear colorless to the naked eye. If you’re comparing F versus D or E color diamonds, the primary difference is that F color diamonds will have a slight tint only visible under magnification.
Near Colorless Diamonds
Near colorless diamonds are of the colors G, H, I, and J. Near colorless diamonds are diamonds that, when face up, still appear "colorless.” Most cannot tell the difference between the two categories without comparing them side by side against a white background.
G Color Grade Diamonds
G is the top color grade in the near-colorless range. Most consumers do not see their slight traces of color, but trained gemologists can see their tint. G color diamonds are an excellent choice for those wanting a diamond that appears colorless but at a slightly lower price.
H Color Grade Diamonds
H is a near-colorless diamond, with only a few differences that set it apart from a G. As most consumers cannot see the hints of color in an H color grade diamond, they are an excellent choice for those wanting to save money while still investing in what appears to be a colorless diamond.
I Color Grade Diamonds
I is nearing the bottom of the near-colorless range. Like G and H, I color diamonds will appear virtually colorless to most, but gemologists can see its traces of color during testing. I is ideal for those wanting a diamond close to colorless but at a much more accessible price point.
J Color Grade Diamonds
J is at the very bottom of the near-colorless range and is the last grade before color becomes visible to the naked eye. J color diamonds are likely the most affordable diamonds that still appear virtually colorless to most consumers.
Faintly Colored Diamonds
Faintly colored diamonds are diamonds whose trace amounts of yellow are visible to the naked eye. Most jewelry brands will only sell K color grade diamonds from the faintly colored range. They have a yellow tint that can be masked in a solid yellow gold setting.
K Color Grade Diamonds
K is the top of the faintly-colored scale and is known for having a hint of yellow that’s noticeable to the naked eye. A K color grade diamond should most likely be featured in yellow or even rose gold settings to mask its traces of yellow.
L Color Grade Diamonds
L color grade diamonds have a yellow tint that is visible to the naked eye. This color is usually visible from the side.
Many jewelers, including VRAI, do not sell L color grade diamonds.
M Color Grade Diamonds
M color grade diamonds are exactly in the middle of the color scale. They have a noticeable tint that is best seen from the side.
Many jewelers, including VRAI, do not sell M color grade diamonds.
Myth: Diamonds Are All Colorless
Diamonds are rarely colorless but people commonly think diamonds are colorless because visually, the white diamonds used in jewelry appear so. But colorless, as covered above, is any diamond with a D-F diamond color grade. Colorless diamonds are very rare.
The diamonds you see in jewelry, including engagement rings, are usually near colorless diamonds. Near colorless (G-J color grades) still appear clear and colorless to the naked eye but they are more commonly found and used for jewelry.
Overall, most diamonds are faintly colored diamonds (K-M) or even lower color grade diamonds (O-Z). But you’ll almost never see diamonds below a K color grade for jewelry. L-Z diamonds are typically not considered jewelry-grade diamonds partly because they lack the colorless, desirable appearance we all associate with diamonds.
How Is Diamond Color Graded?
Diamond color is graded by gemologists who compare each diamond to other diamonds using an established color value. They inspect the stones under controlled lighting and viewing conditions. Because most diamond color variations are invisible to the naked eye, gemologists will use specific tools, like a dichroscope, to complete their evaluation.
A diamond is inspected both face-up and table-down for traces of color. Even the faintest hint in one of these areas will affect its color grade.
What Is the Best Diamond Color?
Colorless diamonds are considered the best quality diamonds overall while D color grade diamonds are considered the highest, and best, diamond color grade. This is because D color diamonds are the rarest and most valuable.
However, even though D color grade diamonds are considered the best diamond color by industry standards, they may not be the best choice for your engagement ring. For example, colorless diamonds would not be the best option for a yellow gold setting, as this setting could add a yellow tint to a colorless diamond.
Does Diamond Color Affect Price?
Diamond color will affect the overall price of a diamond. “The color of a diamond impacts price because higher colors tend to be rarer, while lower colors tend to be more abundant. The color of a diamond is impacted by what elements are present in the diamond or may be caused by the atomic structure,” explains Queena Chang, VRAI Diamond Expert.
“The higher the color grade is, the more colorless a diamond is (with D being completely colorless). The lower the color grade is, the more color that is present in the diamond (with Z being lightly colored). If a diamond's color is beyond the D-Z scale, it would be classified as a fancy-colored diamond. It would then be graded, and priced, differently,” Chang continues.
What Color Diamond Costs Less?
Diamonds with color grades in the L-Z range will cost the least. However, many retailers won’t sell diamonds with these color grades. These diamonds have a noticeable yellow or brownish tint that significantly impacts a diamond's appearance. The least expensive color grade available at VRAI is a K color diamond.
As for fancy-colored diamonds, brown and yellow diamonds are the least expensive colored diamonds. They account for more than half of the colored diamond market. They are less rare and therefore less expensive than other fancy-colored diamonds.
What Diamond Color Grade Is the Most Valuable?
The most valuable, and therefore the most expensive diamond color, is a D color grade diamond. This is the highest color grade and will increase the total price of a diamond.
How to Choose the Best Diamond Color
If you’re trying to decide what the best color for a diamond is, consider personal preference, budget, and ring setting. While D color grade diamonds may be the highest quality diamond color, they may not be the best diamond color for you or your ring setting.
When choosing the best color grade for a diamond, start by setting a budget. Note that you must purchase both the setting and the diamond for an engagement ring, so budget for both. The higher a diamond is on the color scale, particularly D-F color grade diamonds, the higher the price. So decide together if you have flexibility when it comes to color or the other Cs.
Next, select your diamond shape and setting. These details will directly affect what color grade you should choose. Diamond shapes with a larger table, like a Marquise, often show more color than a Round Brilliant, for example. White gold or platinum settings will further highlight hints of yellow and are best paired with colorless diamonds.
Our diamond experts can help you choose the right color grade for your preferred lab-grown diamond and engagement ring setting.
How Does Diamond Shape Impact Color?
Certain diamond shapes will hide color better than others. The symmetry of Round Brilliant diamonds can allow you to save on color with a slightly lower grade. Emerald shapes tend to hide color as well and can tolerate a lower color grade.
Shapes with larger face-up size, like the Oval, are inclined to show color more and are better suited for colorless or near colorless diamonds. The more unique shapes, such as Cushion cut diamonds, are also susceptible to showing more color.
Carat Weight and Diamond Color
Carat weight has a hand in how obvious a diamond’s color appears. The larger the diamond, the more evident color becomes.
If your diamond is less than 1 carat, you can get away with a lower color grade. If you’re interested in a larger diamond, it’s recommended to invest in colorless or near colorless diamonds.
Best Diamond Color for Engagement Ring Settings
The metal color you choose for your diamond ring setting will affect how the color of a diamond appears.
Yellow gold can offset any yellow hue a diamond may have but they can also reflect a yellow hue that isn’t there in colorless diamonds. Rose gold’s warmth, like yellow gold, can also balance out slight yellow tones.
If you want to set a colorless diamond in a yellow or rose gold ring, a Two Tone engagement ring is ideal. The platinum prongs that hold the diamond in place won’t imbue the diamond with the color from the ring’s band.
If you’re choosing a white gold or platinum setting, these white metals can emphasize yellow coloring within a diamond. For these two metals, prioritize a higher color grade to ensure your diamond still appears clear.
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What Color Is a Diamond?
When it comes to what colors are diamonds, you may be surprised at how many options you have to choose from. Natural diamond colors include red, yellow, orange, green, blue, pink, purple, brown, violet, gray, white, and black.
Most people are familiar with and choose white diamonds. The majority of VRAI created diamonds are white, but we also offer several pink diamonds.
How Many Diamond Colors Are There?
For colorless diamonds, there are 23 diamond color grades, ranging from D to Z.
What Are Fancy-Colored Diamonds?
For colored diamonds, there are 12 base colors. These 12 diamond colors are considered fancy colors and have their own diamond color scales.
Diamond Color FAQs
Below you'll find everything you need to know about the diamond color grading scale and finding the diamond color that’s right for you.
What Diamond Color Shines the Most?
“The diamond cut is actually what determines a diamond's brilliance,” says Queena Chang, VRAI Diamond Expert. “Just because a diamond may be a lower color grade, does not mean that it will necessarily be less brilliant. That is dependent on the cut grade of the diamond, which consists of the polish and symmetry grades.”
What Diamond Color Are Most Engagement Rings?
Most diamonds used in engagement rings are near-colorless diamonds. The best color grade will depend on the diamond shape and ring setting.
Is an F Color Diamond Good?
F color diamonds are colorless diamonds and are the third highest color grade. F color diamonds are the lowest diamond grade for colorless diamonds but are still considered an excellent color grade.
Is H or J a Better Diamond Color?
H color diamonds are considered a better color grade than J color diamonds. Both are near colorless diamonds, but J is two color grades below H.
Is G a Good Diamond Color?
G color diamonds are the top color grade for near-colorless diamonds and are considered to be a good color grade. G color diamonds will appear colorless face-up and to the naked eye. The difference between G and F color diamonds is that F color diamonds are truly colorless, which is why they are one color grade above G.
What Is an I Color Diamond?
I color diamonds are the second lowest color grade for near colorless diamonds. They are still considered a good color grade, as they have traces of color that aren’t noticeable to the naked eye.
If you’re deciding between near colorless diamonds, such as diamond color H vs diamond color I, the difference in color is minimal. Most consumers won’t notice the difference between an H and I color diamond but there will be a noticeable price difference between the two.
Is G or I Color Better?
When comparing G versus I color diamonds, G color diamonds are considered better as they are two color grades higher than I color diamonds. Both G and I color diamonds are near colorless but G is the highest color grade for near colorless diamonds. I color diamonds are the second lowest color grade for near colorless diamonds.
What Is the Rarest Diamond Color?
Red diamonds are the rarest and most valuable fancy diamond color. There are only around 30 red diamonds available worldwide.
Can Lab-Grown Diamonds Be Graded on Color?
Lab-grown diamonds can and should be certified. It is inadvisable to purchase any diamond without diamond certification.
Lab-grown diamonds occur in different colors, just as their mined counterparts do. Color is determined when a diamond is formed, either in a laboratory setting or in the ground. Therefore, diamonds should go through a color grading process and be evaluated on the 4Cs, no matter their origin.
Do Diamonds Reflect Rainbow Colors?
Diamonds reflect light in a unique way, which makes it easy to determine if your diamond is real or fake. A real diamond will reflect gray and white on the inside. On the outside, however, real diamonds will reflect a color rainbow on exterior surfaces.
If a diamond is synthetic, such as Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite, the light will reflect differently. For synthetic diamonds, you’ll also see a rainbow of colors reflected on the inside of the diamond.
What Color Should a Diamond Be Under UV Light?
“Diamond color will be different under a UV light. The color of a diamond is graded with the diamond face down on a white background, where a gemologist will then compare it to a master set of diamonds to determine the color. Diamonds can come in any color of the rainbow, but the most common colors tend to be yellow, brown, and gray,” Chang says.
“Under UV light, the fluorescence color of a diamond is most commonly blue. Please note that most diamonds do not have fluorescence. Lab-grown diamonds, however, may fluoresce unique colors. All VRAI created diamonds tend to not have fluorescence or only provide a faint fluorescence,” Chang continues.
Diamonds are considered more valuable when they have no or faint fluorescence. Fluorescence, however, doesn’t typically affect your diamond's overall appearance.
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VRAI offers colorless, near colorless, and faintly colored diamonds grown in our zero-emission foundry - the world’s first.
The majority of VRAI created diamonds are primarily colorless or near colorless ranging from D-J on the color scale. For each diamond with eye-visible color grades, the extent of the visibility of the faint hue can be viewed through our 360 videos or requested from our diamond specialists during appointments.
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