Diamond Color

diamond on purple flower

How Sensitive Are Your Eyes?

In nature, diamonds are found in almost every color and hue you can possibly imagine; grey, white, yellow, red, green and brown. And contrary to popular belief, it is actually very rare to find a diamond that doesn’t have any color at all. 

So, what makes a diamond’s color so important when making a purchase? It comes down to the behavior and physics of light when it passes through different mediums.

Colored diamonds (e.g. black, brown, gray) can negatively affect light absorption, and thus the sparkle of the stone that we see. That is why white (colorless) diamonds are generally more valuable and commonly used in jewelry as they have better reflective qualities. Of course, the exceptions to this rule are the rare and much sought after colors of pink, red, blue and orange.

Diamond Color Grading Chart

diamond color chart

When it comes to grading color, GIA had devised a system of describing diamonds in the normal range with letters from D (colorless) to Z (light brown or yellow). If the depth of color in a stone is stronger than a Z, then the fancy color grading system is utilized instead.

In the grading process, the loose stone is flipped over by a trained observer and comparisons are made against a known set of masterstones. When the stone is viewed and compared with its table facing down, the color differences will be most obvious.

Looking at the diamond in this manner also helps prevent distractions from the internal and surface reflecting facets. Finally, for accurate grading to take place, it is always done in a controlled environment with special lighting to ensure consistency.

Click here to view videos of actual diamonds with various shapes and sizes in the D-K color range.

Line Up Of Diamonds For Comparison Between D – Z

a lineup of diamonds with different color grades

Notice that the color near the tip of the cone is more saturated and shows up easily.

When the diamond is flipped around and mounted on a setting, it would be extremely difficult for untrained eyes to pick up subtle differences in color. I will discuss this in detail on later pages and show you how to buy diamonds that face up white without blowing a hole in the bank.

Why Doesn’t The Grading Start From A Instead of D?

Here’s a trivia question that I get asked a lot. Why does the GIA system start at the alphabet D and not A, B or any other letter for that matter?

You see, before GIA’s grading system was widely accepted by the trade, different jewelers would use “A”, “AA” or other weird nomenclatures to label their diamonds. As you could imagine, consistency was a nightmare and the terms used to depict a diamond were causing huge confusion at that point in time.

Based on what I heard from my GIA instructors, GIA decided to start their grading system with the letter D so that they won’t get associated with other systems already in the market.

A Quick Overview of Color Grading Behind the Scenes



So, how should you choose a color for your diamond? Just how important is this factor when making an engagement ring purchase? Are there any preferred colors for specific jewelry applications? I know you probably have more questions in your mind now. Keep on reading to find out more…

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  1. Collette-
    February 6, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    I recently inherited some diamonds from my grandmother and these are uncertified stones which I brought to a local appraiser. The size ranges from 1.20 carats emerald cut, 1.40 carats oval and a 2 carats round diamond. The appraisal come back which indicated the following:

    1.20 carats emerald cut – Good Polish / Good Symmetry, P color – very light brown
    1.40 carats oval cut – Good Polish / Poor Symmetry, W-X color – light yellow
    2.03 carats round cut – Good Polish / Very Good Symmetry U color – light brown

    I’m a little confused about the differences between brown and yellow. Also, is there a good way to sell them without getting scammed?

  2. Paul Gian-
    February 7, 2015 at 7:40 am

    All naturally mined diamonds have tints of color to them. Green, yellow, pink, brown, blue etc… When the color grading is below K color, GIA indicates the hue of the color in their report. Generally speaking, brown hues are less “valuable” than yellow hues because of market forces. The best way to go about selling your diamonds would be to obtain reliable grading reports for each stone first.

    Once you have those documents, look for a jeweler whom you can consign the stones to. That’s the easiest way to handle your current situation.

  3. Linda-
    March 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Is there a reason why a D colored diamond is so much more expensive for a F colored diamond? On the color chart, both are listed under the “colorless” category.

    I’m considering a 2 carat diamond and the price differences I noticed in stones of similar clarity (VVS1), cut (both are GIA XXX). When I did my research, I found that the prices for smaller diamonds like 0.50 carats didn’t have such a big disparity in costs with a difference of 2 color grades.

  4. Paul Gian-
    March 18, 2015 at 2:55 am

    When it comes to large sized diamonds, every increase in color, clarity grade will exponentially add to the diamond’s value. This is largely due to rarity reasons and that it is very hard to find them in nature. For smaller diamonds like 0.30 carats, you will realize that an IF diamond doesn’t cost a lot more than another diamond with VVS2 clarity. This is due to the relative abundance of them in nature.

    If you want to have a better understanding of prices, this article might interest you: https://beyond4cs.com/diamond-prices/

  5. Jennifer-
    February 11, 2016 at 10:29 pm


    I am pretty color adverse when it comes to diamonds. I can usually tell the difference between diamonds within the colorless range and I do not like anything that looks yellow. However, after reading through the florescence article on your website, I am considering a round J diamond with strong blue florescence. Is a J diamond going with strong blue going to appear yellow?

  6. Paul Gian-
    February 12, 2016 at 3:05 am

    It depends on the carat size of the stone. Bigger stones tend to show more body color. I would say yes, you are going to notice color at Js even if you are buying diamonds around the 0.50 carat range.

  7. February 17, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    As a jeweler, I tend to consider additional factors when recommending and choosing diamonds as the centerpiece. Although you’ve mentioned here that J color will show, I’d go as far as to say to a great extent that J-K diamonds will appear completely white when set in yellow gold and will be sufficient high quality for most, especially when with an excellent cut, clear stone.

  8. Paul Gian-
    February 18, 2016 at 1:12 am

    With yellow gold settings, even a D would look slightly tinted as it picks up color from its surroundings. I would agree that matching a J/K stone with a yellow gold setting would be a practical choice for consumers.

  9. Jovan-
    April 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    I’m actually looking for a for an engagement ring.
    I stopped on 2 stones:
    – 0.45C / IF / D / double excellent and very good polish
    – 0.46C / IF / E / Triple excellent
    Both have no fluorescence.
    It will be mounted on a platinum ring
    The first one is 10% more expensive.
    So from your experience, which one would be the best.

  10. Paul Gian-
    April 8, 2016 at 2:43 am


    1) I wouldn’t pay for an IF diamond clarity in such a low carat sized stone.
    2) Not without having further details, there’s no way to tell how well cut these diamonds are.


  11. Jovan-
    April 8, 2016 at 5:29 am

    I see your point but the IF type diamonds is more as a symbol than just a fancy wish of mine.
    More info below on the second from which I have a copy of the GIA certificate. This stone aim to be mounted on a Cartier Ballerine ring.
    Table: 57%
    Crown angle: 32.0
    Crown height: 13%
    Pavilion angle:41.4
    Pavilion depth:44%
    Star length:50%
    Lower half: 80%
    Girdle: thin to medium faceted, 3%
    Culet: none

    Here is all I have.many thanks for your advices

  12. Paul Gian-
    April 10, 2016 at 3:20 am

    Poor stone. Deep pavilion + shallow crown angles are both turn offs. They will lead to a diamond with significant light leakage.

  13. Marie-
    September 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm


    I have a 1.36 carat round center diamond S1 (nothing noticeable to the naked eye), H color, very good cut, set in a halo setting (G-H color diamonds). I was in love with the diamond by itself but now that its set, the diamonds in the setting look super white and the center stone at times looks to have a yellow tint to it (very warm looking) depending on the lighting and surroundings. It addition, sometimes has a cloudy appearance at certain angles even after I just had it cleaned. I’m wondering if it would have been a better decision to go with a smaller stone and colorless vs a larger stone and near colorless with a halo setting?

  14. Paul Gian-
    September 17, 2016 at 4:57 am

    I think cut is the major issue here. If the diamond isn’t well cut, it’s going to show alot of its body color. I would recommend at least a G or an F at such a large carat size.

  15. Peter-
    November 27, 2016 at 2:05 am

    Thank you for the website! It is truly a great help. I’m looking to put this diamond:http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3738880.htm, on an 18k white gold solitaire band with no other diamonds. My concern is that the color is “I”. Should I pay a few $300-$400 more for a similar diamond with an “H” color?


  16. Paul Gian-
    November 27, 2016 at 2:30 am

    At such a big carat size, I would say that an I color would be slightly noticeable. If you can afford the small increase in budget, go for an upgrade in color.

  17. michal-
    April 17, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Hello Paul,

    big fan of your site. Just quick question – in your post above you mentioned “When the color grading is below K color, GIA indicates the hue of the color in their report” – I am having difficulty finding this information in GIA reports. Could you steer me in right direction, please? Where exactly in the report should i look for such information? Many thanks!

  18. Paul Gian-
    April 17, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    GIA no longer reports the color hue in their new report format (gold). You will only see this information in the older reports (blue).

  19. Jared-
    August 1, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Hi Paul, thanks for posting all this helpful information on your site. It definitely helped me picking out a ring for my hopefully-future fiance…question about comparing two diamonds…what are your thoughts on these two:

    1) https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.07-carat-e-color-si2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-3192637
    2) https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.04-carat-e-color-si2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-3114707

    I went with #1 for a couple reasons…the grading was done by GIA (which you highly recommend), and it seems to be more eye-clean than #2. My girlfriend said she cares most about cut, color, and around 1 carat. Clarity is not as important to her. Both diamonds seem to be somewhat equal in those areas. #1 was more expensive by about $600, but that wasn’t an issue with me. Does anything else stick out to you when comparing these two? The GIA report for #1 says there is some cloudiness present, but I wasn’t able to detect it. Anything to note about the dimension differences? Thanks for your help!

  20. Paul Gian-
    August 2, 2017 at 5:38 am

    The first stone has a red flag in clarity. The grade is assigned due to severe clouds and this may cause the diamond to look milky. As for the 2nd stone, the diamond isn’t eyeclean. Both of which aren’t good options. Given your budget restrictions, you may want to lower color ratings and choose a G color with slightly better clarity.

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