Selecting a Diamond Color

Buying a diamond can be a nerve-racking experience. If you want my expert advice on buying the best diamond just drop me a note and tell me what you are looking for and how much you want to spend and I will get back to you with my personal recommendations for a beautiful stone that fits in your budget. This is a FREE service, doesn’t cost you a dime extra, (in fact I am sure that it almost every case I can save you lots of money) and there is absolutely no commitment.

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A diamond color is graded on a scale from Colorless to Yellow, with  colorless diamonds being higher priced (and supposedly higher quality). On a diamond certificate or when looking at diamond characteristics online you will see a single letter notation of D for colorless down to J for the lowest graded color diamonds. (Technically there are many more diamond colors than this – this page deals only with white diamonds and does not get into the fancy color diamonds which are a subject for a different page.) Wikipedia has a nice article on diamond color with a diamond color chart. Update: I also provide my own diamond color chart page where you can see actual photos of diamonds and not an illustration. I think that seeing the actual photos will give you a better idea of the small differences between each step in the grading system.

While most retailers or online diamond sites will try and tell you that getting as high a diamond color grading as possible is preferred for the beauty of the stone, please don’t take their word for it.  For example James Allen claims that “when shopping for a diamond, it is generally preferred to have the least amount of color possible.” Later on the same page they also state that “Most people find it very difficult (if not impossible) to tell the difference from one color grade to another. The difference in price, however, can be significant.”

The reality is much closer to the 2nd statement. Unless you are comparing the diamonds side by side under a proper light and on a white background it will in fact be impossible tell the difference between 2 diamonds color that are just one grade apart on the diamond color scale, for example a G and H, and even when you take 2 stones that are further apart (for example an F and H) you will likely only notice the difference when you hold the 2 diamonds side by side. Looking at each stone on its own- there is just no visible difference between the diamond color of 2 stones. Diamond colors are subjective – not an exact science.

Diamond Color Chart

 

Use a Diamond Color Chart And See For Yourself

Need proof? Take a look at my diamond color chart page that shows actual diamond photos from James Allen own diamond color chart and look at some colors that are adjacent to each other. Can you tell the difference? Even on James Allen own chart page which is an illustration that in my opinion overstates the differences you will still have a hard time seeing the difference.

(update June 27, 2011  - I came across this really well done video (from a 3rd party) that explains how diamond color grading works and confirms what I say on this page – spending money on a anything above H diamond color is just not worth it)

What some jewelers might also neglect to tell you is that there are other factors that effect the perceived color of a diamond, like fluorescence. Even the setting that the diamond will be set in effects how the color will look in the actual ring. If the setting is yellow gold even an E color diamond may look slightly yellowish so why spend the extra money on this?

How Diamond Color Impacts Price

While there is a jump in price between each of the colors on the scale the single largest jump is between G and H colors. There is no technical reason for this – both are still near colorless diamonds and as I said before- there is no way you will tell the difference between them. See my Guide to Diamond Pricing for a better understanding of how the jumps between colors relate to pricing.

To prove my point here are links to 2 diamonds with actual photos on the James Allen web site and a “Virtual Loupe” that lets you see the diamonds in detail. They are very similar except that this one is an E color diamond and this one is an F color diamond. Can you honestly tell the difference? (Neither can she :)  )

Here is yet another diamond color chart from a site called DiamondWave. What I like about this one is that it breaks down the colors by GIA and AGS grading guidelines. In my opinion the color chart is exaggerated and you won’t really see as much of a difference between colors as this chart claims.

 

Comments

  1. John says:

    Does the size of the diamond I am looking at at all play a factor in terms of what color I should buy? Do larger sized diamonds require a higher color grade? I am looking to purchase a 1.5 carat round diamond and I am concerned that an H color won’t look as nice as a G or F color.

    Thanks

    • Randy Meyers says:

      John,

      The shape of the diamond has more to do with what color you should be looking at more then the size. Even at 1.5 carat a round diamond will look great with an H color. If you were going with a Princess cut I would recommend looking at a G color- Princess (and Emerald) tend to show off color more then other shapes.

      Randy

  2. Willie Cole says:

    Whoa, I did not realize just how much of increase of price a diamond may have just for a little bit of color. I might as well just buy a colorless one to save more money since I really cannot tell the difference.

    • Randy Meyers says:

      Willie,

      Thanks for the comment- Just to clarify you will actually save more money by buying a “near colorless” diamond (H,I) range. If the diamond is going to be in a Yellow Gold setting go with an I color. If the diamond will be in a Platinum or White Gold setting you may want to go with an H as a minimum but even with those in most cases an I will be fine.

      Randy

  3. Shane Malave says:

    This is pretty interesting. I did not know that there could be such a dramatic increase of price in a diamond just because it is slightly more colored than an uncolored one.

  4. Lawrence Vaz says:

    This is really helpful. After reading this, I also have to agree that colored diamonds just aren’t worth it. I mean, I honestly can’t tell the difference between a uncolored one and a white diamond.

  5. Mickey Nolan says:

    Wow, there is so much more to diamonds than I originally thought. Always assumed that they only priced them by how big a diamond may be. Never would have thought that a little change in color could drastically change their pricing. I’ll keep this in mind in the future.

  6. Timothy Feltner says:

    Thanks for the tip. I really can’t tell the difference between the two. And the resources that you listed really helped out a lot. Especially the video and the pictures of the two diamond. It’s really difficult to tell the difference between the two.

  7. Priscilla Park says:

    Although, I really do like diamonds, I just hate how much they charge just because of a slight coloring. It’s such a rip-off in my opinion to pay a lot more for the same thing just because of a little bit of coloring.

  8. Charles Hawk says:

    The video really does help explain everything to me. And wow, a such a microscopic difference in diamonds could really change the pricing that much? I understand deep yellow, however, to think that a colorless and a white diamond could have that much of a difference.

  9. Katherine Benton says:

    Great post! I can’t believe that people would charge for outrageous prices on diamonds because it may have a little bit of color in it. I mean, looking at the charts, it’s pretty difficult to see the difference between a near colorless and a colorless one.

  10. James Sherrod says:

    I already know that diamonds are really expensive. Just can’t believe that there is so much more to it, rather than them pricing it by the size. It astounds me that they would price it a lot of higher just because a slight change in color. Especially if it’s a slight change that I can’t even tell.

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