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.
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.
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.