This article has all you need to know about Diamond color. We would discuss:

  • What gives a diamond it’s coloring: Diamonds have their color due to the presence of impurities like Nitrogen, Boron, Graphite, Sulphides, Hydrogen or mechanical forces
  • The GIA grading scale for diamond scale, which groups diamonds into:
    • D – F (Colourless)
    • G – J (Almost colorless)
    • K – M (Faint)
    • N – R (Very light)
    • S –Z (Light)
  • Factors to be considered in picking a color:
    • Type of cut
    • The setting
    • The Mount
    • Carat
    • Presence of pointed edges
  • Shape and color: We discuss how each shape affects how much of color is concealed or revealed on inspection.
  • Advantages of color in colored diamonds:
    • It increases the visual appeal
    • It gives you more options
    • It increases the value of the diamonds
    • It makes you distinct when you wear it
  • Disadvantages of color in colorless diamonds:
    • It reduces the visual appeal
    • It reduces the sparkle of the diamond
    • Most people prefer clear and colorless diamonds
    • It lowers the value and price of the diamonds

James Allen loose diamonds
Quite several people think that all diamonds are supposed to be colorless. This may be because most movies depict only colorless or seemingly colorless diamonds.

The idea is cool, although it is an irony. The irony is that almost all diamonds actually have some degree of coloring.

Diamonds can come in different colors, like orange, green, blue, pink, brown, or even red which is the least common. They can also come in shades, for instance, white diamonds with different grades of yellow or brown shade.

The color of a diamond can either add to or reduce its value.

Interesting right?

Yes. In some diamonds with a particular color, the color enhances their appearance and makes them more valuable. A good example is the Hope diamond which is blue in color. This diamond has been dubbed by some as the most popular diamond in the world. It was last reported to be insured at $250 million.

Now, that is in a class of its own!

At the same time, color in a white diamond can reduce its light performance and quality, leading to a reduction in price. This is seen demonstrated in the color grading system developed by the GIA.


The next question to ask then is, ‘what causes coloring in diamonds?’

Good question.

Ideal diamonds are perfectly transparent and colorless. However, when chemical or structural impurities find their way into the diamond, then coloring can result. The extent of the color depends on the extent to which the impurity affects the structure of the diamond. These impurities can be:

  1. Nitrogen: The particular impurity in the structure of the diamond can be Nitrogen. When Nitrogen atoms exist in the crystal lattice of the diamond, color is imparted. If the Nitrogen atoms are paired and at a concentration of 0.1%, the color imparted is usually not visible. But when the Nitrogen atoms occur in large even number aggregates, the color appears as a yellow to brown tint.

When the Nitrogen atoms exist singly or isolated across various sites in the diamond, they give the diamond an intense yellow color.

  1. Boron: Diamonds can also have Boron present in their crystal lattice. The presence of boron in the diamond would usually result in a light blue color. It is also important to note that diamonds that contain Boron are semiconductors. This property can be utilized in some industries.
  2. Graphite/ Sulphides: When a diamond contains graphite or sulfides as impurities, it would usually appear black.
  3. Hydrogen: When there is a very high number of Hydrogen atoms, the resulting diamond would be purple in color

There is also a class of diamonds whose color is not due to impurities. Their color is due to mechanical and other forces that affect the structure through different processes.

  1. Plastic Deformation: This change occurs due to the application of large tensile forces and temperature which alter the size, shape, and structure of the diamond over several years. This inadvertently results in the formation of diamonds with color. The diamonds can be pink, brown or red, due to the abnormal structures that arose from the deformation.
  2. Radiation: When diamonds are exposed to varying levels of radiation over an extended period, the result could be colored diamonds due to the deposition of specific color centers. Green diamonds are usually a product of radiation.
  3. Microscopic fractures: Very small fractures in the outline of the diamond can result in colors.
  4. Crystal Lattice distortion: The crystal lattice of the diamond can also be distorted, which affects the arrangement of the atoms, resulting in a colored appearance.

Most diamonds are usually mined in the normal color range, which is between yellow and brown. Colors outside this range would fall into the category of fancy color diamonds.

As diamond trade evolved over the years, different scales have been used to measure the color grade of diamonds. The first to put forth a method of sorting diamonds based on color was the London Diamond Syndicate. After this, there have been several grading scales all of which lacked a standardized method. As a result of this, many of these systems failed to stand over time.

However, the Gemmological Institute of America, a worldwide renowned laboratory has put together a color grading scale that is still in use.

This color grading scale accessed diamonds based on the absence of color. The diamonds with less visible color characteristics are ranked higher and more valuable than those with more visible coloring. It ranges from the totally colorless D to the yellow or brown Z.

The diamonds are put into different grades by comparing them with a set of master stones which represent each color grade.

Below is a chart showing the color grade according to the GIA. This grade is accepted worldwide as the standard for grading the color of diamonds. It has five classes which are:

  • D – F: This color range is referred to as the colorless color range. It represents less than 1% of the diamonds in the world today. The D color is the highest prized and valuable color in this range. There is no impedance to the flow of light, neither is there any distraction from the sparkle or brilliance of the diamond. It is the gem for people that require perfection all rounds. It looks best in a white gold or platinum setting. The flawless diamond would be complemented by the setting. The E is also in the colorless range and the difference between the D and E is not visible to the naked eye. The F color grade is the lowest color quality in this category. It has a tint that is not noticeable but affects the sparkle of the diamond. It is the perfect definition of balance because it balances color with other diamond Cs like cut and clarity. All the colors in this range are stunning when used in engagement rings or jewelry. The color range from D to F, when measured with an electronic colorimeter, is from 0.00 – 1.49, which shows how close they are.
  • G – J: The G to J color range is dubbed near-colorless because its color is hardly noticeable. This color grade has the most popular diamonds in demand. The reason is that the D-Z colorless grade is so rare and expensive, that most people prefer to go for the G and H color grade, which balances the color with ct and clarity excellently. The color is not visible to an untrained eye and it blends well so there are no distractions when viewing. The I and J color grades have more color which might be visible to the naked eye on visual inspection. They show a very light tint of yellow or brown. There might also be some distraction that affects the diamond visual appearance. Even though they have some visible coloring, they are very popular among buyers because they allow other diamond characteristics like clarity and carat to significantly affect visual appearance. The measurement of an electronic colorimeter would range from 1.50 – 3.49.
  • K – M: Also called Faint. This color grade refers to a ‘break-point’ between the colorless and visible color. Diamonds in this grade would have some visible coloring that would affect the sparkle and diamond. They are also popular because they are budget-friendly and allow customers to explore other Cs like clarity and carat. They have values ranging from 3.50 – 4.49 as measured by an electronic colorimeter.
  • N – R: As the name implies, it has a very slight tinge of the yellow or brownish hue. This range is not popular. The color is visible to the naked eye.
  • S – Z: The lowest on the color grading scale. It is also not high in demand. It shows coloring that distracts and affects the sparkle of the diamond.

This is the color scheme for grading white or colorless diamonds. There is a different color grading scale for grading of colored diamonds. When a color is rare, it becomes more valuable and the more intense the coloring is, the higher the price. Fancy colors are also affected by fashion trends. If the color is very much in demand, then its value would increase, especially if a famous person or celebrity wears it.


  1. TYPE OF CUT: It is a known fact that brilliant cuts sparkle. This sparkle can help to mask some color. This means that you can pick a lower color grade for a brilliant cut. But cuts that are not brilliant would easily show more color and so would require a higher grade of color when selection is to be made.
  2. THE SETTING: When it comes to the issue of color, the environment within which the diamond would be placed has a role to play. The setting can either mask the color of the diamond or make it more obvious. For instance, an H grade diamond can be made to look as colorless as a D grade, when set in a ring and at normal lighting conditions. Therefore, the setting in which the diamond would be used should always be considered in selecting a diamond color.
  3. THE MOUNT: The mounting of a diamond can also increase or decrease the visibility of the color. A white mount can make yellow shades present in a diamond more obvious, while a yellow mounting would mask the coloring.
  4. CARAT: As the carat increases, the color becomes more important. This is because the color of a diamond becomes more obvious as it increases in size. Larger diamonds would show more color than smaller diamonds of the same color grade. Therefore, care should be taken to ensure the balance between the color and carat of the diamond while selecting.
  5. PRESENCE OF POINTED EDGES: Some shapes tend to have more pointed edges than others and as a result, the coloring is more obvious along those edges. In selecting a diamond in those shapes, the color grade would be based on the preference of the buyer and the use to which the diamond would be put.


How much color would be hidden or seen also depends on the shape of the diamond. Some shapes make the color more obvious, based on their design, while other shapes easily conceal color, also because of their design.

Round cut This cut is brilliant. It easily conceals color and so you can go for a lower grade color. It would not be easily visible to the naked eye. You can explore other options like carat and clarity with this particular cut
Princess cut Even though brilliant, this shows more color than the round cut. This is due to the increased depth and size of the diamond
Asscher cut This varies with size. The smaller diamonds do not show the color very much. However, the larger diamonds (above 1 carat) would show a significant amount of color. The Asscher cut is primarily designed for its clarity and so, the color can easily distract affect its beauty.
Emerald cut This cut has large facets that cannot mask color. It also has an open structure with a deep body, which makes the color of the diamond more obvious. Going for a higher color grade is recommended.
Marquise cut Cuts that have elongated points would show more color along with those points. Make sure a thorough visual inspection of the diamond is carried out, before purchase.
Pear cut It has elongated points along which color is usually more visible. Also, pay attention to the width of the point. If a point is very narrow, the coloring would be more obvious
Heart This diamond has to achieve a delicate balance between carat, cut and color. If the carat is too small, the coloring might not be obvious but the shape might also not be so obvious. Therefore, extra care should be taken in selecting here. As a guide, less than 1.25 carats, color is not obvious.
Oval cut Elongated shapes would show more color along with the tips of the diamond. Attention should also be paid to the size of the diamond. Larger diamonds show more color.
Cushion cut This depends on the type of cut. If it is brilliant, then less attention should be paid to color as it would be concealed. But when the cut is designed to become less flashy and wider, with large facets, then the color becomes an issue, because it could be very obvious


  1. VISUAL APPEAL: Coloured diamonds are beautiful and are among some of the most popular in the world. The Hope diamond, for instance, is a stunner and captivates anyone who takes a look at it.
  2. MORE OPTIONS: Of course, not everyone wants to wear a colorless diamond! Diamond colors, ranging from orange, to blue and green, have given a wider range of choices to buyers who might not want colorless diamonds.
  3. INCREASED VALUE: A beautiful and well-cut colored diamond is very valuable and the price can be many times higher than a colorless diamond of the same carat. The fact that some of the colors are also rare makes them all the more precious and expensive.
  4. DISTINCT: Colourless diamonds are everywhere. Wearing a colored diamond would make the individual stand out and different from every other person. For the more popular colored diamonds, wearing them is a sign of wealth and affluence.


  1. REDUCED SPARKLE: Coloured diamonds might not be as shiny and sparkling as their colorless counterpart. Worse still, when color is present in diamonds which are supposed to be colorless, it reduces their sparkle, quality, and grade.
  2. DECREASED VALUE: When diamonds which are supposed to be colorless have some form of coloring, it is usually not desirable and so reduces the value and price of the diamond.
  3. PREFERENCE: Most people prefer clear, colorless diamonds that would sparkle brilliantly when light passes through. This effect is absent or reduced once there is significant coloring. As we also pointed out, color present in diamond is due to the presence of impurities that might not sit well with some people who refer their diamonds flawless.
  4. POOR VISUAL APPEAL: Many diamonds do not achieve the stunning look of the hope diamond. Instead, most of what we have are ugly looking, poorly blended colors or shades of yellow or brown, which is not attractive to most people.

Putting all together, it is obvious that diamond color is an important characteristic of diamonds. When properly utilized, it can be combined with the other Cs to easily get the best diamond based on your budget.

It is also always important to consult your gemmologist whenever you want to take a decision on buying lower color grades. Sometimes, the right combination of the 4Cs could provide you with a great diamond choice that is within your plan.


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