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Diamond Color and the 4 C's

To the naked eye, most "white" diamonds may appear clear and with no distinct color, however, most stones do have subtle hints of yellow or brown. A diamond that lacks color is considered to be very rare and is quite valuable. When considering diamond color, one of the very important 4Cs (carat, cut, color, clarity), it is important to differentiate between "colorless" and "fancy" colored diamonds that actually come in a variety of natural colors including pink, yellow, green and black.

D E F: Colorless and virtually colorless. Best color ratings a diamond can receive.

G H I J: Near colorless.  Color is difficult to compare unless compared side by side, but not very noticeable to the naked-eye.

K L M: Faint yellow color observable under close inspection, and a little more noticeable to the naked-eye.

N - Z: Light yellowish to yellow color is very noticeable to the naked-eye. These diamonds are usually used for industrial purposes.

Fire in a Colorless Diamond

A diamond acts as a prism, dividing light into a spectrum of various colors that appears as colorful flashes. These flashes of color are referred to as fire. The less color that is found in a diamond, the more colorful the fire becomes and the better the color grade. Sometimes, impurities within the diamond have the ability to filter out some of the color.

Grading a Colorless Diamond

When grading a colorless diamond, you should consider how closely the stone's body color approaches colorlessness - since most diamonds have at least a hint of yellow or brown. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS) both have created the following system to color grade diamonds. The GIA's scale ranges from "D" to "Z" - from colorless to light yellow. The AGS's scale ranges from "0" to "10" - from colorless to fancy yellow.

Grading a Colorless Diamond
Scale Colorless  Near Colorless Faint Yellow Very Light Yellow Light Yellow
GIA D E F G H I J K - M N - R S - Z
AGS 0 .5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 - 4.5 5.0 - 7.0 7.5 - 10.0
Premium Quality Diamonds

Brown Diamonds

Brown diamonds, also known as champagne diamonds, cognac diamonds or fancy brown diamonds, are enjoying well-deserved recognition and have become a modern treasure. Their neutral, chocolate color lends a touch of subdued elegance and sophistication to any jewelry piece. Once an object of disdain among modern jewelers, brown diamonds, from the deep, reddish cognac hues through the chocolatey mid-tones, to the pastel golden colored stones (which give champagne diamonds their name), have returned to popularity. Brown is a naturally occurring color in diamonds. These stones have the same range of clarity, can be cut in the same ways, and have the same durability as other diamonds, the only difference being the color. Brown diamonds are mined mostly in Western Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and Canada.

Grading Non-Certified Diamonds

Non-certified stones are graded by our highly qualified gemologist; however they will also ways be what we call a split grade since they are not going to be GIA or AGS grading reports. Why this is; if you have a diamond that is SI which means it can be SI1 to SI2 a range; the same diamond will have an H to I color range. Only a certified diamond can be called SI1 H color, based on the lab company (GIA/AGS) that certified the stones. At DiamondWave our non-certified diamonds will always be SI1/SI2 H-I or better and our VS will be VS1/VS2 G-H color or better.

Fluorescence

Another factor to consider when examining a diamond's color is whether or not the diamond exhibits fluorescence. The fluorescence of the stone is noted on a number of different diamond grading reports from independent labs such as GIA, AGS and EGL (European Gemological Laboratory). Fluorescence means that the diamond's color changes when it is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light is a natural presence in daylight and in fluorescent-lit rooms. If a diamond exhibits fluorescence, it has the capacity to change color. For near colorless stones, fluorescence gives the diamond a milky white appearance, which can lower its value. In some instances, the fluorescence is hardly noticeable and has minimal impact on the stone's brilliance and value. Fluorescence often adds value to lower color stones as it gives the stones a whiter, brighter appearance.

Setting Affects Color

How the diamond is set can make a major difference in the color of the diamond. You would not want to put a colorless diamond with a yellow gold setting since the yellow will reflect into the stone. A diamond that appears light yellow will appear more colorless if it is mounted on a platinum or white gold setting.

The color of a diamond is a critical factor when shopping for the perfect diamond. It is important to consider the 4Cs (color, clarity, cut and carat weight), personal taste, budget and type of setting-all these factors work together to help you decide on the diamond color that is right for you.

Fancy Color Diamonds

In addition to the white or colorless variety, diamonds also come in many different colors such as yellow, pink, blue, green, red, orange and black. Fancy colored diamonds are rare - from every million carats of diamonds mined, only about one carat will be a fancy colored diamond. Fancy colored diamonds receive their color in numerous ways such as different trace elements present in the stones, i.e., nitrogen, which produces a yellow diamond. Green colored diamonds are created when a diamond is exposed to a naturally occuring source of radiation during its creation. In addition, sometimes an inclusion or flaw which is looked at negatively in a colorless stone, contributes special tones and sparks of color in a fancy colored diamond.

Fancy colors are evaluated in several ways. The first quality is the basic hue or color (the rarer the color, the greater the cost) of the diamond. The second quality is the stone's intensity (the richness or saturation of the color). The third quality is the purity of the color (Is the color bright and clear, or clouded?). These color characteristics form the basis for determining a fancy colored diamond's worth. The more intense the color, the rarer and more expensive the diamond. For example, a fancy light yellow diamond costs less than a fancy vivid yellow diamond of equal size, shape and clarity. The GIA uses eight categories to grade fancy colored diamonds:

  • Very Light
  • Light
  • Fancy Light
  • Fancy
  • Fancy Dark
  • Fancy Intense
  • Fancy Deep
  • Fancy Vivid