The Insider’s Guide To Diamond Color Grading
Diamonds are one of the most beautiful and valuable gemstones on earth because of their scarcity and ideal qualities. Many factors influence the worth of a diamond. Because lab-grown diamonds replicate the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as a natural diamond, these same factors will influence the relative prices of lab-grown diamonds as well. Color is just one of those characteristics that you will want to consider when designing your perfect lab-grown diamond engagement ring!
Lab-grown diamonds come in many colors and earn different color ratings, but what should you consider when choosing the perfect diamond color for you?
Most consumers look for colorless diamonds, while others prefer to shop for champagne or fancy colored diamonds! Whatever your preference, it’s crucial that you understand how these diamonds are graded so you can make an educated decision and find what fits your style best!
In this blog, you’ll learn:
- Why colorless diamonds are so valuable
- How diamond color is graded
- The difference between colorless and nearly colorless diamonds
- How to assess and compare diamond color grades
- The factors that influence a diamond’s perceived color once it’s set in your ring!
How Is Diamond Color Graded?
Most diamonds are colorless or near-colorless with slight yellow or brown undertones. Just like a natural diamond, a lab-grown diamond’s value is partially based on the absence of color.
Who grades diamond color?
The GIA’s color-grading scale for diamonds is the industry standard.
The GIA and the IGI (International Gemological Institute) grades lab-grown diamonds using the same 4C’s method to assess the quality of natural diamonds.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed a diamond color grading system in the 1950s. The scale ranges from D to Z. D is the highest quality, and Z is the lowest.
Why You’ll Never See A Color Grade “A, B, or C.”
You’re probably wondering, “why does the GIA color grade system start at D?”
When the GIA rolled out its grading system, they knew other grading scales already existed (with questionable accuracy and consistency). These different scales included ratings with A, B, and C grades and Roman numerals or Arabic numbers. The GIA wanted to set itself apart from these earlier systems.
What Is a Colorless Diamond?
On the GIA Color grade scale, D, E, and F are considered “colorless” diamonds. D diamonds have less color and the highest value. It is worth noting that, face-up, the difference between D, E, and F diamonds is often unnoticeable.
Even for a trained professional, it can be tough to tell the difference between a D and an E-colored diamond.
What Is a Near-Colorless Diamond?
G, H, I & J diamonds are considered “near-colorless,” and H-J diamonds are “near-colorless with a slight tint.” The most significant visual difference is typically between a G and a J diamond.
At Reverence Jewelry we work primarily with D-J colored diamonds but encourage you to choose a diamond that satisfies your values and personal preferences.
What Are Colored and Fancy Colored Diamonds?
While diamonds are typically revered for their colorless qualities and near-flawless composition, some people prefer diamonds lower on the GIA scale! When exposed to nitrogen, natural-colored diamonds are influenced during the formation process. This process is mimicked in a laboratory to give these lab-grown diamonds a lower color grade.
Diamonds with a low color grade are referred to as “Fancy-colored diamonds.”
Some fancy colors you might consider:
- Champagne Diamonds. These diamonds have a characteristic yellowish, brown hue and typically fall within the K-Z range. Champagne diamonds and most other fancy colored diamonds get their color from elements like nitrogen and boron.
- Fancy Yellow Diamonds. Yellow diamonds are often more affordable than other Fancy Colors but tend to be less brilliant. For this reason, you’ll want to look for a high diamond cut grade to maximize the fancy yellow diamond’s intensity.
- Canary Diamonds (the rarest). These diamonds are similar to yellow diamonds, but contain a stronger yellow and tend to rate at or below the Z range of the GIA’s color scale. The more vivid the yellow tones, the more rare and more valuable the canary diamond will be.
- Fancy Pink Diamonds. Pink diamonds are especially rare and valuable. Only a minuscule percentage of natural diamonds have a pink color and even fewer have a rich color. This pink hue is caused by a distortion in the diamond’s crystal structure, not from trace elements, like nitrogen, which causes the yellow color in diamonds. This process can be mimicked in a laboratory to achieve the aesthetic pink hue.
Can Diamonds Fall Below The Z Range?
Yes! In fact, anything after Z is considered a fancy-colored diamond!
Surprisingly, diamond rarity and price often jump once we are beyond Z in color (as is the case with canary diamonds). We then enter into a new method for grading altogether!
How To Assess The Color Of A Diamond
The GIA grades lab-grown diamonds by comparing them to other stones of a known color grade. This is done under specific lighting and viewing conditions to ensure consistency and accuracy.
Diamonds are never graded face up. That’s because the sparkle and brilliance from the diamond’s table can distract the eye, making it hard to assess its true color grade. Instead, diamonds are graded upside down.
What Influences The Color of A Diamond?
The Formation Process
Natural diamonds may develop a slight or significant tint during the formation process. Natural diamonds are created by extreme heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s crust. During this crystallization process, particles (such as nitrogen or boron) may get trapped in the carbon of a diamond, giving it a different hue or tone.
The formation process is different for a lab-grown stone. Lab-grown diamonds are created through a combination of heat and pressure in a laboratory. Because it is a more controlled environment, it is relatively easy to produce lab-grown diamonds with higher color grades. While lower color grade lab-grown diamonds are created for aesthetic purposes, you pay less of a premium for bright white stones that are lab-grown than you would in the natural diamond market, where color can have a significant effect on the price of your stone.
The Setting Metal
It will always be more challenging to assess the color of a diamond once it’s set!
Because the metal of your ring can influence the diamond’s apparent color quite significantly in some cases.
Keep this in mind as you design your custom engagement ring. Often diamonds will appear more white or colorless when set in platinum. Likewise, a gold setting can cause a diamond to seem a bit warmer (more yellow in color). In my experience, it’s only near-colorless diamonds (more specifically grades I-J on the GIA scale) that are most impacted by the setting metal color.
The Diamond Shape
The shape of your diamond can also influence the apparent color of your stone. Diamonds are classified as either round brilliant cut or fancy shaped (any shape that isn’t round brilliant).
Because diamonds are graded table down, looking through the diamond, once it’s turned right side up, different shapes can mask their color better than others.
Round Brilliant Diamonds
In my experience, round brilliant diamonds mask the color better than any other shape. You might wonder why round brilliant diamonds hide color best? The answer is symmetry! The symmetrical qualities of a round brilliant diamond enhance its brilliance and the ability to conceal color!
Fancy Shaped Diamonds
Fancy-shaped diamonds are a bit less forgiving when it comes to hiding color since they are less symmetrical than a round brilliant diamond. For example, I find oval-shaped diamonds show their color more than any other shape.
Pear-shaped diamonds tend to be asymmetrical. Because pear-shaped diamonds have a point and a lobe, sometimes, as you venture into the J, K, L, or champagne color ranges (K-Z), you may notice the diamond doesn’t have an even or consistent hue.
What To Consider When Choosing The Color Grade Of Your Diamond
None of this information about diamond color grades matters unless you can apply the knowledge to your decision-making and the diamond buying process! Here are the most critical factors you will want to consider when choosing a lab-grown diamond for your dream engagement ring.
Decide What Color Rating Matters Most To You
The more “colorless” and the better the color grade of a diamond, the more valuable it is deemed to be. If you are okay with a near-colorless diamond, you may be able to afford a larger diamond, and your budget may go further. Others may prefer the higher quality of a colorless center stone. In this case, you may be willing to have a smaller diamond with a better color rating.
Choose Your Metal Wisely
Consider how the metal of your engagement ring will influence your diamonds’ color. Platinum is often best for those who prefer that their diamond appear more white, while gold is an excellent option for those who like a warmer tone.
Pro Tip: If you choose to set your diamond in platinum, you may be able to select a diamond with a slightly lower color grade while still achieving the appearance you are looking for at a more affordable price point.
Never Sacrifice Cut
While color is one of the 4C’s, many professionals believe color is the least important factor. Don't sacrifice the cut of your diamond in an attempt to maximize the diamond’s carat, color, or clarity. In truth, a well-cut diamond can give you the perceived size, sparkle, and impact you’re looking for. If you’d like to learn more about how to grade a diamond cut, explore this blog post.
Always Get a GIA or IGI Grading Report
Be sure to request this report when purchasing your diamond to be sure of its color and overall 4C’grade.
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