Natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds come in a wide range of colors and hues. The classic clear stones typically used in engagement and wedding rings are known as white diamonds. In contrast, fancy colored diamonds exhibit vivid shades such as pink, green, and yellow. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has established a color grading system for natural diamonds on a scale from D to Z. Similarly, the International Gemological Institute (IGI) uses a D-to-Z scale for grading lab-grown diamonds. Diamonds graded within this scale are categorized as "white," although those on the lower end may exhibit a hint of yellow.

Diamond Color Grades

Here's an interesting irony: Diamond color grading is based on the absence of color in a diamond. The less color present in a diamond, the higher its color grade. Color in diamonds can subtly diminish sparkle, making colorless diamonds appear to sparkle more compared to diamonds with yellowish or brownish tints. Below is the widely accepted diamond color grading chart used in the industry.

Diamond Color Grades Color Visibility
D Colorless
E Colorless
F Colorless
G Near Colorless
H Near Colorless
I Near Colorless
J Near Colorless
K Faint Yellow
L Faint Yellow

Keep in Mind that Color is Natural

Color is an inherent feature of diamonds. During their formation over millions of years deep within the earth, trace elements can impart a yellowish or brownish hue to the gems. (And no, despite common belief, diamonds aren't formed from coal; they are composed of carbon deposits.) It's typical for diamonds to exhibit some degree of this tinting, which can vary in hue, tone, and intensity, rather than being completely colorless.

diamond color - slightly brown, yellow or colorless

Diamond color is assessed by placing the diamond face down on a pure white background. Gemologists compare the diamond's body color against master stones or a set of cubic zirconia verified by GIA, which represent different color grades. If a diamond exhibits more yellow than one grade but less than the next, it will receive a grade within that range. (For instance, a diamond with more yellow than an F grade but less than a G grade would be categorized as a G color diamond. Sometimes, these are referred to as "G+ color diamonds" to signify that they are at the upper end of that specific color grade, appearing whiter than other stones within the same grade.)

Understanding the Diamond Color Scale

In the diamond color scale, D (colorless) is the top grade, while Z is the lowest. Previously, diamonds were graded on a scale that included AAA, AA, A, and B, but the introduction of the new scale began at D to eliminate confusion. This chart visually depicts how diamond color shifts across the scale. The choice of which diamond color is best depends on individual preferences and specific needs.

GIA color grading scale from D - Z

Diamond Color D-F: Colorless - Diamonds in this range exhibit no color or extremely faint traces that are discernible only to trained gemologists. Less than 1% of all gem-quality diamonds fall within this category. Learn more about D-F colored diamonds.

Diamond Color G-J: Near Colorless - These diamonds display minor traces of color that are detectable to trained observers. G/H colored diamonds are particularly popular for their balance between value and minimal color presence. I/J colors may show slight hints of color under close inspection but still exhibit brilliant sparkle and good value when considering other factors. This near colorless range comprises the top 15% of all gem-quality diamonds. Learn more about G, H, I & J color diamonds.

Diamond Color K-M: Faint - Diamonds in the K, L, and M range typically exhibit a faint yellow or brown hue. This slight coloration can slightly diminish the diamond's sparkle. While noticeable in certain settings, techniques can minimize its appearance. These diamonds represent the top 40% of all gem-quality diamonds. Stienhardt does not carry diamonds below the L color grade. Learn more about K, L, and M color diamonds.

Understanding Each Diamond Color Grade

Are you confident about which diamond color suits you best? Or perhaps you're unsure about achieving the optimal look within your budget. Explore more about each diamond color below to understand their unique characteristics and considerations before making your choice.

face down D color diamond

D Colorless: A diamond graded as D exhibits the utmost purity in color, representing a pinnacle of perfection. It is exceedingly rare and devoid of any discernible hues. To the naked eye, diamonds graded E and F can appear nearly identical to those graded D. D color diamonds are most striking when set in white gold or platinum, enhancing their colorless brilliance against the metal's white hue. Nevertheless, they can also exude beauty when set in rose or yellow gold, although some of the setting's color may subtly influence the stone.

face down E color diamond

E Colorless: An E color diamond boasts exceptional visual appeal with its high color purity. It is extraordinarily rare and exhibits virtually no discernible color shades. Even under 10X magnification or to the naked eye, an E color diamond remains free from any noticeable yellow hues.

face down F color diamond

F Colorless: An F color diamond possesses excellent beauty and a slight hint of color that is imperceptible to the untrained eye. It is highly rare and recognized for its high color purity. If you're seeking a diamond that appears free from yellow shades to the naked eye, an F color diamond is an ideal choice and can often be more affordable compared to D or E color diamonds.

face down G color diamond

G Near Colorless: A G color diamond is exquisite, displaying subtle traces of color discernible only to diamond professionals. It stands as the most popular diamond color, offering an excellent balance of beauty and value. While a platinum or white gold setting can minimize any hints of yellow, a G color diamond is versatile and can also complement rose and yellow gold settings beautifully.

H Near Colorless: An H color diamond exudes captivating allure, with its faintly discernible hue having no impact on the diamond's brilliance. It remains highly sought after due to its visual appeal and value. An H color strikes a fine balance between these attributes, making it an excellent choice if you prioritize characteristics such as carat size or clarity.

face down I color diamond

I Near Colorless: An I color diamond maintains exceptional brilliance, although slight color shading may be discernible to a gemologist. This color remains imperceptible to the untrained eye and offers excellent value. Depending on the specific diamond, an I color can be a wise selection as any yellow tint is not prominently noticeable. Consulting with a gemologist to ensure the diamond appears white face-up is recommended before finalizing your purchase.

face down J color diamond

J Near Colorless: A J color diamond exhibits remarkable sparkle and value, particularly when it's cut well. While it does possess a discernible shade of color that only trained professionals can detect, opting for a J color allows for potentially larger size or higher clarity within your budget. Consulting with a gemologist is advisable to ensure the diamond appears white face-up and to discuss how different diamond shapes may influence its color perception.

face down K color diamond

K Faint Yellow: A K color diamond is categorized as a white diamond that maintains its sparkle without significant compromise. While it may exhibit some color shading under certain lighting conditions, discerning the color grade with an untrained eye is challenging. However, it's worth noting that in larger diamond sizes over 1.50 carats, a K color diamond can appear slightly yellowish to the naked eye.

face down L color diamond

L Faint Yellow: An L color diamond is brilliant and falls into the category of white diamonds that maintain their sparkle. While there may be a slight hint of color visible to the untrained eye, particularly when viewed from the side, it does not detract significantly from its overall brilliance. Opting for a yellow gold setting can enhance its appearance by minimizing the contrast between the diamond and the setting. Before purchasing an L color diamond, consulting with a gemologist is advisable to ensure it aligns with your preferences and expectations.

Diamond Color Prices: How to Choose

While the changes in diamond color are subtle, the differences in pricing are quite pronounced. The price variance between each color grade (assuming other factors remain constant) ranges from approximately 8% to over 25% at the higher end of the spectrum. For those prioritizing perfection, D to F color diamonds are an excellent choice. If value is a primary consideration, exploring diamonds in the I to K color range can be advantageous.

It's crucial to remember that diamonds of all colors exhibit fire and brilliance. When making your decision, consider your overall budget for the ring and your preference for the metal setting.

Opting for a diamond with a lower color grade may result in minor visible distinctions, but the financial savings can be quite significant. The most noticeable cost differential is often observed between G and F color grades, with G being the most popular choice for this reason, closely followed by H.

princess shape diamond color f vs g

Factor your Metal Choice Into your Decision

The hue of the metal can influence your choice of diamond color. A diamond with a lower color grade can appear stunningly white in a yellow gold setting. This is because the warm tones of yellow gold reduce the contrast between the diamond and the setting, making any slight yellow tint less noticeable.

However, metal color isn't the sole consideration. The quantity of metal and the type of setting can also affect how much of the diamond is showcased. Depending on these factors, you might opt for a higher or lower color grade on the scale.

The Shape and Size of your Diamond Matter too

Non-round diamonds, often called fancy shapes, typically display more noticeable color variations. Pear, oval, and marquise cuts tend to exhibit more color near their points and edges. On the other hand, princess, emerald, Asscher, radiant, and cushion cuts can show more color across the diamond's body.

If you prefer the appearance of a G color diamond in a round cut, you might consider opting for an F color in another diamond shape to achieve a similar visual effect.

diamond color in different diamond shapes

As diamonds increase in carat weight, their color can become more pronounced regardless of shape. For larger sizes, selecting diamonds with higher color grades becomes crucial. Understanding the impact of various factors on diamond pricing is also essential.

We assessed the significance of color grading (rated on a scale of 1-10: 1 being the least important and 10 being the most important) relative to the diamond's shape. The shape plays a pivotal role in determining how prominently the diamond displays its color.

Shape Rating Note
Round 4/10 Their brilliant facets can mask color. Therefore, with this shape you do not have to get an overly high color grade. You can balance color with other factors like cut to get the best value and look.
Princess 5/10 The color shows more than rounds due to the depth and size of the body in the diamond
Emerald 6/10 The open, deeper body of the diamond tends to show more color. The larger facets don't allow sparkle to mask color
Asscher 6/10 The open, deeper body of the diamond tends to show more color. The larger facets don't allow sparkle to mask color as well. If getting a smaller asscher diamond, something that is below 1 carat you may not have to get as high of a color. When purchasing one larger than a carat, pay closer attention to color.
Oval 7/10 Elongated shapes, specifically ones with points show less color in the body, but much more near the edges and points. Again if opting to get an oval that is larger than 1 carat, pay closer attention to the color. Look at also how shallow or deep the diamond is. Deeper diamonds will show a little less color.
Marquise 8/10 Elongated shapes, like the marquise will show more color along the points. If getting a marquise that is elongated, be sure to look carefully at images and videos of the diamond to understand color.
Pear 8/10 Elongated shapes like the pear will show more color in the points of the diamond. Be careful as to how narrow or fat the diamond is. With a more narrow point, color will show easily.
Heart 8/10 With a pointed bottom and an edge that curves inward at the top, a larger diamond can show color. However, color showing may not be a large concern with heart shaped diamonds that are smaller than 1.25 carats.
Radiant 9/10 Radiant diamonds can show color fairly easily due to the type of faceting. Be sure to consider color when choosing.
Cushion 9/10 Cushion diamonds can show more color based on the type of faceting. With a brilliant cut cushion, color showing is less of a concern. However, with one that has larger and more open facets, color can show more easily. Take a close look at your diamond to decide and have a gemologist explain to you which kind of faceting it has.

Lastly: Factor Diamond Type

As you may be aware, the market for white diamonds now includes lab-grown diamonds. Lab diamonds are notable because they possess identical chemical, physical, and optical properties as mined or natural diamonds. The primary distinctions between lab-grown and mined diamonds are their price and origin. Opting for a 1-carat lab-grown diamond can result in savings of 30-40% compared to a 1-carat natural diamond with identical cut, clarity, color, and carat specifications.

Lab-grown (white) diamonds place significant emphasis on color grade, similar to their natural counterparts. This emphasis is crucial because yellowish tints in white diamonds can detract from their sparkle. At With Clarity, lab diamonds are graded using the same letter scale as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). However, our lab stones are assessed by the International Gemological Institute (IGI), an independent laboratory with global headquarters, ensuring consumers receive accurate grading and excellent value for their diamonds.

Does Fluorescence Impact Color?

face down diamond on a color shading paper

One important factor that influences a diamond's appearance is fluorescence. Contrary to common misconceptions, fluorescence can actually enhance a diamond's visual appeal. Fluorescence refers to how a diamond reacts when exposed to UV light (black light). It's caused by trace elements like boron that are naturally incorporated into diamonds during their formation. Although fluorescence rarely affects a diamond's visual qualities, it's more commonly noticed in diamonds with lower color grades.

For diamonds in the higher color range (D-G), it's recommended that fluorescence be faint or absent. In these cases, fluorescence can sometimes give a slight whitish or grayish tint to an otherwise colorless diamond, although this is exceedingly rare and impacts less than 1% of all diamonds with fluorescence. More commonly, fluorescence can mitigate the yellowish hue in diamonds with lower color grades (I-L), making them appear slightly whiter.

When considering diamonds in the I-L color range, medium or strong fluorescence can be beneficial as it helps to minimize the yellow tint and enhances the diamond's appearance. Diamonds with fluorescence also tend to be more affordable compared to those without. This makes fluorescent diamonds a particularly attractive option in colors like J, K, or L, where they offer excellent value for purchase.

Diamond Color Buying Tips

We understand that sometimes you need a quick reference without the hassle of calling or emailing our expert gemologists. Here's a compiled list of insights to help you choose a diamond based on its color:

    • For a balance of value and appearance, consider diamonds in the G to J range. This range typically offers good value across most carat weights. If you're opting for a diamond over 1 carat, sticking with G or H is advisable because larger diamonds can show color more prominently
    • Remember that the diamond's shape can influence how color is perceived. Fancy shapes tend to display more color compared to round cuts.
    • Don't compromise on color if you're prioritizing size. Alongside cut, color significantly impacts a diamond's overall appearance and beauty. Once a diamond is set in a ring, its color becomes less noticeable. An H color diamond, for instance, can look nearly colorless when set, especially when not compared directly with higher color grades.
    • The color of the setting affects how the diamond's color appears. Yellow gold settings can minimize the appearance of yellowish tones in a diamond, while white metal settings like platinum or white gold can make any hints of color more apparent. Rose gold falls in between, with a lesser effect on color perception.

diamond color in 14k white gold and 14k yellow gold
  • A ring setting that encloses more of the diamond, such as a bezel or channel setting, tends to conceal its color. Conversely, settings that expose more of the diamond, like a solitaire setting, are less effective at masking any yellow tint.

  • If a diamond's color grade isn't flawless, there's no need to worry. For the majority of people, including many gemologists, distinguishing between color grades without direct comparison in a controlled setting is challenging

If you're unsure about the impact of color, contact a diamond and jewelry consultant who can inspect the diamond to verify that its tint doesn't compromise its sparkle. 

Buying Tips for D-F Diamonds

Diamonds graded D, E, and F are guaranteed to be colorless, showcasing a crystal-clear appearance. In this range, any metal setting will complement the diamond and enhance its sparkle. D and E color diamonds are highly rare and valuable, commanding significant price increases as you move up within this elite range. However, unless you have a keen eye for color, opting for an F color diamond is a safe choice. To most observers, an F color diamond appears nearly identical to D or E color diamonds, with minimal perceptible difference, except in price.

Buying Tips for G-J Diamonds

G, H, I, and J color diamonds are classified as colorless by both GIA and IGI. They are generally suitable choices for most diamond sizes and shapes. If having a diamond that appears as colorless as possible is a priority, sticking to the G or H color ranges is recommended. Diamonds in the J and I color grades can also be viable options, though the presence of yellow hues may vary depending on factors like diamond size, shape, and fluorescence. Opting for yellow or rose gold settings can help offset any perceived color, making the diamond appear slightly whiter.

Buying Tips for K-L Diamonds

K and L color diamonds exhibit a faint to light yellow tint that can be noticeable without magnification. It's advisable to avoid K and L color diamonds for sizes larger than 1 carat, as their color becomes more apparent. If color is not a critical consideration for you, K and L colors can still be considered, but be aware that settings with many accent diamonds, such as pave or halo settings, may accentuate the yellow hue of the center diamond. At Stienhardt, all our accent diamonds are graded within the G color range. Opting for diamonds in the K and L color range can result in significant cost savings compared to higher color grades. This color range may also appeal to those seeking a vintage- or antique-inspired ring.

Diamond Color and Accent Diamonds

Ensuring that smaller accent or side stones complement the center diamond is essential for creating high-quality jewelry. Matching the color is paramount in achieving a cohesive look. Larger diamonds tend to reveal color more prominently, so it's crucial to ensure that your accent stones are within a few color grades of your main stone, especially in settings like halo and three-stone rings.

However, exact color matching isn't always necessary for smaller accent diamonds, as color differences and inclusions are less noticeable in these stones. At Stienhardt, we consistently use G color diamonds for our accent stones because we prioritize the overall aesthetic of your ring. These diamonds complement a wide range of center stone grades, from D color diamonds to J color diamonds, though there may be some subtle contrast if you opt for a lower grade.

large fancy purple and pink diamonds in round and oval shapes

Fancy Colored Diamonds

Diamonds that deviate from the traditional D-Z color scale or exhibit hues other than yellow or brown fall into the category of fancy colored diamonds. A fancy shape diamond refers to any shape other than round. Fancy colored diamonds are exceptionally rare, with only one in 10,000 diamonds exhibiting colors beyond yellow or brown. The value of a fancy colored diamond depends on factors such as color saturation, intensity, and hue, which can either diminish or enhance its worth. Naturally occurring diamond colors span a spectrum including gray, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, olive, pink, purple, brown, and black. Among these, red diamonds are the rarest and most valuable, with only about 40 to 50 known specimens worldwide.

Diamonds with fancy colors are evaluated by grading laboratories like GIA based on the strength of their color and any undertones present. Diamonds may exhibit multiple undertones, with dominant shades such as Fancy Light Orangey Pink or Fancy Yellowish Green. Given the importance of nuances like hue, tone, and saturation, we recommend viewing fancy colored diamonds in person before making a purchase. Images or videos often fail to capture the true brilliance and unique color characteristics of these diamonds accurately.



Do sapphires hold their value over time?

Yes, sapphires do hold their value over time; just ensure to opt for a high-quality grade natural sapphire with an intense hue.

What is the value of a lab created sapphire?

A lab created sapphire will sell for a lower price compared to a natural sapphire, and usually costs approximately $40 per carat.