Picture the engagement ring you’re shopping for. Can you see it? Odds are, it has a white diamond in the center. But did you know that white diamonds actually come in 23 shades? Whaaaat?! In order to choose the perfect diamond color for your special ring, it’s important to know how color affects beauty and price.

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What is diamond color?

  • Diamond color is how white/colorless the stone is.
  • Some diamonds show yellow or brown body color.

Diamonds are a miraculous gem which grow in every color of the rainbow, as well as white, brown, colorless, and black! Diamonds gain their color during formation through trace element absorption or extreme heat and pressure.

Interestingly, what most people think of as a “white diamond,” is not actually white – but clear. Gemologists call it “colorless.” Colorless diamonds fall somewhere along the “normal” color range established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The “normal” color range begins at completely colorless, like water, and becomes increasingly light yellow or light brown, like champagne. Color is one of the famous 4 C’s of diamond grading.

 

What are diamond color grades?

  • Diamonds are graded on a scale starting with D and ending with Z.
  • D diamonds are the most colorless.
  • D, E, and F color diamonds are “colorless.”
  • G and H still look colorless and are the best value.
  • Colors I through Z show more yellow or brown the closer to Z they get.

The diamond color scale begins at D and ends at Z. The closer to D a diamond is, the more colorless it is. The closer to Z a stone is, the more body color it has. All other factors being equal, the closer to D a diamond sits on this scale, the rarer and more expensive it is.

We know what you’re thinking. What happened to letters A through C?! Letters A through C were abandoned long ago because retailers were promoting their diamonds using phrases like “A quality!” without really teaching people about the 4 C’s of diamonds. There was no industry standard for people to compare stones. To eliminate the confusion, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) formed the current standard beginning with D.

 

chart showing diamond color grades

A GIA chart showing diamond color grades. Photo Credit: GIA

D-E-F (Colorless) Diamond Color

Diamonds in the Colorless tier, D, E, and F, are completely colorless. D is an icy, clear color without a hint of yellow. E has only a slight hint of body color, which is impossible to see without comparing it to a D grade stone. F remains colorless, with just a bit more color that will not be visible at all when “face up.”

G-J (Near Colorless) Diamond Color

Near colorless diamonds, (G, H, I, and J grades,) are the best value in diamonds. G color is just one step down from the truly Colorless tier, so it still appears very colorless. H color is another good “near colorless” choice and is, in my opinion, the last color grade where yellow or brown is not visible face up. I color begins to show some body color face up. However, in an excellent cut diamond, I color is easily masked. J color shows a bit more body color than I, and is best suited to yellow or rose gold settings.

Pro Tip! G color diamonds are only one grade away from colorless, giving max value!

K-Z Faint-Light Diamond Color

Although Do Amore does not show diamonds warmer than J color on its site, if a warmer stone is what you want, we can do a custom search and find you the perfect K-Z color stone!

Diamonds in grades K-Z face up with a significant amount of yellow or brown body color. Stones in these ranges will never look colorless. The closer to Z a diamond is, the more intense the body color of the gem is. K-Z diamonds can look stunning if set in yellow gold, with the intention of looking like fancy yellow or champagne diamonds (without the cost.) Couples interested in this look should consider a K-M color diamond for a very pale yellow or brown. For a light-to-medium toned yellow or brown diamond, couples should choose a stone in the N-R range. Finally, for a more intense color, check out the S-Z color range.

 

four diamonds ranging in color from white to yellow

A range of diamond colors from D to Z. Photo Credit: GIA

How do gemologists grade diamond color?

  • Gemologists grade diamonds “face down.”
  • This is because some yellow color can be hidden by sparkle.

Diamond experts use daylight-equivalent light and white backdrops, without magnification, to determine diamond color. Because people cannot accurately remember color, gemologists use Master Stones to compare and determine diamond hue. Master Stones are diamonds that have already been color graded by an independent lab. Comparing new diamonds against Master Stones ensures quality and consistency of diamond grading between different gemologists.

Fun fact! Gemologists color grade diamonds face down so that the sparkle of the stone does not distract them into giving it a more colorless grade. This very sparkle is the reason many couples choose G or H color stones for their engagement rings! Choosing a G or H color diamond can be a great way to save money. A well-cut G or H color diamond faces up “white!”

 

So what is a “white diamond”?

  • Diamond trade professionals call well-cut G-H color diamonds “white.” 
  • “White” diamonds are a great value because they appear colorless at a way better price.

Although there are actual white diamonds, these stones are pretty rare, and not the topic of everyday discussion. Instead, trade professionals will often use the term “white” when discussing a diamond that “faces up” colorless. When used in this context, a “white diamond” means a near colorless G or H diamond that is particularly well cut, making the stone appear colorless. So, searching for a “white” diamond is a great way to maximize value!

 

How does my diamond shape affect diamond color?

  • Couples looking at emerald cut and assher cut stones should consider D, E, or F color grades for the most colorless outcome.
  • Couples looking at round, oval, princess, radiant, heart, and pear can consider G and H color grades for a great value!

The cut and shape of a diamond can affect your stone’s face up color. As we discussed above, diamonds are graded face down – but we expect you won’t be wearing it that way! So, paying attention to the color of your stone when it’s face up is important!

A well-proportioned brilliant cut diamond, such as a round, princess, radiant, marquise, cushion, or oval, will produce great sparkle. While this sparkle does not change the diamond’s color grade, it does detract from a certain amount of body color, making it less noticeable when face up. As a result, couples looking at brilliant cut diamonds should consider G, H, and I color stones for the best value.

Step cut stones, such as emerald cut and asscher cut, produce more of a mirror-like sheen than a sparkle. As a result, these stones do not mask body color, and are actually designed to show off color. So, if you and your partner are considering an emerald cut or an asscher cut diamond, in order to ensure your stone faces up white, look at colorless diamonds graded D, E, or F.

 

How does my choice of ring setting affect diamond color?

  • Couples looking at yellow or rose gold can consider H or I color for a “white” look, because the warm metal masks yellow body color.
  • Couples looking at white gold, platinum, or palladium ring should consider grades D-H for the most colorless outcome.

As your diamond is going to be cradled by its ring setting, it is important to consider how that setting’s color will interact with your diamond. Gold, platinum, and palladium are the most popular metals jewelers use to craft diamond engagement rings. Gold engagement rings come in a variety of beautiful hues, including white, yellow, and rose. Platinum and palladium are naturally white metals.

Warm Toned Metals (Yellow and Rose Gold)

If you and your partner choose a yellow or rose gold setting, your diamond will reflect a certain amount of your setting’s color. This is because your diamond is a crystal, and has less body color than your solid metal setting. As a result of this reflection, a colorless diamond set in a warm toned metal will appear warmer in tone. On the other hand, the warm hue of your setting will also mask the slight body color of a near colorless stone! Consequently, couples choosing yellow or rose gold settings should consider selecting an H or I color diamond for a “white” look at a great value.

A 2.71-carat H color diamond in a yellow gold setting | A 1-carat G color diamond in a yellow gold setting

Cool Toned Metals (White Gold, Platinum, and Palladium)

If you and your partner decide a white gold, platinum, or palladium setting is more your style, your setting will look best with a D-H color diamond. These stones face up white. Unlike warm toned metals which mask warmer toned stones, white gold, platinum, and palladium are like a blank canvas. The body color of I and J grade diamonds may appear more vivid against cool toned metal. Accordingly, couples selecting white gold, platinum, or palladium should consider color in the range of D-H for the most colorless outcome.

A .75- carat I color diamond in a white gold setting | A .75- carat F color diamond in a white gold setting

GIA Certificates v. Other Labs

  • GIA grades diamond color more strictly than other labs.
  • GIA certificates are the most trustworthy.

Before you search for your perfect stone, let’s talk about one more thing: diamond certification.

There are many gem labs that grade diamonds (GIA, IGI, EGL, AGS, and many “in house” certifiers), but they do not all grade strictly. GIA is the most trusted gemological lab, and grades diamonds with the strictest ethics. A GIA certificate is the best protection for your special diamond investment, because GIA is the most trustworthy and well known gem lab.

 

three GIA pamphlets and a tablet showing diamond reports

Examples of GIA grading reports. Photo Credit: GIA

Unfortunately, many other labs do not grade as strictly as GIA. This results in customers buying “upgraded stones.” In terms of color, upgrading occurs when a diamond that GIA would grade a warmer tone on the color scale is graded more colorless by a less reputable lab. For example, a GIA near colorless H may be graded by another lab as a colorless F. Don’t let them fool you! An upgraded report cannot magically make a diamond more colorless, or more valuable. Because we strive for complete transparency and want the best for our customers, all Do Amore’s natural diamonds come with GIA certificates. This ensures that you get exactly what you pay for.

 

Can you help me find a white diamond?

Yes, I would love to! I can do a custom search to help you hand-select the perfect white diamond for your special engagement, while making sure the clarity and cut are also ideal. Contact me here and tell me a bit about what you’re looking for and I will email you back a personalized selection of diamonds! Or, alternatively, check out the recommended diamonds I select based on gemologist confirmed face up color, ideally cut proportions, and utmost bang for your buck!