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Diamond Tutorials Gia ReportsDiamond Color Grading- Colorless

color scale
The differences between adjacent grades at
the top are quite subtle. Further down the scale,
the difference is less subtle. You'd be more likely
to see the difference between an I and a J than
you would a D and an E.
White/Colorless Color Diamond Grading

Diamond color significantly affects the price of a diamond whether it falls in the category of a colorless, fancy colored or somewhere in between. Consumers often refer to the colorless diamonds as "white" diamonds.
In this section we'll deal with the colorless and 'white" diamonds since colorless diamonds and fancy colored diamonds are graded for color very differently. We will also be using how the GIA grades since they are the gold standard in diamond grading. The scale shown below is the GIA scale for grading diamond color.

gia color grading scale
GIA diamond color
grading scale

Labeling the diamonds-- What is "colorless" anyway?

Labels in life are necessary. And in the diamond business, the GIA color label carries significant weight when it comes to putting a price tag on a diamond. While some people would call a particular Salsa "Spicy", still others might call the same sauce "Mild". In diamonds, a label which causes some confusion is the term "colorless". The GIA designates colors D, E and F as "colorless". Yet when some people look at a D colored diamond they'll see flashes of color.
"Near colorless" goes from G down to J. Colors G and H represent your "mid-line" colorless diamonds. Colors I and J may show a bit of tint to a sensitive eye, and are priced well below the colorless grades. The "Near Colorless" and "Faint" labels have been placed in such a way that GIA does not term the color K "faint" or "Near Colorless". The grade of K, and the next grades- L-M-N, can look quite colorless in some cases and be beautiful. A K can actually look pretty white or very tinted, depending on any number of factors including shape, quality of cut, fluorescence.

The method used to assign a color grade to colorless diamonds is to turn them upside-down
(put them on their tables), and look thru the back like you see above.

There's quite a difference in the way diamonds look when you right them, and look thru the top.
That's what is referred to as "Face Up" Here's the same diamonds "Face Up"

Colorless diamonds are graded upside down.

The method used to assign a color grade to colorless diamonds is to turn them upside-down and look through the back. When a diamond shows a slight tint in this position, it gets a lower grade. The greater the tint, the lower the color grade.
Of course, that is not the way you look at a diamond nor is it the way you wear it. Often there's quite a difference in the way diamonds look when you right them and look thru the top. That's what is referred to as "Face Up". Below are several diamonds "face up".

A GIA "D" color grade does not guarantee a beautiful diamond.

Some people are far more sensitive to color than others. The aspects of the diamond that make it beautiful are not tied only to it's color.

Above is an example of how "white" a K color diamond
can look "face up". Click here to see our Colorless
Diamond Grading Scale with photographs.
There are wonderful M color diamonds, and horrible D color diamonds. A diamond that GIA grades D color may be butt ugly. D color won't save a poorly cut diamond. Besides, who says D color is prettiest and a tinted diamond (for example L color) is ugly? Do you prefer dark hair or red hair? It's really a matter of personal preference. Those shoppers who want the highest colors know what they want. It's important to them. If someone who's not color sensitive is convinced they should not even consider a J color, they might have lost an opportunity to use the difference in price, to up-size to a larger diamond for their budget.
Colors D-E-F will command the highest prices- all things being equal. Of course things are never really equal, but G-H are more moderately priced, with I-and J bringing up the rear in "White Diamond" pricing. Of course D-E-F colors are priced above the lower colors- but does that make them more desirable? It's important to remember that a badly cut D color will be dull, too.
L color diamond
This L color cushion, while tinted, was a
knockout sparkler

Can you see the subtle shade difference and does it matter to you?

When this author was learning to grade diamonds in a group setting, it was quite obvious that some people could simply not see the difference between the colors very well- even if they could see imperfections, and judge the cut.
Therefore certain people were assigned the task of color grading. They were all women (this was the '70's)- and worked early. It's actually much more difficult to grade for color later in the day, or at night. This all supports the position that the differences in color are subtle if one is comparing two well cut diamonds. Even the subtle M,N, O-P and Q-R warm whites can be knock outs.

A diamond's shape and it's effect on color

I have heard it said that one should avoid certain shapes below a certain color. BALDERDASH. It's true that some diamonds will show more color that others. It's even possible to accurately say that some shapes show color more than others. It does not follow that "all Emerald Cuts below H look tinted." The shape does affect color. But this is more of a consideration when one is looking for more color.
For example, Round Brilliant is a shape that maximizes white light return. That's why you won't see a lot of Natural Fancy Colored Diamonds cut to Round Brilliant Cut. Bottom line on shapes and colors--an Emerald Cut, Round Brilliant, Pear Shape, Radiant Cut, Princess, Oval, Asscher or Marquise can look amazing in any color of the alphabet!