Color is a very important diamond quality characteristic, but how are you supposed to determine it? Let’s take a look at how diamonds are graded for color and see if you can find out the color grade of your diamond yourself.
What Grades Are Used to Evaluate Diamond Color?
There are a number of color grading standards, but one of the most popular is that introduced by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America).
This scale assigns a letter grade to each stone according to how colorless it is, i.e., whether there are any yellowish tints and how intense they are if present.
The letter grades are grouped into color ranges, which are the following:
Colorless: Contains grades D, E and F
Near Colorless: Contains grades G, H, I and J
Faint Yellow: Contains grades K, L and M
Very Light Yellow: Contains grades N, O, P, Q and R
Light Yellow: Contains grades from S to Z
While the name of the group a stone’s color belongs to can give you some idea of how tinted the diamond is, its exact color grade represents a much finer distinction.
How Diamond Color Grading Is Done
Professionals grade diamonds by using a set of so-called “master stones.” A master stone is a diamond that has been determined to belong to a certain grade and that has minimal coloring for stones of the same grade.
Diamond graders compare the diamond they are evaluating with a master stone of each grade until they find the one whose color is closest to that of the graded stone.
For the grading to be as accurate as possible, a diamond should be graded loose, in well-lit conditions.
How Can You Determine the Color Grade of a Diamond?
Unless you have a set of master stones, you won’t be able to grade a diamond for color accurately. However, you can still estimate the approximate color grade of a stone you are looking at.
One option is to go to a jewelry store and ask if the jeweler there can help you determine the color of your diamond by comparing it with master stones or other graded diamonds the store has in stock.
However, not all jewelers have diamonds of each single color grade, and if that’s the case, a color assessment may yield only approximate results.
You can try to estimate the color grade of the stone yourself. In such a case, to get a good view of your diamond, it is best to take it out of the mounting and place the stone under a lamp whose light has the characteristics of daylight.
Depending on what the setting is made of, the reflections from its metal could alter the perceived color of the stone.
(Do not take the stone out of the mounting if you are not experienced in such a manipulation – you wouldn’t want to chip your stone or damage its setting.)
You are unlikely to be able to pinpoint the exact grade of the stone just by looking at it, but you might at least be able to determine to which color group it belongs.
Here are some guidelines to help you estimate the color range of your diamond:
Colorless/Near Colorless: If you cannot see any traces of yellowish tints when you inspect the diamond, then its color grade is likely in the D-E-F range.
Near Colorless stones graded G or H also do not appear to have visible coloring, and unless you have a Colorless stone to compare them with, you might not be able to determine whether a diamond is a D-E-F or G-H stone.
Near Colorless (lower end of the range): Near Colorless diamonds graded I or J look fairly white to the naked eye, but on close inspection, you might see some very faint color that is almost imperceptible.
Faint Yellow: If the diamond you are looking at seems reasonably white but has a very faint yellow tint that is nonetheless identifiable, then you may be dealing with a K, L or M stone. The diamond could also be J or I color.
Very Light Yellow: Stones in the N-O-P-Q-R range have a visible yellow tint, and although the hue is not intense at all, it is evident enough so that the diamond cannot be mistaken for a colorless or nearly colorless stone.
Light Yellow: If the diamond has a clearly visible yellow color, and it is moderate to strong, then it most likely falls into the S-Z range.
Note: These guidelines are for round diamonds. The cut of these stones enhances their brilliance, which makes any tints less noticeable. All else being equal, diamonds of most other cuts will look less colorless than a round stone of the same color grade.
The Best Grading Option: If you are not satisfied with an approximate assessment of your diamond’s color grade, you can always send the stone to the GIA or another reputable lab to have your diamond graded.
This option will provide you with the most accurate evaluation, and you will also get an official report certifying your stone’s color grade and other quality characteristics.