Understanding Diamond Color: The 4 Cs of Diamonds
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What is Diamond Color?

The Color of a diamond actually refers to the lack of color in a diamond, with perfectly colorless diamonds considered the highest quality with the highest value, and brown or yellow diamonds being the lowest quality.  

How Color is Graded

Using a master set of diamonds specifically chosen based on their range of color, a grader picks up the diamond with tweezers and places it next to the individual diamonds in the master set.

The diamond grader then skillfully decides the color grade based on the saturation of the color compared to the master set. This step requires good eyes and extensive experience.

AGS graders grade all diamonds “loose,” or without settings, so that the color of the diamond is not influenced by the metal of the setting.

For example, a diamond set in a yellow-gold ring could appear less yellowish in tone than one in a white-metal mounting. By grading loose diamonds, AGS gets the best and most accurate read possible.

Color on a 0 to 10 Scale, the AGS Way

The American Gem Society Color Grade indicates where a diamond's color falls on a scale that runs from 0 (colorless) to 10 (light yellow or light brown). Most labs grade based on using D as the best color (see top line in the scale above), down to Z.

AGS wanted to give a more accurate and specific description of the color of a diamond by using a numeric scale. This way, buyers have a better understanding of its color. Looking at the scale above, it’s easy to learn what each numerical grade means in term of color.

An Easy to Understand 0 to 10 Scale

Colorless: No Color

This is the highest grade possible, and diamonds without color are very rare. Therefore, they cost more on the market.

Near Colorless:

These diamonds have very little color. Interestingly, when mounted in jewelry, these diamonds will appear colorless.

Faint Color:
If a diamond in these grades weigh less than approximately 0.50 carat, it will appear colorless when mounted. In a larger diamond, a little color may be discerned. Keep this tip in mind when shopping; you could save money and walk away with a diamond that looks like a higher Color Grade.

Very Light Color:
A diamond in these grades will show some discernable color. The larger the diamond, the more noticeable the color.

Light Color:
The color is seen with increasing ease as the grade goes from 7.5 to 10.


The Bottom Line

The interesting thing about diamond color is that even though colorless diamonds are higher priced, all other Cs being equal, many individuals prefer the look of a diamond with a slight yellow color because of its warmth. These individuals may find great value in these types of diamonds, so don’t be afraid to discuss these preference with your jeweler.

Overall, it’s important to have your diamonds graded by a credentialed expert or a reputable diamond grading laboratory that understands ideal diamond color. Look for AGS jewelers to find reputable AGS member stores.

Tips from AGS:

  • Colorless diamond are higher priced in the colorless to yellow or colorless to brown diamond ranges. However, many people like the warmth of a faint to light yellow or brown diamond. If that describes you, then you can find great value in that type of diamond.

Mission Statement

The American Gem Society (AGS) is a nonprofit trade association of fine jewelry professionals dedicated to setting, maintaining and promoting the highest standards of ethical conduct and professional behavior through education, accreditation, recertification of its membership, gemological standards, and gemological research.

The Society is committed to providing educational products to inform and protect the consumer and to contributing to the betterment of the trade by creating industry standards to protect the jewelry-buying public and the fine jewelry industry as a whole.

AGS Laboratories, founded to support the AGS mission, is a nonprofit diamond grading laboratory with a mission of consumer protection. Adhering to the AGS Diamond Grading Standards, AGS Laboratories is dedicated to offering diamond grading reports that provide consistency and accuracy based on science.

American Gem Society