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Understanding Diamond Color: The 4Cs of Diamonds

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.

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. Grading loose diamonds gets the best and most accurate read possible.

4c1 (1)

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 terms of color.

AGS0. Fancy Yellow
ColorlessNear ColorlessFaintVery LightLightFancy Yellow

An Easy to Understand 0 to 10 Scale


AGS 0 – AGS 1.0

These are the highest grades. In this range, the diamonds will appear to have no color in any setting. Diamonds without color are very rare. Therefore, they cost more on the market.

Near Colorless:

AGS 1.5 – AGS 3.0

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

Faint Color:

AGS 3.5 – AGS 4.5

These diamonds may have visible color, although slight. Smaller diamonds, less than approximately 0.50 carat, may appear colorless or near colorless when in jewelry. 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:

AGS 5.0 – AGS 7.0

The color is seen with increasing ease as the grades move down the scale.

Light Color:

AGS 7.5 – AGS 10

The diamonds in this range will have a visible hue or tone of light yellow or light brown. If you are looking for a diamond that looks warmer, this might be the range for you.

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.