How does Diamond colour work and how to choose the best option

Last week I started the April Diamond month looking into clarity and broad view of some elements to look at when buying diamonds. The following blogs will focus more on the variables in diamonds, how they work and how to choose the best option. This blog will focus on diamond colour (color) and how it actually works and how to choose.

Now for a lot of people the focus is usually on weight; How many carats does it weigh? Without looking too much into other factors. Colour plays an important role in the pricing of a diamond just as much as the weight factor. Every jump in colour can shoot prices up 5-20% roughly depending on where on the colour scale the diamond is. This can obviously make a huge difference in the pricing if you are working in thousands or even tens of thousands!

So let's look at how colour works when graded by the laboratories. A lot of places use the GIA colour grading scale , see attached GIA Color Grading Scale. 

There are 5 main categories diamonds get classified in as seen above. Note all diamond you see here as view from the side angle. This is because diamonds are mainly graded based on the side view colour and not the top view. There are technical differences that distinguishes say a colour D from an E from an F in a category like colourless, that is to an extent subjective. The main thing to look at here is the differences between categories versus one colour grade in a catergory. The catergories are largely there because this is where you will notice a difference (to an extent) between diamond colours. The best way to explain this is by imagining looking at a loose diamond from the side and top: Colourless diamonds(colour D-F) under a daylight light equivalent will show no undertone/tint of colour from both the top and side view. Near colourless(G-J) under same conditions will show no colour from the top but some tint/undertone from the side. Faint Yellow(K-M) will show some tint from top and side. Very light Yellow and Light Yellow will show obvious tint from top and side more as you get closer to Z. The following is another chart to show the gradual colour change bearing in mind the big jumps in catergory criteria.

     

Now the question is what to choose?

Like most things in life it depends on the diamond size, shape, setting etc. but mostly the following is the way I go about it:

I have always been looking for where the value lies for myself and clients throughout the years. Now as I explained the difference in appearance becomes more noticeable when you jump over to another category as the colour you pick up with your eye can be noticeable especially if you put two diamonds side by side. Given that prices move 5-20% on a colour every jump I tend to focus on the two colours at the border of a catergory eitherside, because jumping around the middle of these categories is really not helping the visual aspect and not your wallet. Now again here it is relative as a colour D or F will look the same except if you are trained and have exact light conditions in a laboratory. The change is so small that you will also have to look hard to see the difference solely in colour to a H if you are not used to it. The reason is the criteria mentioned earlier of face up / top view being colourless in view. The side view colour changes as that is technically the difference but so what? Nobody looks at the side view of a diamond in most settings. I would rather put my money in a larger diameter size diamond in such a case as that would be noticeable. So based on appearance Colourless or near colorless it is more technical as all will have a white face up appearance.

If you are looking at the Near colourless or Faint Yellow categories more caution needs to be taken. Here prices can move more but for good reason as now the top face up view has a tint or undertone too not only the side. Here I would look into what colour tint the stone has e.g. does it have Yellow (normal) less noticeable, Brown tone (give a warmer tone) bit more noticeable, Grey ( more milky look) or Green (Yes even green tinge exist very noticeable). Yellow tint is subtle enough to get away in white gold or platinum if it is again on the border line between J and K so then not noticeably see obvious colour. Here a lot depends on the colour of the metal being used. Now a lot of Yellow and Rose gold is back in fashion so that's great because the Faint Yellow category's tint gets masked by the metal colour so appears Colourless/White.  Tone under colour M becomes a personal choice as it is mostly obvious Yellow or Brown tint yellow their pricing is also closer as the classification becomes looser until you get to Fancy Yellow (after Z). 

I hope this gives a better understanding of colour in diamonds and what ranges to look for depending on your goals and preferences. I mostly advise on F/G colour if you want the super white diamond, then I-J for a white diamond in White gold or platinum, K-M for a "white" diamond in Yellow or Rose gold with brownish tint diamond for rose gold and Yellow tint for Yellow gold where best value for money on a budget is requested.

Note there are other factors that can influence the look like clarity, cut, tinge and fluorescence that is not taken into account when grading diamond colour that I will write about in future articles.

Enjoy the week and next up will be carat weight you don't want to miss!