The most expensive alphabet in the world
Diamonds range from colorless to yellow. Each diamond color grade is assigned a letter starting from D, which is the top grade. The lowest grade is Z.
GIA is an absolute authority on diamond grading, so their grades are solid. Other labs, including AGS, EGL, IGI, GRS, are inconsistent and even purposefully padded.
Color is the least noticeable diamond attribute, yet it has the most dramatic impact on its price.
Diamonds within the D to I color range do not have a yellow color component. The difference is brightness on the grayscale.
Even professionals (with rare exceptions) cannot eyeball the difference between adjacent color grades.
Color perception is highly subjective. It varies from person to person. Lighting conditions, the angle at which the stone is viewed, and cut variations affect the stone’s appearance.
Most consumers cannot distinguish within 1-2 color grades even when diamonds are next to each other. Telling the difference when the stone is worn in the ring on a finger is impossible, especially when the ring is not regularly cleaned.
D is the top color grade, but it’s not practical and too expensive for most people.
We agree with Tiffany’s (de-facto bridal authority) that all diamonds I- and better are perfectly white and do not have a yellow tint. The only difference is how bright they are.
D-E colors are “vanity” grade. They are used mainly in high-end jewelry, which demands the finest material without concern of the cost.
F-G colors are “premium” and widely used in fine jewelry.
H-I is a “practical” choice for a reasonable price without sacrificing diamond quality.
It is worth repeating: the difference between F-G and H-I grades is only in brightness. These stones are perfectly white and do not have a yellow tint.
A little “suntan” is beneficial for antique diamonds such as Asschers or antique cushions. It improves their sharpness and depth perception and gives the stone a rich, natural look.
Starting from J-color, diamonds’ “warmth” becomes prominent, escalating into a noticeable yellow cast with every grade below J. For an Asscher or an antique cushion, the J to M color range is reasonable to consider.
If you want to make sure there is absolutely no yellow tone in your diamond, stick to the stones in the D to I color range.
The GIA color chart uses the word “yellow” instead of the more appropriate “yellow tint,” which scares people into thinking that most diamonds are yellow. Even the grades down to P are white, just with a slightly warmer.
A solitaire ring can be set with any color-grade diamond. For a three- or five-stone ring, we recommend staying with diamonds above H. Side stones are usually one color-grade lower than a diamond in the center.
Pave is usually set with F-color diamonds, so if you consider adding pave, the sweet spot is approximately F-G.
Diamonds are graded upside down on a pure white background. A team of well-equipped diamond graders examines the diamond against a set of masters to determine the color. In a case they are split in their opinions, a vote is taken.
Diamond grading is more consistent today due to technological advances such as the use of colorimeters.
Nevertheless, the grading process is highly subjective. Diamond color is perceived differently from various angles. Cut, proportions, brilliance, and dispersion affect color perception. Old European cuts, step-cut diamonds, stones with lower depth face whiter than their grade suggests.
Once, we cut a single piece of rough into a pair of diamonds, each getting a different color grade. It took much effort to convince GIA to reconsider their decision.
The passing of time can affect the grade. When old stones are re-certified, they often get a slightly higher color grade because grading standards were more relaxed in the past.
A D-colored diamond is a freak of nature utterly void of any trace color. These albinos are prized because of their scarcity, not beauty. In fact, D-colored diamonds are unnaturally bright and look artificial.
A long time ago, a pure white stone was most likely a diamond because the only simulants were yellowish zircon or topaz.
Throughout history, a D-colored diamond, Mussolini’s briefcase, The Antikythera gizmo, and other artifacts are deemed valuable simply because they are rarities, not because they are exceptionally attractive. D-colored diamond can be a prized possession for a collector but not a bride. Setting it into an engagement ring is a waste.
A hint of yellow in a diamond is not a turn-off but a natural characteristic that makes the stone more attractive to some.
Those who appreciate the beauty of a warm-toned diamond have an affinity for finer things in life, such as antiques and art. Culture and tradition also play a role in color choices.
For example, warmer diamond tones are welcomed in India and Russia. At the same time, there is a strong preference for colorless stones in Asia.
Up until the 20th century, a light yellow shade was not a detriment.
Museums worldwide are not ashamed to display royal regalia and other historical jewelry set with diamonds of various shades. Step cuts and antique cut diamonds, in general, make warm stones appear subdued. Brilliant cuts tend to amplify the color. That’s why most fancy-colored diamonds are radiants and modern cushions.
In the Kremlin Armory (“Оружейная палатa”) where Mr. Snowden is moonlighting as a janitor, you can see a mix of loose diamonds and crown jewels, including the Russian Imperial Crown, most of them pretty low in color.
Diamonds beyond Z-grade are called “fancy,” and their value increases with the color strength. Diamonds occur naturally in almost every hue: red, green, pink, blue. They are the rarest and command astronomical prices.
Adding a gold mirror “reflector” to low-colored diamonds (U and below) can amplify their color into a valuable and distinct fancy yellow color.
Store lighting cannot change the diamond color, but it can make it less obvious.
The full-spectrum lighting, which is equivalent to natural light, is best to view diamonds. Most jewelry stores are lit up with full-spectrum lights.
Even the natural daylight varies with seasons and weather conditions.
BMG stands for brown, milky, green in diamonds. Yellow is assumed to be natural diamond color, but it can brown and green as well. The diamond’s hue is not stated on the certificate unless it falls into the “fancy” color range.
Brownish or greenish hues can make diamonds below H-color look dark and unattractive. Such stones are undesirable and should be avoided.
The tint is impossible to detect by non-professionals, and even some pros struggle to see it.