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.
What is Diamond Clarity?
Clarity is the presence or absence of inclusions and blemishes in diamonds. Gemologists refer to these inclusions or patterns of inclusions as “identifying characteristics” and consider them to be a diamond’s unique “fingerprint.”
Diamonds are graded for clarity according to the number, size, location, and type of inclusions.
– transparent or opaque crystals called pinpoints,
– clouds that are groups of pinpoints
– internal fractures called feathers
– Internal graining (crystal growth twinning planes)
External blemishes include polishing lines, grain lines, scratches, chips, nicks, and “naturals” (part of the rough diamonds’ original surface).
Diamonds are graded by skilled professionals using natural or artificial light with a 10X loupe corrected for chromatic and spherical aberration or with a 10X binocular microscope equipped with dark-field illumination.
The GIA system has a total of 11 specific grades. They are grouped into six categories:
Flawless (FL) Nothing is visible under 10x magnification. It’s a pure diamond crystal with positively no blemishes or inclusions. Flawless diamonds are generally not used in jewelry. They will most likely develop blemishes during the wear and drop to IF or even the VVS category.
Internally Flawless (IF) No inclusions visible under 10x magnification except minor blemishes. The blemishes can be repolished to bring the clarity grade to the Flawless. The surface grain lines cannot be repolished.
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) Inclusions are so minor (often smaller than specks of dust) that it can take hours for a skilled gemologist to find them under 10x magnification. The difference between VVS1 and VVS2 grades is in the number and location of inclusions. VVS1 diamonds typically have no more than two inclusions located on the periphery, while VVS2 inclusions can be closer to the center.
Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) Minor inclusions requiring an effort to see the inclusions under 10x magnification. In step cuts, VS2 inclusions can be noticeable to a person with a sharp eye.
Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification.
Included (I1, I2, and I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification and, in I2 and below, almost certainly affecting diamond transparency and brilliance. Usually, these inclusions will be centrally located and noticed immediately when the diamond is examined. SI inclusions are usually evident when the stone is placed table-down on a white background but not face-up.
Most SI1 brilliant-cut diamonds are eye-clean. It is rare to find an eye-clean stone below SI1 grade. There is an occasional SI2 diamond that got a poor grade despite being eye-clean. This fact is usually reflected in the diamond’s price.
Diamonds with translucent, non-reflective inclusion or inclusions located at the girdle where prongs could cover them are desirable.
Prongs and bezels holding a stone are partially covering it. Strategically placing metal over the inclusion can hide it from the view.
There are a few things to consider. Often the inclusion is too big to be covered. Also, some inclusions make a diamond fragile, so applying the pressure with a prong during the setting can shatter the stone. And finally, sometimes, it is impossible to cover several inclusions without altering the prong’s position, which can negatively affect the jewel’s look.
An “eye-clean” diamond has no imperfections visible to the unaided eye. However, vision clarity, peripheral awareness, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability, and color vision vary from person to person. It makes a clear definition of “eye clean” impossible.
The traditional clarity grading system relies on the 10x magnification to define the visibility of the inclusion.
What GIA should have done is to split SI stones into three or even four sub-categories. Unfortunately, they opted for just two, opening the door for creative and very subjective opinions.
Regardless of their clarity grade, the eye-clean stones offer excellent value to the consumer.
There are only two clarity grades for most consumers: stones that look clean and those with something inside, real or imaginary.
The SI is a watershed grade for brilliant-cut diamonds making a “good SI” a sweet spot for bargain hunters.
For step-cuts, the VS2 grade is where eye-clean stones are mixed with those where inclusions stick out like a vegan at the steak dinner.
If you know nothing about fluorescence, it is safe to assume that a fluorescent diamond is a bad choice. The reality is a little more complicated. If you do not care about the “resale” value, a fluorescent diamond without haziness associated with strong fluorescence is an excellent buy. The problem is that the ill effect of fluorescence is often elusive and not always obvious. With certain diamonds, fluorescence is even considered marginally beneficial.
Up to 35% of all diamonds in the world emit a glow when subjected to ultraviolet light. This glow is called fluorescence.
When we refer to stone’s fluorescence, we mean medium to very strong fluorescence. Faint fluorescence is not considered detrimental to the diamond’s value.
There is little science to back up claims that fluorescent diamonds are inferior stones. Fluorescence commonly occurs in only 25-35% of all diamonds. According to GIA, fewer than 0.2% of the fluorescent diamonds appear “hazy or oily,” so the ill effect is infrequent.
A fluorescent stone is the cashmere sweater with the red dot of the diamond world – the regret lingers long after the joy of getting a bargain is forgotten.
Fluorescence is an ability of a diamond to emit a glow when subjected to ultraviolet light, just like Fido’s stains do. According to GIA research, up to 35% of all diamonds in the world fluoresce. Fluorescence intensity depends on the UV light strength and ambiance lighting. Disco lighting, fluorescent bulbs, and natural sunlight all have a UV component that triggers the glow.
According to GIA, fewer than 0.2% of the fluorescent diamonds are “hazy or oily” due to the fluorescence, so that phenomenon is infrequent. The fluorescence grade “Negligible” used by AGS (but who cares what AGS calls it, GIA is the gold standard) is the same as “None” by GIA. It refers to diamonds that refuse to glow under the blacklight.
Strong blue fluorescence is thought to enhance a diamond’s appearance in the I to K color range, but this is highly debatable. Because diamonds with strong fluorescence are sold at a steep discount, even crystal-clear ones, you get a bargain.
Buy a fluorescent stone when:
In countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia, near colorless to faint yellow diamonds with fluorescence are more desirable.
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