An Incredible Universe of Color: Diamond Color and Fancy Colored Diamonds


Diamond color is a vast and interesting topic. It spans two major subcategories: 1. The color grading scale of “white” diamonds, and 2.) The universe of fancy colored diamonds. If you don’t know the difference between the two, if you simply want to know more, or if you’re thinking about buying a diamond in Farmington, NM, than this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

colored diamonds cover photo

"Colorless" Diamonds and The Diamond Color Grading Scale

The first major subcategory when understanding diamond color overall is the understanding the diamond color scale as it pertains to colorless (“white”) diamonds. Here is the color grading scale from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA):

image of colorless diamond scale

The scale ranges from D to Z, with D being colorless and Z being light yellow.

image of letter scale for diamond color

The GIA diamond color grading scale is the industry standard that you’ll see used in most stores and in most situations.

The overwhelming majority of the diamonds that are sold in stores fall somewhere on this scale, and typically fall in the colorless or near colorless section of the scale. Most people want colorless diamonds, particularly with engagement rings.

As you can see, this scale covers the range of colorless diamonds to light yellow. But what happens beyond “Z” on the color scale?

Well, beyond Z is where a “poor color grade” (relative to colorless diamonds) turns into a fancy yellow diamond. More on this next!

If you’d like to know more about the GIA diamond color graThe GIA official page about color is worth visiting. You can do so here:

GIA 4Cs: Color

Fancy Colored Diamonds

Before we dive into the different of diamonds, it may be helpful to get a quick primer on how colored diamonds are grader simply because it is not the same as the 4Cs you may be familiar with with colorless and near colorless diamonds.

The largest difference with fancy colored diamonds is that color is the most important factor in the gemstones beauty and value.

With colorless diamonds, cut and clarity are far more important because a clean, “ice-like” appearance and maximum sparkle are the factors that are generally the most desirable. The absence of color is what makes these diamonds more rare and therefore more valuable.

But with fancy colored diamonds, the more intense the color, the more valuable the diamond. The presence of rich color makes these more rare and therefore more valuable. Like this:

The more vivid the color, the more valuable the stone. Okay, that sounds simple right? Until you realize there is a massive range of of colors within any particular color.

(All of the images below come from the Gemological Institute of America's Colored Diamonds Color Reference Charts, which you can find HERE.)

Within yellow, for example, the diamond could be “Cool Yellow”:

image of cool yellow diamonds

Or “Warm Yellow”:

image of warm yellow diamonds

Or “Yellow Orange”:

image of yellow-orange diamonds

Or “Orange-Yellow”:

image of orange-yellow diamonds

Specific color, as well as the exact hue and saturation of that particular color, all come into play here to create a complex task for any colored diamond grader.


So before we continue with the specific colors, let me say this:

If you’re thinking about buying a fancy colored diamond, they are generally more expensive than colorless diamonds, and choosing the right fancy colored diamond for you is a purchase that is more nuanced and complex than buying a colorless diamond.

You should seriously consider making this purchase with the help of a jewelry professional who has diamond grading education and practice, and has experience with fancy colored diamonds in particular.

For more information please also visit these official GIA resources:

GIA Colored Diamonds Color Reference Charts

Fancy Color Diamond Quality Factors

The Many Colors of Diamonds: How To Get Started

The world of colored diamonds is vast and beautiful. Much like an artist's color wheel, diamonds come in a wide range of colors, with various hues and saturations among those colors.

image of diamond color wheel

But you should be aware that fancy colored diamonds are prohibitively expensive for most people. A natural red diamond, for example, can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So as you look at the spectrum of colors and consider your purchase, think about getting started with a yellow or brown diamond. Both can be stunningly beautiful but, because they are relatively more common, are significantly less expensive.

Ask for stunning yellow diamonds from your jeweler. They may mention terms like "canary yellow" to describe one of the most popular yellow diamond shades. Likewise, brown diamonds often go under marketing names like “chocolate” or “cognac.”

Red, green, purple, and orange are generally the most rare and expensive. As mentioned above, natural red diamonds are the rarest and most expensive of all.

Thinking about purchasing a fancy colored diamond in Farmington, NM?

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