GEMOLOGY: The Colorless Diamond
Buying a diamond is a lot like buying a car – and in some cases costs more. But doing your homework in advance will prepare you and may ultimately save you money. And as most of us prefer to not overspend on accessories, learning some tips about diamond buying will help you get the best value for your money.
As a Graduate Gemologist, I will be sharing some facts and tips in a series of articles on diamond characteristics. I’ll refer to the scientific methodology known as The 4 C’s which was established by the world renowned Gemological Institute of America for grading diamonds:
- Carat Weight
I’ll leave the romancing of the stone to diamond retailers while I will deal with practicalities such as value for your money.
I chose to begin this series by focusing on color. Why? Simply because I tend to think more about color in general in life and specifically when I look at diamonds. And notice I did not state that color is the most important factor in selecting a diamond. My opinion is that all four of the diamond grading factors are ultimately a matter of personal preference.
So let’s get right into color. Diamonds are found naturally in a range of color from colorless to an assortment of colors such as yellow, brown, black, pink, purple, blue, green or red.
For the purpose of this article, however, I am focusing on the “colorless” diamond jewelry market.
Now, are all colorless diamonds really colorless? No. The term “colorless” really means a range of color – from truly no color at all to light yellow or brown. GIA calls this range the “normal color range”.
The diamond gemstone color is determined from how close it is to colorless to how much yellow tint is visible.
The GIA color grading system is set on an alphabet scale, beginning with “D” and going up to “Z”. D is defined as being completely colorless with each subsequent letter designating how much yellow tint is visible.
TIP: Diamond gemstone color is one of the grading factors used in factoring quality into pricing.
Here is what you really need to know about color when selecting a diamond. The color in a diamond comes from impurities and/or defects in its crystal structure. This means that the fewer impurities or defects in a diamond, the more colorless it is. Diamonds with none or few of these impurities or defects are rarer. And the rarer the diamond, the more valuable it is. And the more valuable it is, the higher the price. So an absence of color in a “colorless” diamond has a higher price. Got that?
FACT: In comparing diamonds, if all other characteristics are close in grade (clarity, cut and carat weight), it is very difficult for the untrained eye to see a difference in diamond color in grades D through G compared to an H or I grade.
Now, let’s do an exercise in diamond color selection. In the link in the photo below, you can go right to the GIA website. Once on the site, place the cursor in the graphic over an alpha character and see that color display right in the graphic. Play with that a bit but come back here for more of my article.
Note: GIA does not use this tool for grading diamonds; they use a set of master stones in each color for grading comparison.
TIP: You can save significant money by selecting an H or I color graded diamond.
So really just how much difference can diamond color make in diamond pricing? Well, here is a price comparison I did earlier today in real time from a popular online retail jewelry company. I created the selection criteria with the only real variance being the color. You can easily see that by selecting an H or I color, all other things being equal, the savings range from 22% to 29%.
Note: I specifically set the color grade selection at no more than an “I”, as this is where color differences start to matter to overall appearance.
And from my own collection I offer a visual comparison of two diamonds.
The diamond on the left is graded as H-I while the diamond on the right is graded at K-M. The faint yellow tint in the diamond on the right is visible.
So all this information about color actually translates into what is important to you as the buyer. If color is more important to you but you cannot really tell the difference in a D-F grade from an H-I grade, then you may save money by choosing an H-I grade and spend the difference on cut, clarity or weight.
See – it is like buying a car.