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Diamond Color Differences

by Hunter Kemp
Last updated on October 17, 2023
Diamond Color Difference

As one of the 4Cs of diamond quality, diamond color is an important characteristic to take into account when you’re buying an engagement ring. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades white diamonds using a very specific diamond color scale that ranges from D–a colorless diamond– to Z–a light yellow or light brown diamond. But what are the differences between all the diamond color grades in between these two extremes? How is a D color diamond different from an E color diamond, for example? And how does a diamond receive its color grade? We’ll explain all of this and help you find the diamond color grade that works best for your ring.

Color Grade Graphic

Colorless Diamonds (D-F)

D through F color grade diamonds are considered Colorless. Diamonds in the Colorless range are the rarest and most valuable. Fancy colored diamonds– like those that are blue or pink– are an exception to this.

In addition to their rarity and beauty, the brilliance of colorless diamonds is a major reason for these stones’ high value. Any slight coloring within a diamond can prevent some of the light from being reflected back to the viewer, making the stone appear duller and less sparkly.

A D color diamond is a stone that is completely colorless and without even the faintest hint of yellow. This may sound like the most desirable option, but it won’t necessarily give you the best value. D color diamonds have a hefty price premium over other color grades, despite the fact that these stones are often indistinguishable to the naked eye. It’s also important to note that the jump in price from D color diamonds to E color diamonds is the largest one between any two adjacent diamond color grades, according to the International Gem Society (IGS). This is due to the rareness and perfection of D color diamonds. An E color diamond, though, will look almost identical to a D color diamond. Even an F color diamond will really only look different to someone like an expert gemologist. To the untrained eye, there’s little to no difference between these three color grades.

Any Colorless diamonds– especially D or E color diamonds– are often in platinum or white gold settings. This way, the color of the metal won’t detract from the flawlessness of the stone.

Near Colorless Diamonds (G-J)

G through J color diamonds are considered Near Colorless. The second-highest price difference between two diamond grades comes at the beginning of this category. It lies between F and G diamonds. Considering that this difference in color grade also marks a difference in category (Colorless vs. Near Colorless) it makes sense that it would come with a significant drop in price. Diamonds in this range are the most popular for engagement rings, and many people argue they provide the best value.

Even though G-J is technically a separate category from D-F in terms of diamond color, diamonds of these two color grades really don’t look that different. According to, all diamonds from D-J will look white (as opposed to yellowish) when face-up in an engagement ring. If a Near Colorless diamond is next to a Colorless one, the difference will likely be noticeable. But a Near Colorless diamond typically looks colorless when viewed on its own. Because these diamonds are significantly less expensive than diamonds with a D-F color grade yet still lack any noticeable yellowish tint, they’re a great choice for most people.

Faint Diamonds (K-M)

K through M color diamonds are considered Faint. These diamonds will have a slight yellow tint that is strong enough to be visible to the naked eye. M, the lowest color grade that most diamond retailers sell, has the most distinctive yellow or brown color. At Clean Origin, we don’t sell diamonds with color grades below K. If you do choose them, know that these stones tend to look best with yellow or rose gold settings. The warmer hues of the metal can complement the color of yellowish diamonds nicely. A platinum or white gold setting, on the other hand, will do the opposite. It would make a yellowish diamond appear even more yellow or brown in comparison.

If you prefer a noticeably yellow diamond over an icy white one, a Faint diamond could be for you! But if not, it isn’t usually ideal to buy an engagement ring that features a diamond with this color grade.

Very Light (N-R)

N through R color diamonds are considered Very Light. You’ll rarely ever see stones with this color grade in diamond engagement rings or any other kind of diamond jewelry. Again, some people prefer for their diamonds to have a distinct yellowish hue, but this isn’t the norm. These diamonds are sometimes called “champagne diamonds” for their yellow or brown color. Champagne diamonds have a very different look than stones with higher color grades, as their hue makes them look almost like fancy colored diamonds.

Light (S-Z)

S through Z diamonds are considered Light. These stones share similarities with Very Light diamonds: both types are “champagne diamonds” and are rarely in jewelry. Light diamonds, like Very Light Diamonds, are quite yellow in color.

How Visible Are Differences in Diamond Color?

When a diamond is officially graded in a lab, a trained gemologist performs a side-by-side comparison with other diamonds whose color grades have already been assigned. Thus, a diamond’s color is nearly impossible to identify on its own without comparison to other diamonds. Out in everyday life, this isn’t going to be happening. Most people you pass by each day will only look at your ring for a few seconds. And anyone who pauses to admire it will just be struck by its beauty! If an expert gemologist can’t immediately identify the color of a diamond, then small color differences won’t be visible to the average viewer. Below a certain point, though, usually around K, a yellowish tint will be visible even to the untrained eye. 

4 Lab Grown Diamond Engagement Rings

The Effect of Other Factors on Diamond Color

In addition to the official diamond color grade a stone receives, there are a few other factors that can affect its appearance of color when mounted on an engagement ring.


As we’ve mentioned, one of these is the setting. Cool metals like white gold or platinum will allow the colorlessness of a high-quality diamond to really shine, so this is a great way to get the most out of your Colorless or Near Colorless diamond. But the same metals will enhance any yellowness that is present in your diamond, making stones with lower color grades look even more yellow to the naked eye. Instead, the warmth of a yellow gold or rose gold setting would complement a slightly more yellow diamond very well and make the stone appear whiter in comparison.


Certain diamond shapes can enhance or hide diamond color better than others. For example, the round brilliant cut hides slight yellowness quite well. The princess cut does a decent job of that, too. But fancy shapes like oval, pear, marquise, and emerald tend to make any yellowish tints more noticeable because of their shallower cuts. If you have your sights set on a round brilliant cut center stone, you may be able to get away with a slightly lower color grade for your diamond.


The larger the diamond, the more noticeable the color. So if you want a bigger diamond for your ring, you may want to go with a higher color grade. However, the size of the diamond won’t affect the color as much as the setting and shape will. 

Choosing the Right Diamond Color for You

While diamonds in the Colorless range tend to be the most valuable ones, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best choice for your own engagement ring. For example, let’s say you have your heart set on a particular diamond shape that hides color well. In that case, it may not be worth it to spend extra money on a completely colorless diamond. Instead, you might want to put that money towards other elements of the 4Cs that maximize the beauty of your stone. But on the other hand, if you know you want white gold or platinum in your ring, you’ll probably want to choose a diamond with a higher color grade in order to prevent it from looking yellow. The best diamond color for you is the color that gives you the best value for its appearance, complements the other elements of your ring, and fits your preferences and budget.

Find Your Diamond at Clean Origin

Whether you’re still not sure where to start or you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for in your ring, Clean Origin can help you find the ring of your dreams. All of our beautiful, ethically-sourced lab grown diamonds are of the highest quality, and we have a variety of metals, settings, diamond shapes, and styles for you to choose from. On our website, you can either build your own ring from scratch or browse some of our favorite styles. And if you’d like personalized assistance, our diamond experts would love to give you some guidance at a virtual appointment!