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Diamond Color Scale and Buying Guide

Allow us to guide you as you shop for the perfect diamond.

Diamond Color Scale and Buying Guide

IN THIS GUIDE

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The Next to Know

You discovered their ring size, took our engagement ring style quiz, and are ready to propose. Just one issue — you have no idea what diamond color is and how it impacts the ring buying process. Understanding diamond color will help you nail down your partner’s exact taste. Be it a ring that sparkles like it's straight out of a fairytale or one with a splash of warmth for a more romantic vintage feel — allow us to guide you as you shop for the perfect diamond.

At Shane Co., we developed the diamond color scale and buying guide to teach you the differences between diamond color grades, which color grades fit best within your budget, and which diamond color grades pair well with specific settings. We want to help you become an expert so that you can confidently pick out a diamond your partner will treasure for a lifetime.

How Is Diamond Color Determined?

The uniqueness of diamonds can create an aura of mystery around them, but the diamond color grading process isn’t a secret. Diamond color scales have been around for centuries with various systems in place. Native Americans even had their own system to determine a diamond’s color grade. The Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA) diamond color scale is the industry-leading standard for establishing diamond color. In the past, the GIA used scales that incorporated Arabic and Roman numerals and utilized A, B, and C. However, now the scale begins at D (colorless) and goes all the way to Z (light yellow and brown).


To differentiate from past methods, the GIA took a new approach by starting their scale at D, which represents truly colorless diamonds. These colorless diamonds are rarer than many believe, as most diamonds contain some hints of yellow and even then, the difference is not easily apparent to the naked eye. Rarity and price do share a positive correlation, meaning that the rarer a diamond becomes, the more likely it is that the price will increase as well. To distinguish between D (colorless) diamonds and G-I (near colorless) diamonds, experts need to examine the diamonds beneath microscopes.


After a private owner or corporation brings a diamond to a grading lab, it’s securely turned over to a grader. The professional sits behind a private booth that is sanctioned similar to a bank teller at a drive-through service. All hints of brand names, logos, or other identifying information is scrubbed from the diamond to prevent any undue bias in the diamond color grade process. Graders compare each diamond to a master scale set, which is used as a baseline parameter to determine the color of diamonds. 


Many of our diamonds are GIA-certified, as well as being internally graded. We also use multiple grading labs to certify our diamonds.

READ OUR DIAMOND CHEAT SHEET

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Diamond Grade Ranges

As grading organizations like the GIA designate a particular letter for each diamond they grade, we put together an in-depth chart for a deeper understanding of each diamond color’s characteristics. Each grade range below is a measure of how much color is visible in a diamond.
A diamond color chart
A diamond color grade chart

Colorless Diamonds

Colorless diamonds are in the D-F color range. They have zero discernable colors and a bright crystal appearance. This color grade pairs well with platinum wedding bands, as these bands are slightly whiter than white gold metal.


  • D-color diamonds are the most expensive diamonds on the market today because of their rarity and sparkle. 
  • E-color diamonds look icy and clear. While their color is slightly less pure than D-color diamonds, they will still make your diamond ring stand out.
  • F-color diamonds have the highest value of all the colorless diamonds, as they are less expensive than D-color diamonds, but still appear identical to the naked eye.

Near-Colorless Diamonds

Near-colorless diamonds are in the G-J color range and contain a slight tint of yellow. In a side-by-side comparison to D-F color diamonds, the average person would not be able to distinguish these diamonds from colorless ones. They suit everything from modern to more traditional settings.


  • G-color diamonds are the highest color grade in the near-colorless range. They are just as stunning as colorless diamonds and can exhibit a slightly warm cast. 
  • H-color diamonds are a degree less expensive than G-color diamonds but are much more modestly priced compared to colorless diamonds.
  • I-color diamonds will allow for the appearance of a colorless diamond, but with a much lower price tag and won’t detract from a platinum or white gold setting.
  • J-color diamonds have a slight yellow tint that becomes more noticeable beneath bright lights or out in the sun, but their color can be concealed with a round brilliant cut.

Faint Yellow Diamonds

Faint yellow diamonds are in the K-M color range and contain a warmer hue. This is not necessarily a negative, as the depth of color may be a better fit for yellow gold engagement rings when compared to the modern look of a colorless diamond. In a room with typical lighting conditions, diamonds in the L-M color range will stand out with visible hints of yellow when viewed at arm’s length. 


  • K-color diamonds are more economical than diamonds in the G-J range. Because of their slight yellow tint, these diamonds accentuate yellow gold or rose gold settings. 
  • L-color diamonds have a stigma of not being as beautiful as other diamonds that are higher on the GIA scale, however, they are a great option if you desire a diamond with more warmth. To help offset color in the L range, choose a diamond with strong fluorescence.
  • M-color diamonds have tints of visible yellow, but that does not mean they can’t make stunning rings. M-color diamonds are ideal if you want a larger diamond for a lower price tag and are typically the lowest color grade supplied by diamond dealers to stores or online retailers. 

Very Light Yellow Diamonds

Diamonds in the N-R color range have a more visible yellow appearance and are not to be confused with fancy yellow diamonds. Very light yellow diamonds are available at a cheaper price point. N-R color diamonds have more notable yellow or brown coloring. For this reason, we’d typically suggest diamonds in the K-M color range instead.

Light Yellow Diamonds

Diamonds in the S-Z color range contain the most noticeable amount of color. These diamonds may have light yellow to brown hues that become more easily detectable the closer the diamond is to the Z end of the color range. If you desire a bright white diamond, we recommend a diamond higher on the GIA color scale.

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What Is the Best Diamond Color?

As each diamond color has specific characteristics, the best diamond color grade range depends on the type of ring you’re looking for. If you’re in the market for a colorless diamond, then stick with a diamond color in the D-F range.


J-L diamonds offer a slightly warmer tint with a faint yellow coloring, but can still be an elegant option. Diamonds on the lower end of the GIA scale (N-Z) can contain a light yellow to brown hue and appear more like a citrine (yellow) gemstone or yellow sapphire and less like a classic white diamond. This can also increase the value of the stone, since colored diamonds are on the rarer end of things. We make it easy to shop by diamond color grades (D-Z) to find the perfect diamond for you!

Does Diamond Color Matter When Shopping for an Engagement Ring?

Diamond color plays a key role when it comes to purchasing an engagement ring and is part of the 4Cs of Diamond Quality. The color affects a diamond’s appearance and clearness. It’s important to take time to understand diamond color, as different diamond colors interact with unique ring settings in distinct ways. Certain color grades are more expensive than others, which is why we recommend taking time to consider how important color is to you.

What Is the Most Cost-Effective Diamond Color?

At Shane Co., you can customize your ring down to the carat size, clarity, cut, and color to create the option that’s right for you. If you have your eye on a colorless diamond, then aiming for a D grade will give you the result you're looking for, as well as a rare diamond that will be perfect for passing down as an heirloom. If you're more concerned about price range, but still want the look of a colorless diamond, then we recommend a G-I-color diamond as the differences between near-colorless and colorless diamonds are minimal. 


Shane Co.’s Budget Buddy tool makes it easy to find a ring setting and center stone within your price range. Try comparing diamonds that have similar shapes, carat sizes, and cuts with ones that have different diamond color grades. Typically, you will find that E-color diamonds have a price increase when compared to I-color diamonds with the same specifications, which can be helpful if you have a targeted budget you don’t want to stray from. 


If you desire a less expensive diamond, you can pick out a G-R-color diamond and pair it with a rose gold setting. This will help combat any yellow tint in your diamond. No matter the diamond or setting you choose, Shane Co. offers a Free Lifetime Warranty to protect, clean, and repair your rings to keep them looking beautiful forever, helping you to save on costs. Above all, it’s most important to keep your betrothed-to-be’s taste in mind, as they will be the one wearing it for a lifetime.

What Diamond Color Is Best for Three-Stone Engagement Rings?

While the average person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an F- or J-color diamond, the color grade becomes a little more important when picking out a three-stone engagement ring.


As three-stone engagement rings typically have two smaller side diamonds flanking the center stone, we recommend choosing either the same color grade for all of the diamonds or a color grade for the center diamond that is slightly higher than the two smaller side stones. This way, the center diamond still commands all of the attention. Shop our three-stone diamond rings that come in a variety of styles.

LEARN HOW TO SET A BUDGET

Are Fancy Color Diamonds and White Diamonds the Same Thing?

Z-color diamonds have a yellowish tint and are a heartbeat away from being considered a fancy-color diamond. All diamonds outside of the D-Z range are classified as fancy-color diamonds, regardless of their undertones. These diamonds can become exceedingly expensive and rare. Fancy-color diamonds come in a wide range of colors, including purple, blue, pink, orange, red, green, and more, and are completely different compared to colorless diamonds. Fancy-color diamonds are not rated with the same standards typically found in the D-Z range. Colorless diamonds have greater value with less color. On the flip side, fancy-color diamonds retain value if their color is more vibrant


It is possible to use these types of diamonds as engagement ring options, but they are often difficult to find. Shane Co. offers rubies, sapphires in a rainbow of colors, peach morganite, and aquamarine, which also make beautiful center stones for an engagement ring. Out of all the diamonds in the world, only 0.1 percent are classified as fancy colors. These natural diamonds are quite rare, with the red-colored diamonds being the rarest of them all with only 20-30 diamonds in existence. It may prove difficult to get your hands on one of these diamonds, but you can always shop our rubies to bring some color into your jewelry collection and hone in on the essence of a rare red-colored diamond!

EXPLORE OUR DIAMONDS 101 PAGE

Helpful Tips on How to Take Care of Your Diamond

Check out some of our tips below to keep your diamond rings scratch-free and in mint condition. 


  • Find a safe place to keep your ring.
  • Choose a wedding band that fits with your ring’s design and won’t scratch.
  • Keep your ring clean to retain the shine and allow light to pass through with our cleaning guide.
  • Purchase ring insurance in the unfortunate case your diamond ring gets lost or stolen.
  • Visit your jeweler every six months for ring maintenance.
  • Avoid taking your ring into the ocean or other places it could get lost.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals when you are wearing your ring.

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A close up of loose diamond in a pair of tweezers