Diamond Color Grade: Colorless, Near Colorless, Yellow, and Brown

Are you searching for the perfect diamond to propose with? Understanding the Gemological Institute of America’s diamond color scale is an important step in the engagement ring buying process, especially if you don’t want to overpay for color.

Diamond Color Grade

The GIA grades a diamond’s color based on this scale:


D is the highest color grade available, meaning it has nearly no color. When examined closely under magnification and to the naked eye, a D color diamond appears colorless.

In most cases, D color diamonds are set in white gold or platinum, as yellow gold and other settings detract from the diamond’s pure, colorless beauty. Diamonds possessing a D color grade are the rarest and most expensive (not including fancy diamonds) on the market compared to other color grades.


E  color diamonds appear almost identical to D color diamonds. The differences between a D and E color diamond are, in most cases, only visible to the keen eye of a gemologist.

Similar to D color diamonds, E color diamonds are commonly set in platinum or white gold to allow the near-flawless diamond to shine without interruptions from a yellow or rose gold jewelry setting.

Even though these diamonds have a lower price tag than D color diamonds, they continue to command a hefty premium.


F color diamonds are also almost identical to D and E color diamonds since they are nearly colorless, even when inspected under magnification alongside D and E color diamonds. These precious gemstones look identical to most people, except for expert gemologists.


G color diamonds look primarily colorless to the naked eye. The color grade is the highest, best grade in those belonging in the “Near Colorless” range of the GIA’s scale, which encompasses diamonds graded G to J.

Even though G color diamonds have a very faint color, for the most part, they are impossible to pinpoint unless viewed under magnification by an expert. Like D-F color diamonds, these are best set in platinum or white gold.


H color diamonds also appear mainly colorless to the naked eye, but have a faint hue of yellow that is often visible under magnification or bright lighting, especially when compared side by side diamonds with a higher color grade.

H color diamonds are only a little bit less costly than G color diamonds, but they are significantly more affordable compared to diamonds in the colorless range. This is the minimum color grade recommended for certain diamonds with a large table, such as radiant and cushion cut diamonds. Furthermore, similar to G color diamonds and those with a higher color grade, these shine beautifully when set in either platinum or white gold.


I color diamonds combine near colorless brilliance and excellent value for money. These diamonds exhibit a slight yellow tint, though the color is only visible when examined next to diamonds with a higher color grade.

An I color round brilliant cut diamond is breathtaking in many settings, including platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold. They are more affordable than G or H color diamonds. Gemologists recommend I color diamonds as the minimum color grade for a princess cut.


color grade - J - diamond ring

J color diamonds can appear colorless to the naked eye, but they typically have a noticeable yellow tint when viewed under magnification and bright lights. J color diamonds with a large table (surface) may exhibit a more visible yellow tint to the naked eye, especially in certain lighting conditions.

From the perspective of cost and affordability, J color diamonds are a fantastic option. Most geologists recommend this stunning color for a round brilliant cut diamond set in white gold or platinum (solitaire setting), since the overall cut of the round diamond does a good job of concealing color. However, the color grade is often not recommended for diamonds with a larger top surface and fewer facets.


The GIA’s diamond color scale classifies K color diamonds as “faint tint,” which means they have a slight yellow color visible to the naked eye even without a side by side comparison to diamonds of higher color grades.

These diamonds are available for much less than those in the G to J range. They are best set in gorgeous yellow gold settings.


An L color diamond has a more visible yellow tint compared to K color diamonds, which is evident even in normal lighting conditions. They are far more affordable than varieties in the G to J range, offering good value for money.

Due to the yellow tint, gemologists typically do not recommend the L color grade for non-round diamond shapes and platinum or white gold settings. Regardless, L color round brilliant cut diamonds can still look beautiful in yellow gold solitaire rings because of the warm tone of the metal.


M color diamonds have an obvious yellow tint visible to the naked eye. Similar to K and L color diamonds, they offer great value for money compared to colorless and near colorless diamonds.

Though M color diamonds can look good in antique yellow gold settings, their color is too easy to notice with the naked eye. As such, an M color diamond may look even more yellow when paired with a yellow-colored metal. Some people also think that these diamonds are too yellow to be an engagement ring, but this boils down to personal preference.


Diamonds in the N to R range have a significantly more apparent yellow or brown tinting. These diamonds command much lower prices than those with a faint tint or near colorless diamonds. Most gemologists will not recommend diamonds of an N-R grade for engagement rings.


Being at the bottom of the scale, diamonds belonging in the S-Z range exhibit the most noticeable yellow or brown tinting. For this reason, gemologists do not recommend S-Z diamonds for engagement rings or high-end jewelry.

The Bottom Line

The diamond in most engagement rings appears colorless or near colorless, but many of them have minuscule hints of yellow or brown. The setting used and certain lighting conditions can also change the perception of a diamond’s color. Ensure to keep these in mind when examining the color of a diamond.

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