As the most important factor among color diamonds, color enhanced diamonds included, the color of a diamond needs to be examined carefully before a stone can be chosen. In order to simplify the color assessment process, the overall color grade needs to be broken down into two main elements: Color and Intensity. Once each of these aspects is understood, their places in diamond color grading can be fully grasped, as well as their roles in diamond grading in general.
The actual color of a diamond refers to the hues found in a stone. It is more desirable for a diamond to possess one pure color, but this phenomenon is quite rare. More often stones are found with several hues. Still, there is generally one main color, with one, two, three or even more overtones. These colors include the following shades: Yellow, Pink, Blue, Green, Orange, Cognac, Grey, Purple, Red, Fancy Black, and Fancy White.
Diamond Color Intensity
As crucial as a diamond’s color is for its value, its intensity ultimately defines the stone’s true worth. The intensity of a stone is simply how dark the color appears. A color can be anywhere from Faint, which is the lowest color intensity level, to Fancy Deep or Fancy Dark. There are other levels in between these two, including Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid. Not every intensity level is available for each color.
While color diamonds are judged based on the presence of color, colorless diamonds are assessed in exactly the opposite way: the clearer the diamond, the more valuable it is. The grading scale for colorless diamonds runs from the letter D to the letter Z. D through F represents diamonds that are considered colorless, G and H diamonds are near colorless, I and J diamonds are white, K, L, and M diamonds are very faint yellow, N, O, P, Q, and R diamonds are faint yellow, and last but not least, S through Z diamonds are categorized as light yellow stones. This is where it gets interesting. The letters in the faint yellow and light yellow categories are also known as Cape diamonds, and are actually Very Faint or Very Light Yellow of Brown diamonds. These stones are the lowest color quality stones for both color and colorless diamonds.
The GIA Grading Scales
The well-known GIA, the Gemological Institute of America, established the color diamond grading system back in the 1970s. Since color diamonds are much more complex than colorless diamonds in terms of their color, it was decided to create a scale of descriptions as opposed to a letter scale, like the one that exists for colorless diamonds. Colorless diamonds were once graded with three letters: A, B, and C, and were paired together to signify a diamond’s quality. For instance, an AA diamond was considered an excellent diamond. However, years later, Richard T. Liddicoat of the GIA came up with a new system, which began with the letter D and ended with the letter Z. The reason for beginning with the letter D was twofold. First of all, Liddicoat did not want the new system to get confused with the old one. Second of all, D is the first letter in the word diamond, and was quite fitting to be the first letter.
Though cut, clarity, and carat can never be forgotten, even when it comes to color diamonds, color will always play a key role in color diamonds. It is the most noticeable feature and what essentially sets it apart from its colorless counterpart.