Updated: May 11, 2022
You will often hear the term “white” applied to colourless diamonds that fall within the GIA D-to-Z color scale or chart. But diamonds in the D-to-Z range are not white at all. Their hues can range from colourless (like a drop of pure water) to having tints of light yellow, light brown or grey. The GIA diamond colour scale is the leading industry standard of diamond colour grading. There are five categories on the GIA diamond chart. Diamonds rated D are the most devoid of colour and very rare, whereas G colour diamonds and H colour diamonds are near colourless, and since they’re priced lower they are excellent value diamonds. The more you move down the colour chart, the lower the colour grade is, and the more noticeable the light yellow hue becomes.
If you're looking to buy fine diamond jewellery such as an engagement ring, it's important to understand how diamond colour affects price and overall appearance of the piece at the same time. It's important to find the right balance between the appealing size of a diamond, colour, and price. Here are a few buying tips and things to know about diamond colour.
The number one tip would be for the best value, choose G-J diamond color grades in the Near Colourless category. These diamonds appear white to the naked eye. The visible difference between diamonds of one colour grade (G-H or I-J) is so minor it's difficult to detect with the unaided eye, but the cost savings can be significant. Keep this in mind when choosing your diamond colour grade.
In general, to avoid a pale yellow colour, choose a diamond grade H or higher. For the purist, look for a D to F grade colourless diamond, which will have no discernible colour under magnification.
However, also remember, that while G-H colour grade diamonds look very white and similar to Colourless diamonds, in I-J diamonds a very slight yellowish tint can be noticed under certain circumstances. I-J diamonds still do appear white but they are not the best option for jewellery made of white metal (especially platinum, palladium, or rhodium plated white gold), because the slight yellowish hue can be seen as a contrast between the stone and very white metal in which it is set. Not rhodium plated white gold is slightly yellowish though, so it will not be a problem. A yellow or rose gold setting, on the other hand, makes a light yellow diamond appear whiter. So, another tip here would be therefore, to set I-J or K-M (Faint Yellow) diamonds not in rhodium plated white gold, palladium or platinum but in 14K or 18K yellow, rose gold or even solid white gold jewellery to make them appear whiter and to achieve a more balanced look. This helps to cut the price not at a cost of appearance. Buying diamonds in Near Colourless and Faint Yellow categories can be a good strategy that allows to buy bigger diamonds at a reasonable price.
Knowing that a yellow or rose gold setting makes a light yellow diamond appear whiter is useful. Importantly, however, a colourless (D-F) diamond set in yellow gold may reflect the setting’s yellow tint and will not look as white as it is. So, it is not the grade of a diamond itself that determines the overall look of a diamond in a piece of jewellery, but the combination of a diamond's colour grade with its setting.