The Diamond Pro

Lab-Created Diamond Color: How to Evaluate

By Michael Fried

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BOTTOM LINE RECOMMENDATION

As with natural diamond Color, we suggest finding a lab-created diamond that appears white in relation to its setting. You can usually find a diamond in the G to I range that looks white but costs much less than those in the D to F range.

In general, though, we don’t recommend buying a lab-created diamond. While they look beautiful and mimic real diamonds, there is no inherent value to them. In fact, the price of lab-created diamonds have plummeted in the last few years, and we expect that trend to continue. You’ll get a better bang for your buck by buying a natural diamond from Blue Nile or James Allen.

Some people still might lean toward a lab-created stone because they feel it’s better for the environment. However, the amount of energy expended to grow and compress the carbon for lab-created stones is extensive. Others believe that lab-created diamonds are more ethical. In reality, there’s a small percentage of mining operations that exploit individuals and communities. The large percentage of diamond mining in the world is legitimate and actually improves the quality of life in the surrounding communities.

If you decide to go the lab-created route, we recommend James Allen. They offer a beautiful collection of IGI certified lab-created diamonds.

For help with navigating the diamond buying minefield, feel free to contact us for personal help.

DIAMOND COLOR: AN INTRODUCTION

In general, diamonds with a slight yellow or brown tint typically aren’t as desirable. With a distinct tone like a yellow tint, less natural color can reflect back to the eye. The more colorless a diamond is, the more radiant and valuable it is as well. That’s why color is a trait that you won’t want to overlook. It’s important to find a stone that looks white without overpaying.

While it might seem like man-made diamonds should be perfectly white, lab-created stones aren’t created flawlessly. There are still distinctions in the quality, color and other traits of each stone.

A lower color grade typically results in a lower price. For example, this 1.02 Carat G color diamond from James Allen costs $980 more than this 1.19 Carat J color diamond. Depending on the setting, whether it’s white gold or yellow, both diamonds may appear colorless. That’s why it’s important to understand diamond color and how it’s impacted by your ring’s design.

Fancy color diamonds: If you’re in the market for a fancy color diamond, like a pink or blue diamond, focus on the richness of the color.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT DIAMOND COLOR

  • The absence of color impacts the value and price of the diamond
  • Color grade should always be determined by a grading professional
  • Fancy colored diamonds are graded differently than colorless stones
  • The ring’s setting plays a role in the perception of the color

Understanding the color quality helps you know exactly how lab-created diamonds are priced so that you can get the best value. 

LAB-CREATED DIAMOND COLOR SCALE CHART

As you compare diamonds, it’s important to have verification for what you’re looking that. That’s why you should have an IGI (International Gemological Institute) certificate for every lab-created diamond you consider. This differs from our advice on natural diamonds (you should always seek an AGS or GIA certificate on those). Why IGI for lab-created stones? Because the IGI issues specific grades for lab-created stones, whereas the GIA only offers a range.

The IGI grades diamonds on the following Color scale of D to Z, with Z being a diamond with a noticeable yellow or brown color.

Colorless
As the highest color grade, D means the diamond has almost no color even under magnification. E and F ratings look identical to the naked eye. Only an expert gemologist is able to note the differences between D, E, and F grades.
Nearly Colorless


G-J color graded diamonds have nearly no color and appear mostly colorless to the naked eye. In most cases, they will look the same as D to F diamonds but are priced much lower.
Faint Tint

Diamonds in K-M range show a slight yellow tint when viewed with the naked eye. Some people prefer these warmer diamonds set in a beautiful yellow gold setting.
Very Light TintThe noticeable yellow or brown tint of N-R diamonds make them available at much lower prices. We generally don’t recommend diamonds in this color range. If you’re looking for a colorful stone, we suggest searching for a beautiful fancy color diamond like a yellow, pink or blue diamond.
Light TintDiamonds in the S-Z range have a distinct yellow or brown tint. We don’t recommend S-Z diamonds. Instead, look for a fancy color diamond with vibrant color.

Engagement rings typically feature colorless diamonds. If you choose a lab-created diamond, we recommend searching for one in the G-J range, like this 1.24 Carat H color diamond. You’ll get a white, colorless stone without overpaying for a higher graded stone.

LAB-CREATED DIAMOND COLOR: BUYING TIPS

As you compare diamonds, it’s important to pay close attention to coloring. Besides the IGI Color Grade, you want to review each diamond closely or have an expert assist you. What you want to look for is any noticeable tinting. If the diamond doesn’t look white to you, then it’s a diamond you don’t want to purchase.

We suggest reviewing several diamonds in the nearly colorless range of G-J. Look closely at the photography to see if you notice any tinting. For example, this 1.10 Carat round diamond is graded as an H and looks colorless. That would be an example of a diamond that has great color quality. On the other hand, this 1.23 Carat J color diamond carries a slight yellow tone. But if you place it into a right setting (solitaire with no additional diamonds), the slight yellowness won’t be noticeable at all.

As you evaluate diamonds, keep in mind your ring setting. The color of precious metal impacts how the diamond’s color is perceived. You may be able to purchase a diamond with a lower color grade such as J if you choose a darker setting color, like this yellow gold solitaire engagement ring.

Above all, you want your diamond to look white in relation to the setting. The diamond should be the bright, white focal point of the ring.

Based on the broad range of ring settings, here are our recommendations for color based on your diamond’s shape:

White Gold / Platinum / Rose Gold Solitaire Engagement Rings

Round CutH-J grades. If you choose a grade higher than H, you’re paying for an expensive feature you won’t notice with the naked eye.

Emerald, Princess, and Asscher Cuts: G-I grades.

All other Diamond Shapes: F-H grades.

Yellow Gold Solitaire Engagement Rings

Round Cut: K-M grades.

The yellow gold color is absorbed into the diamond’s color, so any grade higher than a K (such as a G or I) will look slightly yellowish anyway.

Emerald, Princess, and Asscher Cuts: J-K grades.

All other Diamond Shapes: I-J grades.

Pave or Side-Stone Rings

Round, Princess, Emerald and Asscher: G-I grades.

All other Diamond Shapes: F-H grades.

Halo Engagement Rings

All Diamond Shapes: F-H Grades.

DIAMOND CLARITY

Separate from diamond color, diamond clarity is a characteristic that’s also graded by the IGI. Clarity refers to the absence of blemishes and inclusions. If you’re in the market for a round diamond, the inclusions may not be as noticeable, which means color grade will be more important than the clarity.

UNDERSTANDING THE COLOR SCALE OF WHITE DIAMONDS

Some diamond dealers may claim that Color is the second most important characteristic of a diamond’s beauty and quality. They might convince you to purchase a diamond with the highest possible color grade. But this is nothing more than a well-defined sales tactic.

Without a doubt, color plays a role in the aesthetics and brilliance of a diamond. The differences between the Color grading scale are usually small, though, and often unnoticeable to the naked eye. For instance, the differences between diamonds in the G-J grades are hardly perceivable to anyone outside of experts with magnification tools. We share this important pointer so you don’t spend money in an area that offers no additional beauty or value.

Through our years of experience looking at thousands of diamonds, we know your budget is better spent in other areas such as a diamond’s Cut quality.

The Difference Between Adjacent Diamond Color Grades

Most people find it difficult—or impossible—to distinguish one color grade from the next. The difference in price can be significant, though. For example, this D graded 1.05 Carat diamond looks just as white as this E color 1.05 Carat diamond. The D diamond is priced at $3,420 or 26% more, and the difference in Color isn’t noticeable at all.

A Color-Grading Quiz

By looking at the photos on the left, are you able to place the diamonds in the correct grading order?

The two Diamond Color charts below feature the same nine diamonds on either side. On the right, the nine diamonds are positioned face down and arranged by Color. On the left, the order is random.

(Answers (left side) – First Row: G, L, E. Second Row: F, J, D. Third Row: H, K, I.)

As the example shows, it’s difficult for the eye to pick up on a single feature of a diamond, such as its Color.

What Your Eye Perceives About the 4 C’s of a Diamond

Lab-created diamonds are formed through a high-temperature carbon growing and compression process. They are complex structures that are then cut into the shape and carat weight that’s desired.

The 4 C’s (Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat Weight) combine to determine a diamond’s beauty and brilliance. That’s why the naked eye has a difficult time differentiating a single aspect such as color or clarity.

The combination of the 4 C’s contributes to the overall beauty and brilliance. Your eye doesn’t perceive each aspect individually—it sees the collaboration of the 4 C’s.

What Round Diamond Buyers Need to Remember

As the most popular diamond shape, the Round Brilliant Cut accounts for 60% of all engagement rings sold, and about 75% of all diamonds sold.

When buying a Round Cut Diamond, color plays a relatively small role. For example, an I or J colored diamond will appear colorless to nearly everyone (except diamond sellers and gemologists). This is especially true if you place the diamond in a yellow gold setting. You can easily go a few notches down to a K, L, or even an M graded diamond. The stone will still look bright and colorless.

It isn’t easy juggling the different qualities and characteristics you need to evaluate in a diamond. If you’d like help from an expert, feel free to contact us. We’ll help you find the right diamond for the right price.

Different Settings Can Mask Diamond Color

Your setting can either mask or enhance the color of a diamond. For instance, even a white gold engagement ring can mask the diamond’s color somewhat. For example, if this I color diamond were placed in a white gold setting, it would seem white even though it has a slight yellow tint.

In other words, an I-colored diamond only looks like an I-color when it’s placed next to a higher graded diamond. In fact, a comparison between diamonds is how experts and gemologists grade Color. They place the diamond on a white folded card next to a master diamond to compare and determine the Color.

Matching Center Diamond Color with Side Stones

If you’re looking at a ring with side stones, like this micro pave twist engagement ring, you’ll want to make sure the stones’ colors complement each other. We recommend that side and accent diamonds either match the Color grade of the center stone or are slightly darker than the center stone. You want the center diamond to remain the white, sparkly focal point of the ring.

How Fluorescence Interacts With Diamond Color

Very few lab-created diamonds have fluorescence, although some are enhanced with a medium or strong fluorescence. The fluorescence is how a diamond responds to ultraviolet light. UV light makes whites whiter and black-light posters glow.

Strong or medium fluorescence generally dulls the brilliance of a diamond but can make a lower Color graded diamond appear whiter, like an N colored diamond for instance. For diamonds in the D-G range, it’s best to avoid strong fluorescence.

If you’re looking for a stunning diamond at a lower price point, opt for a J or a K colored diamond with a strong blue fluorescence.

Try Our Diamond Color Matching Game

In our game, you’re presented with diamonds in the D-K color range. The diamonds rest on their side (the way experts grade color). At the top, there’s a pool of the eight diamonds viewed face-up. Go ahead and try to match them to see how well you can tell the different color grades apart!

Are you considering paying more for a higher color diamond? Let's see if you can even tell the difference between these real diamond images of different colors!

Play Game

Drag and drop to match the colors. Score: 36

Do you have any unanswered questions about diamonds? <Click here> to ask.

Invite your friends to beat your score:

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CONCLUSION

While there are many aspects of a diamond to evaluate, such as Cut and Clarity, Color does play a role in the beauty of a diamond. You can find a beautiful lab-created diamond that looks white without overpaying, such as this 1.24 Carat H diamond.

Overall, though, we recommend buying a natural diamond. They retain their value far better than lab-created diamonds. They’re almost always ethically sourced and have relatively the same impact on the environment as lab-created diamonds. You can also consider a recycled diamond as an environmentally-friendly choice.

If you want help navigating the diamond buying process, contact us. We’ll do the heavy lifting for you and bring you the best diamonds for your budget.


About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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