Congratulations for showing the initiative to learn about diamond color today! Most people don’t invest the time to learn about diamonds before they buy. They simply wander into jewelry stores like lambs being led to the slaughter, proudly announcing their intent to buy an engagement ring! A few people might be carrying around one of those prehistoric Diamond 4C’s pamphlets, but the vast majority of them really don’t know anything about buying little sparkling rocks. And they’re going to get skinned. But that’s not you, right? You’re the type of person who takes the time to research things before you buy.
You might be wondering what Haunted Houses and Diamond Color could possibly have in common. As it turns out, there are many different kinds of people in the world. They believe in many different things, and also share all kinds of common beliefs. It’s kind of a startling discovery when you actually stop and think about it.
42% of Americans believe in ghosts!
58% of people believe in the devil (the red guy with horns) and another 26% believe in witches. Which implies that fewer and fewer people are paying any attention to their mother in law… [my loose interpretation of the Harris poll]
There are all sorts of people with strong opinions about many different things, like what diamond color you should choose. While some of the things that other people believe might be helpful, other things can cause more harm than good. Sometimes people tell us to stay away from certain places or things… They might do this because those things seem scary or unfamiliar to them. Given the freedom to decide those things for ourselves, we might really enjoy them or not be interested at all.
From a historical perspective, the Haunted Mind of Diamond Color serves to ensnare many a poor soul foolish enough to follow the advice or opinion of the masses. Imagine one soul after the next, throwing away senseless piles of cash upon diamonds of a higher color grade than necessary, simply for the sake of following the leader. Oh lemmings, poor lemmings, let me show you the way to understanding diamond color for yourself.
We all know the story of Little Miss Muffet, she sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey. Along came a spider, who sat down beside her, and frightened Miss Muffet away! There is of course, much more to the story, which as it so happens you might find quite interesting. Because you see, Miss Muffet became fearful of those silly old spiders, not by her own experience, but by watching her mother’s fearful reaction of them!
Miss Muffet did not actually have any personal knowledge or experience with regards to diamond color, she simply knew that spiders are dangerous (because her mother told her so). This is what a child’s mind does, but a calm and rational adult with your own ideas, feelings, and beliefs, can look upon that diamond and wonder in calm fascination, as it weaves its knowing web of different colors in the corners of your mind now. You know that I’m having a bit of fun with you, right?
Let it be, let it be, wander down this page with me… and when all is said and done, you’ll know more about diamond color from the brightest of icy whites to the color of the setting sun…
Suspend whatever current beliefs and old notions that you may have about diamond color now. Keep an open mind as you read the rest of this page. You will automatically develop new understandings, which will improve your perception of diamond color.
In the next few moments, your comprehension of diamond color will improve dramatically. You’ll understand how different types of lighting affect your perception of diamond color. Understanding that diamond color is simply a matter of perception, will enable you to buy with confidence. Simply by reading this article all the way through, you will absorb a wealth of knowledge about diamond color.
Pretend that we’re two people sitting here, sharing insider secrets about diamond color grading. During the course of our conversation, your thoughts may wander to other things. For instance, you might wonder how you will use this information to buy a better diamond. All of that stuff is perfectly normal, it only serves to dramatically improve your understanding of diamond color today.
Before we go much further, just take a moment to visualize or imagine your perfect diamond, whatever it is that’s right for you. Simply suspend those old thoughts and beliefs about different diamond color and clarity grades. Focus solely upon the sparkle factor of the diamond in your mind. See how magnificently the diamond sparkles in the light. Imagine all those flashes of brilliant white sparkle! Let your eyes soak in those fiery colored flashes of light that can only be produced by diamonds of the highest cut quality.
With this image in mind, I’d like you to realize now that the most important thing about diamond color is that it contributes nothing to the sparkle factor. There are three things that are most likely to contribute to Miss Muffet’s decision about which diamond color to buy:
The latter of which we’re going to explore in great detail, right after we cover the basics of diamond color grading and clear your mind of those old world beliefs now about which diamond color you should buy. And with this in mind, let’s begin.
This diamond color grading video by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) demonstrates how we use master sets of diamonds and a GIA Diamond Light to accurately grade diamond color. Watch closely as the diamond grader moves the diamond between diamonds of different color grades to determine the best match.
Pay particular attention to the lighting environment. You’re about to discover that lighting temperature affects our perception of diamond color, and you will begin to see diamonds in a whole new light. The subtle difference between the different diamond color grades is not as apparent in real-world lighting, as it will seem under this GIA Diamond Light.
In his book on Vision Science, author Stephen Palmer states:
“Color is a psychological property of our visual experiences when we look at objects and lights, not a physical property of those objects or lights.”
The GIA diamond color grading scale only applies to white diamonds, which range in hue and saturation from colorless to noticeably yellow. Most people assume that buying a D-color diamond is the best choice, because the value of diamonds decreases as the color becomes more noticeable.
Remember this: Even a trained diamond grader will not be able to accurately grade diamond color from across the table. However the sparkle factor and light performance of your Brian Gavin Signature diamond will be visible from across the room! Regardless of whether that diamond is D-color or K-color, the only thing people will be talking about is how it grabbed their attention!
People often ask me questions like:
When Robert M. Shipley created the Gemological Institute of America back in 1931, many retail jewelers were using the letters A-B-C to designate diamond color and clarity in this fashion:
The GIA wanted to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, and establish a new world order for the diamond industry to follow. Therefore the terms A-color, B-color, and C-color are not used to describe diamond color in the GIA system and that is why the scale begins with D-color and ends with Z-color.
The inner circle of the diamond industry tends to describe D-E-F color diamonds as being higher in color, while we refer to L-M-N+ color diamonds as being lower in color. This might be a bit unfair and misleading, because it implies that diamonds that exhibit any degree of warmth are less desirable.
Although it may be true that Z-color diamonds exhibit warmer tones than D-color diamonds, this is a bit like saying that the moon is more desirable than the sun, because it is whiter in hue and saturation while the sun is warmer and shows a hint of yellow.
The fact of the matter is that selecting a diamond color is strictly a matter of personal preference. Some people will prefer diamonds which are cooler in tone, while other people will prefer diamonds that are warmer in appearance. In a moment you will see that diamond color is a simple matter of perception, and then it will be easier for you to choose the right diamond color.
No doubt, you’re familiar with those Diamond 4C’s pamphlets that are available in most jewelry stores. Right? They always feature a “diamond color grading chart” that shows a range of color from stark white to lemon yellow, that is printed on a piece of paper that looks something like this:
Do you notice anything different about this particular diamond color grading chart? Because it seems to me, that Blue Nile has decided to present the progression of diamond color in reverse order here.
The White Queen to Alice in Wonderland:
“It’s a poor sort of [diamond color grading chart] that only works backwards.”
Perhaps we should simply chalk-up the reverse order of this diamond grading chart from Blue Nile to artistic license? Regardless of what you see here, just be sure to remember that GIA’s color grading scale actually goes from D-colorless down to Z-color which is noticeably yellow.
Did you notice anything else that is different about the diamond color grading chart suggested by Blue Nile? What about the fact that the GIA uses the terms faint yellow, light yellow, and yellow to describe the range of color that Blue Nile indicates as having noticeable color?
Blue Nile is not incorrect in using that description, because diamonds which are K-color and lower do reflect a hint of warmth. They are simply clumping three classifications of GIA diamond color grades into one group of diamonds which exhibit noticeable color.
Rather than thinking about this in terms of right or wrong, correct or incorrect, try to imagine that it is simply a matter of linguistics and perception. And with this concept in mind, I think you’re going to enjoy this little experiment which will fine tune your perception of diamond color!
Think back to the Diamond Color Grading Chart provided above. How much yellower did the Z-color diamond appear than the D-color diamond? Go ahead and drift back up and sneak a peek if you want! This is an Open Book Test.
Pick up a white piece of paper off your desk, go raid the printer if necessary. Now hold the piece of paper up directly in front of your face and look through it at the picture featured to the left.
How much color do you see? The correct and most probable answer is none, because paper is not translucent like diamonds are. This is why people’s perception of diamond color may not be not accurate! They’ve been basing their understanding of diamond color upon illustrations of paper and ink.
Now you know that Diamond Color charts printed on paper have nothing in common with actual diamonds. The hue and saturation levels created by printers ink on paper are not comparable to diamond color. They never have been, and they never will be. Remember that diamonds are translucent like spring water on a crystal clear day.
The Color RED printed on this page does not look the same as the color red contained within a glass of tropical punch flavored Kool-Aid. Paper and Ink based diamond color grading charts are simply not accurate. So let’s STOP using them!
This interactive GIA Diamond Color Grading Wheel is definitely an improvement over those dusty old paper and ink illustrations. But this is still not reliable for grading purposes, because it is not an accurate representation of diamond color. However these diamond illustrations may further your appreciation of the subtle differences between diamond color grades. Just be aware that this attempt to illustrate the difference between the 23 different diamond color grades is still just an illustration.
Most people can not tell the difference between diamonds which are one or even two color grades apart without some coaching, and if you’re looking at diamonds from a top-down vantage point, it will be much more difficult.
It is going to be pretty easy for you to see the differences between the color of these diamonds from this side profile, but the difference in diamond color will be less visible from a face-up position. The sparkle factor brought to light by the super ideal cut diamonds produced by Brian Gavin and Crafted by Infinity, will positively influence your perception of diamond color. The color of the setting will also affect your perception of diamond color, and you will learn more about this in a moment.
But for now, just focus on the color difference between these loose diamonds. Clearly see the difference between those diamonds, which represent the middle and opposite ends of the color spectrum. The difference between diamonds in the same color range, like G-H-I near-colorless diamonds will be less apparent.
What is the average diamond color sold in America?
According to the GIA Gemology course material, the average diamond color sold in jewelry stores throughout the United States is N-color. That means that most people are wearing diamonds which are light yellow in color.
There is something special about that Z-color diamond, which you are now ready to see. Take another look at that Z-color diamond, and only the Z-color diamond. It is not important for you to focus on the E-color diamond, nor the K-color diamond right now. Simply ignore those because the hue and saturation of E-color and K-color diamonds is not as easy to distinguish. This exercise is only about the Z-color diamond, so just allow the hue and saturation of the Z-color diamond to soak into your visual memory.
You may want to close your eyes for a moment, and visualize or imagine that Z-color diamond. Because the more you practice seeing diamond color, the more you will appreciate the subtle differences in diamond color. Every professional diamond grader knows the importance of developing a greater appreciation for diamonds of all color grades.
Now that you can clearly see the Z-color diamond within your minds eye, think back to the illustration of a Z-color diamond. Does the actual Z-color diamond pictured in the photograph look anything like the drawing? Does printers ink look anything like real life?
Remember that song from Sesame Street?
“One of these things is not like the others… One of these things just doesn’t belong… Can you tell which thing is not like the others… By the time I finish my song?”
Now that you’re familiar with this concept, you know that pen and ink diamond color charts are completely useless because they are a work of fiction. While a work of fiction might reflect properties of the real world, it does not portray that world accurately. This is yet another reason why your perception of diamond color ≠ reality.
I hope that you are beginning to see that our actual perception of diamond color can be a bit fluid. As you have learned today, diamond color appears to change as it is affected by the presence of other colors in the room and your surroundings. Diamond color also tends to be more noticeable in diamonds weighing more than two carats, this is because the saturation of color is more noticeable as the surface area becomes larger.
It’s not necessarily true that this 2.420 carat, H-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond has more color than this 1.005 carat, H-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond. It is simply easier to distinguish a difference in the presence of color in objects which are larger in size.
If we use the Kool-Aid analogy again, you’ll be able to see more red in a drop of Kool-Aid that measures 8.60 millimeters in diameter, than you’ll be able to see in a drop of Kool-Aid that measures 6.41 mm in diameter. This is the reason why diamond grading laboratories such as the AGS or GIA maintain different diamond color master sets for grading diamonds of different sizes.
You would not use a one carat diamond as the basis for determining the color grade of a two carat diamond. Nor would you use a five carat diamond when grading the diamond color of a two carat diamond. Size matters and anybody who has ever painted a wall any color, thinking that it would turn out the same color as the little paint sample they looked at in the store, knows what I’m talking about.
Did you know that diamonds which are M to Z color are also known as Cape Color Diamonds? Diamond color used to be described by where the diamond rough originated. Diamonds that came from the Cape Town region of South Africa were often warmer in color, thus they were known as Cape Color Diamonds. The terms Jager and River were used historically to describe D-F color diamonds. G-J color diamonds were often referred to as Top Wesselton, Wesselton, and Top Crystal. Many L-color diamonds were also referred to as Cape Color Diamonds. If you happen to be a summer (skin tone) then a Brian Gavin Cape Color diamond will look great on you!
Why are some diamonds yellow?
It’s really just a matter of simple chemistry. The presence of nitrogen is responsible for the yellow color exhibited by many diamonds. As little as one part per million.is enough to make that K-color diamond pictured above faint yellow.
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This is in accordance with the vernacular used on the GIA diamond color grading scale for white diamonds. As you continue to wander down this page, you may wonder about all the different diamond color grades. They say that repetition is the mother of skill, which is why you should read this tutorial again and again.
You know the basics of diamond color now! You’ve done so well learning about diamond color today! You are able to buy a diamond with confidence now, because you’ve become your own amateur expert. You know which diamond color to choose and that your decision will be the right one! There is more to learn about diamond color if you’re up to the challenge, so keep reading to achieve Diamond Color Jedi Master status!
That’s right, let the games begin! Everything you’ve learned up until now about diamond color, represents a basic understanding of the concept. You now have a deeper appreciation for diamond color. I’m certain that you can recognize diamond color by both the GIA letter and word designations that describe each color grade. By now you know that our perception of diamond color is not reality…
Watch this video created by another satisfied client of Brian Gavin Diamonds. It demonstrates the dramatic affect that different types of lighting have upon this Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamonds. This 1.35 carat, F-color diamond exhibits medium blue fluorescence, which you will learn more about in just a moment.
As you watch this video, notice the incredible sparkle that Brian Gavin Signature diamonds display. Watch closely and pay attention to how your perception of diamond color changes from moment to moment. Notice that the color of the diamond changes with exposure to every lighting environment. This is the moment that you’ve been waiting for…
You may watch this video more than once, in order to truly appreciate what there is to see…
Watch closely now as the diamond color changes from room to room:
The more you watch, the easier it becomes to appreciate how lighting affects your perception of diamond color. Remember how the Brian Gavin Signature diamond sizzles in every lighting environment? Picture those bright, bold, vibrant flashes of light. What it must be like to hold that diamond in your hand, and see all that sparkle for yourself. Isn’t that what you want in a diamond? You know light performance has nothing to do with diamond color, it is created by exceptional optical precision. Which is why diamond connoisseurs prefer Brian Gavin Signature diamonds.
There was even a point in history when people described D-E color diamonds with strong to distinct blue fluorescence as “Blue White Diamonds” although this practice is frowned upon in this establishment:
Rule 28 of the Federal Trade Commission:
Misuse of the term “blue white.”
“It is unfair or deceptive to use the term “blue white” or any representation of similar meaning to describe any diamond that under normal, north daylight or its equivalent shows any color or any trace of any color other than blue or bluish.”
“Blue White Diamonds” I wonder where people would get a crazy idea like that? Imagine jewelers using the term “blue white diamonds” because it sounds more intriguing than saying this diamond exhibits blue fluorescence.
A blue white diamond does sound intriguing, it sounds so rare and mysterious. What sounds better to you in terms of marketing? “This 1.093 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond exhibits strong blue fluorescence when exposed to black light” or “This blue white diamond is extremely rare and faces-up whiter than other diamonds?”
Just to be clear. I am
NOT suggesting that this Brian Gavin Blue Signature Diamond is a blue white diamond, nor am I describing it as such. I’m merely using old world jeweler diamond talk to describe blue fluorescence.
Some jewelers also misled people into believing diamonds were “blue white” by holding them under blue light bulbs. Hence FTC rule 28.
You might wonder whether a D-color diamond with strong blue fluorescence is going to look blue-white? Not likely, at least not any more so than other diamonds with negligible fluorescence. If you really start to look at diamonds in direct sunlight [you might go blind] but you’ll also notice that they all tend to look a bit blue as seen in the sun. This has to do with the way our eyes filter light to protect themselves from being burned by the intense volume of light being reflected by the diamond.
What impact does fluorescence have on the appearance of a diamond?
“GIA studies show that for the overwhelming majority of diamonds, the strength of fluorescence has no widely noticeable effect on appearance. In the GIA Fluorescence Study, it was found that the average person could not make a distinction between a diamond with fluorescence and a diamond without.”
— Excerpt from GIA Blog: Understanding Diamond Fluorescence. May 09, 2012
Generally speaking, blue fluorescence in white diamonds is going to improve our perception of diamond color. This is because the blue fluorescent molecules are going to help filter out any yellow undertones that may be present in the diamond (when the molecules become excited by the presence of ultra-violet light)
Excerpt from LiveScience.com:
Red-green and yellow-blue are the so-called “forbidden colors.” Composed of pairs of hues whose light frequencies automatically cancel each other out in the human eye, they’re supposed to be impossible to see simultaneously.
This is one of the reasons why you might decide to purchase a Brian Gavin Blue fluorescent diamond. This is the reason why the 2.25 carat, I-color, round brilliant super ideal cut diamond that I purchased for my own wedding ring, exhibited distinct blue fluorescence. Not only did the distinct blue fluorescence help to improve my perception of diamond color, it also came with a nice discount! The majority of blue fluorescent diamonds are priced at a discount, due to public misconception about the effects of fluorescence. G-d Bless people who don’t understand blue fluorescence!
Everybody seems to overlook the fact that the GIA study on blue fluorescence in diamonds determined that fewer than 0.2% of gem quality diamonds are negatively impacted by the presence of fluorescence. People get stuck on the fact that 0.2% of gem quality diamonds are negatively impacted by blue fluorescence. However once you realize that only 0.2% of gem quality diamonds are negatively impacted by blue fluorescence, you’ll know that 98% of gem quality diamonds look perfectly fine.
The minute percentage of blue fluorescent diamonds which are negatively impacted by blue fluorescence, are commonly referred to as being over-blue. Diamonds which are considered to be “over-blue” actually exhibit such high concentrations of blue fluorescence, that they have a slight lavender-blue hue to them which some people (like me) actually find quite pretty!
Some people mistake the presence of a slight lavender blue hue to make the diamond look milky or oily, but what they’re actually seeing is the lavender blue hue created by the high concentration of blue fluorescence being excited by the exposure to ultra-violet light.
Diamonds which are over-blue will most likely exhibit very strong to distinct blue fluorescence. This is not to say that all diamonds that exhibit very strong to distinct blue fluorescence will be over-blue. A more accurate understanding would be that the few diamonds which are actually “over-blue” are likely to exhibit very strong to distinct blue fluorescence. Got it?
Understanding that diamond color has no effect upon Light Performance, allows you to consider a wider range of diamond color. You know that our perception of diamond color changes as the diamond moves from room to room. This is why I say that there are 50 Shades of Diamond Color. The color of your diamond is not a static color grade that can be captured by a photograph, it is fluid and changes as it reflects everything around it. Now this is something that you might want to ponder.
The only light present in a diamond grading laboratory is provided by a GIA Diamond Light, and possibly a microscope or computer monitor. Because our perception of diamond color may be influenced by external light sources, no other light source may be present in the grading room. We grade diamonds in this controlled environment to ensure that outside light sources do not affect our perception of diamond color.
This photograph from the GIA Gemology Course will give you a better idea of what that looks like:
Look closely at this photograph. You will notice that the woman is holding a white tray up under the light with her left hand. The diamond sorting tray is white, which provides a neutral background. The diamonds are set on the tray at a slight angle on their table facet, enabling us to grade diamond color more accurately by looking at them from a side profile.
The color grade of this 1.413 carat, G-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature diamond was determined by comparing it side-by-side a master set of diamonds at the American Gem Society Laboratory. They use a diamond light like the one you saw above, I’ve actually been in the AGS laboratory and the only light was from GIA diamond lights and microscopes. Any other light source might artificially influence the diamond grader’s perception of diamond color. The temperature of any other lights in the room could affect their perception of diamond color.
Do you ever think about the temperature of light? Think about how different types of light can be warm (yellow / golden) or cool in temperature (blue). This is what is known in the the lighting industry as Correlated Color Temperature (CCT). More on that in a minute…
Professional diamond graders wear neutral tones like black and white, so that their clothing will not influence diamond color. So now you know that even the color of the clothes you wear will affect diamond color. You also know that diamonds are graded for color from a side profile, as opposed to how we look at them face-up mounted in a ring.
Take a look at this Kelvin lighting temperature scale chart which I’ve “borrowed” from See Smart LED. This chart is intended to help people determine what temperature of light is best for different purposes. Higher temperature lights produce cooler tones which appear to be blue. Lower temperature lighting produce warmer tones like yellow, orange and reds.
All of which are going to affect the appearance of diamond color as you move about from room to room. Understanding the effects different types of lighting have upon the appearance of your diamond, enables you to know which diamond color grade is best for you.
Now you know that diamond color is going to change from room to room, and you know that different types of lighting will affect our perception of diamond color. Which is why you are ready to learn about the Disneyland Diamond Effect.
The Disneyland Diamond Effect is a term which was taught to me by my mentor Brian Gavin. It is a playful way to describe the lighting environment you’re going to see in most retail jewelry stores. Practically all jewelry stores use 3000 watt halogen lighting to create the Disneyland Diamond Effect.
Pumping that much light into a diamond from a distance of only a few feet, will make even crushed rock quartz look amazing! This is the reason why so many people end up buying diamonds which are cut poorly. This is not the only trick that retail jewelers use to create the Disneyland Diamond Effect. Blue dichromatic filters also appear in conjunction with the lighting, and serve to artificially improve diamond color. Remember back to those kindergarten coloring days and how the color blue cancels out yellow.
Chris Angel eat your heart out! Jewelers just might be the most talented illusionists of all time! They can turn yellow diamonds into white, with a simple flick of their wrist! Thanks to a modern day convenience known as the light switch.
You are familiar with how diamond color will change with exposure to different light sources. You also know that lighting temperature will influence your perception of diamond color. Here are some other things that will factor into your perception of diamond color:
The structure of a diamond consists of facets which act like tiny mirrors. The reality is that your diamond is going to pick up on everything going on around it, and reflect all of that splendor back at you to enjoy.
Tell me. What is the best diamond color of them all? We’re all familiar with the story of Walt Disney’s Snow White. There is an interesting correlation between “the fairest of them all” and D-color diamonds. Everything is simply a matter of perception.
Many years ago, my late-wife Robin called me into the diamond grading room for a second opinion on a diamond that she was evaluating. The D-color diamond that she was holding in a pair of tweezers, faced-up J-color from her perspective.
“How could this diamond possibly have been graded as D-color by the GIA Laboratory?” Robin exclaimed. “The color grade is way off” she said “It’s more like a J-color… this is completely unacceptable.” Robin was actually thinking of sending the diamond back to the diamond cutter, and suggesting that they re-submit the diamond to the GIA for a recheck.
Naturally I had to laugh (which did not help the situation)… the problem was immediately obvious from my perspective. Imagine the effect that an optical yellow color blouse might have upon a D-color diamond. This is why diamond graders should wear neutral tones like black or white.
The metal color of the ring will also have a direct impact upon your perception of diamond color. The color of the metal that touches the side of the diamond, can affect our perception of diamond color by one full color grade. Setting a diamond in platinum or white gold will make it look whiter and brighter, while setting a diamond in yellow gold or rose gold will make it look warmer in tone.
Look closely at these three halo engagement rings by Brian Gavin. Notice how the color of the center stone appears to change as it reflects the color of the setting where it touches the diamond. Pay particular attention to the internal reflections of light which appear in the middle region of each diamond.
The Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond pictured in the halo setting to the left, faces-up bright and white. The warmth of the 18k yellow gold halo setting pictured in the middle, reflects throughout the diamond and creates a warmer feeling. The 18k rose gold setting pictured on the right, causes the diamond to blush like a pale pink rose. Being aware of the influence that mounting a diamond will have, enables you to recreate these special effects.
It is important for you to realize that the color of the ring is not a critical factor. It is the color of the metal which actually touches the edge of the diamond which will affect your perception of diamond color.
How setting color affects diamond color:
Most jewelry appraisers and gemologists agree that the color of the setting that touches the edge of the diamond will affect our perception of diamond color by about one color grade.
Imagine you’re going to buy this 1.687 carat, H-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond which exhibits medium blue fluorescence. If you set this diamond in platinum or 18k white gold, it is likely to face-up closer to G-color. Setting this same H-color diamond in yellow gold or rose gold prongs, will make it face-up closer to I-color. Remember that the color of the ring shank itself has virtually no effect upon diamond color. Only the portion of the ring which comes in direct contact with the diamond will have any effect upon our perception of diamond color.
The medium blue fluorescence is likely to improve our perception of diamond color. Most gemologists agree that blue fluorescence makes diamonds look whiter and brighter. Why? Everybody knows that blue cancels out yellow.
Blue fluorescence is like nature’s white wash for diamonds, and the benefits increase with exposure to high volumes of ultra-violet light. Which is why I am partial to Brian Gavin Blue fluorescent diamonds.
Another thing you’ve got to know about diamond color:
Nobody is going to be able to accurately guess the color of your diamond from across the dinner table. Nobody ever guessed that my 2.25 carat diamond was I-color, even those people who I handed it to for them to get a closer look. All anybody ever really sees is the sparkle factor, and that you will be able to appreciate from across the room.
It is surprising to discover that the more you know about diamond color, the more important it is to focus on a range of diamond color rather than an individual color grade. Realizing now that your perception of diamond color is always changing, with exposure to all of the other things in the room which surrounds you. How does knowing all of this about diamond color, affect your choice of which diamond you’re going to buy?
Knowing that most people can’t distinguish between a D-E-F color diamond under normal lighting, might save you a ton of money! Imagine that you’re going to buy a one carat, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond today. Assume that you find colorless diamonds most appealing, and focus on options which are D-E-F color.
If you happen to prefer cooler tones, then people are probably going to suggest that you purchase a diamond in the D-E-F colorless range. Many people describe D-E-F color diamonds as being cooler in tone, or even icy in appearance, so if you prefer cool, bright, icy whites, then you might prefer D-E-F color diamonds. With this in mind, I’ve got a little game for you to play…
Which of the following diamonds would you say is D-color? E-color? F-color? This picture shows one of each diamond color D through F:
Would you be surprised to learn that the diamonds are pictured in the following order?
This is one of the challenges that people face when trying to choose between diamonds of different color grades. It seems to me that the diamond pictured on the right is brighter and whiter; the diamond on the left would be next in line; and then maybe the diamond in the middle.
Factors such as time of day, focal depth, and even the temperature of the equipment used to photograph the diamonds can effect diamond color as it appears in a picture. The settings on your computer monitor must also be taken into account. While a picture might be worth a thousand words, they really aren’t that helpful when it comes to judging diamond color. But that’s not going to stop us from looking at a few more diamond photographs for the sake of becoming more familiar with the different ranges of diamond color.
This screenshot shows three James Allen True Hearts round diamonds as seen from a side profile:
The diamonds are positioned from left to right in order of diamond color G, H, I-color. What I want you to focus on is not so much the “diamond color” as much as the differences in hue and saturation. This is because when we grade diamond color, we are actually looking for an absence of color. But when we talk about “diamond color” people tend to then look for “color” when really we’re looking at differences in hue and saturation (and an absence of color).
Can you see how the G-color on the left, shows a lesser degree of hue and saturation than the H-color diamond positioned in the middle? Or the I-color diamond pictured on the right?
Now let’s take a look at the same diamonds from a face-up vantage point like you would see them set in an engagement ring:
Notice how much more difficult it is to ascertain the differences in diamond color from this face-up vantage point. The differences in hue and saturation are not that easy to distinguish. By the way, we’re looking at these James Allen True Hearts Diamonds in this order from left to right:
Once again, I want to mention that these images are not intended to be used to judge diamond color. They are intended to provide you with insight as to the extent of the inclusions contained within the diamond. But that doesn’t stop people from asking me whether this ‘X’ color diamond looks “right | better | whiter | brighter” than this other ‘X’ color diamond depending upon what they think they’re seeing in these video and photographs.
Did you happen to notice how the photo-grey background sitting behind each of those James Allen True Hearts diamonds appears different in hue and saturation? Trust me, the photo-grey background appears to be a different shade of grey in every one of those diamond photographs. This is why you can’t rely upon diamond clarity photographs and high resolution video to determine diamond color, or how bright the diamond is going to appear. You have to trust the diamond grading laboratories. Don’t try to judge diamond color off of a photograph.
You might be beginning to realize that I like to push the boundaries that define things just a little bit… Which is why I’ve clumped J-color diamonds from the “near-colorless” classification into this section about K-L-M faint yellow diamond color. Oh the humanity of it all… Can you ever forgive me for this bold and terrible act?
You see the thing is that my perception of J-color is that it’s just a wee-bit warmer than I-color (as it should be) but in such as way that it truly seems closer to K-color. Why I do think that Sir Robert M. Shipley should have drawn the line between “colorless” and “near-colorless” diamonds like this: D-E-F colorless | G-H-I near-colorless | J-K-L-M faint yellow.
But you know, I wasn’t alive when they put this system together, and they’re certainly not going to change the GIA Diamond Color Grading Scale on my account. Would you believe that some diamond dealers find my selection criteria and production standards to be unreasonable?
Now I do think that it’s reasonable for people to expect J-color diamonds to express a hint of warmth, even when cut to the highest of standards. Some people seem to think that higher cut quality makes it impossible to accurately grade diamond color… And maybe there is some truth to that statement, because higher cut quality certainly does make it more difficult to accurately grade diamond color; because the higher volume of light return and broad spectrum sparkle distracts our eyes, making it harder to focus on the actual body color of the diamond.
If you’re going to buy a J-color diamond, then buy something like this 1.385 carat, J-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond. The incredible degree of optical precision which creates the crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows will make the diamond look brighter! The combination of the higher cut quality and super ideal proportions will produce a higher volume of light return and sparkle which is larger in size, bolder, brighter, and more vivid (than what the average ideal cut diamond can produce).
But don’t buy this J-color super ideal cut diamond, expecting it to face-up like an H-color or I-color diamond because that is not realistic (especially if those diamond are cut to the same standards). It will be a lightening rod of a diamond however! Yowza! Freaking Mag Light!
It never ceases to amaze me how many people ask me “whether this J-color Brian Gavin Signature diamond will face-up whiter than this I-color Brian Gavin Signature diamond” and they’re both cut to the same high standards!
How do you suggest I answer that question? Logically speaking, if the two diamonds are identical in optical precision and cut quality, and one diamond is one color grade lower than the other diamond, it’s not going to face-up whiter even in the darkest corner of the multiverse.
But do remember that the color of the metal that holds the diamond in-place is going to contribute to your perception of diamond color, so you might be able to improve things in that way. Setting a J-K-L-M color diamond in platinum or white gold prongs, is likely to make the diamond face-up as much as one color grade whiter and brighter. Setting the same J-K-L-M color diamond in yellow gold or rose gold prongs is going to make it face-up about one color grade warmer. If you really are drawn to warmer tones, set that puppy in rose gold! Trust me, you’ll love it.
Imagine that this 1.024 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond is exactly what you’ve been looking for. What would you say, if I told you that you could save $1,688.00 by buying this 1.100 carat, E-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond instead?
The light performance and sparkle factors of these Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamonds are virtually identical. The only difference between these diamonds one color grade, and the second diamond is larger and more affordable.
Or you might decide to buy this 1.093 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond which exhibits strong blue fluorescence, and you’ll save a whopping $2,726.00 over the first option. Plus! The strong blue fluorescence is likely to make the diamond face-up even brighter and whiter!
Or you could decide that you don’t really need a colorless diamond, you could be perfectly happy with a near-colorless diamond. In which case, this 1.428 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond with strong blue fluorescence lets you keep an extra $1,302.00* in your pocket and Little Miss Muffet gets a bigger diamond!
You could even decide now if you wanted to, that an I-color diamond is perfectly fine! Imagine how spectacular this 1.504 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond is going to look on her finger! The difference in price between this and the 1.024 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is $140.00 in your favor! You can’t beat that!
Or can you? This 1.471 carat, K-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond which exhibits medium blue fluorescence is only $7,485.00 You save almost $6,000.00 buying this diamond over the 1.024 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond that you were first considering!
The most obvious difference between these diamonds is the carat weight. All of these diamonds are Brian Gavin Signature round diamonds, which deliver the highest volume of light performance. The sparkle factor and light performance of the diamonds are identical. There is a slight difference in diamond color, but what do you think is more noticeable from across the dinner table? The difference of a few color grades? Or would it be the significantly larger diamond?
I’m assuming that you already know that the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Gem Trade Laboratory (GIA-GTL) are the leading gemological laboratories in the United States and throughout the world. The only other gemological laboratory that I consider to be on par with the AGS & GIA is HRD Belgium. I really don’t consider the diamond grading reports, AKA “certificates” from other gemological laboratories to be worth the price of the paper.
Diamond Grading Reports vs Certified Diamonds:
Neither the GIA or AGS gemological laboratories certify diamonds, rather they issue diamond grading reports. Rather they issue diamond grading reports, which indicate the characteristics of the diamond as observed by a trained diamond grader at the time it was graded. This fact is indicated on the back of all GIA & AGS Diamond Quality Documents.
Based upon personal experience evaluating tens of thousands of diamonds graded by the AGS, GIA, and HRD Belgium. I can tell you, that the grading standards of these three gemological laboratories are comparable. The grading standards are so similar, that I don’t have a preference for one laboratory over the other when it comes to diamond color, clarity, polish, or symmetry. There are differences in the grading criteria for:
I definitely prefer the AGS Laboratory when it comes to grading the overall cut grade of a diamond. You’re going to love the peace of mind that their Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool (ASET) brings to the table!
The ASET image which accompanie all Brian Gavin Signature round diamond provides you with the proof you need to know the diamond will be incredibly bright. The high concentration of red indicates that the diamond is gathering light from the brightest light source in the room. That means that it is also going to be reflecting that light right back towards you. The article “What do the different colors of an ASET image mean?” provides more detail.
One of the primary differences between the AGS and the GIA is how they refer to diamond color and clarity grades. The AGS uses a numerical system to reference each diamond color grade, while the GIA uses a letter based alphabetical system:
This reference chart cropped from the AGS Diamond Quality Document for this 3.105 carat, J-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond. It shows the numerical diamond color grade system relied upon by the AGS Laboratory in the top row, and the GIA equivalent diamond color grade in the bottom row.
The equivalent of D-color on the GIA diamond color grading scale, would be “0.0” on the AGS diamond color grading scale. An F-color diamond on the GIA diamond color grading scale, is equivalent to a “1.0” on the AGS diamond color grading scale. Notice that the AGS numerical based system begins with 0.0 and ends with 10.0 which is equivalent to X-color on the GIA alphabetical based diamond color grading chart.
Given the difference in how the AGS & GIA gemological laboratories express the value of diamond color, people often wonder whether the AGS or GIA grade diamond color more accurately. Will a diamond graded as D-color by the GIA necessarily be graded as D-color, 0.0, by the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) or vice versa?
Understand that every color grade represents a range of diamond color, and diamonds are graded by human eyes. Thus it’s possible for one experienced diamond grader to examine a diamond and determine that it is D-color, while the person sitting right next to them might consider it to be more of an E-color. Perhaps the diamond color is “sitting on the fence” as we say in the business, and the color grade could go either way depending on who examines it.
What I’m about to say is likely to blow your mind, but in the scheme of things, the difference of one color grade is not really an issue. We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether the labs grade the diamond D-color or E-color, because we understand that it’s a judgement call that might go either way with some stones… What we’re looking for is relative consistency between the gemological laboratories, or heck, even within the same gemological laboratories!
It is reasonable for one lab to grade a diamond D-color and the other to grade it E-color. What is going to cause us to wonder is if one of them gives it an F-color or even a G-color, because that would be way off. Some people might find this concept disconcerting, but hold on a second and you will discover that all that stuff is nothing to worry about.
There are a lot of rumors and speculation floating around out there about whether AGS or GIA graded diamonds are best. I’ve heard that the GIA is stricter on diamond color, and that the AGS is stricter on diamond clarity. I’ve also heard the exact opposite. Interestingly enough, the position assumed as to whether the AGS or GIA grade diamonds more strictly, often depends on whether the dealer uses either laboratory exclusively to grade their production.
The majority of the time when I’ve seen diamonds submitted to both the AGS and GIA gemological laboratories for “dual grading” (or what some people incorrectly claim to be dual certification) they come back with diamond color and clarity grades which are practically identical. Here are diamond grading reports issued by the AGS and the GIA for a Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond that was sent for “dual grading” awhile back.
*For the record, there is no such thing as “dual certification” in the world of diamonds. Neither the AGS nor GIA gemological laboratories “certify” anything. References to “AGS Certified” and “GIA Certified” diamonds is incorrect and misleading. I’m using the terms here for the sake of getting your attention, so that I can point this out. Diamond grading reports simply state the characteristics of the diamond at the time it was submitted for grading. A “certification” is a guarantee of quality, which is not possible since diamond grading is subjective.
This 1.255 carat, D-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond was initially graded by the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) on December 09, 2013. The diamond grading report number is AGS #104068744001 in case you’d like to verify the details using AGS Report Check:
The same diamond was submitted to the GIA Laboratory for grading on February 27, 2015. The diamond grading report number is GIA #2145946424 in case you would like to verify the details using GIA Report Check:
While there are very slight differences in the measurements of the diamond, the bulk of the critical details are the same. The difference in the diameter measurements of the diamond is due to slight differences in the calibration of the proportions analysis machines. Slight differences in the results are normal. You are likely to get slightly different, but similar results every time you measure a diamond. However the machines are much more accurate than the old fashioned method of eye-balling the stone. Can you imagine?
Both the AGS and GIA graded the diamond as weighing 1.25 carats, D-color, Internally Flawless clarity with no fluorescence. The GIA uses the term “no fluorescence” while the AGS uses the term “negligible fluorescence” which is simply a difference of wording. I actually prefer the AGS’s use of the term “negligible fluorescence” because that simply means not enough to measure. The GIA’s use of the term “no fluorescence” or “none” is a bit misleading, because all diamonds exhibit trace amounts of fluorescence.
The AGS Laboratory expresses diamond carat weight out to the third digit, while the GIA rounds this measurement off. The GIA also rounds off the measurement for table diameter, crown angle, crown height, and lower girdle facet length. The point is that you can see that this 1.255 carat, D-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond got the same relative grade from both the AGS and GIA Laboratory.
Notice that the diamond was sent for grading by the AGSL, and then it was sent to the GIA for grading. So all those people who claim that the GIA is tougher on color, and the AGS is tougher on clarity might just be barking up the wrong tree, and expressing their personal bias.
Many people throughout the industry feel that diamonds graded by the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) are not graded to the same standards as diamonds graded by the AGS, GIA, or HRD Belgium. JCK Magazine reported on September 09, 2014 that “RapNet Bans EGL Reports from Trading Network” which means that EGL graded diamonds were banned from being listed on the largest Multiple Listing Service (MLS) used by the industry to market diamonds globally:
Is all of this blowing your mind? The lawsuits referred to in the article are spearheaded by the law firm Cummings Manookian. The Diamond Lawsuit claims that “EGL-I issued bogus certificates purporting to grade the Four C’s of the diamond. The bogus certificates were designed to look identical to legitimate GIA certificates and even use GIA’s grading scale.” This is a screen shot from the Cummings Manookian web site that shows that quote:
Now you see that I am not alone in my opinion that some “certificates aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.” If you investigate the nature of this lawsuit, you’ll quickly realize that these diamond lawsuits do not involve the AGS, GIA, or HRD Belgium. The primary focus is on diamonds graded by the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL).
This statement issued by Cummings-Manookian refers to legitimate GIA certificates. It implies that GIA graded diamonds are legitimately graded. Do you know that the GIA and AGS are sister organizations? You can learn more about that in the article GIA vs AGS Graded Diamonds – Which Gemological Laboratory is Best?
Sometimes you might see the abbreviation “No BGM” used to describe diamond characteristics. You might find yourself wondering what “No BGM” stands for, because that abbreviation does not appear on any diamond grading report.
“No BGM” is an indication that there are no brown or grey undertones, and the diamond is not milky.
This is something that you need to be aware of regardless of what diamond color you choose. But this is not something that you need to be worry about if you buy from:
They either produce the diamonds themselves, or hand select their diamonds with perfection in mind. Each of these dealers carefully examines every diamond to ensure that it meets their precise selection criteria. These dealers routinely reject diamonds that exhibit any negative characteristics, such as brown or grey undertones. Milky? Forget about it!
Unlike the majority of dealers who work off of virtual inventory, these dealers hand select every diamond for inventory. Practically everybody else is offering virtual inventory, which they have yet to see. Some virtual diamond dealers will take the time to verify the characteristics of a diamond prior to shipping it. Others will send the diamond direct to you form the supplier without ever seeing it. This can be a BIG PROBLEM.
Diamond listings which originate from the multiple listing service are seldom complete. There is the possibility that I might be able to look-up the diamond details and provide more information. However, not all of the dealers provide the “NO BGM” reference so I can’t promise anything.
You realize that different types of lighting will affect our perception of diamond color. That is really important. You got to watch a 1.30 carat, F-color, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond change color dramatically as it moved from room to room. You got to see how dramatically different it looked under:
This is absolutely outstanding! You know how lighting temperature will affect the appearance of diamond color. You also know that an I-color diamond can sparkle as exceptionally as a D-color diamond if both are cut properly. Which is why I chose an I-color super ideal cut diamond for my own wedding ring!
You also know that blue fluorescence can improve our perception of diamond color by as much as one color grade! And you know that those rumors about blue fluorescent diamonds looking milky or cloudy is little more than urban myth. Remember that blue fluorescence has no negative impact on 98% of all gem quality diamonds. Only diamonds with very strong to distinct blue fluorescence even have the possibility of looking over-blue.
You remember why I don’t recommend EGL graded diamonds? And you’re only going to consider diamonds graded by the AGS, GIA or HRD Belgium. Remember the 1.255 carat, D-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond from above. It’s “dual certified” by both the AGS and GIA Laboratory with the exact same color and clarity grade. This demonstrates that the GIA and AGS gemological laboratories grade by the same standards. Now you can put all of that “Is GIA better than AGS” stuff behind you. Whew! What a relief.
You also know to ignore those useless diamond color grading charts! Pen and ink illustrations of not-so-real diamond colors are not accurate. Printers ink on paper is not representative of the actual differences in hue and saturation that actual diamonds exhibit.
What else did you learn? Oh yes, that’s right… You now know all about the “No BGM” [Brown, Grey, Milky] trap. Imagine what it would be like to buy a G-color diamond out of virtual inventory. You receive the package. You open the box. Take out the diamond and discover that it is G-color with brown or grey undertones. Yuck. What a disappointment.
Congratulations on making it this far! You now know more about diamond color than 99.9% of other people. Heck. You probably know more about diamond color, than the people working at most jewelry stores. You’ve earned the recognition and respect that comes with being a Jedi Master of Diamond Color!
The most important thing that you learned today about diamond color, however is that it really is a minor consideration. Diamond cut quality dictates light performance. Sparkle factor and light performance are strictly a matter of proportions and optical precision. Diamond color has nothing to do with visual performance. Thus diamond cut quality is more important than diamond color.
Remember it’s not enough to limit your search to AGS Ideal-0 or GIA Excellent cut diamonds. Those diamond cut grades do not take the optical precision of the diamond into account. Which is crazy since the degree of optical precision will have a direct impact upon the intensity of sparkle!
You will need the following images to make a truly informed decision:
Now it can be difficult to interpret the meaning of these images if you don’t already know how… So I recommend relying on my expertise (totally shameless plug).
30+ years of diamond buying experience has its benefits you know! I’m happy help you pinpoint the subtle differences in diamond cut quality that will ensure your online diamond buying success! Let me know if you’d like my assistance searching for a diamond. And feel free to send me links to any diamonds that you might be considering.
Now that you truly understand the influence of diamond color, I’m curious which diamond color will you choose? Leave a comment below. Tell me what you find most interesting about what you’ve learned today about diamond color. Which diamond color is right for you, and why? Your insight will help other people decide which diamond color is best.