One of the 4 Cs of diamond grading (Carat, Cut, Color, Clarity), a diamond’s color grade can be one of the most confusing to understand. While most know that diamonds can be found in an array of colors, the color grade given to diamonds does not actually grade the various colors. In fact, it basically means the opposite – a grade on the lack of color. Let’s take a more in-depth look at color gradings for diamonds.
An In-Depth Look at Color Gradings
To gain a better understanding on color gradings, we first have to understand what it is that is being graded. When you hear the term color in reference to a diamond, in most cases, you’re actually going to be discussing the absence of color rather than a diamond in flashy blue or yellow color.
The grading system for diamonds rates a gem based on its purity – or lack of color. When shopping for a diamond, the closer you get to zero colorations within a particular gem, the greater its overall worth.
Clear Diamonds Vs. Fancy Colors
In general, diamond coloration gradings are only used to determine a rating for colorless diamonds. This often includes diamonds that have a hint of yellow or brown within them but will overall be translucent and for the most part, completely clear. Colored diamonds, on the other hand, are those whose color is so great, they are no longer considered colorless and are then determined to be outside of the grading range, or “fancy color” diamonds.
Understanding Diamond Color Gradings
For the most part, diamond color is graded by one of two major grading systems that are universally accepted across the globe: The Gemology Institute of America’s scale (GIA), or the American Diamond Grading System (AGS). These two grading systems are the most common and highly respected processes in the world but have separate terminology to rate diamonds.
When you’re looking at a particular diamond’s color grade, the first step is to know which organization provided the appraisal. This way you can fully understand how your diamond is pairing up against others you may be considering.
The GIA System
The most commonly used grading system today is the GIA system. In terms of color grades, GIA looks at how each diamond interacts with carefully controlled lighting and places a grade for each piece based on the degree of color noted within them.
GIA uses an alpha scale which assigns grades for each diamond using letters ranging from D through Z with D being the best rating (perfectly colorless) and Z being the lowest grading. Since there had previously been other systems that used letters A-C to grade a diamond, GIA decided to begin their scale with the letter D in order to avoid any confusion with outdated grading systems.
The AGS System
The AGS system uses the same grading standards as the GIA system with controlled lighting and ratings for color variants within each piece. The difference, however, is that the AGS system uses a numerical scale to grade each piece versus an alpha scale.
With the numeric scale, AGS assigns numbers that range from 0 to 10 to grade color. On the AGS scale, a 0 grade is the highest possible color grade for colorless diamonds, with 10 being the lowest grade available before getting into the fancy color diamonds.
This scale can even utilize fractional grades (0.5) for those pieces which fall in between grades. By comparison, AGS scores compare as follows with GIA:
- AGS 0-1 is equivalent to GIA D-F (colorless)
- AGS 1.5-3.0 is equivalent to GIA G-J (near colorless)
- AGS 3.5-4.5 is equivalent to GIA K-M (Faint)
- AGS 5-7 is equivalent to GIA N-R (Very Light)
- AGS 7.5-10 is equivalent to GIA S-Z (Light)
No matter which system is used, simply understanding the basics of their grading process will help you ensure your diamond measures up in value. Stay educated on the various grading scales in order to make the best decision when purchasing a diamond investment.