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Most people shopping for an engagement ring often lack the experience and knowledge on how to look at a diamond properly. So they can’t help feeling lost and totally reliant on the sales person trying to sell it to them.

The age-old argument between diamond dealers and retailers still stands - what is the most important factor they look for in a polished diamond? We’re all familiar with the 4 Cs – Cut, Carat, Colour and Clarity. But in this article, we’re going to focus on Colour.


In our opinion, Colour has one of the biggest impacts on how the diamond will look on someone’s hand. Even without the skills of a gemologist, you can effectively see the colour of a diamond and appreciate why it’s so important.


This is a big subject matter, which is why this article will focus on the “white diamonds” category.



What Really is the ‘White’ Diamond Colour?

So you’re looking for a white diamond. Isn’t a white diamond exactly that – white? What makes the colour of one white diamonds better than another? So let’s go a bit technical - and only a little bit… this is not meant to be a science lesson.


As we know, diamonds are naturally formed from predominantly carbon.


When we look at diamonds which are supposedly white, you need to stop and ask yourself - what is “white”? Is it the white of a piece of paper, is it your white shirt, or the wall in your home? The answer is, they may all be white or more, correctly shades of white. This is precisely the key to understanding the colour of a diamonds. Even white of diamonds are in reality, shades of white.


Scientifically, if you think about a rainbow, white doesn’t appear. It’s not a colour. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet are the colours in a rainbow. Where’s do they talk about white? They don’t. White is created when you add all the colours together. A light bulb giving off white light is on the spectrum of white. You have probably heard people say things like the bulb is giving off a bit of red or yellowish, or it’s a daylight globe. This means the spectrum is trying to emulate daylight.


Years ago, a diamond dealer would only look at diamonds at a desk which had access to natural daylight. Today, bulbs can be adjusted to be calibrated to natural daylight and you don’t have problems later in the day when it gets darker.


 Diamond colour

What is a White Diamond and How Do We Measure it?

Ok so what is a white diamond and how do we measure how white it is?

In today’s technical world, diamond colours are measured on a scale from D to Z . D being the whitest and Z being black. It’s really after the top 6-7 letters down the scale  D,E,F,G,H,I,J, that the even the untrained  eye can see colour variation - if someone points it out to you.


So what causes the colour in a diamond? Nitrogen and sometimes some internal imperfections.


In simple terms, when you get a lot of nitrogen, the colour of the diamond tends to become more yellow. Yellow is not bad. It’s degrees of yellow that is the issue if you want to buy a white diamond.



What Should You Look for in Diamond Colour?

The first thing you need to be aware of is that when you view a diamond in a ring you can never see its true colour. This is because depending on the metal the diamond is set in, it will reflect through the stone.  For this reason, the majority of diamonds are set in white gold. If you had a diamond which is K colour, it will be masked and appear whiter than what it really is, because the white metal it’s set in acts like a mirror.


On the upside, if it doesn’t bother you, there are some real savings to be had. However, if having a very white stone is important to you, the following methodology will allow you to ensure that you have a diamond as white as your budget allows.


Analyse diamond colour 

How to Find the Best Diamond Colour 

When a customer enters a jewellery store, they are often shown diamonds which are already set in a ring. Today, it is more and more common for a customer to ask the retailer to show them diamonds loose, so that they can compare and appreciate why one diamond is better than the other without being distracted by the setting. It is important to note that this is very common for diamonds over 1 carat in size, but also acceptable for stones ranging from half a carat to 1 carat. With anything less than half a carat, it’s often more economical to buy a diamond already in a ring setting.


So let’s remember, you’re not in a laboratory, but a jewellery store is looking to help you find your perfect diamond.



Questions to Ask Your Jeweller

Let’s assume that you are looking to purchase a 1 carat F colour round brilliant cut diamond with a SI1 clarity.


Assuming you’re also making an appointment, I would suggest you ask your jeweller which diamond certification they will be using for the stones that they will be showing you.


The reason why you have to pose this question is that you need to determine what grading scale is being used to determine the colour of the diamond. It’s no good looking at an EGL grading certificate which says the diamond is F colour when the rest of the diamond world is aware that these EGL certificates are known to exaggerate the colour grade . In real terms, this means that they would say that what everyone else considers an H colour diamond, is F colour on their certificate. Clearly a misrepresentation.



Diamond Colour Grading: What Does it Mean?

In Australia and in most places in the world, the GIA certificate is considered the standard. There are other diamond certificates which are highly regarded, such as AGS from the USA, HRD and IGI  from Antwerp. In terms of Australian laboratories GSL and DCLA are all well respected. The key aspect of the diamond certificate is that it should not state a value, but purely define the 4Cs and measurements and above all else, guarantee that the diamond is not synthetic.


 Diamond Colour Grading Chart

How to Analyse Diamond Colour

So now we get to the fun bit, you are shown three diamonds. Your jeweller goes on to tell you that they are E colour, F colour and G colour. The only way that you, as an inexperienced diamond buyer, can get some sense of colour variation, is to examine the diamonds in a method that eliminates a number of distractions and allows you to determine the whiteness of the diamond.


  1. My suggestion is that I would ask the jeweller to show you a diamond of lower colour and to point out to you how you can see the differences. This helps you quickly see what off-white looks like.
  2. Make sure that you are sitting at a table which has an adjusted white diamond daylight bulb, a polishing cloth, either a pair of tweezers to hold the diamond, or a tool to make it easy.
  3. The jeweller will normally have a small white card for reviewing diamonds, but if they don’t, the simplest method is to take a piece of paper (plain white with no lines) and fold it in half. The diamonds should be wiped, and then placed upside down along the crease of paper.
  4. The paper is then raised with the diamonds resting in the crease closer to the light. If you were to only look at one stone, it could be grey or brown in colour, and to your untrained eye it could look white.
  5. The only way to properly see the colour of the diamond is comparing it to another diamond which has been definitively graded and certified as described above. Look at the colour stated on the certificate.


In the ideal situation your jeweller will have a lower colour diamond such as K colour, and show you the difference between it and a G colour. This allows your eye to become more sensitive to the colour variation. Now when an E colour diamond is put next to this, you can appreciate how much whiter  it really is. There is no doubt that it is often very difficult to see the subtle colour variations between an E and F or F and G, but you can begin to appreciate that there is in fact a real variation.


Interestingly, when you turn these diamonds face up and rest between your index finger and your middle finger holding them tightly together and stones placed side-by-side, you might see colour variation. It should be noted however, that if one stone is bigger than the other, or there are other aspects of its cut grade and possible fluorescence, your eye could be tricked.




The methodology which I have described is pretty much similar to the one used in laboratories around the world. As there is always a degree of subjectivity however, laboratories used to get three people to grade each diamond, and average their opinions.


Today the large laboratories possess the technology to have diamonds graded using sophisticated colour grading machines, to maintain consistency.


Remember one thing, colour is just one component of what make a diamond special. The good part is that now you are better informed, can ask the right questions and look at it diamond with a little bit more knowledge. Why be in the back seat when you can be in the driver seat when buying your diamond.


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Engagement Ring Budget Calculator

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