Diamond Color

When it comes to Fancy Colored Diamonds the most significant characteristic is the color. In fact, unlike a colorless diamond where the 4C's (carat weight, clarity, color, and cut) are all equally important to the overall value, the color characteristic plays the most important role in the value of the diamond, often outweighing other factors such as clarity.

With white diamonds, also called colorless diamonds, the absence of color is what makes the diamonds so precious. However, in the case of fancy colored diamonds, the presence of color, it's intensity and purity, are what increases the value of these stones.

Yellow Diamond RingFancy Yellow Three-Stone Ring


Most of the natural fancy color diamonds found are not a single or pure color. Some diamonds have a combination of two, three, and sometimes even four colors within the composition of the stone.


Diamond Grading

The white diamond grading system measures the amount of color present in the stone (or actually the absence of color), and breaks it down into six definitive categories.


 The White Diamond Grading Scale

The white diamond grading scale

 Yellow diamonds color scale

The combination between white diamonds and yellow diamonds start from close to the end of the white diamond color grade scale.



In fact, the very end of the white diamond color scale is where the fancy colored diamond color scale begins. The last two groups in the white diamond color scale are referred to as Cape Diamonds, which are actually Very Faint or Very Light Yellow or Brown Diamonds.

However, Fancy Colored Diamonds are graded on a different scale entirely. As opposed to single letter grades, colored diamonds are referred to by the actual colors within the stone.


When assessing a fancy color diamond, there are two major characteristics that define the color of the stone.

  • The Color
  • The Intensity

Defining the Color of a Diamond

There are twelve different main fancy colors. Colored diamonds can contain one single pure color or be combined with one, two, or even three overtones.


 Different Colored Diamonds

The 12 different main colors of Natural Fancy Colored Diamonds

From left to right: Yellow, Pink, Blue, Green, Orange, Brown, Violet, Gray, Purple, Red, Fancy Black, and Fancy White

Defining Natural Fancy Colored Diamonds

The color of the diamonds is defined by a number of characteristics. By definition, a perfect colorless diamond has no additional chemical traits, a structurally perfect form, and absolutely no color at all. However, locating such a stone is nearly impossible, if it even exists. Different compound elements in the stones produced some of the most exquisite fancy colored diamonds, and the demand for these colored diamonds has grown.

 Fancy Colors

Pure natural fancy colored diamonds

From left to right: Fancy Vivid Pink, Fancy Vivid Green, Fancy Vivid Blue, Fancy Vivid Yellow, and Fancy Vivid Purple


The color is affected by structural defects in the crystal lattice that can influence the optical transparency, and the addition of chemical impurities contained in the stones composition. For example, the greater the element of nitrogen (N) found in the composition of the stone, the stronger the presence of a yellow color will be. The greater the element of boron (B) found in the composition of the stone, the stronger the presence of a blue color will be.


 Yellow diamonds color scale

Yellow Diamonds that have different levels of Nitrogen within the composition of the stones

Blue Diamonds that have different levels of Boron within the composition of the stones


It has been said that fancy color diamonds can be found in every color of the rainbow. The combination of secondary colors and various intensities in the stones makes fancy colored diamonds so unique. What is so amazingly interesting is the fact that in all the fancy colored stones, each one has its own unique characteristics.


What is Diamond Color

The colors present in the diamonds composition are created by the compound elements within the stones. The composition of these elements is specifically what makes these stones so magical.


The various diamond colors found are blue, pink, yellow, orange, green, brown, grey, black, purple, violet, white, and the rarest red. However, as rare as colored diamonds are, pure or single colored stones are extremely difficult to acquire. Most colored diamonds are combinations of certain colors and are known as "Scondery hues" or "Over-tones".



Fancy Colored Diamonds



The only natural fancy color diamonds that have the ability to temporarily change colors are known as chameleon diamonds. These stones are not actually a color of their own. However, they are sold in their own class because of their outstanding ability to change from one color to another.


The color of these stones changes temporarily when gently heated, or when left in darkness for a period of time. Chameleon diamonds always have diamond fluorescence and the dominant color will always be Yellow, Green Brown or Grey. The diamond color may contain overtones with different combinations of gray, green, yellow, or brown.


 Fancy Chameleon

A Chameleon diamond photographed at different stages within the heating process

The Three Attributes of Colors

Identifying exactly what colors are present in the stone is somewhat difficult by the untrained eye. However, diamond professionals use systematic methods to identify the exact colors of the stones. The three attributes that are used when assessing a diamonds color are the hue, the tone, and the saturation.


  • The hue is the tint of color that is present in the stone.
  • The tone is the lightness or darkness of the color.
  • The saturation is the strength or purity of the colors.

Together, these characteristics are all measured and adapted to qualify the stones as a specific grade on the color scale.

Assessing the Value

The characteristics used to assess the value of a diamond are different from those used to assess the color of the stones. The 3 attributes that have the greatest impression on the value are the rarity of the color, the intensity of the color, and the size of the diamond.


  • The rarity - Some of the fancy colored diamonds are rarer than others. For example in the image below, Yellow is rare, Blue is very rare, Pink is extremely rare, and Red is the most rare.


 Some Rare Fancy Colored Diamonds - Yellow, Blue, Pink, and Red

Extremely rare fancy colored diamonds
From left to right: Fancy Vivid Yellow, Fancy Vivid Blue, Fancy Vivid Pink, Fancy Red


  • The color intensity – Although some colors are valuable, how intense the color is shown will significantly affect the price of the stone.



Green Diamond Color Scale

Different Intensities of Green Color Diamonds



  • The size of the diamonds – Other than the color combination and intensity of the color, the carat weight of the stones significantly increase or decrease the value.

 Various Diamond Sizes

Various Diamond Sizes

The characteristics noted above are all measured and used to quantify the value of the diamonds. Needless to say, the value is connected to market demand. However, diamonds will always remain the same. Their color will never fade and their value will never fall. Diamonds are some of the few permanent valuable assessts that remain.

Defining the Intensity of a Diamond

The intensity of the color is described as how strong the color is shown in the diamond. The color can be anywhere between a soft whisper to a strong vivid shade. GIA developed an intensity scale to properly define the intensity level of the diamond.

The color in Fancy color diamonds is built from three parameters:


  1. The main color of the diamond
  2. The secondary color of the diamond (AKA overtone)
  3. The intensity of the color

A Collection of Leibish & Co. Fancy Pink Diamonds

 Fancy Pink Diamonds 


The main color, and if there is a secondary color, together define the color tone, however the strength of color is defined by the intensity level. The intensity level can be anywhere from a very soft shade to a very strong shade, and the stronger the shade the more valuable the diamond is.

GIA developed an intensity grading scale in order to categorize the intensity levels in the diamond. The nine grades in the scale are;


  • Faint
  • Very Light
  • Light
  • Fancy Light
  • Fancy
  • Fancy Intense
  • Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep, or Fancy Dark


For example, the following image depicts the full scale of color intensity in Pink, Blue, and Green color Diamonds. It is clearly shown that the intensity scale begins with very soft colors and progressively displays a richer color stone.



Fancy Color Diamond Intensity



However, it is important to understand that not every diamond color appears in all intensity levels. For example, Orange diamonds cannot be found in Faint, Very Light, or Light intensities. Only Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, and Fancy Deep.

Orange Color Scale

 From left to right: Fancy Orange, Fancy Intense Orange, Fancy Vivid Orange, Fancy Deep Orange

The GIA also defines how well the color and intensity is distributed throughout the stone. A diamond certificate will specify 'even' or 'uneven' according to the percentage of the color distribution.


 Even/Uneven Distribution


The intensity of the color has a direct affect on the value of the stone. For example a Blue diamond or a Pink diamond, which are of the rarest in the fancy colored diamond family, are quite costly and difficult to find. However, there is a significant difference between a Fancy Light Blue and a Fancy Vivid Blue or a Fancy Light Pink and a Fancy Intense Pink.


Since there is such a wide range of colored diamonds, even stones of the same intensity can look quite different from one another. The intensity of each diamond is graded on a scale of 1-10. The 1-10 scale breaks down different stones of the same intensity grade between a weaker or stronger color.

‘Fancy Intense Pink' diamond with a 1-3 grade is a very weak ‘Fancy Intense Pink’ and actually borders a ‘Fancy Pink.’  A ‘Fancy Intense Pink’ diamond with a 8-10 has a very strong color and actually borders a ‘Fancy Vivid Pink’ diamond. Therefore, it is actually quite common to see two diamonds of the same intensity grade where one looks as if the color is more intense than in the other.


 Argyle Pink diamonds

The image above depicts four diamonds all graded by GIA as 'Fancy Intense Pink' with different strengths of the same intensity grade (and color tone) between the stones.

Exactly what color intensity a diamond will have will not be able to be determined from the rough stone. However, the greater the color intensity of the rough, the greater the intensity of the polished diamond will be. How intense the color will be is also greatly affected by the diamond cut and shape of the stone.  Also, the way colorless stones are being cut (Brilliant cut) is different from how Fancy Color Diamonds are cut (Modified).

The origin of the diamond is also another factor that affects the color intensity. Different diamond mines produce different shades or tones of colors. For example, a Pink diamond found in India or South Africa can’t compare to a Pink diamond found from the Argyle diamond mine in Australia.

While the carat weight, cut, and the clarity are important factors to consider when purchasing a diamond, it is actually the color and intensity that play the most important role with regards to value and demand.


 Fancy Color Diamond Intensity

The image shows the different intensity levels of Pink, Blue, and Green diamonds.

From left to right: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid and Fancy Deep




In general, diamonds are defined and appraised based upon four elements, also called the 4 Cs. The 4Cs stand for the Clarity, Color, Cut, and Carat, and all four of these aspects are crucial for understanding and determining the true value of a diamond.


However, this way of evaluating diamonds is geared specifically toward colorless diamonds, where all 4 C’s are equally important. As mentioned previously, this is less so for color diamonds for the simple reason that the color factor of color diamonds is the most important 'C'. 


Let us take a look at Fancy Color Diamonds, their color, and why it has such power over the remaining 3 Cs.


Defining Color Diamonds

The term Fancy Color Diamonds refers to natural diamonds which exhibit any sort of color. A diamond is actually a geographical element that is made of carbon in a crystal lattice structure that is formed millions of miles under the Earth’s surface. All diamonds are rare, but those gifted with unusual color tones are even rarer, and for the most part, far more valuable.

A Leibish & Co. Collection of Yellow, Pink, Blue, and Green Diamonds

Collection of Yellow, Pink, Blue, and Green Diamonds


Every color was created as a result of a specific element that got incorporated into the structure of the diamond during its formation, or alternatively, as a result of the rough conditions that the diamond endured over time. For example, a yellow diamond receives its color from the presence of nitrogen, and a blue diamond owes its sensational coloring to the element boron. Though it is still disputed, it is widely believed that pink diamonds receive their incredible hue from incredible pressure diamond’s crystal lattice.


 A yellow, pink and blue diamond

A Yellow, a Blue and a Pink diamond



Yellow in diamonds may be familiar to some because of the ‘C’ of color in colorless diamonds. However, though those diamonds also qualify as color diamonds, on the very bottom of the color diamond scale, they are not quite the stones to have in mind when picturing a fancy color diamond.



 The white diamond scale

The Color Scale for Colorless Diamonds



Diamonds with unique and rare colors such as pink, green, blue, yellow, red, orange, black, brown, gray, violet, white and purple hues, in various shades with assorted overtones, are what characterize this prestigious diamond category. Color is so important in color diamonds that there are two color-sub-categories: Color Intensity and Hue. This refers to the level in which the color is seen, and the exact color of the stone, as it can be one pure color or a combination of two or more colors. Generally, the rule of thumb is that the more pure and intense a color is (without secondary hues), the more valuable it will be.


Color Intensity

As with most of the 4 Cs, the color intensity of a fancy color diamond is assessed according to a scale. Just like colorless diamonds are graded according to their lack of color from least to most on a scale from D-Z, color diamonds are graded according to the strength of their color, from least to most, on a scale from Faint to Vivid. The color intensity grading scale works as follows: The lowest grade, (which is equivalent to an S-Z color grade on the colorless color grading scale in the case of Yellows), is Faint. Next is Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, and Fancy Deep.

 Fancy color diamond intensity

3 Diamond color intensity scales: Top-Red, Middle-Blue, Bottom-Green


These eight color intensity levels are not available for all diamond colors because the color in different diamonds is caused by different factors and therefore it presents itself differently in different colors. The best example is in black red, and white diamonds, which all can only be graded with the Fancy color intensity level. (nor can black or white diamonds have overtones, although red can have an overtone of purple , orange or brown). The higher the color intensity level, the more valuable the diamond although desirability changes depending on personal taste.


Red, Black and White diamonds

Left to right: A Fancy Purplish Red, Fancy Red, Fancy Brownish Red, Fancy Orangy Red, Black and White diamond


Primary and Secondary Color Tones (Hues)

A fancy color diamond can be in one pure color, or have up to 3 modifying colors to the main color. For instance, a pure Fancy Yellow diamond is one without any secondary hues such as green and orange. A Fancy Yellow Diamond with one secondary color could be an Orange Yellow Diamond whereas one with two secondary colors could be a Brownish Orangy Yellow Diamond. The secondary color is designated based on the concentration of its presence, so a Fancy Brown Yellow diamond has more brown than a Fancy Brownish Yellow diamond.


Additional Names for Color Diamonds

For the most part, Fancy Color Diamonds are referred to by their colors, but there are several color categories that have additional names. For examples, brown diamonds can also be known as Chocolate Diamonds, Cognac Diamonds, or Champagne diamonds. Yellow diamonds are also commonly called Canary Diamonds, and a specific kind of yellow diamonds are called Zimmis. While these terms are largely due to marketing tactics, they can sometimes refer to specific types of diamonds in that designated color category. A Canary diamond, for instance, is not just a yellow diamond, but one that is Fancy Intense Yellow or Fancy Vivid Yellows. A Zimmi diamond is a yellow diamond with a distinctive color tone that originates in Sierra Leone.


Cut, clarity, and carat size also play important roles in regards to the worth of a color diamond although they most definitely take a back seat. When it comes to Fancy Color Diamonds, it’s really all about the color!