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.

Learn more about Yellow Diamonds and 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

Learn more about Defining the Color of a Diamond.


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.

Learn more about Defining the Intensity of a Diamond.

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 Collection of Yellow, Pink, Blue, and Green Diamonds

A LEIBISH 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 Brown 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!

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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.