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Diamond Color: Grades, Quality, Colorless, Canary, Pink

When it comes to a diamond's color, it can be difficult to determine which is the best value. You've probably read that pure, colorless diamonds are the highest in value because they're so rare. So why did Ben give Jennifer a pink diamond? How rare are colored diamonds, and where do they come from?

Let's start with the basics. When discussing the usual diamonds most people would buy for an engagement ring, colorless is best. Perfectly transparent diamonds are very hard to find in nature, and are also the most popular among regular consumers–so their value is greater. In fact, colorless diamonds are often categorized as "high color" and diamonds that tend toward a yellowish tint are "low color"–because of their value, not their color.

When grading diamond colors, the GIA has developed a system that other diamond evaluation companies also use more often than not. It evaluates diamonds from D to Z, in the following way:

Colorless diamonds are rated D, E, or F.

Nearly colorless diamonds are rated G, H, I, or J.

Faintly yellow/brown diamonds are rated K, L, or M.

Very light yellow/brown diamonds are rated N through R.

Light yellow/brown diamonds are rated S through Z.

According to this system, the farther down you go in the alphabet–and the more yellow or brown tint a diamond has–the lower its value. However, some diamonds have more than a light yellow tint. Rarely, a diamond will have a yellow tint that's much deeper than the darkest rating in the color scale–or a similarly deep tint in another color. At this point, the gem's value begins to go up again.

Below are some of the colors diamonds can have.

White diamonds are actually colorless. Chemically and structurally, they are completely pure–which makes them very rare and valuable.

Yellow, brown, or orange is the tint given to diamonds with nitrogen contamination. Yellow diamonds are the most common diamonds in existence; 98% of diamonds found have at least some yellow tint, which lowers its value. However, some distributions of nitrogen atoms among the carbon will give the diamond an intense yellow color that's much more rare and valuable; canary diamonds fall under this category.

Blue to steel grey: This series of colors usually arises out of a contamination of boron in the diamond's carbon. Diamonds falling in the blue to grey spectrum are the only types of diamond that are natural semiconductors. The Hope Diamond falls into this color spectrum.

Red to pink diamonds get their color from structural anomalies in the diamond's carbon lattice. Diamonds in this color spectrum are very rare in most areas of the world, except for those from Australian mines.

When shopping for a diamond, look for one that's as close to bright white as possible–or a striking, unmistakable color–if you're looking for the most valuable diamond you can buy. If you're looking for a bargain, however, keep an eye out for diamonds that are a little off perfect in terms of color. A diamond with a lower color grade can be made to appear very brilliant and fiery with the right cut–and it will definitely cost you less. Fancy colored diamonds are unique and rare–your fiancee will definitely have a one-of-a-kind ring, although it's likely to cost you. You may not be Ben Affleck, but you can still find a beautiful diamond within your budget, as described in more detail in our suggestions for choosing a diamond engagement ring.

Discover more about Diamonds: History, Diamond Jewelry, Engagement Rings, Quality, Carat, Color, Clarity, Cut and Shape.

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