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Think of the gemstone we know as diamond, and we are likely to imagine a gem devoid of any color. While diamonds do occur in virtually every color, it is the lack of color that defines what we most often think of as diamond. Diamonds that are on a spectrum of completely colorless through to a mid-yellow or brown color, fall into what is known as the "Normal Color Range" of diamonds. Other color diamonds and those deeper yellow and brown diamonds are considered "Fancy Color Diamonds."
These diamonds are graded for the absence of color. The value and desirability of normal color diamonds rises when there is less color present. A truly colorless diamonds is extremely rare. The normal color range of diamonds is divided into categories that are then further broken into color grades: Colorless, Near colorless, faint color, very light color, light color.
Colorless: Appear colorless with only slight differences that are difficult to distinguish.
Near colorless: Appear colorless to the untrained eye when viewed ‘face-up’, but very slight color is perceived by diamond graders under grading conditions.
Faint color: Appear to show a faint yellow color when viewed ‘face-up’.
Very light color: Appear to show pale yellow color.
Light color: Shows obvious light yellow color.
While colorless diamonds have a reputation for being the most desired and subsequently the highest priced, many people prefer the look of a diamond that has slight yellow color. These diamonds have a warmth given by the yellow or brown that they exhibit. If describes your color preference, you will find great value in the choices available in these 'lower' color grades.
Diamond graders use a Master Set of diamonds that have been very carefully selected based on their color. A master diamond is one that has the absolute least color that is allowed for that diamond grade before it would be graded to the next color grade up the scale. It sits therefore on the dividing lines between color grades. With this master set, the grader can assess other diamonds by visual comparison in a controlled lighting environment. Diamonds are skillfully compared to the master diamonds and the color grade is determined.
There are two grading systems for diamond color in usage today. The GIA Color Grade and the AGS Color Grade. The two grading scales relate directly to one another and so can be interpreted back and forth easily. The GIA color grade is the system in most common usage, while the AGS color grade is very easily understood.
The GIA system uses a letter grade between D and Z. Diamonds that are graded D in color are completely devoid of color. Gradually as color increases the grade steps down to Z. While not immediately intuitive the scale is a linear scale and has become almost universally accepted as the standard color grading system.
The AGS system uses the very intuitive number scale of 0 though 10. 0 is completely colorless and equates directly to a GIA grade "D". The scale increments by 0.5 up to 10. It can be immediately understood that a 1.0 grade diamond is a better color grade than a 3.5 color diamond.
It is for this ease of understanding that the AGS system is our preferred grading system when we discuss color grade.
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