Diamond color is one of the 4Cs. When grading a diamond, the body color (the absence of color or the amount of color present) is determined and then based on a rarity factor it will establish the price of that diamond. Diamond color is relatively easy to understand and to grade because everyone now uses an established, universally accepted diamond color grading system.
Many, many years ago there wasn’t an established diamond color grading system, there was no diamond color chart, but there was instead a collection of different diamond color word terms that people used. Exceptional White, Rare White, Jager, Finest White, Fine White, Blue White, River, Top Wesselton, Wesselton, Top Crystal, Crystal, Top Cape, Cape, Top Silver Cape, Silver Cape, and Low Cape were commonly in use.
Some of these terms referred to the locations where the diamonds that were found there had a certain common color… such as Golconda, Wesselton, or Cape (British Cape Colony – Cape of Good Hope, South Africa). Others terms tried to describe the color… such as Exceptional White, Rare White, or Fine White. It was all pretty confusing…. one diamond merchants “Fine White” was another diamond seller’s “Finest White”.
Having grown up in the business, I occasionally heard some of these terms with “Blue White” being the one most commonly used. However, I haven’t heard anyone using any of these diamond color word terms in more than 30 years… except when I was teaching at GIA (the Gemological Institute of America), where we needed to explain the terms to our students.
The Diamond Color Grading System was developed by GIA in 1953 and it is now the international standard when we talk about body color in diamonds. GIA started off finding a totally colorless diamond and then found a diamond with a deep enough attractive yellow body color where the price of these diamonds started to rise. Once they had the beginning (D) and the end (Z) of the diamond color scale, they just filled in the blanks with the other grades.
GIA’s diamond color grading system starts with a letter grade of “D” for a reason….
In 1953, besides the diamond color word terms, as explained above (Wesselton Top Silver Cape, etc.) which were used mostly in Europe, the common grades used in the US to refer to a diamond color was A, AA, AAA, etc. These letter grades became meaningless because Smith Jeweler’s “AA” diamond color grade was the same as Jones Jeweler’s “AAA++” diamond color grade, and it was also the same as Wilson Jeweler’s “Top AA” diamond color grade.
Starting from “D” eliminated all of this confusion.
Yellow diamonds beyond the “Z” diamond color grade are referred to as fancy colored diamonds.