It’s Difficult to Know the Diamond You Buy Online, Especially the Color

April 14th, 2015
Categorized under: Diamonds, Education, Gemstones, Jewelry

Despite being considered ‘white,’ diamonds actually come in a range of color. Most fine jewelers offer diamonds from a ‘D’ grade (perfectly colorless) to typically a ‘K’ (some hint of yellow to brown), with ‘H’ and ‘I’ graded diamonds in the middle accounting for a majority of engagement ring purchases. Though color grades are evident on a diamond’s certification, there are other factors that can affect its appearance that aren’t disclosed on paper – and this can make it difficult to know what you’re purchasing online. Many professional diamond buyers also consider a gem’s shade (a super subtle underlying tone) to be an important distinction, yet it’s nearly impossible for the average customer to discover online.

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How Diamonds are Graded and Traded

If you don’t already know it, diamonds are a tightly controlled, global commodity. Their value is determined by a dizzying cluster of factors that can be a real headache to decipher. Any ‘how-to’ on selecting a good diamond is typically underpinned by the four C’s: Cut, color, clarity and carat weight. Together, these four C’s are each graded by a handful of laboratories who assert just how big and bright a particular diamond might be.

These grades get organized into official certifications that are listed on international diamond trading networks, where they’re picked up by wholesale buyers, get plugged into large online retail sites, and eventually earn spots in the safes of fine jewelers around the world. While global supply is strictly controlled, access to this supply is relatively equal; jewelers worldwide rely on the exact same trading networks.


The largest of these networks is Rapnet, a proxy for the NYC-based standard for diamond pricing – Rapaport Diamond Report. On it, Green Lake recently stumbled upon something extraordinary, something other industry buyers too have begun to notice: There’s a lot of brown-shaded diamonds out there that may not be disclosed as such to engagement ring customers online. We sourced two diamonds that were nearly identical in the four C’s *(and in subsequent price) but upon seeing the two in person they appeared completely different: One was bright and white just as advertised while the other appeared significantly more brown in color .

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How Diamonds with the Same Certification Can Look Totally Different

There are a few subtle factors that are harder to gauge and quantify in diamonds that don’t even get mentioned on the certification at all; ‘shade’ is one of these. Not the color of a gem per se, shade refers to a faint underlying tone that affects the appearance of a diamond. Shades can be red to yellow or green (a rare color that can identify conflict regions in Africa as the gem’s origin) to the most common shade – brown.

It’s so common that over 90% of searches in the world’s supply yield diamonds with a brown shade, something the average online buyer would never know. When we went looking for some really nice diamonds, we applied a range of 1.00-1.29ct round, triple excellent, VS1-VS2 & H-I color – all great criterea – and we found 4,891 available globally. In an advanced search, however, we selected ‘No Brown’ (information trustworthy sellers always disclose) and the result was staggering: There are only 657 in the world right now, a scant 7.5% of the excellent round cut 1.00-1.29ct diamonds for sale. There are only 1,544 1.35-1.59ct excellent round cut diamonds for sale in the world right now and similarly only 187 (or 8%) contain  no brown shade.

Using the Rapnet search, advanced options include ‘shade,’ a factor disclosed by sellers but not visible on many public sites.

Getting Your Money’s Worth

Let’s be clear: Getting a diamond with a subtle brown shade is really not a big deal. You’d never even know unless you poured over it like we do. As with most diamonds of a high grade, they look great. What is a big deal, however, is not knowing what you’re buying, not knowing there’s something even better out there or not knowing if you’re getting your money’s worth. When all 4 C’s match up but the prices don’t, it might be a good idea to see them in person, work with someone to help verify their description and compare quality with your own eyes. Online clients at Green Lake Jewelry Works can access videos to compare diamonds as well as ask of their designer to show gems side by side, on the hand or under different light. It’s a bit more of an involved process than a simple click-and-buy, but it is after all an especially significant purchase.

Learn more about how to select the perfect diamond HERE

Have questions about diamonds or would like help in finding the perfect one for you? Contact the Green Lake Lab at today.


About the author: Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works