If you’ve spent any amount of time reading our Diamond University, you might know that the quality of a diamond’s color is graded on a scale from D to Z by the Gemological Institute of America. You might even know that “D” describes the most colorless diamonds while low graded gems will have visible yellowing. The yellower the diamond appears, the less valuable it is… unless it’s supposed to be yellow.
The GIA calls these naturally occurring intensely colored stones “fancy-color diamonds,” and grades them on an entirely different scale. Instead of the standard D-Z scale, the GIA grades it in terms of hue (what color it is), tone (how light or dark the color is) and saturation (how strong the color is). That’s why you hear fancy-color stones described with words like “fancy vivid pink,” or “fancy intense yellow.” GIA-trained gemologists, like those employed by Diamond Lighthouse, use highly controlled viewing conditions and specialized tools for comparing color. You might be wondering how many different diamond colors there are and where they come from. Or how exactly a colored diamond compares to a “normal” white diamond in terms of value. Since we at Diamond Lighthouse want to make diamond experts out of everyone, we thought we’d take the time to clear up a few facts about colored diamonds.
Brown is actually the most common diamond color. However, since most of them aren’t quite gemstone quality, most of them are only used for industrial purposes. Until recently, browns were rarely used for jewelry even if they were gemstone quality. That changed in the late 1980s with the development of the Argyle Diamond Mine in Australia. Diamond companies started marketing brown diamonds and the general public grew to see how beautiful a high-quality fancy brown gem (sometimes called “chocolate” or “cognac”) could be. Scientists still aren’t quite sure how most pure brown diamonds form. Though radiation or a nickel inclusion can sometimes cause diamonds to appear brown, the vast majority of brown diamonds don’t show either characteristic. The prevailing thought right now is that the color comes from something called a color center. A color center is a defect in the diamond’s crystal structure at the atomic level that causes the diamond to selectively absorb and reflect different colors of light. In this case, it reflects a mixture of red, green and blue light that makes the stone appear brown.
OK, that’s enough science for this section. How much is a brown diamond worth? Well, if you have your heart set on a piece of jewelry featuring a fancy brown diamond, we have some good news for you. Though they’ve seen an increase in popularity in recent years, brown diamonds are some of the least expensive diamonds out there. You can save yourself a lot of money by including brown diamonds in your jewelry design instead of insisting on white ones.
One of the more common colors, yellow is also the most well-known of the fancy diamond colors. The color is caused by trace elements of nitrogen and the more saturated the color is, the more valuable the diamond is. The color of a fancy yellow diamond is much stronger than a white diamond at the lower end of the GIA’s color grading scale. A Y or Z color diamond will be a similar shade of yellow as an old book page. The fancy yellows are brighter, deeper and more intense. Most of the time, a yellow diamond will cost slightly less than a white diamond of similar clarity and carat weight, so if you’re not opposed to yellow diamonds in your jewelry, you might be able to save some money. The only exception is for fancy vivid yellow diamonds. These are the deepest, most intense yellow diamonds and can cost just as much if not more than similar white diamonds.
This is where things get expensive. Naturally occurring blue diamonds are very rare and very expensive. Some of the world’s more famous diamonds are fancy blues. The Hope Diamond, currently owned by the Smithsonian Museum, is a 45.52-carat deep blue and is considered the most famous diamond in the world. They get their color from boron impurities in the diamond’s crystal structure. This is a case where impurities actually make the diamond worth more. The deeper and more intense the blue, the higher the price. It goes without saying that a natural vivid blue diamond will cost much more than a white diamond of similar clarity and carat weight.
Green diamonds get their color by being irradiated. The radiation displaces atoms in the diamond’s crystal lattice (the arrangement of atoms in the diamond). This can happen naturally when a diamond deposit is close to radioactive rocks. Green diamonds in nature generally don’t have a particularly intense color and usually contain grey or brownish tints. Naturally occurring green diamonds are extremely rare and extraordinarily expensive. There is one problem though. Regular diamonds can be turned green by humans purposefully irradiating them. Because of that, green diamonds are treated with suspicion and examined very carefully whenever they’re sold. Gemologists have special tools and techniques to determine whether a green diamond is natural or not.
As with brown diamonds, the jury is still out on what exactly causes the color in pink diamonds, with the current best guesses being a color center or graining inside the crystal. Unlike brown diamonds, vivid pinks are much rarer, and cost a lot of money. A fancy vivid pink diamond recently sold at auction for over $83 million. (The buyer defaulted and it was acquired by the auction house.) Pink diamonds vary in color from a very faint pink to a reddish purple. If the color is intense enough, it could actually be considered a member of the rarest and most expensive diamond color in the world:
Red diamonds are the most expensive color in the world. Pure reds are so rare, they could almost be considered nonexistent. They’re created by the same crystal graining or color center that produces pink diamonds and are only ever graded as “fancy intense” with their only modifiers being “purplish” or “brownish.” The closer to pure red a diamond is, the more expensive it is. It’s rare to see a natural red diamond go for less than $100,000. In fact, red is so desirable that even if it’s the secondary color (e.g. a reddish brown diamond) it causes the price of the diamond to increase significantly.
After seeing all these beautiful fancy-color diamonds, are you thinking of adding a little bit of color to your wardrobe? Diamond Lighthouse can help you make the upgrade. We guarantee you more money for your old diamond jewelry than you’ll get anywhere else. That’s because we don’t buy your diamonds. We sell them for you to an elite network of expert diamond buyers and jewelers in the diamond industry. Since we only take a small commission after you’ve agreed to a final sale price, we always push our buyers for the highest offers. With the money you make selling your jewelry with Diamond Lighthouse, who knows? You might even be able to afford one of those fancy red diamonds.