Diamonds have always been treasured for their beauty as gemstones, and many can wax poetic on the classic “four Cs” of diamond quality: Cut, Clarity, Carat, and Color. Traditionally, ‘colorless’ white diamonds have been considered the most prized, with any yellow or brown hue greatly reducing an individual stone’s value. But occasionally nature produces colored diamonds of such intensity and beauty that they can be treasured well beyond traditional white diamonds.
What is Color in a Diamond?
While a chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond would be absolutely transparent, with no hue or color, no such diamond actually exists in nature. All diamonds have some sort of chemical impurity or structural defect that affects their color. The degree to which a diamond’s color is affected by these can vary greatly, and can detract from a diamond’s value, or in some cases greatly increase it.
The Gemological Institute of America grades traditional white diamonds on a color scale from D to Z, with ‘colorless’ diamonds ranked D-F, K-J considered ‘near colorless’, K-M ‘faint color’, N-R very light color, and S-Z ‘light color’. On this scale, the term ‘color’ refers only to light yellow or brown, and is considered significantly less desireable.
The vast majority of diamonds fall in the D-Z color range, but occasionally natural diamonds can exhibit blue, brown, pink, deep yellow, or green hues. Any diamond that exhibits a light shade other than light yellow or light brown is considered a “fancy color” diamond. As the conditions required to produce these gems are quite rare, they are scarce and often highly prized. While ‘colorless’ and ‘near colorless’ diamonds are judged for their fire and brilliance, fancy-color diamonds are evaluated more for the intensity of their color. Deep and distinct shades are valued more highly than pale or weak ones.
Color is described and graded in terms of hue, tone, and saturation. Hue is the diamond’s characteristic color, with tone referring to the stone’s relative lightness or darkness, and saturation indicating the color’s strength or depth. Viewed under precise lighting conditions, one of 27 hues is selected by the grader, with saturation described by one of nine descriptors: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Dark, Fancy Intense, Fancy Deep, and Fancy Vivid. Grading colored diamonds is specialized and complex, and only highly trained laboratory graders can assess them accurately.
Colored Diamond Basics
The most common colors in diamonds are yellow and brown, and when present in their lightest saturations are considered undesirable. But when brown or yellow diamonds exhibit color more intense than the “Z” rating for traditional white diamonds, they are considered fancy color diamonds, and their value increases accordingly.
Any other color present in a diamond will likewise be considered a fancy color diamond—for instance, any slight blue hue will not be considered on the D-Z scale, but rather Faint Blue, or Light Blue etc.
As with any diamond, rarity equates to value. While fancy yellow and brown diamonds are themselves rare enough, the rarest and most valuable colored diamonds include saturated pinks, blues, and greens. But even among these, differences in saturations can greatly affect value. The grading system for fancy color diamonds takes into account the fact that not all colored diamonds have the same depth of color—yellow diamonds, for example, can exhibit a wide range of saturations while blue diamonds do not.
The Value of Fancy Brown Diamonds
Brown diamonds are the most common fancy diamond color, and have long been used in jewelry, dating as far back as Ancient Rome. It was only in the 1980s when large quantities of brown diamonds were found in the Argyle mines of Australia that they began to be widely marketed. With names like “champagne,” “cognac,” and “chocolate,” brown diamonds were successfully integrated into many medium priced jewelry designs.
The Value of Fancy Yellow Diamonds
Yellow is the second most common color for a fancy color diamond, and their prices increase as does the intensity of their color. Fancy Yellow diamonds (one step above Fancy Light) have a very clear yellow hue and are priced similarly to ‘colorless’ diamonds in the F-G color range.
Fancy Deep yellow diamonds often have a secondary hue of brown, and as such are not usually as coveted, though their rarity keeps their prices high by comparison. Fancy Intense yellow diamonds, sometimes marketed as “Canary Diamonds,” have an extremely pure and clear shade, and are probably the most popular of the yellow diamonds.
The most rare and valuable of the yellow diamonds are the Fancy Vivid yellows, which are often as much as twice the price of an Intense Yellow, and three times the price of a Fancy Yellow. One small sub-group of vivid yellow diamonds from the Zimmy mine in Africa boasts a color so pure and intense that 3+ carat stones often sell for as much as $30,000 per carat.
Yellow diamonds, like all colored diamonds, often exhibit a secondary hue, and the valuation of a particular diamond can be greatly affected by which secondary color is present. Green yellow and orange yellow diamonds are usually more expensive than pure yellows. If the secondary hue of a colored diamond is of a more common color, the price generally goes down. Diamonds graded as brownish yellow or brown yellow are the least expensive of all colored diamonds.
The Highest Price Colored Diamonds
Pure orange diamonds are extremely valuable, but as they often have a brownish or yellowish hue, their value can be compromised. Violet, blue, green, purple, and pink diamonds are the elites among colored diamonds, with red diamonds considered the most rare and valuable of all.
Fancy Green diamonds are colored as radiation displaces carbon atoms from their regular position within the crystal structure, resulting in color that is typically light in tone and low in saturation. Naturally occurring green colored diamonds are extremely rare, and because some diamonds are artificially treated to achieve their color, advanced gemological testing should be performed to authenticate them.
Blue diamonds owe their color to the presence of boron impurities, with more boron producing a deeper blue. These diamonds usually have a slight gray element, so they’re rarely as highly saturated as blue sapphires, but are extremely valuable.
The most valuable of all the colored diamonds are those with red or reddish colors. Pure pink diamonds tend to be more popular than those with purplish, grayish, or orangey hues, but red diamonds are the rarest and most expensive. They occur only in a Fancy intensity with purplish or brownish modifiers. So rare is red in diamonds that even when it is the secondary, modifying color, the price of the diamond increases dramatically—even a 3+ carat brown diamond with a reddish modifying color can be valued at more than $30,000 per carat.
How to Sell a Colored Diamond Ring
If you would like to sell a diamond ring set with a fancy colored diamond, please contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today for a free appraisal and generous cash offer.
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