Fancy Colored Diamonds
Diamonds are found in almost every color of the spectrum, but the majority of diamonds will have tints of yellow or brown. Typically, the term Diamond Color refers to the absence of color, which is a marker of quality along with the other 4Cs of Diamond Clarity, Diamond Carat Weight, and Diamond Cut. This tutorial focuses on fancy color diamonds. Brown and yellow diamonds that exhibit more color than the Z grade within the D-Z color scale are known as fancy colors. Since most diamonds have a bit of yellow or brown, any other colors outside of those hues are called fancy colors. This includes pink, blue, green, black, red, and orange diamonds.
Fancy Colors in this Tutorial
What is the Diamond Color Scale?
Diamonds are generally evaluated by a diamond color scale that was developed in the 1950s by GIA's Richard T. Liddicoat. The Color Grading Scale starts with the letter D and ends at Z. D colored diamonds have the least amount of color and Z colored diamonds have the most color in the range of D-Z. Beyond Z color, diamonds are graded as Fancy Color with a separate set of parameters.
Fancy Color begins beyond the grade Z in the color grading scale. (shown above) While colorless, near colorless, faint and light diamond colors are graded from the face-down position. Laboratory graders assess fancy color diamonds from the face-up or top view of the diamond.
Graders evaluate the hue, tone, and saturation of each diamond.
Hue - A diamond's overall body color
Tone - A diamond's lightness or darkness in relation to body color
Saturation - The intensity or degree of color
Secondary or modifying colors are also assessed, as they impact the overall hue of the fancy color. For example, a yellow diamond may have a green secondary, and will subsequently be graded as "Fancy Greenish Yellow." A blue diamond may have a grey secondary color, and will be graded as "Fancy Greyish Blue" and so on.
Fancy Color Terms on Grading Reports
Fancy color diamonds are graded using the following terms:
Pink Diamond Color Scale
Image courtesy of Leibish & Co.
The photo (above) illustrates a selection fancy color grades for pink diamonds. From left to right: Very Light Pink, Light Pink, Fancy Light Pink, Fancy Pink, Fancy Intense Pink, Fancy Vivid Pink, Fancy Deep Pink
Fancy color diamond grading is a complex process, and colors are evaluated based on the intensity. Generally, the more rich and saturated the color, the higher the value. Fancy color diamonds that are true to hue with vivid coloration will be priced higher than lighter and less saturated stones.
For more information on fancy color diamond grading please visit:
GIA - Gemological Institute of America
Gubelin Gem Lab
IGI - Institute of Gemology
While not considered "Fancy" color by diamond grading labs, Faint, Very Light, and Light colored yellow, brown, and grey diamonds can show a fair amount of color on the lower end of the D-Z color scale. S-Z colored yellows, for example, can present great bargains to buyers looking for a yellow diamond without the fancy price tag.
The Faint through Light range and corresponding letter grades are as follows:
N-R, Very Light
Y-Z (Light Yellow) Diamond Ring
Image courtesy of Diamonds by Lauren
The cushion cut diamond in the photo (above) was graded in the Y-Z range (Light Yellow) by GIA. The stone was set with yellow gold prongs to complement the yellow color. Many jewelers use yellow gold elements to heighten the color of Very Light and Light yellow diamonds.
Grey and Brown Color?
Diamonds with tints of grey and brown that exhibit more color than the J master stone may be identified as Faint, Very Light, and Light by major grading labs. Brown diamonds with more color than the K master stone are described with a letter grade in addition to a colored diamond grade ranging from Faint to Light Brown. Grey diamonds of K color or greater will be graded Faint, Light, and Very Light without a corresponding letter grade.
Hue, tone and saturation along with rarity and popularity of color affect fancy color diamond pricing. Pure red diamonds command the highest prices per carat worldwide. Fine yellow, pink, blue and green diamonds garner high prices depending on quality and size. Brown diamonds are generally the least expensive of natural fancy colors. As with colored stones in general, color is paramount for fancy color diamond pricing. Other quality factors like clarity and cut do not affect prices as much as with colorless diamonds. All factors equal, higher clarity and more attractive cuts may command higher prices.
It is always recommended to purchase from a trusted vendor, and if you have further questions, a qualified independent appraiser can assist you.
*Stay tuned for fancy colored diamond listings in the Pricescope database. Price comparisons for fancy color diamonds coming soon.
Trace elements, structural irregularities, and radiation generally cause fancy diamond color. Here is a breakdown of common causes of natural fancy diamond color.
Yellow Diamonds - Presence of nitrogen
Brown, Pink, and Red Diamonds - Colored graining, which results from structural irregularities in the crystal lattice--sometimes in combination with an impurity.
Blue Diamonds - Presence of boron with possible presence of hydrogen
Green Diamonds - Natural radiation
Grey and Violet Diamonds - Most likely the presence of hydrogen (grey diamonds are known for high amounts of hydrogen, while violet diamonds are still being studied for exact cause of color)
Black Diamonds - Dark inclusions or impurities, which are great in number and evenly distributed throughout a diamond
Orange Diamonds - Structural irregularities in combination with the presence of trace elements like nitrogen, though exact cause of color is still being studied
For more information on cause of fancy color please visit: Natural Color Diamond Association
How does diamond cut affect fancy color?
Unlike their colorless counterparts, fancy color diamonds are cut to maximize color. Certain shapes will intensify fancy color, and typically, the deeper the pavilion (bottom half of a diamond) the more color is returned to the eye. It is not uncommon to see yellow diamonds fashioned into radiant cuts, as the mixed cut enhances the yellow hue. As with most diamonds, the finished cut is also largely dependent on the shape of the rough and what the cutter can achieve in terms of color grade.
Image courtesy of blue nile
The photo (above) shows a variety of fancy colors of different cuts. Fancy color diamonds are often found in fancy shapes, as certain shapes or cuts are designed to concentrate color.
Does diamond fluorescence affect fancy color?
Diamond Fluorescence may enhance a fancy color, but fluorescence often makes no impact on a fancy colored diamond under normal viewing conditions. Yellow diamonds that fluoresce yellow will be more vivid under direct sunlight or uv light, but many yellow diamonds actually fluoresce blue. If you find a fancy colored diamond with complementary fluorescence, it will only intensify or help the color. To learn more please visit our Diamond Fluorescence tutorial.
Image courtesy of Leibish & Co.
GIA color grades for the (above) diamonds
From left to right: Fancy Deep Brownish Yellow, Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange, Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange, Fancy Deep Grayish Yellowish Green/Chameleon, Fancy Dark Gray Yellowish Green/Chameleon, Fancy Intense Yellow, Fancy Pink, Fancy Greenish Yellow, Fancy Intense Green Yellow, Fancy Intense Green Yellow
Where are fancy color diamonds found?
Fancy color diamonds are found in Australia, Canada, Brazil, and throughout Africa. Pink diamonds are most commonly found at the Argyle mine in Australia, but pink, yellow, blue, and even green diamonds have also been found in the alluvial deposits of Northwest Africa. Visit The Geography of Natural Color Diamonds for more information.
Synthetic fancy color diamonds?
Synthetic or lab grown diamonds are being produced in a range of colors, and may prove cost effective for those seeking larger sizes of colored diamonds that are appreciably rare. Synthetic diamonds generally have the same chemical composition and crystal structure as natural diamonds. Synthetics should not be confused with simulants, which have different optical and physical characteristics. To learn more about fancy color synthetic diamonds, please visit:
Pricescope Journal Article on Synthetic Diamonds
Laboratory-Grown Diamonds /Man-Made Diamonds (MMD) Discussion Forum
There are several treatments used to create color in diamond. Be aware of treatments as you are shopping for FCDs, as treated diamonds are worth less money, and should be priced accordingly. If you are seeking a naturally colored diamonds, please seek a trusted vendor or dealer. Common treatments are as follows:
Irradiation - Common colors for diamonds treated by irradiation include green and greenish blue. *Note natural color in green diamonds is caused by natural radiation, but these diamonds are costly and rare. If a green diamond is inexpensive, you may assume treatment. As always, buying a fancy colored diamond with a lab report is paramount if you are seeking natural.
Irradiation plus heating (annealing) - Annealing is the process of heating and cooling a diamond, and it is used in combination with irradiation to create red, pink, purple, orange, yellow, brown and black colors.
For more information on Irradiation, please visit: Irradiated Diamond by David Federman
High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) - HPHT is a process used to change the color of certain types of diamonds. HPHT treatment can be detected by a gemological lab. When in doubt, buy from a trusted dealer who is selling FCDs with an accompanying laboratory report.
To learn more about the HPHT process visit: GIA Confronts Challenge of HPHT by Thomas Moses and James Shigley.