Fancy Colored Diamonds: Pink, Yellow, Blue, Green & Cognac
Fancy Colored Diamond
Diamonds can occur in all colors of the spectrum, and their color is due to trace impurities of nitrogen and/or hydrogen (yellow, brown diamonds), boron (blue diamonds), radiation exposure (green diamonds) or irregular growth patterns within the crystal (pink, red diamonds).
Colorless diamonds would normally be priced much higher than yellow diamonds. However, when a diamond's color is more intense than the "Z" grading, it enters the realm of a "Fancy Color" diamond. In this case, the intensity of the color in the diamond can plays a significant role in its value. The value of a Fancy Color Diamond can surpass that of colorless diamonds if the intensity of the color is high and the color is rare.
Fancy Diamond Color Hues
A fancy brown (or Fancy Cognac), green, or yellow diamond may have a relatively low value when compared to a colorless diamond. However, certain fancy-colored diamonds such as pink (CondŽ), blue (Hope Diamond), green (Ocean Dream), and red (Hancock Diamond) are particularly valuable. Once thought to be of little value, fancy pink diamonds can command very high prices as they have become increasingly popular.
Brown diamonds, which are generally less appreciated than other fancy colors and therefor, sold at a greater discount, have become more commonplace as Australian colored diamonds have gained in popularity.
Fancy Yellow Diamonds (Canary Yellow)
Fancy yellow diamonds owe their color the presence of nitrogen impurities which absorb the blue end of the color spectrum. The GIA grades fancy diamond color by quantifying the saturation, hue, and value (darkness) using nine classifications ranging from 'Faint' to 'Vivid.'
- Faint - M
- Very Light - N to R
- Light - S to Z
- Fancy Light - Start of 'Fancy'
- Fancy Dark
- Fancy Intense
- Fancy Deep
- Fancy Vivid - Highest Saturation
One of the largest, and most valuable Fancy Yellow diamonds in the world is the 'Tiffany Diamond,' found in Kimberly, South Africa in 1878. The rough stone weighed 287.42 carats, and was cut into a 128.54 carat cushion cut with an estimated value in the millions of dollars.
The pink color within these rare diamonds is due to irregular crystal growth patterns, causing microscopic imperfections within the lattice structure. One of the world's only major sources for rare pink diamonds is the Argyle Mine in Australia. Pink diamonds are similar to pink sapphire in color, yet considerably more expensive. 1PP is the highest quality designation for Pink Diamond, having a pure magenta color with deep saturation. As the numbers go lower (8PP) the color is paler. An 1P designation would have less blue and more brownish-red. Only 1% to 2% of the diamonds produced at the Argyle Mine are high-quality pink specimens.
- 1PP to 8PP - Pink (Magenta-pink) 1 is darkest
- 1P to 8P - Pink (Reddish-pink) 1 is darkest
- 1BP to 8BP - Pink (Brownish-pink) 1 is darkest
- PC3 to PC1 - Champagne 3 is darkest
- C8 to C1 - Cognac 8 is darkest
There is a very rare olive-grayish color-changing diamond called "Chameleon Diamond" (below, left), which changes hue from grayish-blue or olive-green to yellowish-green or straw-yellow under different lighting conditions (darkness, bright light), lighting color temperatures (incandescent, halogen, daylight) and ambient temperature changes. This Chameleon-like phenomenon was first documented by the GIA in the early 1940s.
Green Chameleon Diamonds
Fancy Pink Diamond Color Grading
Chameleon diamonds can be forced to temporarily change to a yellowish-green color by exposing them to heat (150¼ C to 250¼ C), or short-term storage (up to 24 hours) in total darkness . Exposure to direct sunlight will bring out an olive-green color. The color change effect is temporary, and will totally reverse itself when conditions re-stabilize. It is believed that the color changing effect is due to a higher than normal amount of hydrogen impurities.
Green diamonds owe their hue to millions of years of exposure to naturally occurring gamma and/or neutron radiation, and are typically found in alluvial secondary deposits. Primary sources are in south-central Africa. Most 'green' diamonds are actually a yellowish-green, greyish-green, or a combination of the two. Intense, pure green hues, as in the one-of-a-kind 5.51 carat blue-green 'Ocean Green Diamond' or the 41 carat apple-colored 'Dresden Green Diamond' are virtually non-existant. Green diamonds can range from $35,000 to $500,000 per carat. Irradiation can artificially induce a green color in diamonds.
Deep Orange Diamond (photo: © AfricaGems.com)
Green/Brown Chameleon Diamond (© AfricaGems.com)
The Elusive Red Diamond
Perhaps the rarest diamond color of all is the elusive Red Diamond. There are fewer than twenty known specimens of "natural" red diamond. The first red diamond to be found was the 1 carat 'Halphen Red,' discovered during the 18th century.
The most famous red diamond (the Hancock Red) was found in Brazil, and weighed a modest 0.95-carats. It was cut into a round brilliant named after its owner, Warren Hancock. The Hancock Red sold at Christie's auction house for a staggering $926,000 in 1987. Other famous reds are the Moussaieff Diamond weighing 13.90 carats, and the De Young Red weighing 5.03 carats. Pricing in today's market is in the range of $1 million dollars per carat.
Diamond Fashion Trends
While prices will undoubtedly remain predictably higher for colorless diamonds and certain rare fancy-colored diamonds, the specific color most valued by a given consumer is largely influenced by current styling trends and personal taste. On thing is certain, as the tastes and preferences of the consumer shift in priorities, so will the market prices of sought-after commodities that are in limited supply.
Reddish Brown Diamond (photo: © AfricaGems.com)
Enhanced Blue & Yellow Diamonds (© AfricaGems.com)
Fancy Colored Synthetic Diamonds
Unlike natural diamond which can occur in completely colorless D, E, F grades, most synthetic diamonds will have a slightly yellowish hue due to nitrogen impurities that are dispersed throughout the crystal lattice structure during the growth phase. These impurities absorb the blue end of the light spectrum, making the stone appear yellowish. It is for this reason that manufacturers of synthetic diamonds tend to specialize in fancy colors.
Raw Diamond Jewelry
Diamond Chemistry & Composition
Bibliography on Colored Diamonds
1. GIA, GIA Diamond Color Grading . www.gia.edu
2. Stephen C. Hofer, Collecting and Classifying Coloured Diamonds . Ashland Press
3. Encyclop¾dia, Natural Color Diamonds Defined . www.color-diamond-encyclopedia.com
4. ICA, All About Colored Gemstones . The Colored Gem Association
5. UC Berkeley, Color in Minerals . Berkeley.edu
6. Kurt Nassau, The Origins of Color in Minerals . American Mineralogist
7. Gem Lab, laboratory News - Chameleon Diamonds . www.gemlab.net
8. Sarin, Color Grading & Gemology Tools . Sarin Gem Labs
9. GIA, The Chameleon Diamond Effect . www.gia.edu
10. Martin D. Haske, Measuring Color Via Spectrophotometer . AGL Adamas Gemological Lab
11. Smithsonian exhibit, Colored Diamonds . www.mnh.si.edu
12. Africa Gems, Fancy Colored Diamonds . www.africagems.com