Fancy Colored Diamonds To Avoid
By Stephanie Dore
Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about buying the dream diamond (the 4Cs, obvi), someone goes and mentions color. And yes, that someone is probably mentioning it because they’re just dying to have a pretty little pink diamond on their finger. Or yellow. Or blue. But wait, what’s this all about? Not to worry, darlings, we’ve got your back. Because when it comes to buying fancy colored diamonds, there are definitely some things to watch out for. Let’s discuss.
The Bell Curve
So, starting from the top. Diamond color is graded on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (definitely more color), though most retailers only sell in the D to, say…J-ish range. This is because colorless diamonds won the popular vote and, well, they sell. Now, anything beyond, yes beyond, that Z is what we call a “fancy color”. Meaning it’s got so much color that it’s now subject to a completely different grading system. We find it helps to think of it like an upside down bell curve. Colorless at the top, then it dips into murky territory, then back up to super saturation. And yes, the price tags follow suit.
So what exactly causes that color? A little thing we like to call trace minerals. For instance, nitrogen molecules present during a diamond’s growth can make it yellow. Or boron can make a diamond blue. Color can also be the result of structural defects to the diamond’s crystal lattice. In fact, this was the case with most of the stones from Australia’s (now defunct) Argyle Diamond Mine, a significant source of pink, red, champagne, cognac and rare blue diamonds. Now, hot tip – diamond color can also be the result of treatment. That is, heat or radiation applied after the fact to intensify diamond color. It’s pretty important to know if the stone you’re interested in has been treated or not, as treated color can potentially be impermanent and weaken the stone over time, making it more vulnerable to chips and other damage.
How Will I Know
No, we don’t expect you to be able to determine whether a diamond’s color is natural or not by your lonesome, darling. That’s what grading labs and certificates are for! Yes, just like a colorless diamond, you should really only purchase a fancy colored diamond that has been certified by a trusted lab. That certificate will tell you whether the stone has been treated or not. It will also give you a full readout on the quality and distribution of the diamond’s color. Bonus.
Color Me Complicated
Speaking of color, it’s not just “pink” or “blue”. See, color grading for fancy colored diamonds has a whole breakdown. Ready to nerd out? We sure are.
Fancy color is broken down into three components:
- Hue reflects the basic colors we see. When we talk about “color” we’re really referring to hue.
- Tone refers to a gem’s relative lightness or darkness — think about this from white to black.
- Saturation refers to the hue’s intensity, is the color light or intense?
How do all of these come together? In a three-way axis. Here’s what it looks like. Crazy right? But color, like we said, is kind of complicated.
Let’s break it down a bit further. First things first, there are the basic hues: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, purple, pink, brown…you get the idea. It’s pretty rare that you’ll find a stone that lists a single hue with no modifiers. If you do, you might see the price go way up. What’s a modifier? Stones can have one, two, even three! It’s how we express the wide variety of in-between hues. Like, a greenish blue is a diamond with more blue than green. Or the reverse, a bluish green is a diamond with more green than blue. Make sense? If you see a stone color listed with a hyphen, such as yellow-green, that falls right in the middle. You’ll also see additional color modifiers like “slightly” or “strongly” and this refers to the level of color saturation. Warm hues, such as red, orange, and yellow, usually show up as shades of brown as their saturation decreases, whereas cool hues, like blue and violet, become progressively more gray. Overall, there are 12 different colors, over 90 secondary hues, 9 intensity levels, and over 230 color combinations. We know. It’s a lot. If you want to learn a bit more about how this all shakes out, check out these awesome color reference charts from GIA. Pretty!
Speaking of Pretty, Let’s Talk Pennies
Just like with a straight up single-hued stone, the more intense the body color, the higher the cost. Because when it comes to fancy colored diamonds, pricing is all about rarity. In fact, even stones under 1 carat that have rare, super saturated color, are considered major investments. We’re talking auction houses and museums here, folks. So don’t be surprised if, one, you don’t find any available or, two, it costs a bajillion dollars. How to save some cash? Shop softer, in-between shades, unique shapes, and off-carat sizes for the best deals. And if you’re open to lab created stones, you can save even more!
Cut it Out
We know we’re always hounding you about how cut is the most important of the 4Cs because it determines a stone’s sparkle and brilliance and beauty, etc. But for fancy color diamonds, color is really all that matters. In fact, fancy colored diamonds are cut not for brilliance at all, but to preserve and intensify their body color. Yep, the cut of a diamond can totally change how its color appears. So don’t be surprised if you find “good” cut colored diamonds that are totally stunning. And don’t rule them out of your search! This applies to shapes too. The most common shapes for fancy colored diamonds are cushions and radiants because the cut of these shapes helps intensify color, whereas round, princess and emerald — some of the most popular cuts for colorless stones — are hardly anywhere to be seen!
Make New Friends
Now that we’ve scrambled your brains (don’t worry, it’s a lesson we had to learn too!) by throwing color in the mix, don’t worry. We’re not going to just wish you luck finding the perfect diamond. That’s what our Diamond Concierge is for! Truly, when it comes to fancy colored diamonds, having a helping hand to hunt down the perfect shades, shapes, and sizes really does come in handy. Want to see some in person (or via video chat, after all, this is 2021)? Reach out to us at email@example.com with some details about your deepest fancy color diamond ring desires and we’ll get you sorted.
Or take our style quiz to explore color and style options and get a free sketch of your dream ring, where you can select a fancy color center or side stones. Sketches are always free, and there’s no limit!