White Diamonds are colorless to light yellow and are described using the industry’s D-to-Z color-grading scale. Fancy color diamonds, on the other hand, are yellow and brown diamonds that exhibit color beyond the Z range, or diamonds that exhibit any other color face-up. These rare specimens come in every color of the spectrum, including, most importantly, blue, green, pink, and red.
White diamonds in the D-to-Z range usually decrease in value as the color becomes more obvious. Just the opposite happens with fancy color diamonds: Their value generally increases with the strength and purity of the color. Large, vivid fancy color diamonds are extremely rare and very valuable. However, many fancy diamond colors are muted rather than pure and strong.
Fancy color diamonds come in almost any color you can imagine. Red, green, purple, and orange are generally the rarest, followed by pink and blue. Yellows and browns are the most common fancy colors, but they’re generally less valuable than the rarer colors followed by blacks, grays.
Color Diamond History and Grading
The world’s first diamond color-grading system dates back to sixth-century in India. The system was based on the country’s ancient class structure, where members of different status levels were permitted to own and wear only diamonds of a specific color, thus serving as a “badge of rank”.
The priests and rulers were allowed to own diamonds that were “whitest of the lotus or of the rock crystal” (white to colorless). The landowners and warriors were assigned diamonds that were “the brown color of the eye of the hare.” The merchant class was allowed to own only diamonds that were the “pretty nuance of a petal of a Kadl flower” (yellow). And members of the lower classes were assigned diamonds with “the sheen of a burnished sword” (gray or black). Kings, however, were free to possess diamonds of any color.
Diamond color-grading systems have evolved a lot since that time. Today, there are well-established methods for judging diamond’s color based on much more than a comparison to conch shells, rabbits’ eye etc. The GIA system for color-grading fancy color diamonds is designed to accommodate the fact that not all colored diamonds have the same depth of color. For example, yellow diamonds occur in a wide range of saturations, while blue diamonds do not.
Diamonds with red or reddish colors are extremely rare and highly valued. Pure pinks are more popular than diamonds that are purplish, orangey, brownish, or grayish. Trade professionals market some very attractive stones in this category as “rose-colored,” and some stones with purplish tints as “mauve” diamonds.
Blue diamonds are extremely rare. They generally have a slight hint of gray, so they’re rarely as highly saturated as blue sapphires. Their color is caused by the presence of boron impurities—the more boron, the deeper the blue.
Fancy green diamonds are typically light in tone and low in saturation. Their color often appears muted, with a grayish or brownish tinge. The hue is generally in the yellowish green category. In most green diamonds, the hue is confined to the surface, and rarely extends through the entire stone. That’s why cutters try to leave as much of the natural rough around the girdle as possible.
Brown is the most common fancy diamond color and also the earliest to be used in jewelry. Second-century Romans set brown diamonds in rings. In modern times, however, they took some time to become popular. Yellow is diamond’s second most common fancy color. Yellow diamonds are sometimes marketed as “canary.” While this isn’t a proper grading term, it’s commonly used in the trade to describe fancy yellow diamonds.
Until the late 1990s, there was not much demand for black diamonds. But designers started using them in jewelry, especially contrasted with tiny colorless diamonds in pavé settings, after which they began to gain in popularity.