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Fancy Colored Diamonds:
Picassos for Peanuts

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

One of the four  "Cs"  affecting a diamond's value is color.  The less color in a diamond the more valuable it is.  Most diamonds range from lower grades with a slight tinge of yellow or brown to rarer stones that are absolutely colorless and quite expensive.  But,  people are often surprised to learn that natural diamonds occur in a full range of colors.

Some rarer stones display intense natural shades of yellow,  brown,  green,  red,  pink or amber.  These colorful diamonds are referred to as  "fancies".   Fancy diamonds are indeed quite rare;  a diamonds chances of displaying an intense fancy color are roughly 1 in 2,500!  Some fancy colors are rarer than others.  The more encountered colors of yellow,  brown and grey are quite affordable,  while the rarer pinks,  greens,  blues and reds fetch much higher prices.

Fancy yellow and brown diamonds certainly offer a potential bargain for lover's of fine diamonds.  Although these colors are at least 10 times as rare as their white diamond counterpart,  they are not 10 times more expensive.  On the contrary,  slightly off-colored yellows and browns may be less expensive than white stones,  while the intense fancy yellows and browns may cost only 25-35% more than white stones.

Since the term fancy covers a broad spectrum of hues and intensities,  a yellow diamond could vary from a straw-like color,  through to taxicab yellow.  Unfortunately,  some stores use the term "canary" to describe any yellow diamond.  However,  this term should only be reserved for those rare stones which display an intense yellow hue with a warm orange tinge.

Fancy brown diamonds offer an ideal choice for men's jewelry because brown is considered a masculine color.  The brown diamond displays the brilliance (white light),  fire (spectral colors),  scintillation (sparkle) and durability of its white counterpart,  yet in a color that best accents a man's wardrobe and style.

What causes the color in diamonds?   Diamonds are made up of primarily carbon molecules:  however,  certain atomic impurities get trapped within the crystal lattice and impart color.  Nitrogen,  for example,  is the element that causes yellow and brown,  whereas boron creates the color blue.  The more of the impurity trapped throughout the crystal structure,  the more the intense color.  Absolutely colorless diamonds lack these impurities.

Engraved platinum ring with fancy yellow diamond.

Although the off-colored diamonds are more common and,  therefore,  less costly,  they can be set in a yellow gold to accent their warm color and still display a magnificent brilliance.

The hue (spectral color),  tone ( lightness versus darkness) and intensity (purity) of a diamond's color are the most important factors affecting price.  Clarity is not as important,  especially since the darker colored diamonds mask inclusions which might be more visible in a colorless stone.

A word of caution when shopping for fancy diamonds.  There are many fancy diamonds on the market with an artificially induced color.  Irradiated diamonds are generally more intense in a color than natural fancy diamonds,  and are certainly less expensive.  If you do purchase a fancy diamond,  ask for the origin of color ( whether the diamond is natural or treated) to be stated on the bill of sale and appraisal.   You should only pay the price for a "natural color" if it is truly natural.

As always,  ask your jeweler to explain all the four "Cs" of the diamonds shown to you,  and describe their quality on either of the two internationally accepted scales,  the GIA or the AGS.

Platinum wedding bands with fancy pink diamonds.

To learn more,  please visit our consumer's guide to fancy colored diamonds:

Fancy Color Diamonds - Tickle Your Fancy!

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