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Fancy Color Diamonds -
Tickle Your Fancy

By  Arthur & Judi Anderson

In 1817,  R.J. Hauy,  an eminent French mineralogist,  wrote "Gems are the flowers of the mineral kingdom .... fancy color diamonds are the orchids."  Fancy color diamonds,  like orchids,  are truly exotic and rare beauties of nature.

Yellows,  reds,  pinks,  purples,  blues and greens are not what you expect from diamonds.  Anyone who has studied the 4 Cs can tell you,  "When it comes to diamonds,  the less color .... the better."  While this is true,  it is only true up to a point.  Slight traces of color can be annoying and detract from a diamond's beauty and value.  But when a diamond sparkles with brilliant,  intense color,  it is a gem of great rarity and beauty.  These extraordinary gems are known as "fancy color diamonds."

Fancy color yellow diamonds in handcrafted platinum ring.

The rarest and most valuable colored diamonds are vibrant reds.  In fact,  one of the highest per-carat prices ever paid for a diamond was for a purplish red stone weighing just over  0.95 carats.  Sold at auction in 1987,  this fiery beauty brought an astounding  $926,000 per carat.  More recently,  a 5.11 carat red diamond is rumoured to have sold privately for  $8 million.  However,  not all fancy color diamonds sell for such colorful prices  (please excuse the pun).

Fancy color diamonds attain high values because of their great rarity and the attraction they have for gemstone collectors and connoisseurs.  It has been estimated that only one out every  10,000 natural diamonds is a fancy color.  Among natural colored diamonds the rarest shades are red,  pink and green.  More common are various shades of yellow and brown.

If a natural red diamond does not fit your budget or your color scheme,  you may want to consider one of the more affordable,  but equally striking alternatives.  Pink diamonds from the Argyle mines in Australia are stunning when set in platinum.  Yellow diamonds make striking center stones,  especially when set between two smaller colorless diamonds.  And purple and blue diamonds will capture you with a unique mystique all their own.  While these shades are not as rare as red diamonds,  they are just as beautiful and desirable.

A brilliant fancy intense blue diamonds set in a handcrafted platinum ring.

Evaluating Fancy Color Diamonds  -  the 5 Cs

When evaluating a fancy color diamond,  the 4 Cs are still important,  as is the fifth C  -  cost.  However,  for colored diamonds some of the rules change.

Color,  Color,  Color

The most important factor in evaluating a fancy color diamond is,  of course,  the richness and beauty of the color.  A number of grading systems exist for colored diamonds,  but the most prevalent is a 9-tiered scale developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).  The GIA grading scale ranges from "Faint" and "Very Light,"  which strictly speaking are not fancy color grades,  to "Fancy Deep" and "Fancy Vivid" where the saturation and intensity of the color just reaches out and grabs you.

Fancy intense purplish-pink diamond set in a handcrafted platinum ring.

When considering a fancy color diamond,  it is important to acquire an origin-of-color report from the GIA or one of the other qualified gemological laboratories.  This report will indicate whether the diamond's color is natural or the result of human intervention.  The report will also indicate the diamond's color grade.  But,  do not buy a diamond solely based on a grading report.  Even within a color grade,  diamonds will be found in a variety of shades and with many subtle variations in hue,  tone and saturation.  Beauty in a diamond is like beauty anywhere,  it is in the eye of the beholder.  Always examine and compare fancy color diamonds firsthand before purchasing one.

Vivid yellow emerald-cut diamond ring.


Diamond cutting is a demanding and precise craft requiring a blend of artistry and technical mastery.  All diamonds should have a pleasing outline and a beautifully balanced arrangement of facets.  But,  that is where the similarities between well-cut fancy color and colorless diamonds end.

When cutting a fancy color diamond,  a master diamond cutter strives to enhance the intensity and beauty of the stone's color.  Thus,  the angles,  proportions and arrangement of the facets are set to lengthen the path of the light passing through the stone.  The further a light ray travels through a colored diamond,  the more it picks up and deepens the stone's color.

In contrast,  for colorless or near-colorless diamonds the goal is to maximize the brilliance of the stone and minimize the effect of any trace colors.  This is accomplished by shortening the path of light as it is reflected within the stone.

What are often called "ideal cuts" for colorless diamonds may not be ideal for a fancy color stone.  While round brilliants are the most common cut for colorless diamonds,  among fancy color diamonds square radiants and ovals are the most prevalent.

Trilliant yellow diamond set in a hand-engraved platinum ring.


Like cut,  the clarity of a fancy color diamond is usually less important than the color.  Although large and obvious inclusions can detract from a colored diamond's beauty,  they are often masked or partially hidden by the intensity of the diamond's color.  Compared to colorless stones,  clarity is less of a factor in determining the value of a colored diamond.

Carat Weight

Fancy color diamonds tend to be smaller stones,  usually weighing less than a carat.  Larger fancy color diamonds are much rarer than their colorless cousins and,  as a result,  are significantly more valuable.  As the size of fancy color diamonds increases,  their costs increase very rapidly.  The good news is that even smaller well-cut stones can display beautiful,  intense colors.

Oval diamond set with 6 brilliant pink diamonds in a custom rose gold and platinum ring.


The fifth C is cost.  The value of colored diamonds is largely determined by the color and weight of the stone.  In the lower color grades of "Light" and "Faint," colored diamonds usually trade for no or only a slight premium over near-colorless stones of comparable weight,  cut and clarity.  The relatively low premium for these stones reflects the weak,  washed out appearance of their color.  When set in a jewel,  the color in these stones is often masked by the color of the surrounding precious metal.

In the middle color grades,  "Fancy" through "Fancy Intense,"  there are many fancy color diamonds that are beautiful and can be found in affordable sizes.  These diamonds are wonderful additions to any gemstone collection and striking center stones when set in a custom designed jewel.

As diamonds approach the top color grades,  "Fancy Deep" and "Fancy Vivid,"  their rarity and cost increases sharply.  However,  these diamonds are truly striking and worth acquiring,  if they are within your budget.

Yellow radiant-cut diamond with heart-shape diamonds in a custom platinum ring.

Synthetic and Treated Colored Diamonds

The great value of fancy color diamonds has enticed many modern-day alchemists to try to recreate these rare and beautiful gems in their laboratories.  As scientific knowledge of the origins of natural fancy color diamonds increases,  the efforts to create synthetic and treated colored diamonds become more successful.

Synthetic diamonds are artificial diamonds that have been created in a laboratory.  By varying the heat and pressure during formation,  adding foreign elements,  and irradiating the finished crystals,  synthetic diamonds can be made to imitate natural colored stones.  There is currently a wide spectrum of synthetic colored diamonds available.

Treated diamonds are natural diamonds that started out with an unappealing or slightly off color.  By exposing these less desirable stones to the same high-tech alchemy used to create synthetic colored diamonds,  the apparent color and appearance of these diamonds can be significantly improved.  Recently we have seen treated diamonds with vibrant yellowish green,  red and blue colors enter the market.

Natural fancy color diamonds are significantly more valuable and rarer than comparable treated or synthetic stones.  Although treated and synthetic diamonds can be beautiful in their own right,  the origin of their color should be fully disclosed by the seller.  They should also cost significantly less than natural diamonds.  Ethical practice and the law require that synthetic gemstones and treatments be fully disclosed to consumers.  Unfortunately,  this does not always happen.  As always,  be careful!

Platinum wedding bands with pink fancy color diamonds.

A Word of Advice

Fancy color diamonds are among the rarest and most beautiful gemstones.  They are,  like orchids,  true treasures of nature!

Acquiring a colored diamond requires a special expertise.  In light of the recent advancements in creating treated and synthetic diamonds and the sometimes deceptive practices of sellers,  you may want to seek guidance from an impartial expert.  An independent gemologist/appraiser,  with a knowledge of fancy color diamonds and the diamond markets,  can help you acquire a stunning diamond of high value at a fair price.  As always,  education and expertise are your best protection against the games and shenanigans in the diamond market place.

Tanzanite ring with trilliant yellow fancy color diamonds.

We recently added several custom designed rings featuring fancy color diamonds to the Bijoux Galleries.  One is a pair of platinum bands set with  natural pink diamonds,  an another is a striking engraved platinum ring with a  natural Fancy Intense yellow diamond.  Or you might enjoy a tanzanite set with two  trilliant-cut yellow diamonds,  or a striking with a  cushion-shape fancy yellow diamond  and 19 princess-cut diamonds.  These jewels are dazzling,  so you may want to put on your sun glasses before viewing!

Engraved platinum ring with fancy yellow diamond.

If you wish to acquire a fancy color or other important diamond, you can hire us to act as your diamond broker. To learn more about how we will serve as your diamond expert, please visit our  diamond brokering  page.

Custom platinum tanzanite and pink diamond ring.Vivid yellow emerald-cut diamond ring.

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