Diamonds as most people think of them usually range from colorless to light yellow, and are graded using the jewelry industry’s D to Z color scale. Fancy color diamonds, on the other hand, can be found in a range of colors, with varying tones and saturations, and are far more rare than white diamonds. It is important to distinguish fancy coloured diamonds - which are naturally colored - from treated diamonds which obtain their color from human intervention.
Where are they mined?
The most common sources of fancy color diamonds are India, South Africa, and Australia, but they can also be found in other diamond-producing countries, such as Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, and Indonesia.* *Source: GIA
Which colors can diamonds be found in?
Fancy color diamonds can be found in almost any color, but some colors are found more often than others. Red diamonds are the most rare and highly valued, followed by green, purple, and orange diamonds, and then pink and blue. Yellow and brown are the most commonly found colored diamonds, while pink and yellow diamonds are generally the most sought after by consumers.
Source: Loupe internal application color range for red diamonds
Two common descriptors for a fancy diamond’s color are hue and saturation:
Hue is the dominant color of the diamond and can be affected by ‘modifiers’ or ‘tints’, which are additional hues within a stone. A diamond can be a single color, such as pink, or it can have a secondary color, and would be described as a blend of the two colors.
Saturation refers to the intensity of the main color found in the diamond. Descriptions of the saturation of diamonds with a lighter tone can range from ‘light’ to ‘intense’ to ‘vivid’, and for darker diamonds, descriptions can range from ‘dark’ to ‘deep’.
White diamonds graded by the D-to-Z scale tend to decrease in value as the saturation of the diamond’s hue becomes stronger, but exactly the opposite occurs with fancy color diamonds. The value of the diamond increases with the strength and purity of the color, as is the case with other colored gemstones, for example ruby or sapphire. However, most fancy diamond colors’ are faint rather than strong in saturation.
The 4 Cs are also used to assess color diamonds, but in the GIA grading of these diamonds these additional parameters are used:
Origin Describes whether the stone’s color is natural or treated
Grade Hue, tone and saturation are all considered when grading color, using the following terms to describe color intensity: faint, very light, light, fancy light, fancy, fancy intense, fancy vivid, fancy dark, fancy deep
Distribution Determines how evenly spread the color is throughout the diamond. The color will be graded as ‘even’ or ‘uneven’ depending on how consistent the concentration of color appears
Many of the world’s most rare fancy color diamonds are sold in auctions to collectors or companies, often fetching prices in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Below is a selection of some of the most famous.
The Williamson Pink Star, $57.7 million This gemstone is 11.15-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond, and was cut from a 32-carat rough diamond from the Williamson Diamond Mine in Tanzania.
The Hope Diamond, est. $250 million Perhaps the most famous gemstone in the world, this 45.52 carat blue diamond is accompanied by legends of the curses or bad luck it will bring to its owners. Despite this, it has been coveted throughout history and today is on display in the Smithsonian Museum.
The Moussaieff Red, $8 million The Moussaieff Red diamond is a 5.11 carat triangular brilliant cut diamond with a color grading of fancy red by the GIA, with IF clarity. This gemstone was discovered in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, and is now owned by Moussaieff Jewellers.
The Orange, $35.5 million This 14.82 carat pear-shaped diamond is one of few diamonds to be graded as Fancy Vivid Orange by the GIA, and its grading report was accompanied by the statement that ‘strongly coloured diamonds in the orange hue range rarely exceed three or four carats in size when polished… [yet this diamond] is almost four times larger than that size range’.
Historic use of color diamonds and their growth in popularity
The first known color diamond grading system dates back to sixth-century India, and was based on the country’s ancient class structure. Members of different castes were only permitted to own diamonds of a specific color - causing the color of the diamond an individual wore to become a badge of rank. In this system, the Brahmins, priests and rulers, were allowed to own white to colorless diamonds; landowners and warriors were assigned brown diamonds; the merchant class was given yellow diamonds; and members of the lower classes were assigned diamonds with a gray or black color. Kings, of course, were free to own and wear diamonds of any color.
Although fancy color diamonds have composed only a small part of the diamond industry, their popularity and availability have grown in the past several decades, in part due to different marketing campaigns. For example, in the 1980s the Argyle mine in Australia began marketing its brown stones under trade names like ‘Champagne’ and 'Cognac’, with the aim of making the public more aware of the existence of fancy color diamonds.
Contemporary color diamond trends in jewelry
Since the 1980s campaign, the trend of fancy color diamonds in jewelry has grown, such as in the examples below.
Colored Diamond Engagement Rings While traditional white diamonds remain popular for engagement rings, many couples are now opting for fancy color diamonds to add a touch of individuality and vibrancy. Colored diamond engagement rings are available in a wide range of hues, including yellow, pink, blue, green, and even rare colors like red and purple.
Mixed Color Diamond Jewelry Combining different colored diamonds in a single piece of jewelry has become a trend in contemporary designs. Jewelers are creating captivating pieces by blending various fancy color diamonds to create stunning patterns and effects. These multi-colored diamond creations can add a vibrant and playful touch to necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
Fancy Color Diamond Halo Settings Halo settings, where a center stone is surrounded by smaller diamonds, have become increasingly popular with fancy color diamonds. The halo of smaller white diamonds complements and accentuates the color of the center stone, creating a striking contrast. This setting style is particularly favored for fancy color diamond engagement rings.
Red Carpet Statement Jewelry Fancy color diamonds have made a significant impact on the red carpet scene, with celebrities showcasing their elegance and individuality by wearing jewelry adorned with these captivating stones. High-profile events have seen stunning fancy color diamond pieces, ranging from necklaces and bracelets to extravagant statement rings.
However, as mentioned previously, although fancy color diamonds have gained popularity in recent decades they are still relatively rare compared to white diamonds. Their rarity, combined with their exceptional beauty, makes them highly sought after by collectors, enthusiasts, and those looking to make a bold fashion statement with their jewelry.