A guide to the enigmatic black diamond

When we say the word diamond, what pops into mind is the colorless sparkling transparent stones that we are all so used to seeing.

So the words black diamonds sounds like a contradiction in terms! These stones were once pariahs of the jewelry industry and was even compared to ‘sealing wax’ by famous writer, J. R. Sutton.

But:

Thanks to clever jewelry designers and a brilliant marketing campaign that began in the mid-1990s, black diamonds went from inferior industry-grade-materials to becoming the next hot thing in the jewelry world!

And, this popularity is on the rise.

As more and more people move towards non-conventional options for their jewelry, especially engagement rings, the black diamond stands out as a unique option.

If this is something that you would like to consider, then keep reading! Here we outline everything you need to know to purchase a black diamond.

Are natural black diamonds … diamonds?

Let’s start with the basics. Natural black diamonds have a similar chemical composition of colorless diamonds. They are composed of graphite, diamond and amorphous carbon and are the toughest of all the diamond varieties.

However:

In general, colored diamonds receive their hues from impurities present during the formation process which cause chemical reactions that change the color. Interestingly, the color of the natural black diamond comes from the high level of impurities present within it. Simply put, the diamond appears black due to the extremely high amount of microscopic graphite or sulfide inclusions (also called piques) dispersed in the stone.

In other words, black diamonds are colorless diamonds that have inclusions to the point where they appear black and opaque.

Now:

There is a lot of debate over how natural black diamonds came to be. Some believe that these were brought to earth on an asteroid, millions of years ago. Others theorize that they were formed deep within the earth under intense heat and pressure. Still others say that the impact of a meteorite caused shock metamorphism to occur and so create black diamond matter. There is no single accepted theory … which adds to the mystery of black diamonds.

Black diamonds are very rare and found in only a few regions around the world. The most plentiful include Brazil and Central Africa.

Are black diamonds real?

Yes, natural black diamonds are as real as their colorless or colored counterparts. Many people wrongly believe that black diamonds are fake. It is important to note that there are essentially three main types of black diamonds:

Natural, treated and synthetic.

Because natural black diamonds are so rare and valuable, a large percentage of stones you see on the market are treated black diamonds.

In order to create these, first a low quality colorless diamond is taken. Often these have so many impurities that they cannot be used in jewelry. It is then treated using intense heat or irradiation. This turns the color of the stone to black.

These variety of black diamonds are quite affordable as they are made from low quality white diamonds. On the market, these will sometimes be called colorless treated black diamonds or black colored diamonds.

This is a good option if you are after the color and look of a black diamond, without regard to value or price.

The third type of black diamonds is the synthetic variety. Synthetic stones are exactly the same as their natural counterpart. The only difference is that these are created in labs from scratch as opposed to forming over millions of years in nature.

Most black diamonds you will come across on the market are treated.

Black diamonds and the 4Cs

Black diamonds are evaluated somewhat differently to other colored diamonds.

Color:

Like other colored diamonds, black diamonds are also called ‘fancy’. However, unlike other colored diamonds, they have no variations of tone or saturation. This is why they have only one grade – Fancy.

As we have already discussed, the color in the stone comes from miniscule impurities and can be found from gray to vivid black. The color is dependent on the type of inclusions.

Sometimes, opaque sections surround transparent areas of the black diamond. This is because of the uneven distribution of impurities in the stone. Black diamonds with even color distribution are always preferred in the jewelry world.Round black diamond  

photo: James Allen

Clarity:

This is the only variety of diamond where clarity is not graded. It is easy to understand why!

The stone is heavily included and is opaque. As a result, its clarity cannot be graded. Generally, retailers will have the term: Clarity Omitted when mentioning the clarity of a black diamond.

Carat:

Most black diamonds on the market are around the 1 carat mark. Because these stones are denser than their colorless counterparts, a 1 carat black diamond will be somewhat smaller than a 1 carat colorless diamond.

Large natural black diamonds are rare, so the higher the carat weight, the higher the price. If you see a large black diamond on the market, it is highly likely that the stone has been treated.

Cut:

You may have heard that cut is the most important factor in a diamond and that it is maximized to bring out the brilliance of the stone. That is true for colorless diamonds but definitely not for black diamonds.

Because black diamonds don’t reflect light properly, they don’t sparkle. They have a very subdued luster. This is why a well-faceted cut will exhibit some light reflection and give the stone more life. There’s a wide range of cuts available for diamonds, such as round, princess, cushion, marquise, pear, heart or cushion.

Black diamonds are known to be difficult to cut and polish, because of their structural patterns. As a result, they can easily crack or break apart during the arduous and long cutting process. Expert craftsmanship is required to bring out the best of the black diamond without damaging it during this process!

Are black diamonds expensive?

Compared to other fancy colored diamonds which can come with extremely hefty price tags, natural black diamonds are quite affordable. Of course, this depends on the size of the stone.

A quick search on the James Allen website brought up these natural black diamonds:Black diamond price

The smaller stones are within most diamond buyers’ budgets, while the larger carat sizes command much higher prices.

Of course, heated black diamonds are much cheaper and can retail from upwards of about $300 per carat.

Now:

It is not recommended to buy a black diamond as an investment. Pink, red and blue diamonds are the top choices when it comes to colored diamond investing, as their value increases over time. A natural black diamond would have to be very unique in some way in order to be considered a good investment.

If you feel a black diamond is beyond your budget, you can always go for an onyx or a similar black stone. However, bear in mind that these stones are not as durable as a black diamond.

Black diamonds in engagement rings

A black diamond engagement ring is a bold step and makes a striking statement! It is definitely not a feminine color, but instead comes across as a symbol of independence, confidence and non-conformity.

Most shoppers often have black diamonds as accent stones paired with a colorless diamond. This gives the ring a more neutral touch. You can also choose to have your centerpiece diamond surrounded by tiny black diamonds to create a halo.

Having said that, there are stunning engagement rings with black diamonds as the centerpiece. These are bold and eye-catching, and definitely unique.

Black diamonds pair well with yellow or white gold. For a classic look, that is simultaneously traditional and modern, choose yellow gold. For a modern vibe, pair with white colored metals, such as white gold, silver, platinum or palladium.

Because black is such a strong color, the clash of colors between the stone and the metal will give the ring a very striking look.

If you would like to browse, Leibish.com have some high quality black diamond engagement rings in their collection. Brilliant Earth also have a classy but small selection of black diamond engagement rings.

To design your own black diamond engagement ring, check the James Allen website which have a selection of loose black diamonds on offer.

How to take care of black diamonds?

Diamonds are prized for their hardness and durability. This is true of black diamonds as well, however they require more care than the average diamond. The reason is due to the numerous tiny fractures that are present in natural black diamonds. These can cause the stone to crack or break if subject to hard blows and knocks. Treat is like a delicate gemstone to ensure it lasts a long time.

Another fact to note is not to use ultrasonic or steam cleaners when cleaning black diamonds, as these can cause damage. Instead, use a commercial jewelry cleaner or soap and warm water with a soft brush.

When shopping for a black diamond

Whether you purchase your natural black diamond online or at a physical store, your retailer should disclose to you whether the stone is natural or treated. Always ensure that you receive a certificate of authenticity from a third party for your stone. GIA is considered to be consistent and very stringent when issuing diamond certificates.

Note that GIA does not provide an analysis for treated diamonds.

Also, buy your stone from a well-established reputable vendor with good customer service and after-sales services. Check the returns policy as well just in case.

While James Allen has a good inventory of black diamonds, Leibish is our top pick for colored diamonds.