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Fancy colored diamonds explained

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Fancy Colored Diamonds Explained

What makes the color of a fancy diamond so fascinating is the perfect unity of science and beauty that lies at the heart of its creation. These diamonds are often rare and very valuable, and adds that extra something to any piece of jewelry.

If you are trying to purchase a colored diamond, understanding a colored diamond’s formation process, rarity, value and history will be useful to help you choose the perfect stone.

Before diving into the various colors themselves, it will be imperative to understand how a diamond is created.

In this article, the terms fancy diamond and colored diamond have been used interchangeably.

What is a diamond?

To understand the process, we need to get a little bit technical. A diamond is a geometric pattern created by carbon atoms.

These atoms have to be pressurized by approximately 7,000 kilograms of pressure at 2,300 to 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (1,300 to 2,000 degrees Celsius) deep in the earth’s mantle. A natural diamond grows over 1 to 3.3 billion years.

How does a fancy colored diamond get its color?How to buy blue diamond for engagement ring

The only time a diamond will be colored naturally is if a mutation or outside element is introduced during the formation phase. For example, if the element boron is present during a diamond’s formation, the stone will obtain a bluish hue.

Different elements cause diamonds to achieve different hues. A colored diamond is discovered only once in every ten thousand colorless diamonds. This makes the colored diamond much more valuable than a colorless one.

How are fancy diamonds graded?

When purchasing diamonds, you will noticed the gems are graded by a system. This system rates the color of the diamond and its saturation. When it comes to grading fancy diamonds, color is everything.

The grading is listed as followed: Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid. The more saturated the color, the higher the grading the diamond will get, Fancy Intense being the highest grading.

But the Fancy grading system will not be the only category to consider. When examining what gems would most likely appeal to you, it helps to understand what scientific categories certain colors will fall under.

By understanding the science of the diamonds you will have a better eye for what holds more value than the average customer. The two categories the diamonds fall under are Type I and Type II.

Type 1 diamondsLab created yellow diamond

Type I diamonds are defined by the intake of nitrogen and blue light during the formation phase. Brown, Yellow and Orange diamonds will fall under this category.

If the nitrogen is evenly spread out, the color will be more deeply saturated. With deeper saturation the end result would be colors such as canary orange or a deep yellow.

The brown diamond is the most common color to be found of naturally colored diamonds. These are often much more affordable than other colored diamonds. On the market, these can have fancy names such as cognac diamonds and champagne diamonds to correspond with their specific colors.

Type 2 diamondsRed colored diamond

A larger array of diamonds fit under the Type II category including: Blue, Red, Pink and Green. Type II is determined by the lack of nitrogen during the diamonds creation. These stones are rarely saturated in color. This category holds the much rarer colors, which are more highly sought after but also very expensive.

The perfect example?

The pink diamond. There is a one in a million chance for a naturally occurring pink diamond to be created! The light and dainty color will certainly make for a breathtaking engagement ring or the center of a beautiful jewelry set.Green color diamond

Another rare diamond listed under the Type II category would be the green diamond. Not only is the color a beautiful shade, it also has a fascinating formula by which it receives its color. The green diamond will usually have muted hues of grey and brown, giving it an earthy but mystical appeal.

However, of all the colored diamonds, the red diamond is the rarest and only a handful naturally occurring reds are known to exist in the world.

Evaluating a fancy colored diamond

As with all diamonds, we always use the 4Cs to evaluate the quality of the stone. The 4Cs stand for cut, color, clarity and carat weight. Let’s take a look at how the 4Cs impact the value of a colored diamond.


As you might have guessed, the color is the most important aspect of a fancy colored diamond and has a direct impact on the value of the stone. When judging the color, we have to take into account the three aspects of hue, saturation and tone.

Hue – Hue refers to the colors that the diamond exhibits. The primary hue would be the main color that you see. If you have a yellow diamond, the main hue is yellow. However, most colored diamonds have secondary colors as well. The yellow diamond may have secondary tones of brown, orange or green. A green diamond may have flecks of gray and brown. As beautiful as it may be, if the diamond has a solid saturated green hue, then it would be considered rarer and have a higher value.

When a diamond is put on the market, the primary and secondary hues of the stone will give the stone its name. The stone can be easily described by listing these colors. For example, a green diamond with grey hues may be called a Fancy Greenish Grey. The overall color must be listed first but by also listing the secondary color, the diamond will not be mistaken for having a completely solid color.

ToneThe tone refers to how light or dark the diamond appears. The tone of the diamond is affected by how much light is absorbed by the stone. There can be a wide variety of tones – from very light to almost black. Colored diamonds often have descriptions such as Light Yellowish Orange – the word light in this example refers to the tone. Some other modifiers are very light, dark and deep. Generally, darker tones are more valued.

Saturation – Saturation refers to how intense the color of the stone is and this is where the Fancy grading system is brought into play. The less light that is able to show through the gem, the higher the grading the gem will receive. This is where color diamonds will get the most amount of scrutiny when being appraised and where the true value of the diamond will be realised.

I mentioned before that a fancy diamond gets its color through the introduction of a foreign element during the diamond’s formation. When considering the saturation of the stone, what is important is how that foreign element is spread throughout the geometric matrix of the diamond. The more evenly the element has spread, the higher the saturation of the diamond and therefore the higher the value of the diamond.

For example, if the diamond’s color is only prevalent on the edges of the diamond then the element has only spread so much. However, if the color is easily visible throughout the whole of the diamond then the element has spread throughout the entire pattern resulting in increased saturation.


Clarity refers to how clear your diamond is and is evaluated by identifying inclusions the diamond may have. The questions to ask when examining the diamond for clarity would be: Are there any blemishes even under magnification? Are there blemishes on just the surface or inside? Both?

While clarity is a critical factor for colorless diamonds, for colored diamonds, the clarity is the least important of the 4Cs. This is because most flaws in a fancy diamond are hidden by the color of the stone and therefore undetectable by the naked eye. When it comes to rare colored diamonds, even though there may be heavy inclusions, these are overlooked in favor of the color.  


With colorless diamonds, the cut is the most important factor as it brings out the stone’s brilliance and sparkle. Interestingly, when it comes to colored diamonds, even the cut is used to enhance the color of the stone and the stone is cut to achieve the best color. When evaluating cut, examine how the cut distributes the light throughout the gem and how the light reflects off the gem.

It is typical for colored diamonds to be cut into fancy shapes, such as radiant, cushion, heart, pear, marquise and so on. Radiant and cushion are generally favored as they bring in the most light and bring out most of the natural color of the stone. While Pear and Oval are excellent choices as they tend to bring out the color beautifully, they can also be expensive choices. You will find that the round brilliant shape is not a common cut for fancy diamonds, as it does not achieve the best color of the stone.

What are synthetic and enhanced colored diamonds?

Synthetic and enhanced diamonds are two excellent alternatives to this dire shortage of colored diamonds! Synthetic colored diamonds are grown in labs and can be much cheaper than naturally occurring diamonds.

Enhanced diamonds are colorless diamonds that have undergone treatment, such as irradiation, which then gives it a permanent hue. Many of the fancy diamonds on the market are in fact enhanced or lab-grown. This fact is generally stated on the grading report.

As I said before, these two options are great choices if you wish to purchase a fancy diamond but cannot find a stone that is within your parameters.

Fancy colored diamonds through history

Colored diamonds have fascinated humans for centuries. Probably the most famous of these would be the stunning dark blue Hope Diamond, which now resides in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C in the United States.

Another rare diamond to make history and one of the oldest diamonds in the world would be the “Darya-i-Nur” or Ocean of Light, and is a whopping 182 carats! Very few diamonds are discovered in such a shade let alone impressive size. This amazing light pink diamond remains part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.

Of all diamonds, the Golden Jubilee diamond is the largest cut and faceted stone. It weighs an incredible 545.67 carats. This cushion cut brown diamond is said to be worth about $12 million. After being blessed by the Pope, as well as Buddhist and Islamic leaders, it was given as a gift to the king of Thailand. 

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