A Buyer’s Guide to Yellow Diamonds

In brief

Precious, rare but very affordable compared to other colored diamonds, canary yellow diamonds are a perfect choice for engagement rings. You can choose between naturally-grown diamonds that may come with a premium, or synthetic diamonds which are cheaper, conflict-free, and environment-friendly.

If your heart is set on a colored diamond, a yellow diamond may be the best way to go. This is because yellow diamonds, also called Canary Yellow diamonds, are the most affordable of all the colored diamonds! They are also the most popular colored diamond on the market at present. The stone’s reputation as an ideal engagement ring choice has been fueled by a host of celebrities, including Adele, Carrie Underwood and Paris Hilton, flaunting yellow diamond engagement rings.

For a detailed introduction into what colored diamonds are, read our article on colored diamonds. It is interesting to note here though, that yellow diamonds get their color through the presence of nitrogen during the formation of the stone. Nitrogen alters the structure of the carbon atoms. These nitrogen atoms alter the way light is absorbed causing a change in the diamond’s hue. They are arranged in such a way that blue light is absorbed, resulting in a yellowish hue (this is the same way that orange diamonds get their color too). You could think of this as a mistake with good results.

A common colored diamond

Yellow diamonds are affordable as opposed to other colored diamonds because they are far more common.  For example, on the James Allen website, there are currently 2,536 yellow diamonds listed. True, in comparison to their inventory of over 100,000 white diamonds, this is hardly noteworthy, but compare that to the 15 blue diamonds they have or the 0 red diamonds (at the time of writing this article), and you begin to appreciate how common yellow diamonds are.

The colors of yellow diamonds

If you are familiar with the color scale of colorless diamonds, you will know that the chart runs from D to Z. D is on the colorless end but as the chart advances, the tint of the diamond gets progressively more yellow. The higher the tint, the lower the value of the diamond.

However, if you keep going on this continuum, you enter the range of yellow diamonds and then the price starts to pick up again. So on either end you have the priciest stones, with colorless stones having no yellow tint whatsoever while Fancy Vivid Yellow is intense and fully saturated without any colorless aspects to it.

How are yellow diamonds graded?

Most colored diamonds have a primary color (yellow in the case of yellow diamond) and is modified by secondary colors. These modifying colors can drastically alter the value of the diamond. The most common secondary colors for Canary Yellow diamonds are brown, green and orange. If a yellow diamond has a brownish tint, it drops in value.

On the other hand, if touched with greenish or orangey tints, the overall value of the stone increases. It is easy to see why. Green yellow and orange yellow diamonds are way more beautiful than brown yellow stones (unless you particularly prefer brown yellow diamonds, in which case you’re in luck because you can buy the stone you want at a much lower price than other tints!). When you receive a grading report for a yellow diamond, you will see that the stone is described exactly using a combination of the intensity level and the color/s of the stone.

Here are three examples. These three images have been taken from Leibish.com, a well-known and highly reputable vendor for colored diamonds. From left to right, fancy intense green yellow, fancy deep orange yellow, and fancy deep brown yellowYellow diamond with different secondary hues

Besides identifying the tones, yellow diamonds are also graded for their intensity which could fall under the following: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid. Faint and Very Light are very similar to color grades XYZ on the white diamond color chart.

Choosing a yellow diamond

As with colorless diamonds, the 4Cs play a big role when evaluating yellow diamonds. You can get smart with the combinations and play around with them, to find a stone that gives you the best value.  

Color

When it comes colored diamonds, color and intensity are critical aspects. The higher the intensity level (i.e. the stronger the yellow color), the more expensive the diamond will be. Price, as a rule of thumb, is very much dictated by supply and demand. The rarest ones – which happen to be the Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamonds – are also the most desired, making them the priciest.

You can maximize the color of the diamond by the settings and design you choose for it.

The impact of fluorescence on yellow diamond

Fluorescence in diamonds manifests itself as a blue color when exposed to UV light. Blue and yellow are complementary colors, meaning they are positioned opposite each other on the color wheel. As you may well know, mixing complementary colors (yellow and blue in this case) yields a neutral (dull) color. Applying this knowledge to the yellow diamond scenario, this means that if the diamond has strong fluorescence, it will look dull under UV light. Try to buy a stone that with minimal to none fluorescence.

Clarity

 Clarity is not as important for colored diamonds as it is for colorless, simply because the color of the stone tends to hide flaws. What may be a glaring flaw on a transparent diamond might hardly be noticeable on a yellow diamond. The trick here is just to make sure that your yellow diamond is “eye clean”, i.e. with inclusions that are invisible to the naked eye. As long as the stone is eye-clean, you will be fine.

Carat

Carat also significantly affects the price which often exponentially increases along with the weight of the yellow diamond. This means that a slight difference in carat could mean a huge spike in price. For example, one 1ct yellow diamond is priced much higher than two 0.5ct yellow diamonds.

If you want to get the best value for your money, remember that carat does not mean size. It refers to weight. You can buy a stone just under 1 carat with hardly any noticeable difference in appearance but with a big difference in price.

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 white diamonds but not so for colored. In a yellow colored diamond, the quality of the cut helps to bring out the best color of the stone.

Fancy shapes generally complement colored diamonds beautifully. They tend to bring out the best color of the stone.

How cheap are canary yellow diamonds?

When it comes to diamonds, cheap is a relative term. I mentioned that yellow diamonds are affordable. Considering that a red diamond (read our complete guide on red diamonds), for example, sells at about $100,000 per carat while you can find a good yellow diamond for about $3000, you see what I mean. It is very likely that you will be able to find one that suits your budget.

Most yellow diamonds on the lower end of the intensity chart are generally cheaper than colorless diamonds. But a high quality Fancy Vivid Yellow can be much higher in price than a similar colorless diamond.

Here are two diamonds listed on James Allen. The Yellow Diamond is a Fancy Vivid and costs $27,600 while a similar colorless diamond with excellent cut and flawless clarity is only $13,400.

Yellow diamondColorless diamond

Canary Yellow Diamonds in engagement rings

Why choose yellow?

Yellow diamonds are gorgeous as the centerpiece of engagement rings. From a color psychology standpoint, there are so many positive things that yellow symbolizes, including freshness, happiness, honor, loyalty and enlightenment – all perfect traits of a relationship ready to begin a new chapter. It is such an optimistic and joyous color! On the color spectrum, yellow is the hue that captures our attention the most.

Designs and settings

There are numerous ways to maximize the appearance of the stone you choose, mainly by choosing the settings and design of the ring wisely. For more information read our guide on settings and styles of engagement ring.

There are two main ways you can enhance the color of the yellow diamond in an engagement ring. One way is to set it in silver-colored metals, perhaps with a surrounding of white diamonds. The contrast of the yellow against the silver/white will really bring out the color of your stone. However, if the stone is on the smaller side, this setting may emphasize this fact. Currently, this is the trending style for yellow diamond mounting.

These rings, from Leibish.com, show yellow diamonds mounted in white gold.Yellow diamond with white gold

Conversely, you can have the yellow diamond mounted on yellow gold. You can have the stone surrounded by smaller yellow stones. This can enhance the color and make the stone appear larger. Of course personal preference will dictate which suits you best.

Among the most popular settings for yellow diamonds are halo, pave, shank and split shank. However, if you prefer a less showy ring, yellow diamonds look beautiful even with simple solitaire settings.

These rings  from Leibish.com, which have a wide and stunning collection of yellow diamond engagement rings, show yellow diamonds set against yellow gold.

Yellow diamond with yellow gold engagement ring

Another factor that can make a huge difference in enhancing the yellow color of a diamond is to use a yellow gold basket for the mounting. Regardless of the metal you choose for the ring, if the yellow diamond is mounted in a yellow gold box, this will make the diamond appear more saturated. The bring yellow color of the gold will act as a background for the diamond, intensifying its color. If done right, this basket trick can take the diamond a few grades higher on the intensity scale. Bear in mind that a bezel setting would also work in this case.

What are synthetic yellow diamonds?

Now, if your budget still won’t make the cut, there is a way around that. You can choose a synthetic yellow diamond. First of all, let me clarify that synthetic diamonds are not FAKE diamonds, as many shoppers so wrongly believe. They ARE diamonds, just lab-created, man-made diamonds formed through artificial processes, as opposed to natural diamonds created through geological processes.

Creating a lab diamond

In the same way that naturally-grown yellow diamonds attribute their color to nitrogen, lab-grown diamonds also get their color from nitrogen impurities. However, the color in synthetic yellow diamonds can be selected and adjusted by controlling the amount of nitrogen in the growing process. So to repeat, this is a real diamond, optically and chemically identical to mined diamonds. The only difference is that it was created in a lab.

Price of lab diamondsLab created yellow diamond

Yellow lab-grown diamonds are significantly cheaper than their mined equivalent, and can be a wise move if you want to budget. Synthetic yellow diamonds are the easiest colors to grow, and as a result, are the least expensive as well. You can save up to about 70%, making them quite affordable. Again, affordable in this context, is relative. This beautiful 1.80 carat, Fancy Vivid Yellow, cushion cut lab-grown diamond is listed on Brilliant Earth for $11,210.

An environmentally friendly-choice

Apart from the monetary aspect, synthetic diamonds are conflict-free. Because they are created in laboratories, no harm is inflicted to the environment by way of soil pollution or excessive emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases. So if you are someone who values the environment, a lab-diamond might be ideal for you.

Brilliant Earth has a wide range of yellow lab-grown diamonds as well as engagement rings. Be sure to check out their collection as you shop for your yellow diamond.

Enhanced yellow diamonds

Another cheaper alternative is to purchase an enhanced yellow diamond. These diamonds are created by taking a colorless diamond and subjecting it to various treatments that cause it to acquire a yellowish hue. You can find them in many sizes and shades. The best part is that you get the stone you want at a fraction of the price! Make sure you know the origin of your stone, though, to avoid paying more.

 

And to conclude…. unlike most other colored diamonds, you have heaps of choice when it comes to yellow diamonds. Most online vendors sell them and in relatively plenty supply. Ensure that your vendor is reputable and that you are provided with certification from a recognized lab. Also make sure that you have HD images of the stone so you know exactly what you are purchasing.