Jewelry Guide

Yellow diamond vs yellow sapphire: A quick guide

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Yellow diamond Vs.  yellow sapphire for engagement rings

Yellow diamond Vs. Yellow sapphireColored gemstones have recently seen a rise in popularity as an increasing number of people opt for non-traditional engagement rings. Yellow, as a positive, bright and happy color, is among the most popular choices. If you are on this page, you’re probably leaning towards a yellow stone. However, deciding on the color may be easier than choosing the gemstone you want.

The two best options for a yellow engagement ring gemstone are yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires. Both gemstones have their advantages and it can be difficult to pick one over the other without enough information to guide you.

So, without further ado, let’s compare and contrast both yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires in this article, paying attention to the criteria that matters.

Yellow diamonds vs. yellow sapphires: Color and appearance

When you buy a colored gemstone, the quality of the color is critical and has a direct impact on the value of the stone.

Yellow sapphires get their color from the trace element iron present during the formation process. The higher the amount of iron, the more intense the color and as a result, the more valuable the stone.

Under the umbrella of ‘yellow’ comes a range of tones. Sapphires can range from light to intense yellow, with some stones containing a greenish tint, caused by the trace element titanium (these are the stones you want to avoid).

Yellow sapphires with different color tones

Different tones of yellow sapphire

According to the Gemological Institute of America, the rarest in occurrence and the most sought after yellow sapphire is the vivid yellow and the orange yellow. If you select one of these, bear in mind that they do come with a premium.

Yellow diamonds, also called Canary diamonds, get their color from a trace element as well, in this case nitrogen.  The higher the concentration of nitrogen, the more intense the color. Yellow diamonds are usually found with secondary colors – brown, green and orange. Brownish tints decreases the value of the stone while orangey or greenish tints lifts the overall value.

Yellow diamond with different secondary colors

Yellow diamond with different secondary colors

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, while orangey and greenish hues lifts the price of the stone.

There is a scale to grade the color of colored diamonds. While this can vary slightly among vendors and gemologists, it generally follows this order:

Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid

You may be wondering now:

Do yellow sapphires and yellow diamonds look alike?

Not really. While the luster of a sapphire is exceptional, it is no match to that of diamonds. It all comes down to light refraction and brilliance.

With a yellow sapphire, it is all about the inherent color of the body. A top quality faceted yellow sapphire will have an impressive sparkle but placed next to a yellow diamond the difference will be clear. Diamonds are unsurpassed in their ability to play with light, resulting in unmatchable brilliance, scintillation, and sparkle. A high quality yellow diamond will not only have a beautiful tone but will also exhibit an extraordinary brilliance.

In addition to this, it is important to note that sometimes yellow sapphires can appear cloudy. One of the main shortcomings is that you will have to clean and polish the sapphire regularly to maintain its shine. When the surface of a yellow sapphire gets dirtied, it ceases to reflect light efficiently.

So what’s the bottom line?

The beauty in a yellow sapphire is in the color and not in the play of light; if this is what you are after, then choose a yellow sapphire. If, however, you want an engagement ring that that sparkles and glitters, then a yellow diamond will be ideal for you.

Yellow diamond vs yellow sapphire: hardness and durability

Because an engagement ring is something that you will wear on a regular basis, durability and hardness are important factors to consider.

The durability of gems is influenced by their ability to resist scratching, abrasion and chipping.

On the Mohs scale of hardness, diamonds reign supreme at number 10 and have the distinction of being the hardest known material in nature. Only another diamond can scratch a diamond’s surface. A sapphire has a ranking of 9, which is second only to diamonds.

As the Mohs scale is not linear, the difference between 10 and 9 means that diamonds are actually about 3 to 4 times harder than sapphires.

Since sapphires are not as hard as diamond, their surfaces are more prone to wearing due to scratching and abrasion. An engagement ring with a yellow sapphire stone would require extra care in terms of cleaning and polishing.

So do diamonds win in the durability department?

Interestingly, no. When it comes to toughness and resistance to chipping, sapphires have the upper hand.

One of the main limitations of a hard substance is their high brittleness. Yellow diamonds have a crystalline nature which makes them more prone to chipping, while a yellow sapphire shows exceptional resistance to chipping. Before you run out to buy a sapphire, just remember that this is almost nitpicking: engagement rings are rarely exposed to conditions that would cause them to chip and break.

The verdict:

Both yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires are exceptionally durable and are perfect for daily usage, making them ideal for engagement rings.

How do I evaluate the cut of a yellow sapphire and yellow diamond?

Unlike colorless diamonds, colored diamonds do not have a cut grading scale that evaluated the quality of a cut. When evaluating the cut of a yellow diamond, what is important is how well the cut brings out the yellow color of the stone.

Diamonds (and sapphires) can be cut into many specific shapes, some of which are:

Different shape and cuts of gemstones


For a colored diamond, such as yellow, it is best not to choose brilliant cuts (round and princess) as these aim to optimize brilliance and not color. The other cuts (called fancy shapes) are better suited for a colored diamond.

Yellow sapphires too do not have a cut grading scale. The focus would be on the overall cut and how this affects the sparkle, color and proportion of the stone. If poorly cut, a yellow sapphire will look lifeless and dull.

Yellow diamonds and yellow sapphire – price and value comparison

Diamonds are among the most expensive gemstones on the market, which means that if you are on a budget, then a sapphire might be more suitable. While sapphires are one of the 4 cardinal gemstones (diamonds, sapphires, emerald and rubies which have traditionally been considered more precious and valuable above all others) they are relatively very affordable.


In order to compare the prices of the two gemstones, I have taken a random selection of yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires from James Allen.

As you can see, most of these yellow sapphires have rich tones and are priced in the $450 – $800 range.

Yellow sapphire price range from James Allen


On the other hand, these cushion cut yellow diamonds of similar carat weight to the sapphires above, cost a whopping $12,000! Most of them are quite faint in color as well.

Yellow diamond pricr range from James Allen

A range of factors affect the value of the stone, including carat, cut, color and even where you decide to purchase the stone.

This brings us to the next point.

Which is rarer – yellow diamond or yellow sapphire?

Of all the colored diamond varieties, yellow diamonds are the most abundantly found in nature. They are easily obtained and the market has many options.

However, some types such as the Zimmy Vivid yellow diamonds are very rare and come with a premium, retailing with prices between $20,000 to $30,000 per carat.

Fine naturally occurring yellow sapphire are also rare, while pale yellow sapphire is relatively more widespread. However, when the pale sapphire is subjected to heat treatment, it is transformed into vivid orange and golden yellow tones.

This is standard industry procedure, so don’t worry if your yellow sapphire is heat treated. It does not diminish its value.

Synthetic Yellow sapphires and Synthetic Yellow diamonds

Both yellow diamonds and yellow sapphire stones can be created in labs, using advanced technology and science, resulting in gemstones that imitate the properties of the original.

You may be wondering:

But isn’t a synthetic stone fake?

No, they are not. Synthetic gemstones are identical chemically, physically and optically to their mined counterparts. It often takes a trained gemologist with professional tools to distinguish one from the other.

Synthetic, or lab-created, gemstones, in general, are increasing in popularity as they are affordable, ethical and sustainable. They don’t involve extreme mining practices or disruptions of ecosystems. An increasing number of vendors, such as Brilliant Earth who are known for their synthetic gemstones, offer beautiful man-made yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires.


Even though these stones are synthetic, they can still be pricey. Remember that they are still real diamonds and sapphires, and the lab-creation process is expensive and time-consuming. In the jewelry world, the term affordable is relative so check your options carefully.

The image below shows a screenshot of a couple of synthetic yellow diamonds taken from the Brilliant Earth website. As you can see, they are not much cheaper than their mined counterparts.

Lab created yellow diamond price range

Where to purchase a yellow sapphire or a yellow diamond?

The main benefit of shopping at a brick and mortar store is that you can try on the ring and see the gemstone clearly before you decide to purchase. The downside is that you will definitely not have as many options as you would if you took your search online.

Online shopping, unlike in the past, is becoming very efficient and convenient, as online retailers aim to streamline their customers’ shopping experience. Retailers such as James Allen provide exceptional customer service and support throughout the buying process. With less overheads to pay for, online vendors can sell their gemstones at much more affordable prices than physical stores.

And the best part?

You will have an endless array of options to choose from.

Regardless of whether you choose a yellow diamond or a yellow sapphire, ensure that you request a certificate of appraisal. Also choose a vendor that has HD images of the actual gemstone, and one that offers good resizing and returns policies.

So to recap:

A yellow diamond is superior to a yellow sapphire in a number of ways, including in brilliance and hardness, and that intangible but ever-present aspect: prestige and class.

A yellow sapphire, however, will not leave a big hole in your wallet and a top quality stone comes with a gorgeous hue and classic sparkle.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to purchase a yellow sapphire or yellow diamond for your engagement ring rests upon you. It depends on your lifestyle, budget, preferences and  priorities.


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