The Ultimate Guide to Colored Diamonds
Diamonds. The word alone commands respect as it rolls off the tongue. A stone that has long become synonymous with love, glamour and prestige, diamonds are the rock stars of their peers. Finding them is cause for celebration. Getting them can be a point of pride. And handing them down is an act often cherished and repeated for generations.
Diamonds are equal parts nature and skill. Rated a 10 out of 10 on the Mohs scale for minerals, diamonds are one of the hardest substances on Earth. Even the word “diamond” means “indestructible” or “invincible” in Greek. They’re a geological miracle, a gift, a language that crosses cultural and language barriers that has earned its prestigious status in our social mindset over centuries.
The most famous of diamonds speak of a history that is just as important as the stone itself. From the way they are cut over time to who possessed them throughout history, diamond history is our own. It explains why many famous diamonds are showcased by museums and travel all over the world. Great diamonds are a wonder that should be witnessed by everyone across the globe.
For many, diamonds are the best investment, a reflection of personal style used to commemorate and celebrate an achievement or personal milestone. If you want to remembered, you get diamonds.
How Diamonds Are Born
Diamonds are created from once pure carbon after it is put through extreme heat and extreme pressure. The combination of heat and pressure forces the carbon atoms to bond almost perfectly, creating a mineral that can not only withstand the conditions, but is made stronger because of it.
Diamonds are formed in four ways:
1. Through deep-source volcanic eruptions inside the Earth’s mantle
2. By high-pressure and high-heat processes in subduction zones
3. Inside asteroid impact sites
4. In outer space (meteors, asteroids, etc.)
Almost all of the diamonds on the market today are born through deep-source volcanic eruptions inside the Earth’s mantle, about 90 miles below ground near volcanic areas where temperatures can reach up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Although diamonds can be created through the other three methods using less heat and pressure, the diamonds found in those examples are usually smaller and are not likely candidates for market consumption.
Read on for the Ultimate Guide to Colored Diamonds…
What Are Colored Diamonds?
Not every piece of carbon that goes through the same process comes out a diamond. The process can be nulled by the presence of other minerals. Sometime, however, the right amount of boron, nitrogen or even radiation results in what we know as fancy color diamonds.
Colorless diamonds are fascinating all on their own, but the process by which fancy color diamonds are born, selected, cut and graded is equally fascinating — and slightly different. If you’re looking for a guide to fancy color diamonds, understanding the process through which fancy color diamonds are created, how they are cut and what makes certain diamonds special throughout history, this one can be helpful in picking out the right diamond for you. What are colored diamonds that you’ll commonly see? Take a look at these popular colors:
Blue Diamonds are created by the presence of boron in the crystallization process. The color can range from a light baby blue to a deep royal blue depending on strength of color. Blue diamonds often present secondary hues of grey, violet or even green, and they are extremely rare in nature. They have mostly been found inside the Cullinan Diamond Mine 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) east of Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South Africa.
Pink diamonds are created by the stress put on the diamond’s atomic structure through electrons, usually as they find their way to the Earth’s surface. The colors range from a soft bubblegum pink to a deep merlot. Many of what can be considered red diamonds are actually deep pink ones, as red diamonds are extremely rare. Pink diamonds can carry secondary hues of orange, brown, grey or purple, and they can be found in areas of Brazil and Australia.
Green diamonds are the result of natural radiation and can be found in regions of Africa and South America. Colors range from light minty green to deep forest green, and they are some of the rarest natural color diamonds second only to true red fancy color diamonds. Green diamonds can carry hues of yellow, blue or gray, and they can be found in regions of Africa and South America.
Yellow diamonds get their hue when nitrogen is present in the atomic structure of the diamond after the diamond is formed. The colors range from lemon to deep canary, and they can contain orange, green or brown secondary hues. Yellow diamonds are slightly easier to find in comparison to other colors, and they make up about 60% of the fancy color diamond market. They are found in the Cape Province in South Africa, as well as in parts of Russia and Australia.
Famous Fancy Color Diamonds
Some fancy color diamonds are so exquisite that they have been showcased in museums. Many of them can be recognized by name, and they make special appearances in popular culture, including movies, television and advertisements.
The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond is the most popular blue diamond, with a recorded history dating back to the mid-1600s and was once owned by Marie Antoinette. Like many diamonds with a long history, the Hope Diamond is cushion cut, the most popular cut before the round cut took the center stage. It is set on a necklace surrounded by 16 cushion- and pear-shaped diamonds, but it has been reset for special occasions or displayed on its own.
At 45 carats, the Hope Diamond has changed hands several times throughout history and was considered lost several times. The Hope Diamond has been known by many names, including Tavernier Blue or The French Blue, as it was stolen during the French Revolution. It was named for Lord Francis Hope after he bought it in the early 1830s. Today sits in the National Gem and Mineral collection at the National Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. for all to see.
The Yellow Tiffany Diamond
The yellow Tiffany Diamond is one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered, and it is one of the most famous diamonds of all time. Originally discovered in 1878, it weighed a little over 287 carats in raw form. It was later cut down to a cushion cut of 128.53 carats to bring out the natural brilliance of the stone, a task that required planning, courage and skilled insight. It has traditionally been set on a pendant known as the Bird on a Rock pendant, but had been seen displayed on its own.
The yellow Tiffany Diamond is owned by Tiffany & Co. and was on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on loan. It has been known to be worn by only two people throughout history, one of them being Audrey Hepburn, who wore it in publicity photographs for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The Noor-ul-Ain Diamond
The Noor-ul-Ain diamond is a pale pink diamond believed to be originally from India. It is not the largest pink diamond to be found. That honor is reserved for the Daria-i-Noor diamond, weighing in at 182 carats.
Some believe that the Noor-ul-Ain diamond and the Daria-i-Noor diamond were actually cut from a larger diamond named the Great Table Diamond as described by French jeweler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in 1642, the same merchant who discovered and sold the Hope Diamond. This belief was supported in 1965 by the Royal Ontario Museum after their own team conducted research on both gems.
At 60 carats, the oval cut Noor-ul-Ain Diamond is special because it was set in a tiara by Harry Winston, surrounded by large yellow, pink and white diamonds set in platinum. The tiara was made for the Iranian Empress Farah Pahlavi to wear at her wedding in 1958. Today both diamonds are secured at the Central Bank in Tehran and are part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.
The Dresden Green Diamond
The Dresden Green Diamond is the largest and most popular of the natural green diamonds. Pear shaped and weighing in at 41 carats, it is often presented alongside the Hope Diamond for its cultural significance. In 1768, it was set on a hat clasp ornament surrounded by a total of 413 diamonds and remains in that setting today.
With a history that dates back to 1722, the Dresden Diamond has been around long before the technology for artificial irradiation existed, making it a true natural fancy color diamond. The Dresden Diamond is named after the capital of Saxony in Germany, where it has been on display for the majority of its history.
The Dresden Diamond is currently being used to help identify other diamonds that are naturally colored. It is on display in the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) at the Dresden Castle.
Guide to Selecting Fancy Color Diamonds
Selecting and ultimately buying colored diamonds is an exciting process. It’s an experience that offers something for everyone. It’s a great opportunity to learn how diamonds are created and what makes them so valuable.
Savvy shoppers who love to learn about a product before making a decision will be fascinated to learn how fancy colored diamonds are born, as well as how they are cut, measured and set. For shoppers who enjoy picking items out by instinct or look for “that special feeling”, diamonds offer something for them, too, as there is no substitution for what is pleasing for the wearer and what catches the eye.
You may have heard of the 4Cs: the four main elements that go into grading the quality and value of a diamond. The 4Cs are:
Colorless diamonds are rated based on the lack of color present in the diamond. The closest the diamond comes to colorless, the higher the grade. Fancy color diamonds are the complete opposite. The higher the intensity and depth of color, the more rare and valuable the diamond.
A true fancy color diamond is rated by several characteristics. For starters, hues are the colors inside the diamond that are visible to the eye. Diamonds are comprised of primary and secondary hues. Secondary Hues, also known as modifying colors, are the secondary colors that are make up the overall colors of the diamond. There are 27 hue combinations for fancy color diamonds. A modestly pink diamond with blue secondary hues can be identified as a Fancy Bluish Pink Diamond.
Grade is the combination of tone and saturation of the color seen in the diamond. It measures both the shade of the color as well as how strongly the color is saturated in the stone. The higher the tone and saturation, the higher the grade.
Color distribution is the rate at which color is distributed evenly across the stone. Color distribution ranges from Uneven to Even, and it can sometimes be invisible to the eye. It is a determining factor in overall value.
For fancy color diamonds, color intensity is rated from light to vivid. The more vivid the color, the more rare and valuable the stone. The levels are:
• Light — The lowest color intensity and most affordable.
• Fancy — The second level of intensity, representing slightly rarer and valuable diamonds.
• Intense — Deeper intensity than fancy and more valuable.
• Vivid — The highest intensity level. The rarest and most deeply hued diamonds are rated vivid, and they are the highest value.
Clarity is measured for fancy color diamonds the same way as colorless, noting inclusions, blemishes and imperfections that otherwise detract from the diamond’s clarity. With fancy color diamonds, however, inclusions are less likely to disrupt what is seen by the naked eye. That is because inclusions can be disguised by the color, making fancy color diamonds with inclusions a bit more affordable than their colorless counterparts.
Not to be confused with karat — the unit of measurement for gold — carat weight is the universal unit of measurement for precious stones. The name comes from carob seeds, the original unit of measurement for stones, which is equal to 0.2 grams or 200 milligrams. Carat weight does factor into the overall value of the diamond, but it does not necessarily equate size to the naked eye. A lower carat weight diamond that is cut to enhance fire and brilliance may also be more valuable than a larger uncut or badly cut diamond.
Cut refers to the relationship a diamond has with itself — a balance between symmetry and proportion. These components work together to maximize the brilliance a diamond produces. A badly cut diamond can look dull and lifeless, while a well-cut smaller diamond can look better. This is one of the most important things to look for when buying colored diamonds.
Throughout history, cutting a diamond was considered taboo. In part, it was because many techniques were inefficient or risky. With one wrong move, the diamond would be worthless. Once it was discovered that only diamonds could cut diamonds, they were polished into shapes using diamond dust. It was through this technique that the rosette cut was born. Today, advances in technology have allowed us to cut diamonds into interesting and modern shapes that bring out the overall brilliance and fire of the stone.
Fancy color diamonds come in many shapes, some of which represent historical methods of diamond-cutting techniques. When picking out your fancy color diamond, shape may also be a determining factor for your selection. You can choose from:
The Asscher cut — A variation of the emerald cut, a properly asscher-cut diamond will look as if it has concentric squares down through the table. An Asscher-cut diamond will have larger step facets than an emerald-cut one, with a higher crown and a smaller table, producing more brilliance.
The Cushion cut — The most popular cut before the popular round cut, the cushion cut is also known as the “Old Miner’s Cut”. A cushion-cut diamond is a square with rounded corners and is often sought after for its antique look. The cushion cut offers less brilliance but better fire than round-cut diamonds.
The Emerald cut — A shape that was originally developed through the cutting of emeralds, emerald-cut diamonds are known to have large, open tables with a step-cut pavilion. Emerald-cut diamonds are a symbol of subdued elegance, creating a hall-of-mirrors effect with light and darkness.
The Heart cut — Developments in diamond-cutting techniques have brought us the heart-shaped diamond, as it is an exercise in symmetry and balance. It is imperative that both sides of the heart match for this brilliant-cut diamond to shine. Heart-shaped diamonds are a clear symbol of love, and the bigger, the better.
The Marquise cut — With a name derived from the Marquise of Pompadour, the marquise-cut diamond has the largest crown of all the shapes, making it the ideal cut for those who want to maximize perceived size per carat. Marquise-cut diamonds are an exercise in symmetry, as any imbalance will affect the fire and brilliance reflected off the stone.
The Oval cut — A unique version of the round diamond cut, the oval cut diamond can be the middle ground between the marquise and the round. Oval-cut diamonds are a great option if you want to wear it alone or surrounded by other diamonds or gems. The oval-cut diamond can also create the illusion of a slimmer finger or a larger diamond.
The Pear cut — Another middle ground between the marquise and the round-cut diamond, pear-cut diamonds are almost as old as cushion-cut ones. Pear-cut diamonds also require symmetry and are ideal for earrings and pendants.
The Princess cut — The most popular fancy cut and second only to the round cut, aprincess-cut diamond may offer a smaller surface area but gives the illusion of larger size. Because a princess-cut diamond creates better yield, it’s also more affordable than a round-cut diamond. Wear it alone or flanked by other stones, the princes cut works in almost every setting.
The Radiant cut — The radiant-cut diamond has a complete brilliant-cut facet crown and pavilion, making it the first cut to offer brilliance and fire. A middle ground between the princess and cushion cut, the radiant-cut diamond is both updated and classic.
The Round cut — Round-cut diamonds are the most popular type of diamond sold. They offer the most in brilliance and fire, and due to advancements in laser-cutting technology, round-cut diamonds have been perfected to reflect the most light out of all the diamond cuts.
Anatomy of a Diamond
Each diamond has three main parts: the crown, girdle and pavilion.
The crown of a diamond is found on top of the diamond and is the part most often visible to the eye. The crown is composed of the table, or the flat surface on the top of the diamond. It also includes the Star, bezel and upper girdle facets, which are three rows of light-reflecting facets that direct light to the pavilion.
The girdle is just like its namesake — it sits on the middle of the diamond, where the crown and pavilion meet. The girdle can be faceted or smooth, thick or thin. A thick girdle might add carat weight to the diamond but may not affect the overall size visible to the eye, especially if the diamond is set around the girdle. A thin girdle, however, may be prone to chipping, as it will be more vulnerable.
The pavilion is found on the bottom half of the diamond and is comprised of the lower girdle faces, the pavilion facets and the cutlet. All three are responsible for reflecting light back out to the crown. Some diamonds have a very small cutlet, as a too-large cutlet may allow light to escape through the bottom of the diamond, reducing overall brilliance.
How to Buy Colored Diamonds
Knowing how to pick a fancy color diamond based on color, carat weight, clarity and cut is important, but these elements don’t have to be the most important factors that go into picking out a diamond. There are other factors that add to the value of a diamond. Based on your personal preference, these factors may actually be more important than the 4Cs. Here’s a quick guide on how to buy colored diamonds once you’ve found a color that you like. Consider:
Fancy color diamonds can be set on rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants, to name a few. Depending on setting, a number of smaller fancy color diamonds might be more satisfying than one large one. If you’re shopping for fancy color diamonds as a reflection of your personal style, consider using different settings and diamond combinations for a unique look.
Sometimes it’s not the value of the stone, but the experience of the artist. You may have the opportunity to have your piece designed by a professional, and depending on the artist, this may actually add value to the completed piece. If it works for you, consider picking out a design first and then selecting your stones. This will yield more bang for your buck and return you with a piece that speaks uniquely to you.
The most famous diamonds are also rich with history. Knowing how to pick a quality diamond may help you find value, but there is also value in what you add to a piece. A diamond picked out today may be worth twice as much to someone you love years from now, so don’t discount the value that your own history will add over time.
These are a few technical colored diamond tips to help you pick out the right fancy color diamond for you, but there’s no substitute for the shopping experience. Search through the Liori Diamonds inventory at your own leisure to compare shapes, prices and colors. Who knows, you may just find the diamond for you.