When we think of diamonds, we think of their scarcity, their dazzling reflection of light, and the absence of all color in the very finest stones. But did you know that diamonds can be colored as well? Buying colored diamonds, also called fancy diamonds, can be tricky, though, and it’s important to learn more about these lovely stones before you make your purchase.

Fancy diamonds can found in twelve base colors: yellow, green, brown, orange, gray, pink, purple, violet, blue, red, black, and white. In addition to the primary color of a stone, secondary hues, as well as intensity matter when it comes to placing a value on a diamond. More intense hues, as well as certain preferable combinations of primary and secondary colors make stones more valuable.

Where do diamonds get their color?

In natural colored diamonds, each color is caused by different elements or conditions as the diamond is formed, and as you might guess, certain mines tend to yield gems of a particular color. Where are these diamonds found, and what turns these sparklers into colored jewels?

Brown, red, and pink: These hues are caused by the combination of intense pressure and heat, which distorts the crystal lattice structure of a diamond. These stones absorb green light as a result. They’re found in Australia – most notably in the Argyle mine – Angola, Borneo, Brazil, and Congo.

Gray and blue: When boron bonds with carbon, these stones absorb red, yellow, and green light. Gray diamonds are found in Australia, India, and Russia, while blue diamonds (including the famous Hope Diamond) are found in southern Asia.

Green: Very rare, green diamonds absorb naturally occurring radiation, causing them to absorb red and yellow light. Most are found in South America.

Violet and Purple: Though analysis isn’t definitive, these colors likely come from crystal distortion caused by the presence of hydrogen. Siberia is the most prominent source of these lovely gems.

Orange and Yellow: These sunny shades occur when nitrogen is present as the diamond forms. Most orange diamonds come from Africa, and South Africa in particular is a big source of yellow diamonds.

Black: Graphite is responsible for the color in black diamonds, and most of them are found in Africa and Brazil.

Fancy White: Though many people refer to colorless diamonds as “white,” fancy white diamonds are quite different. Tiny, submicroscopic inclusions give these gems a cloudy appearance, almost an opalescence. They’re found primarily in Africa.

So now that you’ve had a little science lesson about how colored diamonds are formed in nature, what else do you need to know?

Not all colored diamonds are natural.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that some diamonds are color-treated, but since methods and quality of colored stones can vary immensely, it’s critical that purchasers understand what kind of stone they’re considering. Color-treated diamonds are natural diamonds, rather than lab-grown ones – a critical distinction. Some colored diamonds are simply coated – a technique that’s never permanent and is nearly always intended to deceive a buyer about a stone’s value. High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) is a technique that can yield permanently colored stones, either with or without irradiation. It should be noted that HPHT is a controversial technique that can be used to improve the color of traditional diamonds as well as transforming undesirable colors into more marketable hues. HPHT can be difficult to detect, even by experienced jewelers.

What you need to know about buying colored diamonds.

If you’re considering purchasing a colored diamond, a few guidelines will help ensure you’re pleased with your purchase.

  1. If a stone’s price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Natural colored diamonds of good quality will be expensive.
  2. Natural colored stones should be GIA certified. With the abundance of treatments that can alter stone color, you need to be sure you know what you’re buying.
  3. Don’t expect treated colored diamonds to appreciate in value. Colored stones that have been treated can make for lovely pieces of fine jewelry, but these stones don’t make good investments.
  4. Make sure you understand the care instructions for treated stones. HPHT stones and irradiated stones can be damaged if heat is used in resetting or repairing jewelry.
  5. Only purchase from a jeweler you trust.

Jewelry featuring fancy colored diamonds can be exquisite, and a purchase from a reputable seller will ensure your pieces are fairly priced and ethically represented. MJ Gabel is always available to help answer any questions regarding the sale or purchase of fancy colored diamond jewelry.

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