Engagement Rings 101

Colored Diamond Engagement Rings: Everything You Need to Know About “Fancy Diamonds”

The typical diamond - the first image that comes to mind - is of the brilliantly sparkly, pure white stone we've all become accustomed to seeing. But this isn't the only kind of diamond.

Actually, far from it - the majority of the world's diamonds have slight hints of color, and the infamous colorless diamonds actually make up only about 8% of all the diamonds in the world.

The other 92% of diamonds have some color, but not all of them qualify as "fancy" diamonds. So what is a fancy diamond?

What are fancy diamonds?

In order to be a "fancy," the diamond must have either a certain color or an intensity of color - be it gray, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, pink, purple, brown, or black. Such fancy diamonds are extremely rare - only one in every 10,000 diamonds!

Fancy diamonds range in color. In fact, they come in pretty much every color of the rainbow. The value of these diamonds depends on both the hue and the intensity of the coloration. Although colored diamonds are generally rarer and often more expensive, there are always exceptions and you might have the luck of finding a beautiful fancy color diamond for less than what you'd pay for a traditional white diamond.

How are colored diamonds created?

"At certain times of the day the sky is colored. At sunrise - you have what colors? Yellow, orange, and red. Suppose your diamonds take shape at these moments. They are reflecting the yellow or the red, and it becomes a part of them. Or if it is not sunrise or sunset, but the middle part of the day when the sky is blue, they reflect the blue. Just at the moment they (diamonds) turn hard they take on the color of the sky. If they are formed at night when there is no color for them, they become pure and colorless - what we call white. This is how it happens, I am sure." - Mr. Briefel, diamond cutter.

The above quote, spoken in an interview of a diamond cutter in the early 1950s perfectly captures the mystery surrounding colored diamonds. Even now, for all our technological advances, we still don't know the exact causes for certain colors of diamonds.

A popular - and quite meaningful - explanation is that the beautiful colors of fancy diamonds are actually caused by "inclusions" - or diamond "flaws" that are transformed into gorgeous colors. For example, orange diamonds are thought to get their color from nitrogen inclusions and green diamonds are believed to have derived their color from exposure to radiation.

Are colored diamonds better than white diamonds?

This is a popular question about colored diamonds and the only answer is yes and no. Colored diamonds can be considered more valuable than colorless diamonds, but this depends on both on the intensity of the color as well as the actual color itself.

A good place to start answering this question is to first understand which diamonds qualify as "colored" diamonds. You already know that only 8% of all the world's diamonds are colorless - this means that the other 92% must be colored diamonds - and yes, 92% are colored but not all of the 92% qualify as colored, fancy diamonds. This is because the majority of that 92% have color - but not enough of it.

You see, the majority of the world's diamonds have hints of yellow and brown. These faint traces of color are the most common - and the least desired. As you may already know, diamonds are graded according to the 4 C's - CUT, COLOR, CLARITY, and CARAT-WEIGHT - and this is the scale to measure a (colorless) diamond's COLOR:

The closer a diamond is to "Colorless," the more valuable it is. The majority of diamonds have traces of yellow and brown that give them a color grading somewhere between K and Z and decrease their value. But it's only when a diamond has enough yellow or brown color (more than "Z") that it falls outside of this color grading scale altogether and qualifies as a "fancy diamond."

how to buy a diamond ring

So, the value of a colored diamond depends partly on the intensity of the color. A light yellow tint is frowned on, but a deep yellow color qualifies as a "fancy diamond."

But another aspect that matters more in the value of a colored diamond is the actual color of the diamond. The color of the diamond often matters more than the intensity of that color simply because certain colors are more rare and more desired by the public. For example, diamonds that are pink, blue, or red are extremely rare - and thus, more valuable.

What should I know about buying colored diamonds?

It's good to keep in mind that white diamonds and fancy diamonds are not valued according to the same criteria. When it comes to fancy diamonds, COLOR is the most important of the 4 C's, followed by CARAT-WEIGHT. A diamond that has a low intensity of rare colors is not measured according to the same color grading scale as colorless diamonds (see above), and increases in value as the color intensity increases.

For fancy diamonds, the CUT proportions and CLARITY matter less than they do for white diamonds. That's because white diamonds are CUT to maximize sparkle or brilliance so the precise CUT can make a big difference. Fancy color diamonds, on the other hand, are primarily CUT to emphasize their color.

CLARITY is also less important since the inclusions that a fancy diamond may have will usually be masked by its color.

Another useful tidbit about fancy colored diamonds is that they are usually cut into non-traditional SHAPES in order to enhance their natural color.

Remember that SHAPE differs from CUT. CUT describes a diamond's light performance, SHAPE refers to the overall outline of the diamond. See diamond SHAPES here.

Because fancy color diamonds are so rare, it might be difficult to find a specific shape in a specific color at any given time.

What are the varieties of colored diamonds?

Fancy diamonds come in pretty much all the colors of the rainbow. Some colors are more rare than others and a few colors are more in demand - both factors that affect the value (and price) of those diamonds.

Here we list the fancy color diamonds so you can read more about each color in detail!

Champagne Diamonds

Champagne, aka brown, diamonds are by far the most abundant color of diamond and also the most affordable of the colored diamonds.

Champagne diamond engagement rings started gaining popularity around the mid-1980s and have been increasing in popularity ever since, showing up on the red carpet and attracting more public focus.

These lovely brown diamonds range from golden to a deep, brown, "cognac" color and are also known as brown diamonds, cognac diamonds or chocolate diamonds. The lighter brown shades are referred to as Champagne diamonds and the darker browns are called Cognac, or Chocolate, Diamonds.

These brown-hued diamonds happen to be the most common color and thanks to their relative abundance, are also the most affordable diamonds. The price range for a 1 carat brown diamond generally ranges between $2,500 and $6,000 but it is not difficult to find a gorgeous brown diamond ring for less than $1,000.

These brown color diamonds can be found with a single, pure color and one, two, or even three of the following secondary hues; Pure, Yellow, Yellowish, Pink, Pinkish, Orange, Orange-y, Greenish, Greenish Yellow, Purple, and Reddish.

Popularity of different shades of brown color diamonds is rapidly growing. They are found with Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Deep and Fancy Dark intensity grades depending on the secondary colors of the stone.

Black Diamonds

Mysterious, elegant, and dramatic, black diamonds also have the advantage of being one of the most affordable of the fancy color diamonds. Black diamonds can be found in only one color intensity level: fancy black.

Black diamond engagement rings are generally more affordable than the traditional white diamond engagement ring - plus, more chic and stylish. Black diamonds spiked in demand after the 2010's Sex and the City scene when Big gave Carrie Bradshaw a stunning five-carat black diamond ring. Mysterious, elegant, and dramatic, black diamonds have a definite "awe" factor and is perfect for the woman who likes to draw stares.

Although black diamonds are opaque and don't have the fire normally associated with diamonds, they have an intense shine and a unique charm that keeps them in strong demand. The price range for a 1 carat black diamond generally ranges between $2,500 and $6,000 but it is not too difficult to find a stunning black diamond ring for less than $1,500.

Yellow Diamonds

The majority of the world's diamonds have slight traces of yellow, which actually lower their value. But once the yellow color is strong enough to fall outside the "colorless" grading scale, that diamond becomes a fancy yellow diamond.

Yellow, or canary, diamonds have been surging in popularity lately. They are currently the most in-demand color of the fancy diamonds. Their popularity can be attributed both to their bright, unique hue and the fact that yellow diamonds are among the more affordable color diamonds.

The price range for a 1 carat yellow diamond ranges greatly, depending on the shade and intensity, as well as carat-weight. Generally, a 1 carat yellow diamond will cost between $7,000 and $300,000. Unlike the brown or black diamonds, you'll be hard-pressed to find a yellow diamond engagement ring below $1,500 but it should not be too hard to find a stunning yellow diamond engagement ring between $2,000 to $3,000.

The popularity of these yellow gems is also due to the highly publicized yellow diamond engagement rings of starlets like Rebecca Romjin and Kelly Clarkson.

Fun fact: Yellow diamonds are thought to be caused by the concentration of nitrogen combined with the carbon that forms the diamonds.

Orange Diamonds

Like with most fancy color diamonds - it is very rare to find a pure orange diamond. Larger orange diamonds with naturally vivid orange hues are a rarity and can make headlines with their high prices.

It is far more common to find orange diamonds with secondary colors, such as pink, yellow, or brown.

Pink Diamonds

Is there anything more feminine, more romantic than a pink diamond? Pink diamonds are second only to yellow diamonds in terms of market demand, but pink is far more rare - fewer than one percent of all diamonds - and thus, also more expensive.

The exact cause of pink-hued diamonds is still unknown, making this color as mysterious as it is gorgeous. One popular theory is that the lovely pink hue is the result of an tremendous amount of pressure placed on these diamonds which cause something known as "plastic deformation" - an interesting example of beauty formed through hardship.

One thing you should keep in mind when buying pink diamonds is that these diamonds are very rare and usually fetch an average of 20 times the price of an equivalent white diamond. The value of a pink diamond explodes as its size and color intensity - the largest pink diamond ever just fetched a whopping $17 million last year.

So these pink beauties are popular...but expensive.

A one-carat, vivid or intense pink diamond of medium purity could have a price tag in the hundreds of thousands. Pink diamonds that are much smaller and/or with less vivid hue will of course be more affordable, but it is difficult to find pink diamonds for less than $3,000.

Blue Diamonds

The infamous Hope Diamond is probably the most well-know of the fancy blue color diamonds.

Blue diamonds can be found in all intensities: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep, and Fancy Dark - with the value of the diamond increasing along with the color intensity.

The combination of boron and carbon is what causes different shades of blue colors in the stones.

Fancy blue diamonds have a royal, luxurious appearance and have fetched record prices at the world's largest auction houses. Intense blue diamonds can cost a small fortune, even outside of an auction house. A one-carat Fancy Dark Blue diamond can average between $300,000 to $800,000! You can definitely find smaller carats at more affordable prices, but expect to pay at least $3,000 for a decently-sized blue diamond engagement ring.

Green Diamonds

Green diamonds range from lighter minty hues to a deep green, with prices increasing along with color intensity. Aqua colors - known as Chameleon colors - are also popular.

Unlike any of the other colored diamonds, the brilliant green color of these diamonds is caused by natural gamma radiation.

Red Diamonds

colored diamond engagement rings

Red diamonds are the rarest of all the fancy color diamonds and pure red diamonds are the rarest and highest priced in the world. They're so rare, in fact, that most jewelers have never seen one. Natural red beauties have fetched around a million dollars per carat.

Most red diamonds have slight overtones of purple, brown, or orange. There is only one intensity grade for red color diamonds: Fancy Red, with modifying hues.

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