Diamonds in the normal color range are colorless. They are described using an industry defined color scale from D to Z. Fancy color diamonds, on the other hand, exhibit color beyond the Z range. These rare specimens come in every color of the spectrum.
The world’s first diamond color-grading system dates back to sixth-century India. The system was based on the country’s ancient class structure. Members of different status levels, or castes, were permitted to own and wear only diamonds of a specific color. Thus, diamonds served as a badge of rank. Priests and rulers were allowed to own diamonds that were “whitest of the conch, of the lotus, or of the rock crystal” (white to colorless). Landowners and warriors were assigned diamonds that were “the brown color of the eye of the hare.” The merchant class was allowed to own only diamonds that were the “pretty nuance of a petal of a kadl [flower]” (yellow). Members of the lower classes were assigned diamonds with “the sheen of a burnished sword” (gray or black). Kings were free to possess diamonds of any color.
Diamond color-grading systems have evolved of course. Today’s well-established methods for judging diamond color are based on much more than a comparison to conch shells, and the only restrictions to owning colored diamonds are availability and affordability. Fancy color diamonds come in every color you can imagine. Red, green, purple, and orange are generally the most rare, followed by pink and blue. Blacks, grays, and fancy whites are considered fancies, too. The 67.50-carat Black Orloff diamond, named after the Russian Princess Nadia Vyegin-Orloff, is one of the most well-known black diamonds. Yellows and browns are the most common fancy colors, and are generally less valuable than the rarer colors. Their beauty and the depths of color in which yellows and browns occur do still offer a wide range of possibilities, so they should not be discounted from consideration.
The value of a fancy colored diamond increases with strength and purity of color. Large, vivid fancy color diamonds are extremely rare and very valuable. Their popularity and availability have grown in the past several decades, in part due to the marketing of brown stones under trade names like “Champagne” and “Cognac.” Argyle, a producer of fancy colored diamonds, wanted to make the public more aware of fancy color diamonds and their efforts were a success. That same Argyle mine still produces brown diamonds, but it’s more famous now as the world’s major source of rare pink diamonds, which have done very well at auction in recent years.
Treatments such as heat, or high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) treatment are often employed to enhance the color of a particular stone. Manufacturers and jewelers are required to disclose any such treatments to the customer at time of purchase.
Images and Content Courtesy of GIA.edu.