Are All Yellow Diamonds Equally Beautiful and Valuable?

Author Sue Davidson, G.G.
Date Feb 15, 2021

Are All Yellow Diamonds Equally Beautiful and Valuable?There's a lot of buzz lately around the color of diamonds and ones that are now called "fancy" colored. But what is the difference between a yellow diamond that is is rare and highly sought after vs one that is an undesirable shade of yellow?

A diamond's color is important to understand, especially as you learn and analyze the Four Cs of diamonds. Diamond color plays an important role in the overall value of the diamond and will help determine how much you end up paying for it.

We'll breakdown the different factors that give a diamond its unique color and show you desirable vs undesirable colors in diamonds. Here is everything you will need to know about a diamond's color:

GIA Diamond Color Grading System

In the 1950s, the GIA (i.e., Gemological institute of America) established the now world renowned color grading system for diamonds. Legend has it that prior to this grading system, diamonds were also loosely graded in the trade as A, AA, AB etc. Now, it is hard to believe that all the diamonds bought and sold were within an A or B color range. As the story goes, A, B and C were eliminated forcing the diamond trade out of their vague terminology and adhere to a consistent and well defined standard.

With the GIA color grading scale, diamonds are precisely graded within a D-Z scale. Why does the color grading scale start with the letter D? Prior to the 1940’s and 50’s, the diamond color grades were referenced by the location of the mines they came from in South Africa. Wesselton was the name of a kimberlite pipe delivering many fine colorless diamonds. Wesselton and Fine Wesselton refer to true colorless diamonds. Diamonds with a slight tint of yellow were offered from the Cape of Good Hope thus referred to as Cape.

Are All Yellow Diamonds Equally Beautiful and Valuable?

The "Best" Color Is No Color

The most desired color of diamond is one without color, making its value correspond directly with its colorlessness. In diamond quality grading, colorless diamonds are those stones that do not have visible yellowish tints. According to the grading scale of the GIA, such diamonds are put in the colorless grading range and are assigned a letter grade of D (the highest), E or F.

The next best grading range is called near colorless. Diamonds classified here are assigned a grade of G, H, I or J. Many of these stones to an untrained eye don’t show any signs of color when looked at in isolation, although they do appear slightly darker or more yellow if put next to a colorless diamond in natural light or day light equivalent florescent lighting. Diamonds whose color is graded with a letter grade from K down to Z have stronger yellowish tints, which vary in intensity from faint to light yellow in color.

Factors That Affect Diamond Color

It is important to keep in mind even if a diamond has a D color rating, if it is poorly cut it will still appear dull and not perform well in the light. It is also important to understand that the specific color grade of a diamond can be visually confused by the brilliance and fire that different lighting can cause. This is why diamonds are graded table down (which means upside down, the opposite of how a diamond is set in a ring). The diamond color is graded using a matte finished white background with a balanced, daylight equivalent florescent light as part of its strict grading protocol. Looking at the diamond this way gives you the best view of its actual color.

Fancy Colored Diamonds

A lot of people assume that yellow diamonds that are graded poorly (a N to Z grade) on the GIA scale and fancy yellow diamonds are the same thing. But, these two types of diamonds could not be more different in value, price, scarcity and appearance. Just take a look at the two diamonds below to see the visual difference between them:

Are All Yellow Diamonds Equally Beautiful and Valuable? Are All Yellow Diamonds Equally Beautiful and Valuable?

The diamond on the left is a Z colored diamond while the diamond on the right is a vivid fancy yellow color.

How are fancy colored diamonds created? Blue, green, yellow, pink, and orange are among the most rare diamond colors. Diamond is a rare, naturally occurring mineral composed of carbon. One of the conditions that determines fancy diamond color is the presence of impurities other than carbon. For instance, the presence of nitrogen is responsible for the yellow tint you see in this diamond. When a diamond has the attractive, vibrant yellow color shown in the ring on the right, it is considered fancy and it is a valuable stone. Find out about other fancy diamond colors by clicking here.

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