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Fancy That!

Natural diamonds come in a kaleidoscope of colors

The variables of intensity and saturation of color will increase the price of a colored diamond.

The variables of intensity and saturation of color will increase the price of a colored diamond.

When words like fancy, vivid and intense join the conversation, it should be your clue we’re talking about colored diamonds. Not white or black, but 27 other colors like orangey red, blue green or violet. These names come from the Gemological Institute of America Gem Trade Laboratory and are used to categorize colored diamonds.

But what’s really put the spotlight on colored diamonds is the place they have taken in the world of the rich and famous, gracing the hands of such stars as Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood and Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa. J Lo had everybody talking when she stepped out wearing a stunning 6-carat pink diamond engagement ring from actor Ben Affleck that cost a reported $3 million. Underwood and many other celebs flaunt yellow diamond rings that typically are more affordable, while Vanessa Bryant sports a lovely $4 million 8-carat purple diamond from her husband, perhaps as a peace offering for a little trouble with the law.

“I think the star power of wearing these colored diamonds is driving the business,” says Robin Johannes, gemologist and owner of Johannes Hunter Jewelers. “With fancy colored diamonds, you are paying for the rarity. People are shocked when they find out how expensive they can be.”

What’s even more fascinating is that colored diamonds really do occur naturally. Found mostly in Africa, Russia and Australia, certain elements in the diamond can produce color. Nitrogen results in a yellow diamond, while boron impurities will produce a blue diamond. If radiation is present during the diamond’s creation, a green hue will evolve. Johannes says the GIA defines the cause of color in brown, pink and red stones as unknown, but possibly related to structural anomalies.

And remember those words, fancy, vivid and intense? Just as the four Cs – color, cut, clarity and carat – come into play in determining the quality of a white diamond, the intenseness of the color will up the value and ante in a colored diamond. “Color is the big expense,” Johannes says. “The variables of intensity and saturation of color will drive the price like clarity does in white diamonds.”

Charles Zerbe, certified gemologist appraiser and owner of Zerbe Jewelers for 41 years, says while colored diamonds have always been available, they were not particularly popular in his early years in business. But Zerbe and his business partner and father Fred came up with a marketing strategy in the 1970s to capture men wanting diamond jewelry. By carrying brown diamond jewelry, they did a fairly brisk business with men who wanted to wear a diamond but sought something more subtle than a white diamond. He says it wasn’t until the mid-90s that he started seeing the rainbow of colors come on the scene, especially yellow diamonds.

“I remember seeing them in all the magazines,” Zerbe recalls. “We started stocking them but customers were not really asking for them.”
Aside from the more commonplace browns and yellows, which by the way, are now referred to as chocolate, champagne, canary, and other fancy names, most of the colored diamonds are extremely rare and seldom seen.

Johannes, who would choose any colored stone over a white diamond for herself, remembers seeing a pear-shaped orange diamond once that she will not soon forget. “It was a vibrant poppy color,” she says. “It was an intense, vivid, natural stone of 2.5 carats. It was just breathtaking.” And no doubt expensive.

There are ways for the average person to afford a colored diamond, however. Synthesized stones are created in a lab and contain the exact same chemical properties as a natural stone. Johannes says it is difficult to tell the difference. And then there are treated colored diamonds. Zerbe says these are stones that may be lackluster in the natural state but when treated can be brightened up to bring out the color.

And while some say black is not a color, black diamonds are commonplace and popular, especially when paired with white diamonds. “Black diamonds have been a big deal over the last several years because of their classic look,” Zerbe says. “They are affordable and because they have been enhanced, they are beautiful.”

Most of us won’t likely be rushing out to buy a fancy red diamond, the rarest in the rainbow, but here’s a tip for getting a little color in your prized piece without breaking the bank. Both jewelers suggest going bigger with the more affordable white diamond and accenting with smaller colored stones in the hue or hues of your choice. 

For more information: https://johanneshunter.com/