In the world of diamonds, value is associated with rarity. Because colourless diamonds are the most rare, they hold the most value, at least within the normal colour range. But for fancy coloured diamonds, there are some colours that are more valuable than others, based on their rarity. Don’t purchase your next coloured diamond until you’ve read this ultimate guide to fancy coloured diamonds.

Even though colourless or ‘white’ diamonds have been the most popular kind for a long time, fancy colour diamonds are now proving to be the next big trend. It’s rare for any two colours to be exactly the same, which is why those looking for a unique look are choosing coloured gems for their jewellery.

Diamonds are classic and beautiful gemstones that have been adored for generations. They are associated with elegance and class, and they catch the light in a way that commands attention.

The first diamonds are believed to have been discovered in India around 3,000 years ago. In 327 BC they were transported from Asia to Europe, and were first used as a jewellery piece in 1074 AD on an Austrian princess’ crown. The first diamond engagement ring was given in 1477, to Mary of Burgundy by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, beginning a new tradition that still exists today.

Diamonds are the most expensive and valued among all precious gems, primarily because of their toughness and their high optical dispersion, which is how they diffuse light of different colours.

There are a variety of colours, names, and ways to grade these gems to determine their worth. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to be a fancy coloured diamond expert.

What are fancy coloured diamonds?

Coloured diamonds are gems with a visible hue other than yellow or brown. They contain impurities or defects that cause their colour, as opposed to the ‘pure’ or colourless ones (the less impurities, the more valuable).

Fancy coloured diamonds are extremely rare gems where the stone colour appears strong. The shades of fancy coloured diamonds include yellow, brown, purple, pink, red, blue, and green. However, sometimes these colours are added artificially.

Natural fancy coloured diamonds owe their colouring to natural causes, such as impurities and/or presence of boron elements, nitrogen, or crystal lattice defects during formation. About one in every 10,000 diamonds is formed with natural colour, making them very expensive and rare.

The 4 C’s of fancy coloured diamonds

Fancy coloured diamonds are graded differently than colourless diamonds, as in transparent diamonds the less colour there is the better, because completely colourless stones are the most rare. However, while coloured gems are influenced by the four C’s (Colour, Carat, Clarity and Cut), the colour intensity is much more important, as is how evenly the colour is distributed throughout the stone.

Colour descriptors

To understand coloured diamonds, it helps to know the ways in which fancy coloured diamonds can be described:

  • Hue - Hue: The colour of the diamond (green, pink, blue etc)
  • Tone - How light or dark the colour is, on a scale of 0-100(black)
  • Saturation - The intensity of the colour within the diamond

Colour Strength

This is a grading system that helps define the strength of colour within a given fancy diamond. The colour strengths are:

  • Faint
  • Fancy Light
  • Fancy
  • Fancy Dark
  • Fancy Deep
  • Fancy Intense
  • Fancy Vivid

Intense and Vivid fancy diamonds are the most rare.

Other descriptors

These descriptors are common among all diamonds, and can be used to describe coloured fancy diamonds.

Carat

The carat weight of a diamond plays a big part in the price of a coloured diamond, second only to colour grade. Again, this comes down to rarity, large gems are more rare then smaller ones.

Clarity

In colourless diamonds, clarity influences price, the less clear (more imperfections) the less value the diamond. However, in coloured diamonds clarity doesn’t influence the value of the diamond as much, as fancy diamonds hide their characteristics within the colour.

Cut

The cut in fancy coloured diamonds is focused on highlighting the diamond’s colour rather than brilliance (as with white diamonds), therefore, there are more limited options when it comes to cut.

Types of coloured diamonds

Each coloured diamond has its own unique reasons for the colouring on display. Similarly, the rarity of the diamond along with the vividness and saturation of the colour will play a role in it’s price. Here are each type of coloured diamond, ranked from least to most rare.

Champagne / brown diamonds

Fancy champagne diamonds are the most common coloured diamond, often appearing with browner tones caused by the presence of nitrogen when the stones were developing.

Brown / champagne diamonds appear in a wide range of saturations and intensity, and under different light can appear different to the eye. Typically, tones that run medium to dark with a golden appearance are most prized. The largest diamond in the world, the Golden Jubilee, is a brown diamond.

Yellow diamonds

Sometimes referred to as canary diamonds, yellow fancy diamonds are the second most common type of coloured diamond, found mostly in South Africa, but sourced all over the world. Though they are common, yellow fancy diamonds can come in quite intense saturations, as with ‘The Incomparable’ a striking yellow diamond which weights 407.39 carats, making it the third largest in the world.

Ranging from yellow to brownish hues, yellows are most prized for their brilliance, the more intense the colour, the more likely the diamond to increase in value over time.

Green diamonds

How green diamonds come about is quite interesting; radiation displaces carbon atoms within the crystal structure. Because it is almost impossible to tell if any artificial enhancement has been done to a green diamond, most cutters leave an untouched ‘natural’ along the girdle of the stone. The Dresden Green is a 40.70 carat natural green, pear shaped diamond.

Orange diamonds

Orange diamonds are in interesting case. Though they are relatively rare, lower market demand keeps their price down. Many hues of organise diamonds can be quite vivid, meaning if you love the look of an orange diamond, you can secure a rare beauty at good value. The Pumpkin Orange is perhaps the most well known orange diamond, selling for USD $1.3 million in 1997 at a Sotheby's auction, it’s a 5.54 carat fancy vivid orange gemstone.

Pink diamonds

Fancy pink diamonds are rare, with the majority minded from Argyle in Western Australia. An interesting note, only about 1 out of 1 million carats mined is fit to sell. While they come in a variety of saturations, the more vivid, the more prized.

Purple diamonds

Incredibly rare, purple diamonds are only found in Australia and Siberia and are almost exclusively under 5 carats with colours that rarely reach vivid range and saturation. Similar to pink diamonds, their colouring comes from crystal distortion.

Blue diamonds

It is extremely rare to find a blue diamond, and blue diamonds in general do not have a wide range of colour strength. It is unlikely to find fancy blue diamonds in the intense or vivid categories. The blue in blue diamonds is caused by the presence of boron within the diamond. The more boron, the more blue. However, compared to the intense colour of a blue sapphire, blue diamonds are typically lighter or paler in tone.

Blue diamonds with strong, deep colours are among the most rare diamonds on earth, and thus are extremely valuable.

Red diamonds

Of all the fancy diamonds, red are by far the rarest, and consequently most valuable. The Moussaieff Red is the most well known red diamond, 5.11 carats, this internally flawless diamond sold for USD $8 million in 2008 ($1.6 million per carat).

Choose the colour that’s right for you

Unless you’re planning to invest in diamonds, choosing the right coloured diamond is more about what suits your style. Colored diamonds feature in necklaces, brooches, earrings, rings and even engagement rings. Check out Australian Diamond Brokers range of fancy coloured diamonds and find one to suit your unique style today.