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Ask a Diamond Pro: Finding a Yellow Cushion Cut Diamond for $3,500

By Mike Fried,

We often receive emails from readers interested in fancy color diamonds, such as champagne or canary yellow diamonds.

Fancy color diamonds have a unique appearance and can look especially stunning paired with white diamonds in a halo or side-stone setting. However, buying them can be confusing, as the “rules” of buying a colorless diamond — especially regarding pricing — don’t always apply.

Recently, a reader contacted us asking for help finding a yellow cushion cut diamond, as well as a suitable halo setting. Fancy yellow diamonds have always been popular, and recent demand — as reported on by Rapaport — has seen their average price per carat increase more than diamonds in other fancy colors.

Here’s the reader’s original email:

“I’m interested in getting a yellow diamond engagement ring. 

My budget is around $3500, halo style with a cushion diamond, but any of the square shapes would be ok. 

I’m looking at some of the yellow diamonds on James Allen website, some of them look almost like they are scratched or that the inclusions are on the face of the diamond. Is that normal and what should I be looking for? I’ve also seen a ring on Leibish website that I like. 

Looking forward to your comments and recommendations.”

This gives us a great opportunity to talk about the practical aspects of buying a yellow diamond, from selecting a suitable color to understanding how the four Cs apply to a diamond outside the typical colorless range.

For the most part, buying a fancy yellow diamond is similar to buying a white diamond. Aspects such as cut quality and clarity are still essential, but color intensity — that is, the strength of the diamond’s color — is arguably even more important.

Yellow diamonds can range from Faint to Intense and Vivid. In the end, this reader went with an intense yellow 0.51 carat, SI2 clarity cushion cut diamond from James Allen that’s going to look stunning in its setting.

Buying a Fancy Yellow Diamond

Yellow diamonds have a unique and alluring appearance that’s produced by a small amount of nitrogen in their carbon crystal structure. 

Although a yellow tint is generally seen as an undesirable feature in a regular “white” diamond, when the yellow coloration of a diamond becomes more intense and dominant, it sets its apart as a fancy color diamond and increases its value. 

Hue range for yellow diamonds
Hue range for yellow diamonds

When we offer advice on buying diamonds, we usually start with the diamond 4 Cs — cut, clarity, color and carat weight. Each of these characteristics plays a role in a diamond’s beauty and value for money. 

With fancy color diamonds such as yellow diamonds, the normal “rules” of cut, clarity and carat weight still apply. However, assessing the color of a yellow diamond is more subjective than the equivalent process for a colorless diamond.

Non-fancy color diamonds are graded from D to Z, with diamonds closer to the “colorless” end of the scale typically more desirable. However, as this page from the GIA explains, when a diamond displays more color than a “Z” grade, it’s graded differently and typically becomes more desirable as its color becomes more vibrant.

The GIA grades yellow diamonds using a color intensity scale, from “Faint” all the way to “Fancy Vivid,” “Fancy Deep” and “Fancy Dark.” Each grade refers to a different yellow, with Fancy Vivid an intense, gold-like color and Fancy Deep a stronger yellow, almost approaching bronze. 

The AGS uses a similar system, with diamonds that display more color than a typical Z grade passing into the “fancy yellow” category.

Color intensity has the largest impact on a yellow diamond’s price, with diamonds graded Fancy Intense or Fancy Vivid Yellow significantly more expensive than Fancy Light diamonds.

This means that what might seem like a mild difference in color can have a significant impact on the price of a yellow diamond. For an example of this, take a look at the pricing table below from our more detailed guide to yellow diamonds:

Color Intensity0.50ct 1.00ct2.00ct
Fancy Vivid$3,500 – $8,000$8,000 – $20,000$35,000 – $60,000
Fancy Intense$1,500 – $4,000$4,000 – $8,000$16,500 – $25,000
Fancy$1,000 – $2,000$3,000 – $6,000$8,000 – $16,000
Fancy Light$800 – $1,300$2,000 – $5,000$7,000 – $11,000

Even a small tint can have a large effect on the price of a yellow diamond, by causing it to move from one color grade to another. This can make evaluating the price of a yellow diamond quite a challenging process.

If you need help working out which color grade is best for you or selecting a diamond, feel free to contact us for expert advice and assistance. 

Color aside, the four Cs apply to yellow diamonds just like they do to other diamonds. Cut and clarity can have a significant impact on a yellow diamond’s price, and diamond prices increase exponentially with carat weight just as they do for colorless diamonds.  

Even though the color intensity is arguably the most important feature of a yellow diamond, it’s still important to pay attention to the other Cs. We can’t overlook issues like obvious inclusions or a poor cut, as these will compromise the appearance of even a strongly colored diamond. 

If you’re considering a yellow diamond, we recommend looking at the diamonds available from James Allen, Leibish & Co. and Abe Mor, then seeing what’s available in your price range with color intensity, cut quality and clarity that matches your requirements. 

Fancy Yellow Radiant Cut Diamond in a halo setting
4.68ct Fancy Yellow radiant cut diamond in a halo setting from Abe Mor

Ultimately, the process is quite subjective, especially when you combine a fancy color such as yellow with a fancy shape such as the cushion cut

It’s also important to keep in mind that the availability of yellow diamonds in fancy shapes isn’t particularly great, especially in the sub-$5,000 range. 

This means that when you compare diamonds, you may only have a few hundred loose stones to choose from, rather than the tens of thousands of white round cut diamonds that can appear with a simple search. 

With this said, there are some stunning yellow diamonds available that either fit in this reader’s price range, or are just slightly above it. 

For example, this 0.51 carat, Fancy Intense Yellow, VVS2 clarity diamond from Leibish & Co. is available for $1,825. Paired with this halo setting, it comes in $4,100. 

This 0.56 carat Fancy Intense Yellow Diamond is a tad bigger and has a lower clarity grade, yet still looks fantastic. It’s available for $1,900 and would look impressive in any halo setting. 

Our Recommendation

Yellow diamonds aren’t necessarily for everyone, but they can look absolutely stunning on the right person, especially when they’re paired with a white metal setting featuring colorless side stones or a halo. 

Since color has such a major impact on the price of a yellow diamond, it’s important to choose carefully. We recommend using a vendor such as Leibish & Co. or James Allen, both of whom offer high quality images of their diamonds. 

For a more personalized experience buying a fancy yellow diamond, we also recommend Abe Mor. They are the top when it comes to finding the perfect yellow diamond for anyone.

If you need help choosing a yellow diamond, feel free to contact us. We’re more than happy to help you throughout the entire process, from comparing diamonds to selecting the right setting for your tastes and budget.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab-created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing.Save 25% on settings at Blue Nile!

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What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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