Fancy Color Diamonds

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Table of Contents


Natural vs. Treated Color

The Four Cs of Fancy Color

Fancy Color Grading

How to Buy Fancy Color Diamonds


First off, lets start with the basics. Most of you probably already know that there is a scale of diamond color from D to Z.  D, of course, is completely colorless while Z is heavily tinted with yellow.

But all along that scale from D to Z, the discussion is still about what are categorized as “white diamonds.”  A Z color diamond is a heavily yellow tinted white diamond.

The world of diamonds, though, is not limited to this scale.  Diamonds falling off this scale are commonly called “Fancy Color Diamonds” or “Fancy Diamonds.”

What Diamonds Are Considered “Fancy Color Diamonds”?

Diamonds can either fall off this scale because they’re tinted with a shade other than yellow, or because the yellow color inside the diamond is so strong that the diamond is no longer considered a tinted white diamond, but rather a full fledged yellow diamond.

Diamonds can come in a variety of colors.  The chart below (from Page 12 of “Forever Brilliant: The Aurora Collection of Colored Diamonds”) is an excellent graphical display of the variety of colors in which diamonds can be found.

Chart of Fancy Color Diamonds

Color Possibilities in Diamonds

Each of the major colors has a different level of rareness (and of course the price level reflects that rarity).

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Natural Fancy Color Diamonds vs. Treated Color Diamonds

An important distinction must be made here before we continue with our introduction of fancy color diamonds.  When shopping for fancy color diamonds, it’s crucial that you buy from a reputable dealer and verify that the diamond you are interested in is a natural fancy color diamond.

One of the most common lab treatments performed on diamonds is taking cheap brown-colored diamonds and treating them with high pressure and high temperature in order to change their color to a wide variety of copies of natural fancy diamond colors.

If you do buy these diamonds, know that they are much cheaper than natural fancy colors precisely because they are created from the cheapest of the cheap diamonds.

Telling the Difference Between Natural and Treated Fancy Color Diamonds

It’s fairly easy to tell the difference between a natural fancy color diamond and a treated colored diamond.  The saturation of color in the treated diamonds is so strong that most of them look like semi-precious colored gems.

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The Four Cs of Fancy Color Diamonds

Example of Asymmetry in Fancy Color Diamonds

Buyers of white diamonds are always taught that the most important of the “Four Cs” is diamond Cut quality (as I do on this site).

The reason is simple – white diamonds are treasured precisely because of their radiance and fiery brilliance and it is the diamond’s cut quality that determines, more than any other factor, just how brilliant the diamond is.

Example of Poor Clarity in Fancy Color Diamonds

The Exception of Fancy Color Diamonds

It’s not so with Fancy Color Diamonds.  In the Fancy Color market, only one thing matters – the quality of the diamond’s color.

So, in reality, cut is important for Fancy Colors.  But it’s a cut that brings out the stone’s color which matters, and not the cut which maximizes symmetry and light return.  And most often, these two approaches are diametrically opposed.

Flipping through the book “Forever Brilliant: The Aurora Collection of Colored Diamonds,” one sees many diamonds with cuts that would simply be unsaleable on a regular white diamond.  One finds oodles of open culets, an abundance of asymmetry, and loads of large tables.

Considering Clarity

Similar is the case with clarity.  In a white diamond, one should be very careful to only buy a diamond whose inclusions are clean to the naked eye.

More Poor Clarity in Fancy Colors

Take a look at these stones that are a part of the “Aurora Collection” as referenced in the above mentioned book.  Keep in mind that the Aurora is one of the most prestigious collections of fancy color diamonds in the world.

If any of these stones were white, I wouldn’t be able to recommend purchasing it.

Inclusions on Fancy Color Diamonds

As you can see in these pictures, the stones are still quite beautiful – the inclusions don’t really detract from the beauty of the diamond’s color. These would be low quality and very cheap indeed had they been white diamonds.

The Cost of Fancy Color Diamonds

Of course, the “fifth C” – Cost – is also completely different between white and fancy color diamonds.  As I explain in my article about Diamond Pricing, regular white certified diamond prices are all grounded in the Rapaport price list.

What this means is that for white diamonds, the underlying fundamental basis for a diamond’s price is universally agreed upon between buyers and sellers.  All that is negotiated is the percent discount below (or in rare occasions, above) the Rapaport list price.

Such is not the case with fancy color diamonds.  There is no price list. Prices are established the old fashioned way – through a fluid market reaching an equilibrium between buyers and sellers.

Understanding the Difference Between the Fancy Color and White Diamond Markets

Because of this difference, many people with little to no real diamond knowledge have entered the white diamond market in the past 10 years – many of them quite successfully.

After all, when the spread between buying and selling is simply a matter of a few percentage points, and prices are relatively stable and fixed, it’s not hard to learn at what price to buy and at what price to sell.

But throw a novice into the fancy color diamond market, and he’ll get killed in a matter of days.  Each stone has its own value that is determined by so many factors (shape, certified color, actual color, modifying colors, size, clarity, etc) that pricing fancy colors is more of an art form than anything else.

Choose Verified Expertise

It follows, then, that it is crucial that you make sure to buy your fancy color diamond from a company with a verified expertise in the fancy color market – otherwise, you are sure to pay far more for your diamond than you should be.

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How is Diamond Fancy Color Graded?

Universe of Diamond Colors

Fancy diamond color is graded along three different axes.  They are hue (the actual color  – i.e., red, blue, green, or anything in between), tone (the relative lightness or darkness of the color), and saturation (how strong or weak the color is).

Hue is most often described as a combination of two or more colors.  When the first color is listed in an adjective form and the second color in a noun form (ie, Orangy Yellow), the first color is the modifying color and the second color is the primary color.

Fancy Color Diamond Hues

In this example, the stone is primarily yellow with a slight orangy tint. Occasionally, color is a 50/50 split between two hues.  In such a case, the color will be listed as two nouns (ie, Orange Yellow).

Stones with pure colors without any modifiers are generally considered more rare and therefore more valuable.  According the the GIA, there are only four publicly known pure Fancy Red (without any modifying colors) diamonds in existence in the world.

People often mistakenly believe that there is one axis of color strength in which fancy color is graded – Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid.  This is a very simplistic way to view things, and is mostly true only in reference to Yellow Diamonds.

Universe of Diamond Color (In Color)

The Universe of Fancy Diamond Color

The charts presented here graphically represent the entire universe of fancy diamond color.

The North-South Pole represents Tone.  Going around the circumference of this globe represents changes in Hue.

And finally, distance from the center of the globe represents the color’s saturation.

Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid

Fancy Light implies a stone with both weak saturation and a light tone. Fancy implies a stone with either a slightly darker tone, or a slightly stronger saturation, and perhaps both.

For colors that are best displayed in a lighter tone (ie, colors that are generally “brighter”) such as yellow, and pink, Fancy Intense implies a relatively lighter tone with a significantly stronger saturation.

Fancy Vivid also implies a relatively ligher tone, yet coupled with the strongest possible saturation.  For “darker” colors such as blue, Fancy Vivid can only refer to diamond with a fully saturated darker blue.

Fancy Deep and Fancy Red

With other hues, lighter or darker tones take on completely new names.  In general, the darkest tone of a color will full saturation is usually called “Fancy Deep.”

When Fancy Deep Pink gets just a bit more dark and a bit more saturated, it becomes Fancy Red.  Darker yellows become modified with the “Brown” hue, and darker Blue or Green often becomes “Grayish.”

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How to Buy Fancy Color Diamonds

In the not too distant past, people looking to buy fancy color diamonds really only had one way to buy them.  Until recently, these precious and rare diamonds were sold only through the highest end retailers throughout the world.  Tiffany and Graff are but to name a few.

The problem with these high-end stores, as is the problem with most bricks-and-mortar jewelry stores of the classic mold, is that their profit margins much be exceptionally high in order to offset their very high cost of maintaining a very expensive inventory.

All of this is discussed in my article about James Allen & Blue Nile.

Discovering Fancy Color Prices

But with fancy colors, it’s even worse.  You see, with white diamonds, all it takes is a quick internet search to quickly discover what a competitive price is for any given carat weight, color and clarity.  Not so with Fancy Colors.

With the exception, perhaps, of fancy yellow diamonds, every fancy color diamond is completely unique.  So it’s very difficult to compare prices between different stones.

But furthermore, and this is the crucial point, there is very little competition in the fancy color diamond market.  For ever 100 wholesale white diamond vendors, there might be 1 or 2 wholesale fancy diamond vendors.

Lack of Competition

For every 1,000 retail white diamond stores, there might be 1 or 2 stores that carry fancy color diamonds. So this utter lack of competition and basis of comparison of prices leads most dealers of fancy color diamonds to greatly inflate their prices.

It is therefore of utmost importance that you do your due diligence thoroughly about whatever source you plan on buying a fancy color diamond from.

Online Stores Selling Fancy Diamonds

Nowadays, however, the fancy color diamond buyer has a bit of an easier time.  In the last few years, there have arisen a small number of online stores selling fancy colors.

Most of them are run by reputable wholesale operations that specialize exclusively in fancy color diamonds.   Most of these, unfortunately, fall short of what you’d like to see from a full service online diamond vendor.

There are two exceptions, though: Leibish & Co., and James Allen, which along with introducing their new “Diamond Display Technology,” introduced a robust line of Fancy Color Diamonds.

Diamond Display Technology

This technology allows a view of the stone that is truly unparalleled.  In many ways, it’s even better than seeing the diamond in person.

Click to Reach Leibish & Co Fancy Diamonds

Leibish & Co

Leibish Polnauer is one of these colorful (pun intended) figures that everyone in the exclusive Israel Diamond Bourse knows and loves.   Leibish & Co. is the most highly respected fancy color dealer in Israel, and one of the best in the world.

Leibish is the guy everyone in Israel goes to when they need a hard to find fancy color diamond at a great price. But not only is Leibish & Co. well known and respected throughout the diamond market in Israel.

They are one of the primary suppliers of some of the largest and biggest names in the high-end luxury retail world.  Additionally, they supply most of the wholesale color diamonds dealers in the world.  Leibish & Co. is as high up on the supply ladder you can go in the fancy color diamond market.

Leibish & Co. Venturing Online

A number of years ago, they launched their website with the intent on it being a convenient way for their wholesale clients (retail stores, other dealers, major collectors, etc) to peruse their inventory.

Suddenly, the response from regular clients was overwhelming, so they decided to open their site to the public.  As they say, the rest is history. Leibish & Co has simply become the premier site on the internet for buying fancy color diamonds.

The beauty of Leibish is that they do not discriminate between their wholesale and retail clients.  Everyone receives the same price.  So when you shop at Leibish & Co, you get a full service retail experience, yet you get the absolute lowest prices on fancy color diamonds in the world.

James Allen

Amazing Diamond Image Quality at James Allen

Amazing Diamond Image Quality at James Allen

James Allen is the leading online diamond jeweler overall.  Since starting this website in the Summer of 2009, we have literally helped thousands of readers happily buy their engagement rings from them.

So when they announced in the beginning of 2013 that they would be adding Fancy Color Diamonds to their inventory, we were thrilled to be able to offer another source to our readers looking for Fancy colors.

Limited Supply of Fancy Color Diamonds

One of the main problems facing Fancy Color buyers is that supply is so limited, it’s often rather difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for.

James Allen, with their huge vendor base is able to offer an inventory of Fancy Colors that nobody can compete with.  Plus, because they’re not invested in their own inventory, they are able to offer their fancy colors at truly bargain prices.

Any buyer of fancy colors would be crazy not to check out both of these vendors before making a decision.

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  1. scott     Reply

    Have you seen the website blue nile? is it any good for yellow diamonda? I am looking at buying one at the start of next month and wondered if you could choose one for me nearer the time?


    • Mike     Reply

      Hi Scott,

      You should definitely not order a yellow diamond from BN. We review them here, but we don’t address fancy colors specifically. When purchasing fancy colors, you really need an expert on diamonds to walk you through it, and Blue Nile certainly isn’t it.

  2. Dorothy Williams     Reply

    May I ask a simple question? The lavendar or purples are highly included and they bring big prices. Right? That seems to be their nature. Also look at the reds. They are dark reds of course, and heavily included, and bring mega bucks. So if the diamond is rare, it seems to not matter much about the inclusions. Right? That’s my 2 cents worth. Am I wrong?

  3. Heather     Reply

    Hi Ira,

    How valid is the pricing found at this website for fancy colored diamonds in the US?

    Apparently, these prices are representative of pricing in Antwerp, or so the website seems to indicate. Is pricing in the US different? What about China, India and Israel?

    Is it appropriate to use this wholesale price list as a guide when buying in the US or from other areas of the world?

    • Mike     Reply

      This seems completely bogus to me.

      • Heather     Reply

        OK. Thanks, Mike.

  4. Heather     Reply

    Hi Ira,

    When fancy colored stones are so incredibly rare, thus the high price tags, why is it that the non-“gem-quality” stones are seen as junk? I’ve purchased a few fancy intense pink-purples and fancy intense purple-pinks that have beautiful color but are considered junk because you can’t see through the stone. I feel that this bit of “snobbery” is unjustified and a bit absurd when it comes to fancy colors. The color is still incredibly rare. There should be some value to that, regardless of clarity. Should they be as valuable as a VS or VVS of the same color? Of course not, but they certainly aren’t junk. Why does the industry view these stones this way? Is it mainly an issue of a lack of marketing for these stones? One would think that the public, adequately informed, would find a market for them. We use many other opaque and semi-opaque gemstones in jewelry. Why not these?

    • Mike     Reply

      Don’t know, Heather. Great question! How badly are these diamonds included, though? YOu see plenty of ugly I1s and I2s in very prestigious fancy color collections.

      • Heather     Reply

        Hi Mark,

        Well, you can’t see through the stones. I would call them almost opaque. The light enters the stones and bounces around, but they are heavily included. I happen to like the inclusions in them, though, because they sparkle a lot– they look glittery, almost. There aren’t any black, white or brown spots. I don’t know if that helps at all. 🙂

      • Heather     Reply
        • Mike     Reply

          The 0.16 is fine. the 0.18 is pretty heavily included, though. But I’m skeptical that either of them are natural. Ebay is unfortunately known for diamond cheats.

          • Heather  

            Right. Yes, you need to be careful with Ebay. The question, though, would be assuming the diamonds are indeed natural diamonds, natural color, untreated stones.

            Mine are similarly included but are certified natural by the GIA.

          • Mike  

            I don’t think anyone would say they’re junk if that would be the case. They would just be worth less because they’re so heavily included. The more included they are, the less rare they are as well.

          • Heather  

            The more highly included pinks are not as rare as less included pinks, but are they still rare compared to colorless diamonds because of the color? Is my original assumption correct that these stones are still rare in spite of the inclusions?

          • Mike  

            I’m honestly not sure what the answer is. I’ve never been in the rough/mining part of the business.

          • Heather  

            Thanks, Mike. It would be interesting to see actual statistics from the mines. Having objective data on the relative rarity of each color versus the other colors and also versus colorless stones of different clarity grades would probably help the market tremendously with fair pricing. That could be used to set a fair baseline price range, while allowing demand to push prices higher when demand is high.

            I also think it would be great if someone began compiling fancy color price data– similar to Rapaport.

            Perhaps you guys can take your site in an additional direction and add a new service both to consumers and to the industry… 🙂

          • Mike  

            Interesting idea. Don’t forget, though, that two factors determine price: supply AND demand. So even if they’re more rare, if clean colorless diamonds are more in demand than heavily included colored diamonds, they’re going to cost more even if the supply is greater.

          • Heather  

            Right, however(if the data can prove their degree of rarity), fancies have the “exclusivity factor” that colorless diamonds do not have… like Lamborghini vs. Honda… like Tiffany vs. your local jeweler. Those who invested in them and collected them over the years prior to their more recent public appearance did so because of this “exclusivity factor.” Will there be vendors who want to move some stock and discount their prices to do so? Sure. But if a fair value system were developed based on statistical rarity, investors and collectors could buy with confidence and not worry about overpaying. …and then higher demand could be allowed to push prices up (like we’ve seen with the pinks). I don’t know how the major players in the industry feel about the issue, but it might be worth a conversation.

  5. liq     Reply

    so if a diamond’s color is graded Z , it’s totally useless?
    by the edge of white diamond and fancy diamond?

    • Ira Weissman     Reply

      Hi liq. Not sure what you mean by “useless.” It’s true it’s kind of in a limbo zone between white and fancy yellow. So usually these will be quite cheap.

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