Most people think of diamonds as sparkling, translucent gems, but diamonds actually come in every color of the rainbow and beyond. Just 30 percent of the world’s diamonds are actually considered high enough quality to be gems, and just one in 10,000 diamonds has what is considered a “fancy” color, according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Colored diamonds can be used in any piece of jewelry, from a statement necklace to an engagement ring. The wide variety of colors gives the wearer the opportunity to express personal taste and style while still embracing the beauty and symbolism of the diamond. We have put together a comprehensive guide on the many colors of diamonds and how they are made.
How Colored Diamonds Are Made
The GIA ranks classic diamonds on the D to Z scale. Letters D through F indicate a completely colorless diamond. Letters G through J indicate a diamond is near colorless. Diamonds with a faint color receive a K through M ranking. Very light diamonds fall somewhere between letters N and R. Letters S through Z indicate a very light ranking. The most valuable diamonds will fall into the colorless ranking category. This scale is used for diamonds that run from colorless to ones with light hints of yellow or brown. These diamonds should not be confused with fancy color diamonds. The D to Z scale is not used to rank fancy color diamonds.
All diamonds are made of carbon. Each of these stones – colorless and colored – is formed miles beneath the earth’s surface. Enormous amounts of pressure create these coveted stones, which are eventually forced closer to the earth’s surface by volcanic activity.
Naturally colored diamonds pick up their signature hues from the different particles and minerals incorporated into their structure as they are made. Additionally, the difference in heat and pressure during formation affects how the diamond's final form will reflect light. Different types of reflection will result in different colored stones.
Black diamonds are a drastic departure from the clear appearance of the classic colorless diamond. These stones can make for a dramatic and beautiful piece of jewelry. Black diamonds often achieve their dark color through flaws – known as inclusions – in their structure. These "flaws" are typically made of graphite, which gives the stone its shade of black. It is common for color treatment to be employed in the creation of black diamonds. Naturally occurring black diamonds are typically more valuable than the treated variety.
Most naturally occurring blue diamonds are found in South Asia. While these stones can range in shade – everything from pale blue to deep azure – their coloring can be traced back to the presence of the element boron. Boron bonds with the diamond’s carbon, which results in a structure that absorbs the green, red, and yellow portions of the color spectrum. The end result is, of course, a beautiful blue color.
While everyone may remember the fictional Heart of the Ocean diamond Rose wears in the movie Titanic, the Hope Diamond is the most famous real life blue diamond. The Hope Diamond is dark blue with gray undertones. This blue diamond was originally 112 carats, but was cut down to 45.52 carats. The Hope Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., in 1958, where it is still on display today. Another famous blue diamond, the 35.56-carat Wittelsbach Diamond, sold for $24 million in 2008.
Brown diamonds are one of the most common naturally occurring types of colored diamonds. During formation, the crystal lattice that makes up the diamond undergoes a certain amount of distortion. This distortion is responsible for how the diamond absorbs light, which, in turn, reflects a brown color. Brown diamonds are often found in Australia’s Argyle Diamond Mine, but these stones can be found across the world in countries and areas such as:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
Brown diamonds are ranked on a C1 to C7 scale, which ranges from light brown to deep brown. These beautiful stones have descriptive – not to mention delicious – names like champagne brown, latte brown, and cognac brown.
LeVian Chocolate Diamonds are one of the most popular types of brown diamond. This is a specific brand of brown diamond which has been available since 2000. The brand only markets high-quality brown diamonds with a specific shade and clarity.
Green diamonds are one of the rarest varieties of colored diamond. The green color is the result of the stone’s proximity to radiation during formation. The stones themselves are not radioactive, but their time spent near natural radiation causes the stones to absorb the red and yellow aspects of the color spectrum, which results in the beautiful green color. These stones can be any shade of green ranging from light to dark. Green diamonds are typically classified into three different color groups: mint, grass, and forest. The more vivid the color, the more expensive the green diamond will be.
The Dresden Green Diamond is the most famous of its shade. This particular diamond has a long history. It has spent hundreds of years on display in the German state of Saxony. The diamond actually takes its name from the city of Dresden. This beautiful stone is pear-shaped and weighs 41 carats.
Olive is a shade of green, but olive diamonds are in a category distinct from green diamonds. Instead of being a pure shade of green like grass or mint, olive diamonds tend to have a hint of yellow, brown or gray. These diamonds come in a wide variety of sizes. Olive diamonds typically get their color from a high level of hydrogen mixed with the elements nickel and nitrogen.
The unique structure of olive diamonds can result in a color-changing phenomenon. Some olive diamonds are also chameleon diamonds. As the name implies, chameleon diamonds can change color. When exposed to certain levels of light or heat, these olive diamonds can dramatically shift from their original color to more brown or even a vivid yellow shade. The color change is only temporary; a chameleon diamond will return to its original shade.
Orange diamonds are one of the rarest types of colored diamonds. These tangerine-colored beauties are most often found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Orange diamonds come in a variety of different shades, with names like tangerine, pumpkin, and amber. Orange diamonds can also have hints of other colors, like brown, pink, or yellow. These diamonds owe their color to the nitrogen in their structure. Orange diamonds absorb the blue and yellow parts of the light spectrum, which produces the color orange. The more vivid the color of the stone the more expensive it is.
The Pumpkin Diamond, unearthed in South Africa, is one of the most famous orange diamonds. This stone has a pure orange color, without any hints of brown. The Pumpkin Diamond is 5.54 carats and is owned by jeweler Harry Winston. The company loaned it to the Smithsonian so the diamond could be displayed. The famous diamond has also been worn by actress Halle Berry during the 2002 Oscars ceremony.
Diamonds look pretty in pink. These stones range in shade from a bright, pale pink all the way to deep, rosy pink. Colors are typically classified in categories including bubblegum, raspberry, and merlot. Nearly all pink diamonds (90 percent) are found in Australia’s Argyle Diamond Mine, but these stones are rare. Pink diamonds account for just 0.1 percent of the mine’s yearly diamond finds. Heat and pressure shape these diamonds in such a way that they absorb the green portion of the light spectrum. This specific structure results in a gorgeous pink shade.
Pink diamonds’ rarity and beauty make them quite popular. Charles Krypell offers a wide selection of pink diamonds, ranging from small sizes to multi-carat stones. Charles Krypell has been sourcing and selling natural pink diamonds for a decade.
Just this year, a pink diamond broke records as the most expensive gemstone to ever be sold at auction. The Pink Star diamond, a stunning 59.60 carats, sold for $71.2 million.
Purple and Violet Diamonds
Purple and violet diamonds are sometimes found in Australia’s prolific Argyle Diamond Mine. These unique colored diamonds can also be found in the far north reaches of Asia, specifically in Siberia. These gorgeous stones are extremely rare. Even of the few stones found, it is uncommon to find a purple diamond that is larger than five carats or a violet diamond that is larger than a single carat. Distortion in the structure of these diamonds is the most likely cause of their unique coloration.
One the most famous violet diamonds was uncovered in the Argyle Diamond Mine in 2015. The rare stone was 9.17 carats in its rough form, but after cutting and polishing is 2.83 carats.
A deep ruby-red diamond creates a dramatic and beautiful image. A pure red diamond, a diamond without any hint of another color, is perhaps the rarest colored diamond of all. These diamonds are so uncommon that the exact cause of their bright red coloration is not entirely understood. The Argyle Diamond Mine has produced some exceedingly rare red diamonds and they have also been found in Brazil. Since naturally occurring red diamonds are so rare, jewelers often treat other diamonds to create the color.
Such rarity almost always results in fame. Some of the most famous red diamonds include:
- DeYoung Red Diamond. The DeYoung Red Diamond weighs 5.03 carats. First found in the 1930’s or 1940’s, this stunning red diamond is now on display at the Smithsonian.
- Hancock Red Diamond. The Hancock Red Diamond is less than a single carat, but that did not stop it from selling for $880,000 in 1987.
- Moussaieff Red Diamond. The Moussaieff Red Diamond is the largest true red diamond ever discovered. This gorgeous stone was 13.90 carats when it was found, but it is now 5.11 carats due to cutting and polishing. The stone was originally named the Red Shield, but it assumed its new owner's name in 2008. Moussaieff Jewelers bought this rare diamond for $8 million.
Yellow is one of the most common, but no less beautiful, varieties of colored diamonds. The nitrogen that is incorporated into the structure of these diamonds’ during formation affects how they absorb and reflect light. The end result is, of course, a gorgeous yellow color. Yellow diamonds come in different shades including lemon, dandelion and canary. Some yellow diamonds can have hints of other colors like brown, green and orange. Yellow diamonds can be found in several different countries including Angola, Brazil, Borneo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone. Charles Krypell, the same jeweler well-known for pink diamonds, has many yellow diamonds, as well.
Two of the most famous yellow diamonds include:
- Allnatt. The Allnatt Diamond is not only one of the most famous yellow diamonds, but also one of the largest polished diamonds ever. The Allnatt is a stunning 101.29 carats. This yellow diamond was found in South Africa. It is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
- Oppenheimer. The Oppenheimer Diamond is even larger than the Allnatt at 253.70 carats. The diamond remains uncut and on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This yellow diamond was also found in South Africa.