What Makes a Diamond Yellow
The hardest substance on earth, diamond is made from pure carbon that has been crystallized by high pressures and temperatures in the Earth’s upper mantle. Perfectly colorless, or near-colorless, diamonds are the most esteemed because they are most rare in nature. Unlike the rarest, colorless diamonds, most diamond crystals have impurities within them, such as nitrogen, and these impurities cause colors to appear in the diamonds. Yellow happens to be one of the most common and beautiful of diamond colors.
Many Shades of Yellow Diamonds
There are an infinite number of yellow hues in diamonds. A yellow diamond may be faintly tinted with just a hint of color, or very light, like the color of lemonade. A diamond may be pure and lemony. Or, it may appear honey-colored – rich and golden with complex brownish undertones. Perhaps, the color is bright and intense like a sunflower or school bus.
GIA Diamond Reports
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) inspects, grades and issues reports for diamonds and gemstones. There are several options when it comes to the kinds of reports GIA issues for yellow diamonds, and one is not necessarily better or worse than another. It is, however, important to have some sort of GIA diamond report for a yellow diamond, especially if the stone is more than one carat in weight.
How GIA Evaluates and Grades Different Shades of Yellow Diamonds
GIA evaluates colorless and near-colorless diamonds differently than they do more the more saturated, or “fancy” colored diamonds. Colorless and non-colorless diamonds are evaluated face, or table-side, down. They are graded on an alphabetical scale from “D” (colorless) to “Z” (light color).
When thinking about yellow diamonds, most of the alphabet grades will be too light. Set correctly, sometimes “U-V” and most often, “W-X” and “Y-Z” diamonds appear quite yellow and are often referred to as “light yellow.” If pastel yellow pleases you, these beautiful end-of-the alphabet yellows represent a marvelous savings when compared to the more saturate, and pricey, “fancies” which follow after “Z.”
Fancies– The Deepest Shades of Color
Yellow diamonds with more saturate yellow hues are graded face, or table-side, facing upward – the way you would see them in a piece of jewelry. As the yellow becomes more saturate, the hues can become more complex, with any undertones in hue becoming more noticeable. For this reason, the grading of these beautifully colored stones is not necessarily linear, and can be as complex as the colors themselves.
Suffice it to say that there are 6 GIA “fancy” grades, beginning with “Fancy Light,”and then “Fancy.” Next are “Fancy Dark,” “Fancy Deep,” “Fancy Intense” and “Fancy Vivid. “Unless a diamond is accompanied by a GIA report denoting the stone as “fancy,” you are not guaranteed that a diamond is actually the more coveted “fancy” color. Beware of paying top dollar for stones without any report or diamonds graded “fancy” by another gemological laboratory.
Different Yellows Mean Different Values
As with any colored gemstone, color is the single most important factor when evaluating a yellow diamond. Color characteristics are considered even before a diamond’s cut and clarity – a marked difference from the way colorless and near colorless diamonds are evaluated. The more pure the hue, that is, the least modified the hue is by the presence of grey, brown or other colors, the more prized the color. Also, to a point, the more saturated the color, the more valued it is. Evenness of color throughout the entire gem is considered as well.
So, for example, all other things being equal (cut, clarity, crystal, weight, shape) a diamond the color of lemonade will most likely be less coveted, therefore less expensive, than a diamond the color of a buttercup. This is because the more saturate buttercup yellow is more rare.
There are no hard and fast rules about which of the fancy yellows cost most; however, for many, The Holy Grail of yellows is Fancy Vivid.
Yellow Diamond Shapes
Unlike colorless or near colorless diamonds which are cut to eliminate the appearance of color, colored diamonds are cut to increase the appearance of color. Hence, because it works best for color retention, colored diamonds are often shaped and cut as rectangle or square radiants, as opposed to round or step cut shapes. If you desire a round yellow diamond, you will pay a premium for this shape because it is more difficult to retain the color in a round brilliant cut.
Yellow Diamond Ring Choices – Which Metal, Which Style?
Not all yellow diamond rings are created equally. And, accordingly, there can be a huge variance in pricing. Just as there is a wide range in color and quality of colorless and near-colorless diamond rings, the same is true for yellow diamond rings. You are investing in a yellow diamond; it makes sense to invest in a quality setting as well.
The style ring and color metal you choose should be based entirely on personal preference. There is no right or wrong. Some prefer the contrast of white metal or platinum against the yellow diamond, others like the warmth and golden glow of yellow gold. Many rings work both metals together in a setting.
Where to Shop
It is great to see colored diamonds in person, however, some of the most experienced, most knowledgeable colored diamond vendors, with access to the most extensive inventories, do their business online. Whichever you choose, be sure to have frank discussions about what you are looking for. Ask to see stones you are considering in many lighting conditions, or ask for for lots of photos of the actual stone you are considering. Be sure to see a GIA grading report before a purchase is made.
Shopping with basic knowledge and understanding of yellow diamond characteristics and grading, coupled with advice from a trusted vendor who is familiar and knowledgeable not only about diamonds – but, more importantly, colored diamonds – can ensure selection of a quality, natural diamond ring that is a perfect match for your desires and will last for generations to come.