Diamonds are diamonds, right? Not quite. The basics of diamond buying vary a bit when we’re talking about coloured diamonds. While yellow diamonds are more readily mined than the other colours, strong and vivid yellow are very rare so we’ve put together a guide on how to buy them.
Our guide covers the origin of yellow diamonds, their various intensities, what you can expect regarding pricing, and how to be a savvy shopper.
What Are Yellow Diamonds?
Picture a diamond, and you probably think of a colourless light-filled gemstone. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) diamond colour scale for white diamonds ranges from D to Z. As the letter nears the end of the alphabet, the diamond looks more yellowish than clear. The closer a diamond is to D, generally the more expensive it is.
However, at a certain point in the scale, the colour looks less like faded yellow and more vibrant and exciting. At this point it’s considered a “yellow diamond” instead of a yellowish diamond.
But what tints a diamond yellow? A fluke of nature, the existence of nitrogen inside the stone, changes its colour during the formation process. Yellow isn’t the only unique diamond colour. If boron makes its way into a nascent diamond, it becomes blue. Nitrogen can also turn a diamond orange and in some cases a total rarity causes it to become pink or red.
How Rare Are Yellow Diamonds?
Let’s put it this way: nitrogen and boron didn’t appear very often when diamonds were forming deep within the earth. As a result, just one in 10,000 carats is a natural coloured diamond. We’ve mentioned yellow, blue and orange, but diamonds span the rainbow: reds, fiery pinks, sophisticated purples and extravagant greens.
One of the world’s most prolific coloured diamond mines is right here in Australia. The Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia was the world’s largest supplier of natural coloured diamonds, including white, champagne, cognac, blue, violet and the highly-coveted Argyle pink and red diamonds. However, in November 2020, the Argyle ceased mining operations after 37 years and more than 865 million carats of rough diamonds.
Within the rainbow of coloured diamonds, yellows are the most common. They make up to 60% of the coloured diamonds. But let’s put that in perspective. Only about 1 out of 16,500 mined carats is a yellow diamond, so yes, natural yellow diamonds are exceedingly rare.
What About the Range of Yellow Diamond Colour Intensity?
At one end of the spectrum, we have light yellow diamonds that rank at the lower end of the D-Z scale. These stones typically sell for less than a white G coloured diamond. But that’s where any discounting ends.
There are three more categories of yellow diamonds when referring to the bright fancy yellow diamond: Fancy, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid. The more intense the colour (think Fancy Vivid), the higher the price.
Shapes for Yellow Diamonds
Round fancy yellow diamonds are almost impossible to find, given their strict cutting requirements. If you do find such a stone, expect to pay a premium.
The reason for this is because when you cut a stone that has colour, you need to increase the base of the diamond to hold the colour. When you are cutting a round diamond, from a side view it looks like an ice cream cone and you are removing the depth and hence the volume of colour. This is perfect for a colourless white, but rarely used for polishing coloured diamonds.
Instead of brilliant rounds, yellow diamonds are often cut into cushions, ovals, pears and other fancy shapes, depending on the parameters of the raw material. As you can see from this selection of loose fancy yellow diamonds at Leibish, the colours and hues vary significantly, and round diamonds are hard to come by.
Yellow Diamond Colour Scale
Coloured diamonds have a different scale than white diamonds. Therefore, besides determining the colour (or colour combinations, such as yellow-green or yellow-orange), the diamond is also graded for intensity.
Some diamonds show very strong colours, and some exhibit just a tint. That’s why the intensity colour scale was invented. Here’s how it goes:
Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid.
Yellow diamonds at the lower end of the D-Z colour scale (U-V and Y-Z) do appear somewhat yellowish, but there’s usually a brown component as well. So if you prefer the light yellow diamonds, you may be able to find a suitable one on the lower end of the D-Z colour scale and save a bundle on the price of the stone.
Yellow Diamonds and Pricing
As we learn in basic economics classes, the price of any commodity is dictated by supply and demand. However, when it comes to yellow diamonds (and most coloured diamonds), the problem is that the most desirable diamonds are also the rarest. The result is often remarkably high prices. Here’s an example:
Let’s compare two yellow diamonds of equal carat weight but different intensities:
Fancy Light ($4,500) vs Fancy Vivid ($14,000). These numbers could double or triple per carat depending on the size of the diamond.
As you can see, the pricing correlates with the intensity level - the more potent the yellow colour, the higher the price. So let’s dive a little deeper.
Fancy Light Yellow Diamonds
These sparklers are still relatively inexpensive yellow diamonds and priced equivalent to I colour white diamonds. However, while an I colour diamond looks pale yellow and is often not recommended, a fancy light yellow mounted in yellow gold makes a gorgeous piece that doesn’t typically cost more than a colourless stone.
Fancy Yellow Diamonds
One step above fancy light yellow diamonds are fancy yellows, which have a clear yellow hue and are generally priced similarly to good-quality colourless diamonds in the F-G range.
Fancy Deep Yellow Diamonds
Not everyone loves the unique and distinctive colour the characterises fancy deep yellow diamonds. It’s a warm colour that often has a secondary brown hue. Pure deep yellows are rare, and their prices can vary dramatically, depending on size, clarity and hue.
Fancy Intense Yellow Diamonds
These are the most highly sought yellow diamonds, and for a good reason. Their shade is pure and clear, and some people refer to them as “canary diamonds.” Pricewise, they’re typically 25-50 per cent more than fancy yellows. Another mine in Australia, Ellendale, which will soon be back in operation, discovered some of the most beautiful canary diamonds. So much so, that for a number of years, they had an exclusive contract with Tiffany’s to supply them.
Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamonds
Last but not least are fancy vivid yellow sparklers, which are extremely rare and expensive. They typically sell for twice as much as an Intense Yellow and three times as much as a Fancy Yellow.
There’s a small subset of vivid yellow diamonds from the Zimmi Mines in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and these stones are valued even more. Their stunning yellow colour is astounding, and they sell for $20,000-$30,000 per carat (in US dollars).
Protecting Your Yellow Diamond
When you find the perfect yellow diamond, protect it with JewelCover insurance. You’ll wear it more and worry less when you know it’s covered for theft, damage, loss, natural disasters and mysterious disappearance.
To learn more, ring us at 1300 522 808 or fill out this form for a free, instant quote. We provide white-glove service at an affordable price.