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What are Fancy Diamonds?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fancy diamonds are diamonds which are richly colored, rather than clear or white. True fancy diamonds are rare, and most of the colored diamonds on the market are artificially colored through a variety of laboratory techniques. The value of this type of diamond can range considerably, depending on the hue and intensity of the diamond, along with the cut and carat weight. The popularity of colored diamonds for formal jewelry has waxed and waned, although some of the most famous diamonds in the world, such as the Hope Diamond, are fancy.

The unique colors of fancy diamonds are naturally caused by impurities in the stone. The high pressures which diamonds are subjected to while they are forming often admit impurities, which can detract from the price if they only faintly discolor the stone. If the impurities appear in large amounts, however, the diamond will be considered fancy, and can command a very high price, especially if the color is rare. Nitrogen and boron both cause colors to appear in diamonds, as does irradiation, which causes the diamond to turn green. When artificially coloring diamonds in the lab, they are subjected to radiation, heat treatment, or high pressure.

When grading a fancy diamond, the first thing to determine is the hue of the stone. The range of colors for diamonds includes yellow, green, blue, brown, orange, pink, and red. Brown diamonds are sometimes listed as “claret” or “champagne” diamonds, because the brown color has a low sales value. After the hue of the diamond is determined, the intensity of the color is graded. Many diamond graders use the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) scale, which starts with “faint” and moves through very light, light, fancy light, fancy, fancy dark, fancy intense, fancy deep, and fancy vivid. A fancy vivid will have the richest color, and tends to be more valuable.

Like other diamonds, fancy diamonds are also graded using the four C's of cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. Carat weight is the size of the diamond; in general, a diamond with a larger carat weight will be more valuable, especially if it has a strong color. Cut is also an important evaluating tool, because a cut can make or break a diamond in the setting. If cut well, a diamond's facets will brilliantly reflect light, creating the eye dazzling impact which most consumers associate with diamonds. If poorly cut, the diamond will appear listless and dull. The shape of the cut is also important, and fancy diamonds are often cut into unusual shapes to enhance their natural beauty. Finally, the clarity of the diamond is examined. Clarity is not as important for these diamonds as it is for clear ones, but a high number of inclusions will devalue the stone.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon302671 — On Nov 11, 2012

@reader888 and calpat: Natural colored diamonds definitely look like diamonds. In fact, some of the colors like vivid yellows and vivid orange diamonds have magnificent brilliance much beyond that of regular diamonds.

Consider that these diamonds are by far more rare than regular diamonds (only one of 10,000) and you'll understand why they are more expensive. You should take a look and the amazing colors and see - it is an interesting phenomenon.

By reader888 — On Feb 02, 2011

I've never actually seen a fancy diamond, but it seems like the color they have would make it hard to view it as a diamond. In my mind, a diamond is always clear. I guess I'm just more into the classics, but I think I would honestly prefer a plain old clear diamond to a fancy one, no matter how expensive or rare it was.

By calpat — On Jan 31, 2011

I think it sounds kind of silly that an impurity in a diamond can make the value go down, unless the impurity is big enough, in which case the value goes up.

Seriously, who makes up these rules? And I bet that a lot of people get conned into buying so called "fancy" diamonds too -- sounds kind of sketchy to me, to be perfectly honest. Are there some kinds of rules or some sort of regulatory body that checks up on things like this?

By write79 — On Jan 29, 2011

I think it's interesting that the value of a diamond can go up based on an impurity. Generally, an impurity in something is rather undesirable. But, in the case of a diamond, it becomes fancy.

Just goes to show how crazy the fashion world is, right?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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