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Jewelry Education

Certification Fancy

With demand for natural fancy color diamonds at the greatest levels in history, and prices commanding all-time high prices, it is all-important to know whether or not a fancy color diamond's color is natural. Very often, irradiated stones may visibly appear to have color concentrations in areas of a stones, hence "color zoning", or reveal these defects under magnification. The irradiated colors also tend to have a unusual color appearance not commonly seem in natural fancy colors. However, the only way to be absolutely certain of its natural origin is by taking a spectral analysis of the stone.

Therefore, it is paramount that the stone be accompanied by a certificate of its origin. This procedure is done by an accredited laboratory for such testing, such as, Gemological Institute of America (GIA), or European Gem Laboratory (EGL), or a skilled gemologist who has the knowledge and spectrometer that is required.

The way natural fancy color diamonds are graded is totally different than those used with colorless diamonds (as color grade in the 4Cs). The GIA color scale for colorless to near-colorless diamonds is arranged starting at D color, the purist colorless grade, through Z color, where the diamond has a very perceptible tint of yellow. This is good for grading colors which have any trace of yellow, however, they do no account for the other most common modifying colors typically found in white diamonds, namely brown and gray.

In grading for fancy color diamonds, there is one universal grading system that has been devised by GIA (and copied by other labs) to accurately grade all the fancy colors relative to the colorless (D) grade and with the exception of browns. Natural fancy color diamonds are judged by the visual appearance by hue, saturation, and tone.

Hue is defined as the primary spectral color, which can be modified by a secondary spectral color. For example, say a stone is graded with a pure yellow color, it would be described as a fancy yellow. If the modifying hue comprises up to 25% of the color, it is referred to as orangish-yellow. If the modifying hue comprises 25-50% of its color, it is referred to a orange-yellow. Once the hue comprises more than 50%, it is then graded as the primary color.

Saturation is the intensity of the hue, for example, faint, intense, vivid. Tone is the lightness or darkness of the diamond ranging from clear to opaque or whiteness to blackness, for example, very light, light, medium, dark.

The Color Scale Terms for Distinct Colors: Faint (where the color is barely distinguishable from the colorless), Very Light, Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Deep, and Fancy Vivid (where the color is extremely bright and vivid). These terms are coupled with a description of the primary and modifying fancy color and tone, for example, Fancy Purplish-Pink, Fancy Vivid Orange-Pink, Very Light Brownish-Pink, etc.

Brown color diamonds have their own dedicated and separate grading scale, provided that their color is a pure brown hue, and not a modifying color, such as brownish-pink. We will go into further explaining grading for fancy browns in "Champagne Diamonds" in the section outlining special colors. Gray is not a color that typically affects many fancy color diamonds other than blue and black diamonds, and once a diamond is tinted so overwhelmingly by the gray, it becomes opaque anyway.

The intensity of color in natural fancy color diamonds is directly proportional to its rarity and price, and only few have been discovered as the color becomes more vivid.