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Jewelry Education

Natural Color

Natural Fancy Color

Diamonds come in a multitude of colors, each one of them sparkling with their own special mystery and beauty. As unbelievable as it may seem, natural diamonds exist in virtually every shade of color known to man! Among the varied colors are: strawberry red, pistachio green, pumpkin orange, chocolate brown, canary yellow, cotton candy pink, seaweed olive, burgundy purple, gun-metal gray, steely black, and every shade in between.

The majority of rough crystals, from which diamonds are fashioned and finished, typically have some degree of modifying color. Although yellow, brown, and gray are the most common, the lucky natural crystals that have special hues, such as blue, green, orange, pink, red, and purple, are extremely rare. These rare color combinations are deemed "fancy colors."

They owe their color to trace elements that are mixed with the carbon as a diamond crystallizes deep within the Earth's crust, if it is exposed to a natural radiation source while crystallizing, or subjected to extreme pressures at birth. Blue owes its color to boron in the mixture; yellow, oranges, and browns to the presence of Nitrogen; green to a nearby radiation source; and other colors due to aberrations within its crystal structure that affect its optical characteristics.

The 4C's of color, cut, clarity and carat weight apply to colored diamonds just as they do to colorless diamonds, with the exception of the intensity of color, not the lack of it! The purity and intensity of the spectral color is directly proportional to the price. Most natural fancy colors come in hues with a secondary modifying color, i.e. brownish-orange or purplish-pink.

But the overwhelming factor that affects the evaluation of any fancy diamond the most, is whether or not its color is from the natural creation of the diamond itself, and not through any enhancement other than the actual cutting and polishing. These are then deemed "Natural Fancy Color Diamonds." This distinction is extremely important! We disclose the origin of color in every fancy colored diamond we sell.

Treated Fancy Color

In the early 1900s, the first instance of colorizing a diamond by unnatural means was conducted by a British scientist. Diamonds were placed in radium salts for an extended period. Unfortunately, the stones became radioactive in the process and the coloration only penetrated the outermost surface of the stones. In the 1940's, diamonds were "greened" by exposure to high-speed bombardment by atomic particles in a cyclotron. This treatment achieved a safe, fast, and permanent way of modifying its otherwise unwanted natural color. By coupling irradiation techniques and heating to very high temperatures, diamonds were available in greens, blues, yellows, browns, and blacks on a commercial scale in the 1950s. Most recently, with the evolution of particle acceleration generators and nuclear science, pinks and purples have been produced! Irradiated diamonds usually retain their new color, however they can change color if heated by a jeweler's torch.

These irradiated or treated diamonds are still commercially marketed, but they are treated from off-color or diamonds that would be otherwise undesirable. The colors they reproduce, although fancy, are not exactly the same as untreated natural fancy color diamond. Treated diamonds sell at a fraction of their natural color counterparts, and usually sell for substantially less than their colorless cousins! Therefore, they are still shunned by most for the same reason that most people do not want Cubic Zirconia in place of a diamond: even though it bears a resemblance, it can not match the value or beauty of the real item! There is also the human factor: once you know something is not the real thing, it somehow is tarnished and never appears the same!

Please note: Photos Courtesy of Tino Hammid & Argyle Mines

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