The Lure of Fancy Colored Diamonds
When you think of a diamond, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Love? Marriage? Engagement? Lifelong commitment? In today’s society, diamonds are recognized as the traditional symbol for love and romance. A diamond is forever; the right time of your life; designed for a woman’s satisfaction; and live the moment are all expressions that jewelers use to entice men to take the leap, buy a diamond, and propose to the women of their dreams. However, diamonds are more than just a symbol of devotion, they have a unique history that travels back approximately 3 billion years.
The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word “Adamas” and means “unconquerable and indestructible.” Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperatures and pressure at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers in the Earth’s mantle. Approximately 130 million carats of diamonds are mined annually with roughly 49 percent originating from Central and Southern Africa. Although diamonds aren’t typically mined in the U.S., they have been found in Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.
Outside the commercial market of clear diamonds, the popularity of fancy colored diamonds has been on the rise globally. This is especially true in the antiques industry. Colored diamonds are commonly considered to be assets with highly attractive investment potential, whereas colorless diamonds are more suited for gifts.
Colored diamonds are either found in nature or created in laboratory settings. Large, vivid fancy colored diamonds are extremely rare and very valuable. Only approximately one in every 10,000 diamonds has a fancy color. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) lists 27 different hues for natural colored diamonds. The most valuable hues are pink, blue, green, and red diamonds, which are so unique that only a handful are known to exist worldwide. “To say a red diamond is one in a million is certainly no stretch,” stated John King, GIA Laboratory’s chief quality officer.
Each diamond is the result of an extraordinary voyage, forging hundreds of kilometers below the Earth’s surface. Believe it or not, a one-carat colorless diamond requires billions of carbon atoms to bond, and all of those atoms must be carbon to create the diamond. The slightest quirk creates a colored diamond. For example, a bit of boron makes a blue diamond; nitrogen makes a yellow diamond; natural radiation form nearby rocks trap electrons to create a green surface color; pink or red shades are thought to be due to changes to the electron structure during the voyage to the top. Laboratories are now able to create colored diamonds by mimicking the tricks nature plays.
With the increased visibility of colored diamonds comes a whole new vocabulary to educate individuals to make smarter purchases. In the ’40s and ’50s, the GIA developed the universal grading system known as the 4Cs, examining carat, color, clarity and cut to evaluate white diamonds. When shopping for colored diamonds, however, the 4Cs become more complex.
In 1995, the GIA expanded its system to measure hue, tone, saturation and distribution of color in colored diamonds. “Hue” describes, well, the color and can include a modifier such as purplish-pink. “Tone” refers to the stone’s lightness or darkness, and “saturation” implies strength or purity of color. The scale begins with “faint” and moves up to “light,” “fancy light,” “fancy,” “fancy intense,” and “fancy vivid,” the last being the most valuable.
There have been many notable colored diamonds throughout our history. One of the most famous is the Hope Diamond, which has a long and coveted history. The world’s largest blue stone was formed deep within the Earth approximately 1.1 billion years ago. Several accounts suggest that the diamond originated in India in the 17th century when the French merchant traveler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, was said to purchase it. This diamond, which was most likely from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India, was slightly triangular in shape and crudely cut. Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France in 1668. Five years later, the stone was recut by the court jeweler, resulting in a 67 1/8-carat stone and was set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon which the king wore on ceremonial occasions. The diamond was owned by a variety of individuals throughout its lifetime including royalty and recognized jewelers such as Cartier. Today, the Smithsonian is the diamond’s home.
Fun fact – the fictional blue diamond, the Heart of the Ocean, featured prominently in the Hollywood blockbuster Titantic was modeled after the Hope Diamond.
Another well-known colored stone is a fancy vivid orange diamond referred to as the Pumpkin Diamond. The stone was discovered in 1997 and measures 5.54 carats. It went up for auction at Sotheby’s where it was purchased for $1.3 million by Ronald Winston for the House of Harry Winston. He chose the name of diamond because he bought it the day before Halloween. Now worth an estimated $3 million, the diamond was set in a ring with two smaller diamonds on both sides and was worn by Halle Berry to the 2002 Oscars when she won best actress for Monster’s Ball.
Through the years, Harry Winston has been a consistent buyer and seller of colored diamonds. In 1948, Harry Winston sold its Windsor Yellow earrings, a pair of pear-shaped yellow diamonds, to the duchess of Windsor. The company also owned the Eugenie Blue, a heart-shaped, 30.82-carat blue diamond now in the Smithsonian’s collection, and even the Graff Pink, which was originally sold to a private collector 63 years ago. There is currently an 8.8-carat fancy intense pink diamond on display in their New York store.
As an antique show producer, our goal is to always provide attendees access to historical and unique merchandise and this doesn’t exclude rare fancy colored diamonds. At five of our national antique and antique jewelry shows, we have variety of elite jewelry dealers that carry colored diamonds such as Goldstein Diamonds, Ely & Co. Fancy Diamonds, Inc., Rick Shatz Inc., Joseph Dardashti, Vivid Diamond & Jewelry, and many more. For the full list of our shows, visit USAntiqueShows.com.
So, next time you take a look in a storefront window, shop an antique jewelry show, or peruse a jewelry boutique, take a moment to remember the diamond’s journey from the interior of the Earth to becoming beautiful pieces of jewelry adorned by women worldwide. This, in turn, is what makes these stones endlessly fascinating.
Fancy Colored Diamonds
Gemological Institute of America
A Rising Appetite to Invest in Colored Diamonds
The New York Times
Colored Diamonds: An Insider’s Guide
Colored Diamonds: Asia’s New Fancy Best Friend