Fiery canary, smooth honey, or bright sunny, a yellow diamond is always cheerful and stunning to behold. But shopping for a yellow diamond requires different considerations than shopping for a traditional white diamond. If you’ve got your heart set on one, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to buy a yellow diamond, even some gorgeous design inspiration for a perfect yellow diamond ring.
The Guide to Yellow Diamonds
What Are Yellow Diamonds?
Yellow diamonds belong to the family of fancy colored diamonds. These are natural diamonds that due to the impurities trapped inside of them during the process of formation, exhibit different colors. For yellow diamonds specifically, they get their beautiful color thanks to a small amount of nitrogen that’s contained in their crystal structure.
Traditional white diamonds can have a “yellowish” hue, which is generally considered to be a negative quality, especially the more apparent it becomes. However, once the color exhibited reaches a level to where the yellow is the dominant color, the diamond is no longer considered to be a white, or colorless, diamond. It is now a fancy colored diamond and its value rises.
Yellow diamonds can have other color shades present as well, the most common of which are orange, green and brown. The most desirable and valuable of yellow diamonds are the ones that show a pure and intense yellow color. In these diamonds, there is the perfect amount of nitrogen molecules to absorb blue light thus elevating the yellow shade and diminishing any secondary hues.
How to Choose a Yellow Diamond Using the 4Cs
White diamonds are graded on a color scale of D to Z, where D is a completely colorless diamond and Z has a distinct brown or yellow tint. The GIA color grading scale for fancy colored diamonds is completely different. The scale focuses on the intensity of the color and each grade represents a range in itself. The seven grades are as follows:
- Very Light
- Fancy Light
- Fancy Intense
- Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep or Fancy Dark
For yellow diamonds, there are no Faint, Very Light or Light varieties because these are considered to be on the lower end of the traditional scale. They’re often called cape diamonds because they’re originally mined from Cape Province in South Africa. And when it comes to color, three main components give you the full picture: hue, saturation, and tone.
Hue is the visible color of the diamond. The primary hue of a yellow diamond is yellow, but most yellow diamonds are naturally found with traces of a secondary hue. The most common are orange, green and brown. Secondary hues can sometimes enhance the primary color as is often the case with orange hues.
Saturation refers to the intensity of the color. In general, the more saturated the color, the more valuable the diamond. So on the scale, the more vivid and deep color grades are more desirable and expensive.
Tone refers to the lightness or darkness of the color. Stones in the mid-range that strike a balance are the most preferred.
In general, the more color a colored diamond has, the better. It means it is likely to be more desirable and valuable. But as with colorless diamonds, the level of color is a choice of personal preference. If a softer yellow in the Fancy Light or Fancy range is more to your liking, then that stone will carry far more value and significance over time than if you were to choose a more industry-valuable stone. However, it is always important to view your yellow diamond in natural and artificial light because diamond color can vary greatly within the GIA designations.
Fancy light yellow diamond multistone ring
Fancy yellow diamond double halo ring
Clarity of yellow diamonds is graded the same way as traditional colorless diamonds – the fewer number of inclusions or blemishes, the higher the clarity grade. Where yellow diamonds are concerned, they are well known to often be found in nature with a relatively high clarity grade. This is a very beneficial trait of yellow diamonds.
Generally speaking, fancy colored diamonds also tend to mask imperfections well due to the stone’s more vibrant coloring. So the same considerations apply for a yellow diamond as for a colorless diamond – you want to focus on finding one that is eye clean, meaning the diamond has no inclusions or blemishes that are visible to the naked eye.
In general, fancy-colored yellow diamonds are eye clean. This is a great benefit of this stone, so you are likely to find a significant amount of yellow diamonds with relatively high clarity gradings, making for a nice selection. So, finding yellow diamonds with VS clarity and higher is going to be a fairly easy task. That being said, there isn’t likely to be much difference in clarity between an SI1 and a VVS1 when it comes to being eye clean, so a larger diamond with SI1 clarity next to a smaller diamond with VVS1 clarity, you’ll notice size and not the clarity grade.
For the cut of a yellow diamond, and all fancy colored diamonds in general, we have another marked difference when compared to colorless, white diamonds. Traditionally, diamonds are cut to maximize fire, brilliance, and scintillation to create that iconic sparkle and dancing array of light emanating from a diamond. In a yellow diamond, these traditional characteristics are considered to be secondary to the color.
All fancy colored diamonds are cut to maximize color intensity which thereby results in maximizing their value. This characteristic changes how you should consider the cut grade for your yellow diamond selection. An excellent cut yellow diamond will come at more of a premium cost, but if the stone’s hue, saturation, and tone aren’t to your preferences, it doesn’t matter how great the cut grade is.
When it comes to the cut, it’s not necessary to aim for excellent cuts only. You should stay away from bad cuts and focus on very good to excellent symmetry and polish. The same as with clarity, an excellent cut is going to be priced at a premium, and you are unlikely to notice substantial differences in the good to very good range if you prioritize symmetry and polish. Also, radiant cuts can intensify the color while brilliant cuts can often reduce the color.
Yellow diamonds are the second most common fancy colored diamond, but they are still quite rare in larger sizes. It is quite common to find yellow diamonds up to 1.5-2 carats. From there, it can get much more difficult to find them. But we also have to remember that it’s not just the size of the diamond, it’s the range of color intensity that will vary with carat weight.
It’s going to be much easier to find yellow diamonds of mid-level color intensities than it will be to find those with the strongest intensity. And while the same pricing structure exists for fancy colored diamonds, where the cost increases exponentially at each full carat level, the range of costs at every full carat level are heavily influenced by the depth of color.
How Yellow & Orange Diamonds Are Made
Yellow Diamond Rarity and Prices
Diamond color is by far the most important factor when it comes to pricing for yellow diamonds and colored diamonds in general. Taking that into account, a 1 carat yellow diamond with lighter color grades will likely cost in the $3,000-$5,000 range. When you move into their strongest color intensity, Fancy Vivid yellow diamonds cost much more. A 1 carat Fancy Vivid yellow diamond will likely cost in the range of $10,000-$20,000.
The pricing of yellow diamonds is very intricate because of the presence of secondary hues. Even the smallest amount of brown or orange tint can heavily influence the price, both positively and negatively. But of all the fancy colored diamonds, a yellow diamond can actually be fairly affordable due to being more commonly found.
Mined fancy-colored diamonds are extremely rare with only about 1 out of every 10,000 carats mined being a colored diamond. Within that group, yellow diamonds are the second most common color to be found, after brown. Fancy Intense yellow diamonds are the most sought after yellow diamonds, and Fancy Vivid are the most rare and typically carry the highest price for their color.
Another option for yellow diamonds are lab-grown yellow diamonds. When it comes to lab-grown diamonds, they are chemically and structurally real diamonds. Lab-grown yellow diamonds are one of the easiest colored diamonds to grow, therefore making them quite affordable. You can expect to save about 70% on the cost of a mined yellow diamond.
Designing Your Yellow Diamond Ring
With yellow diamonds, there is a unique opportunity to create a ring with contrasting or complementary colors. If you choose platinum or white gold, you can create a stunning contrast and really make a yellow diamond pop and stand out. Alternatively, yellow or rose gold can help a lighter diamond appear deeper and more intense than its color grade and create a lovely overall warmth of yellow color.
To really make a yellow diamond pop, a halo setting is the perfect option. The halo setting boosts the size appearance of your yellow diamond and creates a stark and sparkly contrast of color with white diamonds. Consider our Betsie and Melini. Both feature intense yellow diamonds in halo settings with pavé-set bands. While the setting is in platinum for these, using yellow gold for the prongs to secure the stone helps to accentuate the yellow color of the diamond for the metal that actually touches the stone.
Side stones are also a spectacular way to showcase a brilliant yellow diamond. Whether you go for a cluster of diamonds on either side or larger single stones to create a three-stone ring – as in our Bixton – you will have the perfect accent to your yellow diamond. Just remember, you can enhance the yellow of the diamond by securing it with yellow gold prongs if you’re choosing a platinum or white gold setting.
Yellow diamonds are becoming more and more popular for engagement rings, especially when they create such a unique and original ring. If you know your options to find a great yellow diamond and how to best accentuate it with the setting, you can’t lose with a yellow diamond!