Ever struggled to choose between white and yellow diamonds? You’re not alone.
Out of every 10,000 carats mined, only one is a yellow diamond. White diamonds have wowed for centuries, but the yellow variety has gotten steadily more popular over the last decade. Why? Because of its scarcity and unique color combinations, from light and intense to deep and vivid.
Yellow gems have long held a place on the world’s most expensive diamonds list, alongside striking blue and pink specimens. They remain enticing for buyers, with a lower price per carat than most other investment-worthy colors with a similar intensity grade.
According to Knight Frank, yellow diamonds increased in price by 20% in 2020.
So, in collaboration with California-based curator of rare jewelry Lux USA, we decided to cover the key facts every buyer should know about these striking gems. GIA Certified Gemologists Matt Hodgen and David Leavitt (also the owner of Lux USA) told us about the origin of yellow diamonds, the best setting and cut, the difference between canary and fancy yellow – and finally, why these species are so loved by diamond hunters.
Have yellow diamonds ever caught your eye on red carpets?
David & Matt: Yellow diamonds are constantly spotted not only on red carpets, but also at the wealthiest of engagement dinners, and at top jewelry auctions.
From Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba to Carrie Underwood and Megan Fox, a host of Hollywood celebrities have been spotted wearing eye-catching yellow diamonds. And then there’s ‘Isadora’, worn by Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
In May 2014, the Graff vivid yellow, weighing in at a whopping 100.09 carats, fetched $16.3 million at Sotheby’s. Another famous yellow-hued gem is this Tiffany ‘Bird on a Rock’ piece, one of the largest yellow diamonds discovered in 1878, at Kimberley mine in South Africa. Cut into a cushion shape of 128.54 carats, over the years it’s been worn by Audrey Hepburn and Lady Gaga.
Hillary Clinton was seen wearing a 4.23-carat yellow diamond on various occasions, while Jennifer Lopez received a vintage style 8-carat canary ring from Marc Anthony. According to online reports, the latter was estimated at $300,000.
But probably the most well-known is the 24-carat engagement ring Paris Hilton received from billionaire Paris Latsis. Buzz around the web speculates the huge jewel was worth about $5 million dollars when he proposed back in 2005.
What are the best examples of yellow diamonds, the most remarkable and valuable of gems?
David: I once brokered an incomparable diamond. It was 890 carats.
That egg-sized jewel is the 4th largest rough diamond ever found and the largest yellow-brown diamond on the planet. It was turned into L’Incomparable, the most expensive necklace in the world at $55 million, according to Forbes and the Guinness Book of World Records.
What’s the origin of yellow diamonds?
Matt: Let’s step back in time, to millions of years ago when these priceless treasures were first formed.
Diamonds are created primarily from carbon. With very high pressure and temperatures, these rarities of nature are born. Now, with nearly anything nature produces there will be tiny traces of additional elements. In the case of diamonds, these trace elements produce some dazzling colors. Iron creates purples and reds, and boron makes beautiful blues.
Believe it or not, radiation produces green tones, but nitrogen is what brings yellow into life. Nitrogen is more commonly found in different parts of the world where diamonds have formed, so you’ll see a wider range of yellow than with any other colors throughout the spectrum. That does not make them any less rare, it simply provides a broader variety.
Is there a difference between fancy yellow diamonds and canary yellow?
Matt: Not all yellow diamonds are considered ‘fancy yellow’, an industry term related to the colors beyond the classic white diamond grading scale.
D-F are completely colorless, G-I are very slightly yellow, and J-L are lightly yellow – you barely notice the yellow hues when looking at these face up when mounted. The colors from M-Z simply have a little more yellow color to them.
When a diamond has more yellow than appears on the grading scale, they’re considered ‘fancy’ and adhere to a completely different level of grading. They’re rarer, and as pricing quickly indicates, more costly. As you enter the range of fancy yellow diamonds, the color is distinctly more recognizable; as you reach the highest grades (fancy intense and fancy vivid), they appear as rich as a beautifully ripe lemon.
How much is a 1-carat yellow diamond?
David & Matt: We tend to stay away from blanket pricing because there are several factors involved – clarity, cut, color, and carats. The Diamond Pro does a good job of showcasing the difference in pricing, not just based on color or carats:
- 1.01 Carat Round Cut SI1 Clarity – $21,780
- 0.53 Carat Pear Shape VS1 Clarity – $5,175
- 1.01 Carat Cushion Shape VVS2 Clarity – $16,775
- 1.03 Carat Round Shape VS2 Clarity – $31,825
Then also factor in the diamond being designer – that increases the price as well. A 1-carat diamond can vary by tens of thousands of dollars depending on all these things.
What’s the best cut for a yellow diamond?
David & Matt: How a diamond is cut is arguably the most important factor in how it will come to life.
The shape – round, rectangle, oval – contains different light paths to bring out the color. But over the years, I’ve found radiant cuts bring both the size and color to a perfect blend, suiting canary diamonds best.
Picture a square. Now, trim off the corners to soften the appearance, and add an immense amount of sparkle but without any sharp lines. That’s how a well-cut radiant appears.
It’s also a cut that sparkles by nature, and has a higher tolerance when it comes to cutting a stone shallow, giving a larger face-up appearance in relation to its actual weight. As a buyer and lifelong caretaker of such a gem, you can find a much larger stone for the amount you’re spending than you would with other cuts in the same weight category.
A good example would be a 1-carat emerald-cut versus a 1-carat radiant. The emerald needs to have a deeper cut to help hold onto its color, whereas a radiant could be cut to hold its weight in width, thus looking larger once completed.
How to choose the best setting for your yellow diamond
Matt: When it comes to mounting them into jewelry, some of the differences between white and yellow diamonds are highlighted.
The purest of white diamonds show white when mounted in white metals like gold or platinum, but yellow diamonds tend to display more of their color when mounted in a corresponding metal like yellow gold.
As with any rule, there’s always an exception: Diamonds with a faint yellow color between the M-Z range will show whiter if mounted in yellow gold, because the yellow drowns out the barely visible amount of yellow within the stone. Cool little trick, huh?
Many of the finest yellow diamonds are set with pure white diamonds surrounding them to display the vivid differences between the two, truly showcasing how yellow the center stone is. With these pieces, you’ll find the white diamonds are set with white metals, and the yellow separately set in gold.
Is yellow diamond a good investment?
David & Matt: From an investment viewpoint, let’s start at the supply/demand angle and articulate down from there.
Fancy yellows are rarer than many white diamonds, so with a smaller supply, a higher valuation should be expected. As for canary yellow, now probably is a good time to buy. Over the past two years throughout Covid, the market has experienced a suppression in price as people liquidated their holdings to raise cash for things like monthly bills, saving companies, paying staff, and whatever else they had going on throughout the pandemic.
The lower prices were a reflection of a higher available supply, and while supply has gone up, it was primarily due to market resale rather than mines finding more yellow diamonds. That’s what we consider a good buying indicator, since the actual net supply did not increase, but pricing dropped in relation.
So there you have it: Our journey throughout the life of a yellow diamond. These amazing pieces of the earth’s treasure trove are gentle reminders of how rich in wonder our planet is, and how blessed we are to be able to share its beauty for generations.
Continue to be inspired by yellow diamonds with Lux USA