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Read before you buy: the ultimate guide to fancy colour diamonds

Nothing quite compares to the breathtaking beauty of natural fancy colour diamonds. Exquisitely hued and vanishingly rare, each one is unique – and uniquely valuable. 
 

GO STRAIGHT TO SECTION

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Only 3% of all diamonds mined are coloured diamonds. 

• Why purchase a fancy colour diamond?
• Get to know grading, reports and certification
• Starting a colour diamond collection

Discover the colours:

• Blue & Violet Diamonds
• Green Diamonds
• Yellow & Orange Diamonds
• Pink & Red Diamonds

 

 

These stones have enchanted people for centuries; indeed, many are featured in the crown jewels of nations from Iran to Thailand, France, and the United Kingdom.

Today, these glorious treasures of nature are no longer the exclusive province of royalty or nobility; anyone can own and adorn themselves with a rare piece of the Earth.

Harsh Maheshwari, director Kunming Diamonds – an Argyle Pink Diamond partner which specialises in natural fancy colour diamonds of all colours – says, “Fancy colour diamonds are among the most highly valued gemstones due to their attractiveness and great rarity. The magnificence of these captivating gems lies not just with their mesmerising hues or natural splendour. It is influenced by the individual’s perception, which varies from eye to eye.”

Harsh Maheshwari, director Kunming Diamonds
Harsh Maheshwari, director Kunming Diamonds
Fancy colour diamonds are among the most highly valued gemstones due to their attractiveness and great rarity. The magnificence of these captivating gems lies not just with their mesmerising hues or natural splendour. It is influenced by the individual’s perception, which varies from eye to eye.
Harsh Maheshwari, Kunming Diamonds

Unlike colourless (‘white’) diamonds, no two fancy colour diamonds are alike, with a rainbow of hues available. Due to the variety of diamonds on the market, there is no standardised pricing scale.

Maheshwari explains, “The price is a reflection of the stone’s beauty and rarity. Auctions are one way to ascertain recent values of certain colour diamonds and may be used as a benchmark, however, the supply of rough and polished colour diamonds is a major contributor to each one’s value.”

He adds, “The intrinsic value of a colour diamond is in the eye of the beholder – some appreciate the colour more than the rarity factor, which makes the colour more popular in the market. Meanwhile, others appreciate the ‘elitism’ and collect for a stone’s exceptionality.”

Indeed, the exceptional nature of fancy colour diamonds cannot be overstated: more than 250 tonnes of ore needs to be crushed and processed to yield one carat of rough gem-quality diamond; statistically speaking, for every 10,000 diamonds mined, only one will display a fancy colour.

“Colour diamonds are a phenomenon in the diamond and gems world,” Maheshwari explains. “The colours are derived from a flaw or impurity in the carbon atomic structure and crystal lattice, called trace elements. Yellow diamonds derive their colour from nitrogen, blue and violet diamonds are a result of a high concentration of boron.”

“Exactly what gives pink and red diamonds their colour is largely a mystery, as there are no elements that create this effect. What is known is that these diamonds are formed under extraordinary pressure and heat beneath the Earth's surface, leading to ‘plastic deformation’ which is a change in the atomic structure itself,” he adds.

“Similarly, green diamonds are not the result of a trace element but instead come from exposure to natural irradiation – radioactive elements, like uranium, emit high-energy particles which create defects in the stone's atomic structure, changing the colour of the stone.”

 Why purchase a fancy colour diamond?

As natural fancy colour diamonds are structurally diamond, they are suitable for use in all types of jewellery. Yet for many, they go beyond adornment.

“Just like rare works of art, colour diamonds keep their promise of value – and many have appreciated significantly over time, particularly when the future is uncertain, as it is now,” Maheshwari explains.

“Fancy colour diamonds have been one of the safest and simplest choices for storing value. The large worth and small size of fancy colour diamonds means a diamond owner can protect his or her wealth and transport it with relative ease,” he adds.

However, Maheshwari says purchasing a fancy colour diamond represents more than an investment.

» READ MORE Colour diamonds: the fairest of them all

“The fortunate few who are lucky enough to own a natural colour diamond often wear it for their own enjoyment – not to make a statement to others. Collectors and connoisseurs like the fact that only they and a very small group really know what they are wearing,” he explains.

With some of the rarest natural fancy colour diamonds – such as pinks and reds – becoming even more scarce given the closure of the Argyle Mine at the end of 2020, Maheshwari predicts that the most exceptional stones will have such “astronomical value” that they will remain “locked away in safes”, while others will become even more popular for jewellery and a central focus of the diamond trade.

Get to know grading, reports and certification

Traditionally, white diamonds are graded based on the ‘4Cs’ – colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight. However, for fancy colour diamonds, the most important factor is colour.

Three features are considered when classifying the colour of a stone:

  • Hue: the primary colour your eye sees when observing the diamond
  • Saturation: the intensity and vibrancy of the colour
  • Tone: The lightness or darkness of the colour

While the most valuable and expensive diamonds feature rare colours that are highly saturated, much of the appeal of a particular diamond is driven by personal preference, as well as the type of jewellery in which it is to be set.

“The more one is educated about the colours, the more one appreciates the value of it,” says Maheshwari.

“Fine quality will never dilute in value, but if you are working to a budget, you may need to compromise on clarity or saturation,” he adds.

Like white diamonds, grading reports can be obtained for fancy colour diamonds.

“There are several laboratories that grade and issue a report regarding the diamond’s various attributes. GIA [Gemological Institute of America] is the most well-known lab that grades colour diamonds,” Maheshwari explains.

While white diamonds are graded on the D–Z scale, fancy diamond reports describe the hue, saturation, and tone – for example, ‘Fancy Intense Purplish Pink’.

The reports will also state whether the stone is natural, treated or ‘undetermined’, which indicates that scientists can’t state with certainty that the colour is natural or the result of treatments, like annealing.

While a grading report is an important benchmark for a fancy diamond, its value is still in the eye of the beholder: “What is important is how attractive the stone appears to you at the end of the day – the report is still subjective,” Maheshwari advises.

» DOWNLOAD PDF: GIA's Color Diamond Reference Charts 

In addition, many international organisations also offer origin reports for fancy colour diamonds which assist in answering questions of provenance – both geographically and in terms of whether a stone is ‘lab-grown’ (synthetic) or natural (mined).

Mining companies including Rio Tinto – which operates the Argyle Mine in Western Australia – and Russia’s Alrosa also issue separate certificates of origin for their fancy colour stones.

“Having a certificate and/or a report from a reputed lab is your best way to authenticate whether the stone is natural, treated, or lab-grown. Certification is often referred to as ‘the fifth C’ and it gives the consumer confidence and certainty in the stone being purchased,” Maheshwari explains.

Origin certificates are also useful in ‘conscious purchasing’ or ‘ethical consumption’ – that is, consumers wishing to purchase a diamond with a guaranteed conflict- and exploitation-free chain of custody.

Starting a colour diamond collection

Purchasing your first fancy colour diamond is a monumental decision.

“Where to start? It’s an old-age question when it comes to building a collection, and often the most challenging part. The first stage toward starting a coloured diamond collection, like many others would say, is to know what you like,” Maheshwari says.

“Your taste is as unique as the diamond itself, and it’s best to start with something that’s affordable and pretty. Once you’ve taken the plunge and bought your first few pieces, then you can expand towards the collectibles,” he advises.

"Fancy diamonds are ideal for those looking for a unique, personal and romantic engagement ring that stands out from the crowd; some choose a centre diamond that matches the eye colour of their partner, while others add a halo of rare pink diamonds around a classic white stone."

“Educate yourself as much as possible so you trust not only the supplier but also the product. Take all the time you need to seek advice, learn, and consult,” he adds.

Fancy diamonds are ideal for those looking for a unique, personal and romantic engagement ring that stands out from the crowd; some choose a centre diamond that matches the eye colour of their partner, while others add a halo of rare pink diamonds around a classic white stone.

Others begin collecting fancy colour diamonds simply because they love the way they look.

“It’s like buying your first car, or watch – you’d never start your collection with a rubber strap, but either a metal or a fine hand-stitched alligator strap. Start with the classics, and get funkier/mature once you truly fall in love with them!” Maheshwari says.

Finding the perfect fancy colour diamond requires expertise, and Maheshwari recommends choosing a business with experience and passion for these rare stones, as well as “unbreakable integrity”.

“Unbreakable integrity is one of the core values that indicates to customers that they are protected and that the business has invested time, energy, and principles into their team. They should stock quality stones and provide the same knowledge and service whether the customer is large or small,” he explains.

Maheshwari adds, “The business should have a variety of fancy diamonds available to hand-pick a selection of options for the customer, and display transparency as well as education about the product, and be able to provide information about the trends in the market. These factors give you the confidence in knowing that you are buying a valuable product from a credible source.”

 

Note: All stone images below have been enlarged to highlight colours. Sizes are not to scale. 

Blue & Violet Diamonds


For every 100,000 gem-quality diamonds mined, up to 15 are blue.
 

 

The Story

Tavernier Blue Diamond
115.16-carats

The Tavernier Blue is believed to be the first blue diamond recorded. It was sourced by French gem dealer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier during his travels in India in 1666, and is believed to originate from the Kollur Mine in Golconda. Weighing approximately 115 carats, Tavernier described its colour as ‘violet’ and sold it to King Louis XIV, the Sun King.

Jean Pitau, jeweller to the French court, recut the stone into the 69-carat French Blue. It was later set into a pendant alongside red spinel and painted white diamonds, before being stolen around 1792, during the French Revolution.

Where is this colour generally found?

While the first blue diamonds were found in the Golconda region of India, today, the Cullinan Mine in South Africa is a primary source of blue diamonds. They have also been found in Botswana and the Argyle Mine in Australia.

Iconic Blue Diamonds

Hope Blue Diamond
45-carats

The most famous blue diamond in history is the 45-carat Hope Diamond. In 2005, analysis revealed that the Hope Diamond was in fact cut from the stolen French Blue. It is likely the stone was recut to disguise its identity and was smuggled to London in the early 19th Century.

In 1839, it was referenced as part of the gem collection of Henry Philip Hope, part of the Hope banking family, after which it is named. The diamond was inherited and sold numerous times over the following decades, and was owned by both Pierre Cartier and Harry Winston.

Winston donated it to the Smithsonian museum in 1958, where it is still displayed today.

The Science: what makes it blue?

The vast majority of blue diamonds owe their colour to the presence of boron. The bonding of boron to carbon causes absorption of the red, yellow and green wavelengths of the colour spectrum, producing the blue colour. The presence of hydrogen atoms will cause a grey or violet secondary hue, while nitrogen can cause a greenish-blue appearance.

Recent auction record-breaker

L to R
Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond, 3-carats; Oppenheimer Blue Diamond, 14-carats

• 2008: The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond, $US24 million
A 3-carat cushion cut deep blue diamond sold at auction for $US24 million.

• 2016: Oppenheimer Blue, $US57.5 million
A 14-carat vivid blue diamond named the Oppenheimer Blue surpassed the Wittelsbach record, selling for $US57.5 million.

Increase in value over past 10 years (%)
Since 2005, there has been a 8.5% CAGR all across blue diamonds, and a total appreciation of nearly 250%.

Rarity: Blue diamonds represent only 0.5% of all fancy colour diamonds

Shades available: Undertones of grey, green or violet.

Colour spectrum reference:

 


Green Diamonds


For every 100,000 gem-quality diamonds mined, up to 30 are green.
 

 

The Story

Dresden Green DIamond
41-carats

The 41-carat Dresden Green is perhaps the oldest recorded green diamond, having been described in a London newspaper in 1722. Diamond merchant Marcus Moses was noted as having sourced the stone from India and presented it to King George I of Great Britain.

Like the Hope Diamond, it is believed to have originated from the Kollur Mine in Golconda. It was acquired by August III of Poland in 1742 and was later set alongside two white diamonds in a hat ornament.

It was kept at August’s seat, Dresden Castle in northern Germany, until its destruction during World War II. Today, it is in the Green Vaults of the Albertinium Museum, which was built atop the ruins of the castle.

Where is this colour generally found?

Brazil, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Iconic Green Diamond

The Dresden Green is the most famous green diamond in the world. It is often referred to as the ‘cousin’ of the Hope Diamond for its historical importance.

The Science: what makes it green?

Unique among natural colour diamonds, green diamonds acquire their colour after their trip to the earth’s surface, when they rest in the ground near naturally-occurring radiation. This radiation causes defects in the crystal structure of the diamond, leading to absorption of the red and yellow regions of the colour spectrum. This makes the stone appear green.

Recent auction record-breaker

Aurora Green Diamond
5.03-carats

• 2016: The Aurora Green Diamond, $US16.8 million
A 5.03-carat vivid green diamond with VS2 clarity, became the largest vivid green diamond to be sold at auction, fetching a new record price per carat – $US16.8 million. It was purchased by Chinese jewellery chain Chow Tai Fook.

Increase in value over past 10 years (%)

Due to the low volumes of green diamonds, it is difficult to ascertain how much their value has increased over the past decade. In 2009, a 2.52-carat fancy vivid green broke the record for green diamonds at auction, selling for $US1.22 million per carat; in 2016, the Aurora Green shattered the record, selling for $US3.3 million per carat.

Rarity: 0.1% of colour diamonds are green

Shades available: Undertones of grey, yellow, and blue.

Colour spectrum reference:

 

 


Yellow & Orange Diamonds


For every 100,000 gem-quality diamonds mined, up to 1,800 – 2,100 are yellow and up to 300 are orange. Pure orange is even rarer.
 

 

The Story

Moon of Baroda Yellow Diamond
24-carats
The Eureka Brown Yellow Diamond
21.25-carats

Marilyn Monroe famously wore one of the oldest recorded yellow diamonds, the Moon of Baroda, in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The 24-carat pear shaped canary diamond is thought to have been mined in Vadodara, India, in the 15th Century and had been in the possession of the Gaekwad family – the Maharajas of Baroda – for centuries.

It was famously loaned to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, but returned to the Gaekwad family and sold in the 1920s. Detroit-based diamond dealer Meyer Rosenbaum acquired the stone in 1953. It was auctioned by Christie’s in New York in 1990 and again in 2018, when it sold to a private collector for $US10.3 million.

The Eureka Diamond – a 21.25-carat brownish-yellow – was the first diamond ever discovered in South Africa and sparked the Diamond Rush in 1866/67. In 1871, the first South African diamond over 100 carats was discovered: the 124.5-carat fancy intense yellow DuToit II Diamond, which was later cut into the Golden Eye Diamond.

Where is this colour generally found?

Canada, Australia, Africa, and Russia are primary sources of yellow diamonds, while the majority of orange diamonds come from Africa.

Iconic Yellow & Orange Diamonds

Tiffany Diamond
287.42-carats
Koi Diamond
32-carats

The Tiffany Diamond is one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered. Its weight was originally 287.42 carats when discovered in 1878 at the Kimberley Mine in South Africa. It was purchased by Tiffany & Co. founder Charles Lewis Tiffany and cut by George Frederick Kunz to its present size of 128.54 carats. It has been worn by just four women: socialite E. Sheldon Whitehouse, actress Audrey Hepburn, entertainer Lady Gaga, and actress Gal Gadot, who will sport it in the upcoming film Death On The Nile.

The Koi Diamond is a 32 carat orange and white diamond cut in an elongated pear shape. It was graded by Gemological Institute of America colour diamond specialist Eddy Elzas, who described it as one of the most unique and momentous opportunities of his career.

The 60-carat rough was unearthed in the Congo around 2003 and was initially classified as industrial due to its mottled colour and inclusions; however, its resemblance to the sacred Japanese koi fish led to its new ‘life’ as a precious stone. It is currently owned by Rawstone Business Holdings and kept in a vault in Antwerp.

The Science: what makes it yellow or orange?

A diamond’s yellow colour is the result of nitrogen absorbing blue light, making the diamond appear yellow.

Pure orange diamonds are rarer than green, pink, or blue diamonds. The colour is believed to be formed by a mixture of hydrogen and nitrogen atoms in the crystal lattice. Orange diamonds with a brownish or yellowish appearance are more common, and contain more nitrogen.

Recent auction record-breaker:

Graff Vivid Yellow
100.09-carats
'Orange' Diamond
14.82-carats

• 2020: Graff Vivid Yellow, $US16.3 million
The 100.09-carat Graff Vivid Yellow diamond is one of the largest fancy vivid yellow diamonds ever seen. It set a new record for the highest price ever paid for a yellow diamond at auction when it sold for $US16.3 million at Sotheby's in May.

• 2013: 'Orange', $US36 million
The largest fancy vivid orange diamond known to exist – weighing 14.82 carats – sold for CHF32.6 million ($US36 million).

Increase in value over past 10 years (%)

Since 2005, there has been a 2.5% CAGR all across yellow diamonds, and a total appreciation of nearly 50%. Due to lower volumes, it is difficult to ascertain the increase in value of orange diamonds.

Rarity: 60–70% of colour diamonds are yellow; 1% of colour diamonds are orange and even fewer are pure orange

Shades available: For yellow diamonds, undertones may be green, brown, or orange. For orange diamonds, undertones may be yellow or pink.

Colour spectrum reference:

 

 


Pink & Red Diamonds


For every 100,000 gem-quality diamonds mined, up to 150 – 300 are pink.
Only 30 true red diamonds have been unearthed.

 

 

The Story

Pink diamonds were first discovered in the Golconda region of India, in present-day Andra Pradhesh. The Agra Diamond, named after the celebrated city of the Taj Mahal, is first noted as having belonged to the Mogul Emperor, Babur, in 1526. It was recut in the 19th Century into a 32.24 carat, light pink, cushion-shaped stone. Since its sale at auction in London, in June 2000, it was again recut to a 28.15-carat fancy intense pink diamond.

The world’s current premier source of pink diamonds, the Argyle Mine in Western Australia, was opened in 1985.

Where is this colour generally found?

Pink diamonds are only found in a few mines across the world, making them extremely rare. India and Brazil were notable sources in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Today, the Argyle Mine in Western Australia supplies 90–95 per cent of the world’s pink diamonds, with Russia, Indonesia, and several African countries also producing some pinks.

Iconic Pink Diamonds

Darya-i-Noor Pink Diamond
175 - 195-carats
Moussaieff Red Diamond
13.9-carats

• The Darya-i-Noor, meaning ‘Sea of Light’ in Arabic, is one of the largest pink diamonds in the world. Displaying a pale pink hue, it weighs 175–195 carats – though the mounting makes ascertaining an exact weight impossible. Part of the Iranian crown jewels, one of its pavilion facets is inscribed in Persian: ‘The Sultan, Shahib Qiram, Fath Ali Shah, Qajar 1250 [1834]’. It was pillaged from Delhi, India in 1739 and is currently in the vaults of the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran.

• The annual Argyle Tender has featured many outstanding pink and red diamonds over the decades. In 2018, the 3.14-carat Argyle Alpha and 2.28-carat Argyle Muse – the largest vivid pink and vivid red diamonds, respectively, ever offered in the Tender’s history – were included in the collection.

• The Moussaieff Red Diamond is the world’s largest red diamond. The 13.9-carat rough was discovered by a Brazilian farmer in 1989 and sold to William Goldberg Diamond Corp., which cut it into a 5.11-carat vivid red trilliant, naming it the Red Shield as a result. It was purchased by Moussaieff Jewellers around 2002 and renamed the Moussaieff Red, before being displayed at the Smithsonian in 2003.

The Science: what makes it pink or red?

Pink diamonds are formed when the unique heat and pressure inside the Earth causes the diamond’s carbon crystal lattice to distort. This distortion, also known as plastic deformation, imparts the pink colour. The geological process responsible for this deformation that causes pinks, is called continental collision, or ‘mountain building’.

The Argyle Mine is located in a region that experienced ancient continental collision, which is why Argyle pinks have a unique set of properties and appearance that is incomparable to any other.

The Pink Star Diamond
59.6-carats

Recent auction record-breaker

• 2017: The Pink Star, $US71.2 million
A 59.60-carat fancy vivid pink – was sold for $US71.2 million to Chow Tai Fook.

• 2020: The Spirit of the Rose, $US26.6 million
The 14.83-carat fancy vivid purplish-pink, mined by Alrosa in Russia, was sold for $US26.6 million to an anonymous phone bidder.

• 2015: The Sweet Josephine, $US28.5 million
Weighing 16.08 carats, an unnamed fancy vivid pink diamond was sold to Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau for a then-record price. Lau renamed it in honour of his daughter.

 

Increase in value over past 10 years (%)

Since 2005, there has been a 11% CAGR all across pink diamonds, and a total appreciation of nearly 370%. Even a mid-range pink can attract 20 times higher prices per carat than white diamonds. The stronger the hue and the bigger the stone, the bigger the multiplier.

Since 2000, Argyle pink diamonds have had a total appreciation of over 500%. Red diamonds are so rare that it is impossible to calculate an increase in value.

Rarity:  Pink diamonds represent 0.5–1% of all fancy colour diamonds. Red diamonds are so rare that no pure reds were submitted for grading at the Gemological Institute of America between 1957 and 1987

Shades available: For pink and red diamonds, undertones may be purple, brown or orange.

Colour spectrum reference:

 

 

The Kunming Diamonds story

Founder of Kunming Ajay Maheshwari (center) with sons Harsh Maheshwari director (left), and Shubham Maheshwari marketing director (right).
Founder of Kunming Ajay Maheshwari (center) with sons Harsh Maheshwari director (left), and Shubham Maheshwari marketing director (right).

Kunming Diamonds founder Ajay Maheshwari (Jakhotia) started his career as a timber trader in the state of Bihar, India. He moved into the coloured gemstone trade in 1984, without any connections to the industry, and later expanded to Hong Kong where he settled in 1987 and established Kunming Diamonds.

After establishing a strong base in the diamond trade, Maheshwari decided to deal exclusively in fancy colour diamonds in the early 2000s, building a comprehensive network to source high-quality stones from leading international mines.

Both his sons have joined the business; since 2011, Harsh has led the business development and sales for Kunming Diamonds, and has established its presence in the North American and Australian markets. Shubham joined the company in 2019 and leads marketing and digital transformation operations across Kunming Diamonds’ global offices.

“We strive for integrity in responsible business practices, from mine to market, ensuring peace of mind, ethical trade and creating a community of confidence within the industry, and beyond.”

Over the past decade, Kunming Diamonds has begun working closely with the Argyle Mine in Western Australia to offer the world’s most coveted diamonds to jewellers, and in 2019 purchased the entirety of the Everlastings Collection – comprising more than 211 carats of pink and red diamonds – offered alongside the Argyle Tender.

It was named an Argyle Pink Diamonds Authorised Partner by Rio Tinto in 2020.

Kunming Diamonds is founding member of the Hong Kong Indian Diamond Association (HKIDA), a certified and audited member of the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC), an honorary member of the Natural Colored Diamond Association (NCDIA), and amember of the Fancy Color Research Foundation (FCRF).

As a family business, Kunming Diamonds is committed to integrity and maintaining their reputation in the diamond trade. “The foundation of Kunming Diamonds is based on deeply rooted values of honesty, respect, and selflessness,” Harsh Maheshwari says.

“We strive for integrity in responsible business practices, from mine to market, ensuring peace of mind, ethical trade and creating a community of confidence within the industry, and beyond.”

Start your colour diamond journey and discover one of the world’s largest ranges of fancy stones at Kunming Diamonds, and contact us to begin exploring the rarest stones on earth.


 




CONTACT Kunming Diamonds:
601 Chevalier House
45-51 Chatham Road South
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Kowloon, Hong Kong, 00000
Phone: 2 8607 8369
Email: harsh@kunmingdiamonds.com
Web: www.kunmingdiamonds.com











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