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Yellow Diamonds – Ray of possibilities

Yellow diamonds first found their way into the marketplace in the 1860s after being discovered in the Kimberly and Dutoitspan mines of Cape Provenience South Africa.

Prized for their beauty, fancy yellow diamonds are a favorite choice for almost every type of jewelry. They may however, enjoy a first place rating when it comes to engagement rings and have been the popular choice of celebrities from Carrie Underwood to Beyonce. 


In the same way as other colored diamonds, yellows gain their color from trace elements in their atomic structure. The element that produces a yellow diamond is nitrogen. The varying amounts of this element control the vibrancy of the stone. 

According to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), diamonds are graded on a scale from D-Z. In the case of fancy yellow diamonds, the scale is applied from nearly colorless to vivid yellow. As a rule for fancy color stones, the greater the intensity of color the greater the rarity, value and price tag. 

However true this may be it should be remembered that deep or dark stones are excluded from this rule and their price depends on other color attributes.

GIA Color Scale:

The terminology of the grading system is the key to understanding and describing color. The term “Fancy” is applied to a diamond that has a level of color found on the far right of the scale. It is also applied as the borderline of “regular” range and the “fancy” color range.


When viewing similarly graded diamonds you will see a difference in lightness and darkness between the stones. The term used for the range of dark to light is “tone”. Fancy Yellow Diamonds with a darker tone are referred to as “strong fancies” and lighter tones are known as “weak fancies”.  


Yellow diamonds are graded for intensity in four main categories:

• Fancy Light Yellow

• Fancy Yellow 

• Fancy Intense Yellow 

• Fancy Vivid Yellow

Two rarer grades are the Deep and the Dark intensities.

Color Modifiers

The term color modifier refers to the existence of a second or third color such as brown, green or orange that changes the overall look, tone and color of the diamond. The presence of a secondary color modifier has a direct impact on the dollar value of the stone. 

When a color is determined as a modifier it will be the first color in the order of the color description, whereas the main color is always shown last. 

Main yellow diamond mixes are:

• Brown yellow

• Brownish yellow

• Green yellow

• Greenish yellow

• Orange yellow

• Orangy yellow

Although a color modifier may reduce the cost of the diamond, it can also create a unique stone; this positive should be taken into consideration when considering a purchase.

Greenish yellow (left) and Green Yellow diamonds 

Orangy yellow (left) and Orange Yellow diamonds

Brownish yellow (left) and Brown Yellow diamonds

Did you know?

• Yellow diamonds with brown modifiers tend to decrease in price whereas orange and green modifiers have more value due to rarity.  

• Yellow color can also appear as color modifier. (This means that yellow can also be a secondary color).

Over all, due to their natural abundance, fancy yellows are quite reasonably priced. Although some Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamonds can carry a very large price tag and are almost as rare as pink or blue diamonds.  Historically, Fancy Yellow Diamonds have commanded top dollar, as in the case of the 8.45- carat fancy vivid yellow sold in 1996 at Christie’s for a respectable $684,500.  

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