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How Rare are Colored Diamonds?

Thanks to the engagement ring, everyone is familiar with white, or 'colorless diamonds.' While it’s common knowledge that white diamonds are amongst the world’s rarest stones, not as many people are familiar with an even more valuable and aesthetically-pleasing type of diamond: extremely rare naturally colored diamonds!

A yellow diamond engagement ring with white diamond halo


Often people believe that colored diamonds are treated or synthetically colored. The truth is, colored diamonds occur naturally in all colors of the rainbow. They range from vibrant red, pink, and orange, to brilliant blue, green, violet, and muted yellow, brown, gray – and even black. Within each color range, these diamonds have their own range of deepness. This color scare is called “fancy,” ranging from fancy light, fancy, fancy intense, fancy vivid, fancy dark, and fancy deep. Their value generally increases with the strength and purity of the color. Large, vivid fancy color diamonds are extremely rare and very valuable. However, many fancy diamond colors are muted rather than pure and strong!


Colored diamonds are extremely rare, much more so than clear or ‘colorless’ diamonds. The formation process of colored diamonds occurs so rarely in nature that less than 1 carat of colored diamonds is found for every 10,000 carats of clear diamonds mined. Given their rarity, colored diamonds are also considered significantly more valuable. Not to mention demand is considerably higher. However, not all colored diamonds are equally rare! Black, brown, and yellow diamonds occur much more frequently than green or blue diamonds. For comparison, only 2 to 4 major blue diamonds are released to the market every year. Only 50 “Fancy Vivid” blue diamonds have been sold at auctions since 1999!

A woman plays the piano with a large yellow diamond wedding ring


The formation process of colored diamonds is mainly similar to that of white diamonds: all ‘natural diamonds’ are composed of carbon atoms that are transformed by extremely high-temperatures and pressure. This transformation occurs 150 kilometers below the surface. As they are composed of the same element and transformed by the same process, colored and colorless diamonds have the same material properties, scoring 10 on a Mohs scale, which makes them the hardest natural material on earth.

Okay, time for a quick science lesson. There is one small *but key* difference between the creation of colored and colorless diamonds. This singular difference involves a chemical interaction with foreign particulates that integrate into the diamond’s carbon structure during the crystallization process. This chemical process can include interactions with other elements such as boron or nitrogen, uncommonly high temperatures or pressures, radiation, or even a higher than usual concentration of inclusions of their native element carbon. Depending on how the chemical process of diamond formation is affected, and by which abnormal factor, the result is an extremely rare and exceptionally beautiful natural colored diamond.


Diamonds come in 27 base colors. However, the varying levels of intensities and modifying hues result in over 200 color combinations. Also, the various clarity, cut, and shapes of colored diamonds mean that your invaluable colored diamond is truly one of a kind.


Despite the stunningly high prices of rare colored diamonds, there is one diamond color so rare that only 20-30 have been known to ever exist in recorded history; and even most of these are extremely small: half a carat or smaller.

Red diamonds are the rarest and most expensive of all the colored diamonds, and come only in a single intensity: Fancy. Red diamonds are so rare, and there is such a small set of pure red diamonds on the market historically, that it is very difficult to determine prices for them. The red color in diamonds is so rare that even if the red color appears in a diamond at extremely low saturation, the price of that diamond will rise exponentially.

So, while a brown diamond costs only about $2,400 per carat, a reddish-brown diamond can cost over $30,000 per carat. YEP, that’s 12 times as much all thanks to the effect of the red color! The most known red diamond is the Mousaieff Red; a 5.11ct Pure Red diamond that was purchased for over $1.6 million per carat.

While the intensity of the color is the primary factor that influences the pricing of the diamond, the other 3 C’s (Carat, Clarity, and Cut) are also important considerations.

Colored diamonds, are generally cut into pear, radiant, cushion, or other unconventional shapes as such fancy shapes, which reflect less white light, work to enhance the intensity of the color.

*Photos by Jenny Fu Studio

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