Updated May 20, 2019

Beginner's Guide to Yellow Diamonds

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Are yellow diamond engagement rings expensive? Read this guide to learn what to look for when buying yellow diamonds and how pricing works.

© Public.Resource.Org (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

If you like to stand out, consider a yellow diamond for your engagement ring.

Yellow diamonds make a bold and elegant statement compared to more traditional colorless stones.

However, buying a yellow diamond isn't exactly like buying a colorless diamond. There's a whole new set of criteria to consider when choosing a yellow diamond.

Read on to learn exactly how to buy the perfect yellow diamond.

About Yellow Diamonds

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Yellow diamonds belong to what we call "fancy colored diamonds". Diamonds can come naturally in almost any color, including purple, pink, red, blue, green, gray, and any other hue. Fancy colored diamonds are a lot more rare.

Colored diamonds are formed when there are other elements or atomic structural changes. Because nitrogen is atomically similar to carbon, it can take carbon's place during the formation of the diamond. This presence of nitrogen causes the diamond to appear yellow.

Of the colored diamonds, yellow is the most common, making up 50% - 60% of all naturally colored diamonds. Because they're the most common, yellow diamonds can cost less than other fancy colored diamonds. But the cost depends largely on how intense the yellow color is.

Yellow Diamond Color Grades

With colorless diamonds, you're used to the D (completely colorless) to Z (brown tint) color scale. Yellow diamonds have an entirely different color grading.

Yellow diamonds are graded on the intensity of the color. GIA assigns these fancy color grades for yellow diamonds:

via Leibish

  • Fancy Light: a light yellow color (diamonds #1, #2)
  • Fancy Yellow: clear, brighter yellow hue(diamond #3)
  • Fancy Intense: pure, bright yellow hue (diamond #4)
  • Fancy Vivid: extremely vibrant yellow color, also called Canary diamonds (diamond #5)
  • Fancy Dark/Fancy Deep: darker, more brownish tones (diamond #6)

The stronger the yellow color, the more expensive the diamond will be. True Canary diamonds only refer to the Fancy Vivid and Fancy Intense yellow diamonds. This color range is the most desirable and valuable.

Yellow diamonds occur in the D-Z color scale for colorless diamonds, too. These are sometimes called Cape diamonds due to their origins in the Cape Province of South Africa. Although these are not true yellow diamonds, they can be very affordable.

Hue Modifiers

Besides the intensity of the yellow color, another thing to look for is the hue modifier. Most colored diamonds have a secondary color or tone, called the modifier.

This image shows all the possible colors and hues for yellow diamonds.

via Leibish

Here's what's included in the photo above:

  • 1st row: "Cape" diamonds, Fancy Light Yellow, Fancy Yellow
  • 2nd row: Orange Yellow, Orangy Yellow, Brown Yellow, Brownish Yellow, Brownish Orangy Yellow
  • 3rd row: Brown Greenish Yellow, Brownish Greenish Yellow, Greenish Yellow
  • 4th row: Green Yellow, Grey Greenish Yellow

The modifier will be listed first, followed by the dominant color. For example, you may see the color listed as "Fancy Light Orange Yellow", which would be a light yellow diamond with an orange tint.

"Brown Yellow" will be a little bit more brown than "Brownish Yellow". Just like "Green Yellow" will be a little more green than "Greenish Yellow".

Yellow diamonds with a brown hue modifier will be the cheapest. Even a slight brown tint can reduce the price significantly.

Yellow diamonds with a vibrant green hue modifier can be more expensive than a Canary diamond. Green diamonds are more rare, as are those with a bright orange tint.

Canary Diamonds

Yellow diamonds are often called Canary diamonds. BUT this term is misleading, as only some yellow diamonds are true Canary diamonds.

A Canary diamond is a Fancy Intense or Fancy Vivid yellow diamond with no secondary colors. Named for the yellow-breasted bird, Canary diamonds are rarer and more expensive than a regular yellow diamond.

The price of a Canary diamond is typically 25% - 50% higher than that of a Fancy Yellow diamond. They're highly sought-after due to the intensity and purity of the yellow color.

What are Zimmi diamonds?
Like Canary diamonds, Zimmi diamonds are prized for the quality of their yellow color. Named for the Zimmi region of Sierra Leone, Zimmi diamonds have an intense, saturated yellow color.

Fluorescence in Yellow Diamonds

While most people are aware of the four Cs, there are other characteristics that contribute to the overall value of the diamond. One of these characteristics is fluorescence.

As diamonds are being formed, elements such as boron and aluminum can be absorbed into the diamonds' composition. These elements can give the diamond a particular glow that may not be noticeable to the naked eye. The glow can have a number of colored tints, such as blue, yellow, or white.

Fluorescence might give the yellow diamond a brownish tint or milky appearance, if it's detectable at all. Ask a jeweler about your yellow diamond's fluorescence and how it affects the overall appearance of the diamond.

Yellow Diamond Cut

via Leibish

For colorless diamonds, jewelers cut the diamond in a way that reflects the most light. Proportion and symmetry are prioritized above all else, making round diamonds the most brilliant and the most popular.

For Fancy colored diamonds, cut is optimized to bring out the most color. Proportion, symmetry, and light performance don't matter as much as how the color looks. Plus, Fancy colored diamonds aren't given a cut grade.

This is why most yellow diamonds are not round cut. Fancy colored diamonds usually display a more intense color when they're cut into another shape, such as oval, pear, emerald, radiant, or cushion.

Fun Fact: The Graff Vivid Yellow Diamond is the largest and most expensive yellow diamond in the world. It sold for $16.3 million at a 2014 auction and weighs an impressive 190 carats.

Yellow Diamond Clarity

For colorless diamonds, it's important to buy an eye-clean diamond. But for fancy colored diamonds, clarity doesn't matter as much because the color can hide some flaws.

screenshot from leibish.com

Again, color is generally the most important. In the above example, you can see that a Fancy Vivid yellow diamond with lower clarity grade is a lot more valuable than a flawless Fancy Light yellow diamond.

Lab-Created Yellow Diamonds

Those shopping at a lower price range might consider lab-created yellow diamonds. These have the same atomic makeup and are virtually indistinguishable from a naturally-mined diamond.

Additionally, lab-created diamonds can cost 10-30% less than a regular diamond. If you're concerned about the ethical origins of your gem, buying a lab-created diamond is the best way to be sure that it's 100% conflict-free.

Lab-created yellow diamonds can also be fairly easy to find. Many online diamond retailers have a selection of lab-created diamonds in different colors, sizes and shapes.

Yellow Diamond Prices

Yellow diamonds could be affordable or extremely expensive. Again, it mostly depends on the intensity of the color and the hue.

Small nuances in colors can make a big difference in pricing. In general, the more intense the yellow color is, the pricier the diamond will be. Here's what you can expect:

Shade/StylePrice
Fancy Light Yellow$3,000 - $4,000
Fancy Yellow$4,000 - $5,000
Fancy Intense Yellow$6,500 - $8,000
Fancy Vivid Yellow$12,000 - $18,000
Canary/Zimmi Diamonds$20,000 - $30,000

Fancy Light Yellow diamonds can be cheaper than a colorless diamond with the same characteristics. Diamonds with a light yellow tint are typically not as valuable as those that are completely colorless.

Fancy Vivid, or Canary, diamonds are usually the most valuable and can cost more than a flawless and colorless diamond of the same shape and size.

Fancy Deep and Fancy Dark yellow diamonds with brownish tints are not as valuable as Fancy Vivid or Fancy Intense yellow diamonds. (However, a Fancy Deep orange yellow diamond can be beautiful and very expensive.)

Make sure you buy Fancy colored diamonds with a proper GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certificate. The GIA grades and certifies the color and intensity of naturally colored diamonds.

Yellow Diamond Settings

Milgrain Halo Ring from leibish.com via Leibish

Settings can make a huge impact on a yellow diamond. Depending on the ring style and metal color, the yellow diamond could even appear different in color.

  • White metals (like white gold and platinum) will create contrast against the yellow diamond, but it may make the color appear a little lighter.

  • Yellow gold can make a yellow diamond appear even more yellow. You can save a little money by purchasing a lighter yellow diamond and mounting it in a yellow gold ring. The ring will have a very warm overall look.

  • Other sidestone settings, like pave and three-stone, will also put more attention on the yellow stone.

Tip: Yellow colored diamonds look especially good in halo settings. A ring of colorless diamonds around the yellow diamond makes the color pop even more.

Buying Yellow Diamonds

Should I buy a loose yellow diamond or a pre-set yellow diamond?
The kind of diamond you should buy will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

If you value convenience and prefer a quicker turnaround, look for a pre-set ring. Unless your setting has many additional diamonds, a pre-set yellow diamond ring will not be much more expensive than buying the same yellow diamond loose.

If you value quality, ring customization, or want to buy the diamond as an investment, you might consider buying a loose diamond. Since some flaws may be easily hidden by the ring setting or prongs, buying a loose diamond will allow you to see the full quality of the diamond.

Are yellow diamonds a good investment?
If you're looking to invest in a physical good, yellow diamonds are a great option. Diamonds with the brightest yellow color will be the most valuable, but all colored diamonds have a history of steady appreciation. If you take this route, look for a loose diamond of significant size and/or vibrant color.

Rule of Thumb: If you're looking to buy a yellow diamond or yellow diamond engagement ring, you'll want to prioritize color to maximize the value of your investment.

Where to Buy a Yellow Diamond

Your local jeweler may not have a lot of yellow diamonds in stock. So you may be limited to just a few choices. And they may not have the shape, color, or size you want.

For a larger selection, we recommend these online jewelers:

  • Leibish & Co.
    Leibish and Co. is the leading jeweler specializing in natural colored diamonds. They have a large inventory of yellow diamonds (and other colors) in all shapes and sizes for all budgets. It also makes jewelry in order to showcase the beauty of colored diamonds.

  • James Allen
    Already one of our favorite online jewelers, James Allen also has a large selection of colored diamonds. You can view each diamond in a 360-degree HD video.

To find the best price on a natural color yellow diamond, spend some time shopping and comparing prices in stores and online.

Bottom Line

A yellow diamond is a beautiful choice for an engagement ring. It can be relatively affordable based on the color intensity. It makes a good choice for those who want something different, but still won't break the bank.

Just make sure that your yellow diamond is properly certified by GIA.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

More from CreditDonkey:

How to Buy an Engagement Ring

How to Buy an Engagement Ring

Diamond Color Scale

G Diamond


Diamond District

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