Updated February 7, 2023

Beginner's Guide to Yellow Diamonds

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Are yellow diamond engagement rings expensive? What yellow diamonds are worth may surprise you. Find out how to buy a fancy yellow diamond for less.

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

Yellow diamonds make a bold and elegant statement compared to traditional colorless stones. It symbolizes warmth and positivity, which can be a lovely sentiment for your new lives together.

However, buying a yellow diamond isn't exactly like buying a colorless diamond.

There's different criteria to consider when choosing a yellow diamond. Toss the 4C's out the window! There's a whole different set of terms to learn.

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

About Yellow Diamonds

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. In the case of yellow diamonds, they're created due to the presence of nitrogen.

Yellow is the most common color, 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.

Are yellow diamonds more expensive?
Yellow diamonds may be more expensive than a colorless diamond of the same size because yellow diamonds are rarer. It will be more expensive if the yellow hue is extremely bright and vibrant.

Yellow Diamond Color Grades

Unlike colorless diamonds, which use the D to Z color scale, yellow diamonds have an entirely different color grading system.

Yellow diamonds are graded on the intensity of the color. GIA assigns these fancy color grades for yellow diamonds (from left to right):

  1. Fancy Light: a pale yellow color
  2. Fancy: clear, brighter yellow hue. A good balance between price and color.
  3. Fancy Intense: pure, bright yellow hue
  4. Fancy Vivid: extremely vibrant yellow color, also called Canary diamonds. Most expensive!
  5. Fancy Deep: a deeper slightly brownish-yellow
  6. Fancy Dark: a dark yellow with brown or gray overtones

Pro Tip: Whether you choose a yellow or colorless diamond, you should research pricing online. Online retailers are up to 40% cheaper than local jewelers and many offer free shipping and returns. If you prefer fancy colored diamonds, check out Leibish.

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.

About 67% of natural yellow diamonds are Fancy Light or Fancy. 24% are Fancy Intense, and only 6% have a Fancy Vivid color.[1]

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.

Which yellow diamond color grade do you prefer?

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.

For yellow diamonds, it can be a true yellow with no additional tones. Or it can have orange, brown, or green tones.

Here are just some possible colors and hues for yellow diamonds.

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.

Which color diamond is most valuable?
No single color is most valuable across the board. Historically, however, many of the most expensive diamonds have been a deep, vibrant blue color - such as the Hope Diamond.

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.

Yellow Diamond Prices

Colorless diamonds are valued based on the 4Cs (carat, cut, color, and clarity). But with yellow diamonds, only one thing matters - color. The more desirable the color, the more it'll cost.

This is why even a smaller vivid yellow diamond will cost more than a larger light yellow diamond.

Here's what you can expect to pay, compared to a good quality white/colorless diamond:

Color Intensity0.5 carat1 carat2 carat
Fancy Light Yellow$700-$1,000$3,000-$4,000$6,000-$10,000
Fancy Yellow$1,000-$2,000$4,000-$5,000$7,500-$15,000
Fancy Intense Yellow$1,500-$3,000$6,500-$8,000$15,000-$25,000
Fancy Vivid Yellow$3,000-$5,000$12,000-$18,000$30,000-$50,000
Fancy Deep Yellow$1,500-$5,000$5,000-$15,000$10,000-$25,000
White Diamond (H, VS2)$1,000 - $1,500$5,000 - $6,000$14,000-$18,000

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 white/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.

How much are you willing to spend on a yellow diamond?

Compare Yellow Diamond Prices

Visit Leibish to browse thousands of natural, fancy colored diamonds fit for any budget.

View Yellow Diamond Prices

Yellow Diamond Cut

For colorless diamonds, jewelers cut the diamond in a way that reflects the most light. This is why round diamonds are the most popular, because they're the most brilliant.

But 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. In fact, only 6% of yellow diamonds are round.[1]

Fancy colored diamonds usually display a more intense color when they're cut into another shape, such as oval, pear, emerald, radiant, or cushion.

Do yellow diamonds sparkle?
Yellow diamonds sparkle just like colorless diamonds do. How brightly the diamond sparkles, however, depends on the diamond's overall quality and cut.

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.

Again, color is generally the most important. A Fancy Vivid yellow diamond with lower clarity grade can be a lot more valuable flawless Fancy Light yellow diamond.

Clarity only plays a role in pricing if you're comparing two diamonds of the same color intensity and hue.

What is a yellow diamond worth?
The price of a yellow diamond can vary greatly. Depending on how vibrant the yellow hue is, a 1ct. yellow diamond can be worth anywhere from $2K-$30K.

Fluorescence in Yellow Diamonds

Fluorescence is when the diamond has a glow when exposed to UV light. This naturally occurs during the diamond's creation. Not all diamonds have fluorescence, and if they do, you usually can't see it.

If a yellow diamond contains fluorescence, it may have a brownish tint or milky appearance (if detectable at all). Ask a jeweler about your yellow diamond's fluorescence and how it affects the overall appearance.

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.

Lab-Created Yellow Diamonds

Love yellow diamonds, but on a budget? Consider lab-created yellow diamonds. These have the same atomic makeup and are virtually indistinguishable from a naturally-mined diamond.

A huge pro point is that lab-created diamonds can cost up to 80% less than a natural diamond.

Here are some examples of natural vs lab yellow diamonds prices.*

Natural Yellow DiamondLab Yellow Diamond
1 carat fancy vivid yellow$18,500$4,500
1.5 carat fancy yellow$10,000$6,500
2 carat fancy intense yellow$22,000$11,000
*Pricing based on typical market price of online diamond retailers as of 2023.

Plus, lab diamonds are more eco-friendly and ethical. You don't need to worry about unclean origins of your gem.

Lab-created yellow diamonds can also be fairly easy to find. James Allen (one of our favorite online diamond retailers) has a good selection of lab-created diamonds in different colors, sizes and shapes.

Why is my diamond yellow?
Yellow diamonds are a result of the presence of nitrogen during formation.

How to Save on a Yellow Diamond

Of course we all want to get the best value for our buck. Here are some tips to maximize your budget when shopping for a yellow diamond.

  • Go just under a full or half carat.
    The magic carat weights are 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, etc. You see a big jump in price at these numbers. Just like with colorless diamonds, if you buy a 0.9 carat yellow diamond instead of 1 carat, you can save a lot of money.

  • Look at dimensions instead of carat.
    A larger carat doesn't necessarily mean the diamond looks bigger. A flatter diamond could have a larger face-up area than a deeper diamond, despite being a smaller carat. Look at the height and width dimensions instead if you're comparing 2 similar diamonds.

  • Don't worry about clarity.
    As mentioned before, the color can hide flaws, so clarity isn't important. Don't be afraid to get a diamond with a lower clarity grade.

  • Ignore cut.
    Cut is the most important factor for colorless diamonds. But not for yellow diamonds. Just look for a shape you like and make sure that it looks good to you.

  • Choose a lab diamond.
    With lab diamonds gaining in popularity, it's a great way to save major bucks. Lab yellow diamonds are not artificially color enhanced and they have the same physical properties, so don't think of them as fake diamonds.

Yellow Diamond Settings

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.

Here are some ways to enhance your yellow diamond with smart setting choices.

1. Pick a contrasting ring
White metals (like white gold and platinum) will create contrast against the yellow diamond. But it may make the color appear a little lighter, so go for a vivid yellow to really stand out.

1. Enhance the color with yellow gold
If you like the warm look, choose a yellow gold ring. It can make a yellow diamond appear even more yellow. And even better news - you can save a little money by purchasing a lighter yellow diamond.

Pro tip: If you're not a fan of yellow gold, you can have the diamond mounted in yellow gold prongs and basket. This will help saturate the diamond color. The band part of your ring can be white gold, so you still have the silver look you're going for.

2. Make the diamond pop with sidestones
Yellow colored diamonds look especially good in halo settings. A ring of colorless diamonds around the yellow diamond makes the color pop even more.

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

Buying Yellow Diamonds

Should I buy a loose yellow diamond or a pre-set yellow diamond?
This depends on your individual needs and preferences.

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

Are yellow diamonds popular?
The popularity of yellow diamonds has fluctuated over time. However, they are recently experiencing more popularity because of their rarity and vintage charm.

Are yellow diamonds a good investment?
Yellow diamonds could be a good investment if it's a larger size or a very desirable vibrant color. Diamonds with the brightest yellow color will be the most valuable, but all colored diamonds have a history of steady appreciation.

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.

What the Experts Say

Colored diamonds are unique, different and beautiful. But how do yellow diamonds stack up against more traditional colorless diamond rings?

As part of our series on engagement rings, CreditDonkey asked an industry expert to answer readers' most pressing questions. Here's what she said:

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.

Remember that the 4Cs don't matter so much. The most important is that you're happy with the size, color, and shape of your yellow diamond!


Write to Kyle Schurman at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website 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. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

Which yellow diamond color grade do you prefer?
21% Fancy light
19% Fancy yellow
25% Fancy intense
22% Fancy vivid
12% Fancy dark/fancy deep
Source: CreditDonkey. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
How much are you willing to spend on a yellow diamond?
34% Less than $5,000
26% $5,000 to $10,000
12% $11,000 to $20,000
9% $21,000 to $30,000
18% More than $30,000
Source: CreditDonkey. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
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