Updated November 19, 2020

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 more 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 a different set of criteria to consider when choosing a yellow diamond. We'll discuss how to find the perfect yellow diamond using real examples from Leibish, a trusted retailer of yellow and other fancy colored diamonds.

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.

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

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)

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. If you're set on colorless diamonds, go with James Allen.

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.

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.

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.

Here are some examples of canary diamonds:

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.

Yellow Diamond Cut

via Leibish
> Click here to browse yellow diamonds

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. 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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

A huge pro point is that lab-created diamonds can cost more than 50% less than a regular diamond. For example, here's a beautiful 1-carat oval Fancy Vivid yellow lab diamond on James Allen for $1,770. In comparison, a similar naturally mined diamond costs $12,370.

Additionally, lab diamonds are a more eco-friendly and socially-conscious choice. You don't need to worry about ethical 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 2 main ways to enhance your diamond with smart setting choices.

Classic Square 4 Prong Solitaire Ring Setting via Leibish

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

A yellow gold band 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.

If you're not a fan of yellow gold, you can have the diamond mounted in yellow gold prongs and basket (as in the photo above). 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.

Milgrain Halo Ring via Leibish

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?
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 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?
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.

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.

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

References

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.

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