April’s Birthstone in Color: Yellow to Deliciously Brown Diamonds
April is one of the loveliest of months. Azaleas are going crazy, tulips look like Easter eggs on stems, and for most of the country, the snow is finally gone–thank goodness! And the heavy clothes are going back into mothballs. (Well, nearly. As I write this, the upper Midwest has been hit with a snow storm on Easter and it hasn’t stopped yet.) And for those born in April, it is also the month of sparkling diamonds, the color of sunlight.
ABOVE: colorless, yellow, and brown loose diamonds; photo: Getty Images.
I have to admit, though, diamonds have never really done it for me, even though they’re my birthstone. It wasn’t until I discovered that diamonds come in all different colors–especially yellow–that they got my interest.
Yellow is a common diamond color. In fact, most “white” diamonds are actually tinted with yellow to varying degrees. The amount of yellow (or brown) tinting is what diamond graders evaluate when assigning a color grade. Only D, E, and F are truly colorless grades.
Having worked at GIA when it was still a small operation in a single building, and at a time when the lab director would bring unusual stones around to show instructors as a form of continuing education, I’ve seen a fair share of D grade diamonds. I can assure you that when you see one, you know it, because the absence of color is so striking.
We always got the question, “Why doesn’t the grading scale start with A?” When the GIA grading scale was originally established, it was probably meant to avoid confusion with other color grading scales that were already being used in the market place. But it was also an acknowledgement that there could be a stone better than D grade somewhere in the earth.
That was prophetic, because occasionally there are colorless diamonds that are off the charts. I saw one of those only once. A stone so far above D in color that it was referred to as a “screaming D” by at least one member of the GIA staff, or simply as a “screamer.” While this is not officially sanctioned GIA-ese, I can attest to the accuracy of the description. If that stone had been an opera diva, she would have been hitting a high C! Truly gasp worthy.
But I digress. I was talking about my faves, the yellow diamonds. Yellow in diamonds becomes noticeable, to trained eyes and often to others, at about color grade H or I. This amount of yellow can be visually improved by setting in white metal, such as white gold, palladium, or platinum. Once diamonds are showing pretty obvious color–at about J or K–white settings make the stones look more yellow. Most jewelers will switch to yellow settings at that point, which make the stones look whiter by contrast.
Fancy Yellow Diamonds
When the yellow becomes not only obvious but the first thing you notice about the diamond, you’ve moved into the fancy yellow category. These are the stones that have been poetically called “canary” diamonds in the past. This is the point where the price per carat, which falls as yellow tints become more noticeable, rise again–dramatically.
Brown Diamonds: Cognac, Coffee, Chocolate and Champagne
With the discovery of the Argyle Mine in Australia and its supply of not only pink but brown tinted diamonds, the world was introduced to terms such as cognac, coffee, chocolate, and champagne. The market proved to be open not only to the flavorful descriptions of these stones but to their warm color. Designers like Michael Endlich, owner of Pavé Fine Jewelry, has made a virtue of them.
So if you, like me, find colorless/white diamonds “nice” but not exciting, consider some diamond colors that give us all a greater degree of choice.
Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing about gemstones and jewelry for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of birthstone romance novels under the name Liz Hartley.