Fancy Color Diamond Basics and Color Variations

fancy color diamond basics variations

Within the diamond world, the realm of color is a fascinating one. While many diamonds are immensely valuable precisely due to a lack of color, there are other cases where very rare color variations in natural diamonds will actually cause those rare diamonds to become more desirable.

At AAA Jewelers, we’re proud to offer a wide range of GIA diamonds for all our clients, from engagement and wedding ring needs through fashion jewelry and more. When discussing color in diamonds, one of the terms you may hear is “fancy color” diamonds — what is this referring to, how do these diamonds come to be, and what are some of the colors that may be found? Here’s a basic primer.

Basics on Fancy Color Diamonds

As we mentioned above, there are rare cases where a mined diamond will have some color variation — about one in every 10,000 diamonds, to be precise, or 0.01%. Generally speaking, these diamonds are known as fancy color diamonds.

What’s happening within stones like these is a revealing of certain colors on the spectrum. The most common such colors here are yellow and brown, but there are also several others (we’ll discuss this in just a bit).

As we also noted, these diamonds are in contrast to most normal mined diamonds, which are naturally muted in color and take on a pastel-like appearance. If you see a diamond that’s white or near-white, it doesn’t have any fancy color designation.

And unlike white diamond color grading, where quality of a diamond is diminished as more color is added, fancy color diamonds increase in value because of their rarity — especially in the least common colors.

Fancy Color Diamond Grading Scale

The diamond industry has its own separate grading scale for these fancy color diamonds, and it runs from less valuable to most valuable. Here are the tiers:

  • Faint: A very light hint of color, only detectable by a trained gemologist in most cases
  • Very Light: A light hint of color that’s detectable even without trained gemologist evaluation
  • Light: A easily noticeable coloration, still considered attractive
  • Fancy light: A strong color that is still considered attractive and pleasing.
  • Fancy intense: A slightly muted but still strong color that is very attractive.
  • Fancy vivid: An even stronger color, one that can easily be seen by the naked eye.
  • Fancy dark: The second-highest tier, a dark color that may approach black in some cases.
  • Fancy: Finally, the rarest and most valuable tier, these are diamonds with a very deep and intensely saturated color.

Diamonds that are higher on this scale will obviously be more valuable, with fancy being the most valuable of all.

Our next several sections will look into the color variations for fancy color diamonds, plus how valuable each tends to be based on its rarity and attractiveness.

Yellow Or Brown

As we noted above, yellow and brown colorations are the two most common fancy color diamonds — by far, in fact. They make up about half of the overall supply of fancy color diamonds.

The vast majority of yellow fancy color diamonds are going to fall on the lower end of the grading scale above, with faint and very light being the most common designations. It’s still quite rare to see a diamond that falls into the upper echelons like fancy dark or fancy, but it does happen from time to time.

The area to consider when valuing a yellow or brown fancy color diamond is the level of saturation for the color. The vast majority of diamonds will feature a yellowish or brownish hue that’s very light, and these won’t be nearly as valuable.

On the other hand, you may come across a diamond with a much deeper level of saturation for that hue — and these are going to be more valuable, sometimes quite significantly so.


Another fancy color diamond that may be found, though far less often than yellow or brown, is the green diamond. By far the most common appearance here is one where green is only visible on the surface level of the stone; those that contain green saturation throughout the stone, however, are quite rare and valuable.

Much like with yellow and brown fancy color diamonds, the value is determined by level of saturation. The vast majority of green fancy color diamonds will only have a very light level of saturation, making them less valuable overall.

However, those that do feature a deep level of saturation can be quite valuable — especially if the green hue is a pure one, without any yellow or brown mixed in.


Blue fancy color diamonds are quite rare, and as such they tend to be some of the more valuable options on the market. The vast majority of blue diamonds will fall into the light and fancy light categories on the grading scale, with intense and vivid being less common but still possible.

Blue diamonds are caused by the presence of boron, which creates the blue hue. It’s believed that only about 1% of all natural diamonds contain any boron whatsoever, making this one of the rarer causes of coloration.

As with other fancy color diamonds, the level of saturation is going to play a role in value — but because blue diamonds are already quite rare to begin with, even those on the lower end of the saturation spectrum can be quite valuable.


There are two reasons for diamonds turning pink: As a result of the crystal structure (much more common), or due to a trace chemical influence (very rare, under 1% of cases). As you may have guessed, the diamonds that turn pink as a result of chemical influence are going to be much more valuable.

The vast majority of pink fancy color diamonds will fall into the light and fancy light categories; however, it’s not at all uncommon for pink diamonds to appear in the intense and vivid categories, too.


Finally, we come to red fancy color diamonds. These are the rarest of all natural diamonds, and as such they command some of the highest prices in the world. In fact, a red diamond that’s graded at fancy vivid can easily sell for millions of dollars per carat.

All red diamonds are a result of crystal structure distortion, and the vast majority will fall into the fancy light and fancy categories on the saturation scale. Very few will be graded as vivid or intense, making these some of the most valuable diamonds in existence.

Choosing a Fancy Color Diamond

When it comes to fancy color diamonds, there are a few different options to choose from. If you’re looking for something rare and valuable, then you’ll want to focus on those that fall into the upper echelons of the saturation scale — like fancy dark, fancy, or intense.

On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for a unique diamond with a bit of color, then you may be just as well served by one that’s graded as fancy light. It all comes down to your personal preferences.

No matter what you’re looking for, though, there’s sure to be a fancy color diamond out there that fits the bill. For more on this, or to learn about any of our other diamond options, contact the pros at AAA Jewelers today.