Professional Jeweler Archive: Judging Fancy Color Diamonds: Clarity and Cutting

January 2003


Judging Fancy Color Diamonds: Clarity and Cutting

Part 4 concluding our series covers the other quality factors of which you should be aware

Many fancy-color diamond reports don’t include a clarity grade, especially if the color is exceptional or very rare. When a clarity grade is provided, the grading is based on the same criteria used for colorless diamonds. But it’s important to understand that in fancy-color diamonds, flawlessness is even rarer than in colorless diamonds.

Fancy-color diamonds are often in the SI (slightly included) range; I1-I3 (imperfect) grades are also common. In the fancy colors, however, SI and I grades don’t carry the stigma associated with these grades in colorless diamonds, especially if the stone has a rare or unusually deep color. This is not to say there are no “flawless” fancy-color diamonds or diamonds in the rarer clarity grades. But if the color is rare, and the diamond also has a high clarity grade, the cost will be disproportionately much higher.

As with colorless diamonds, enhancement techniques are being used to improve the appearance of fancy-color diamonds by filling fractures and lasering black inclusions so they are no longer visible.

Cutting and Proportioning

Most reports on fancy-color diamonds lack information pertaining to cutting and proportioning. As with clarity, the deeper and/or rarer the color, the less important the cutting. However, we should mention certain shapes are more common among fancy-color diamonds because, in addition to proportioning, the shape itself and the cutting style (that is, step-cut vs. brilliant cut) can affect the intensity or evenness of the color.

Shape Can Affect Intensity and Evenness of Color

If you sell fancy-color diamonds, you must allow some flexibility where shape is concerned. Certain shapes are rare and difficult, if not impossible, to find in fancy colors, while others are much more readily available, in almost any color. The emerald cut is especially difficult to find, and even round stones may be difficult to find in a particular color. The radiant cut, however, is found frequently.

Today’s modern radiant and princess cuts have become especially popular for fancy-color diamonds because the shape, proportioning and facet arrangement intensify the color.

On the other hand, it’s extremely rare to find a fancy-color diamond in an emerald cut because the color won’t look as intense. In fact, when emerald-cut diamonds with fancy colors are found in old jewelry, many diamond cutters recut them into one of the new cuts, such as the radiant or princess. I searched for an emerald-cut diamond with an “intense yellow” color for a client and it took many months to find just three stones. The reason is simple: If you recut a “yellow” emerald-cut diamond into a radiant and resubmit it to a laboratory for a new grading report, the color grade often comes back “intense yellow,” a rarer and costlier grade. Or an emerald cut graded “intense” may come back after recutting with a “vivid” grade, the rarest and costliest of all!

As a result, emerald-cut diamonds in fancy colors are becoming ever more difficult to find. One of the most beautiful diamonds I ever saw was a square emerald cut with a “vivid yellow” color grade. Were this stone to be recut, the depth of yellow would probably have been beyond the scale! I would never have wanted to see the stone recut – its personality was truly regal – but I also appreciated the rarity of this stone, not just because its color was “vivid,” but because it was a vivid emerald cut!

Some Shapes Are Less Desirable

In addition to shapes that are especially desirable, some are not as desirable in a fancy-color diamond because they may cause the color to appear uneven. This often happens when a fancy-color diamond is cut into a pear or marquise shape. These shapes usually exhibit a bow-tie effect across the stone’s center – an effect created by light leakage – which usually causes the color to appear lighter across the area of the bow-tie. Sometimes the difference is slight; sometimes it’s pronounced. Such stones should sell for less; the more visible the color difference, the lower the cost.

Now that you have a better understanding of the world of fancy-color diamonds and how they are judged, you can begin to take advantage of this exciting segment of the diamond market and the unique opportunities it can provide for you and your customers. With your help, your customers can begin a fascinating journey, filled with wonder and joy.

– by Antoinette Matlins, P.G.

The information presented here is an excerpt from Diamonds: The Antoinette Matlins Buying Guide and is reprinted with permission of the publisher, Gemstone Press, Woodstock, VT; (802) 457-4000,

This fancy-color diamond ring was featured at luxury bridal designer Amsale Aberra’s fall show. Aberra partnered with the Diamond Information Center and owner Vivid Collection to bring the ring to her show. It features a 2.85-ct. fancy vivid blue internally flawless pear-shaped diamond set in 18k pink gold. It’s flanked by two pink diamond trillions totaling 0.38 carat and the ring is surrounded by 1.39 carats of intense pink pavé diamonds. The blue diamond alone is estimated at $1.6 million. Vivid Collection, New York City; (212) 688-3088,

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