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The Guide For Buyers & Investors


Chameleon diamonds are arguably the most riveting of all fancy colored diamonds for their distinctive ability to change color. Chameleon diamonds undergo a short-lived change in color when subjected to one of two particular environmental stimuli: (1) a temperature that reaches 140°C or (2) an extended period of being kept in a dark place. Chameleon diamonds whose color change is dependent on temperature are “thermochromic” while those that are sensitive to a total absence of light are “photochromic.” This mutable species of natural colored diamond are some of the rarest diamonds on earth and are therefore highly valuable.

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At Diamond Envy, our colored diamond knowledge can be credited to a widespread, hands-on approach. Familiarity with the rarest colors of diamonds gives us the best reference for assessing the natural colored diamonds selected for our collection. Our in house diamond graders evaluate each stone for cut, color and clarity and ensure we feature only the best conflict-free colored diamonds.  Our extensive collection of chameleon diamonds, the only color changing diamond in existence, includes many gorgeous options in varying shapes and sizes. To learn more about these incredible jewels, read below for information about chameleon diamond color, value and history.

color changing diamonds


Chameleon diamonds generally change from a stable color of olive green (greyish yellowish green to greyish greenish yellow) to an unstable color of more intense brownish or orangy yellow to yellow. Some chameleon diamonds are a light yellow color that transform into a more intense greenish yellow. Exposure to heat tends to yield a more marked change in color than a lengthy time spent in the dark. Some chameleon diamonds exhibit a stable green color similar to conventional natural fancy green diamonds. While we know that conventional green diamonds derive their color from radiation, whether natural or laboratory-induced, it is not yet definitively clear, however, what gives chameleon diamonds their color. A hydrogen-related defect appears to be the main cause, but has yet to be confirmed. The behavior observed by chameleon diamonds is entirely natural – any lab-rendered or lab-enhanced parallel is simply impossible.

To determine whether a diamond is indeed a color changing diamond, it is best to submit the diamond to a gemstone grading lab, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), for testing. Labs will be able to decisively conclude whether a diamond is a chameleon and they will have the tools to run the required tests.

color changing diamond

Classic vs. Reverse

“Classic” chameleon diamonds are those that exhibit both thermochromic and photochromic tendencies. Classic chameleons are usually green with overtones of grey, brown and/or yellow, resulting in an olive color or yellow with overtones of grey, green and/or brown.

“Reverse” chameleons are those that exhibit only thermochromic tendencies. Reverse chameleons are usually light yellow with overtones of grey, green and/or brown. Reverse chameleon diamonds tend to be those that change from yellow to yellowish green while classic chameleons are those that tend to change from green to yellow. Reverse chameleon diamonds are not sensitive to the dark. Reverse chameleon diamonds have more hydrogen and nitrogen than classic chameleons. The GIA does not currently recognize reverse chameleons as chameleon diamonds, instead acknowledging only classic chameleons as chameleon diamonds.

Chameleon diamonds may owe their unique ability to change color to a moderate to large presence of hydrogen, as well as isolated nitrogen atoms and small quantities of nickel or, alternately, their chameleon effect may be due to phosphorescent and fluorescent properties – the cause has not been definitively confirmed yet.

A photochromic change should require no longer than about two hours of storage in the dark. A thermochromic change effected by heat should require just a few seconds of being subjected to heat, typically at 140°C.



Chameleon diamonds are assessed according to intensity of color, or a combination of saturation and tone.  The following describe chameleon diamond intensities:


Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Deep, and Fancy Dark


 color changing diamonds


The further along this spectrum you go, the richer and more intense the color is to be seen in the diamond. Chameleon diamonds routinely have low saturation and a medium lightness of color although some certainly fall on the Very Light or Fancy Dark part of the spectrum.

Secondary Color Modifiers

In general, a color diamond is rare when it exists as one color without any modifying colors. Chameleon diamonds are typically green or yellow diamonds that have secondary colors of grey, yellow (if the main color is green), green (if the main color is yellow) and/or brown.



Tone refers to the lightness or darkness of a chameleon diamond, and the continuum in between. GIA grading does not make a distinction in tones, but to the eye a stone with darker tones may appear more intense in color.


chameleon diamonds 


It is normal for all chameleon diamonds to display fluorescence. Chameleon diamonds characteristically exhibit a medium to strong yellow fluorescence. In the final analysis, the enhancement to a stone’s aesthetics that fluorescence offers is entirely subjective.



Chameleon diamonds generally range from VS1 to I1. Clarity is of secondary importance in chameleon diamonds because chameleons, like other natural fancy colored diamonds, are prized first and foremost for their color, particularly a main body color that is green.



Chameleon diamonds can be found in virtually all shapes, including pear, radiant, cushion, heart, oval, emerald, marquise and the classic round brilliant cut. In the case of chameleon diamonds, a round brilliant cut does not necessarily desaturate color as they usually have darker tones than other colored diamonds. Take note of uneven color distributions as well (these will be noted on your GIA certificate), as they can certainly affect a diamond’s appearance and value.


chameleon diamond shapes 


Although chameleon diamonds are some of the rarest diamonds to exist, they tend to be more affordably priced compared to other diamonds of the rarest degree, such as fancy pinks and blues. The value of a chameleon diamond will depend on several factors, including its main body color (green is generally the most desired); intensity of body color (Fancy Deep or Fancy Dark are most desired); carat weight (the larger, the more valuable the chameleon diamond, and the more obvious the chameleon effect will be); clarity; and intensity of color change. Less common shapes among chameleon diamonds, such as the emerald cut, can have a profound impact on value as well.



Little remains known or documented about chameleon diamonds. The first documentation of color changing diamonds surfaced in 1943 when, according to the GIA Diamond Dictionary, Peter Kaplan, of Peter K. Kaplan Inc., observed in surprise a diamond changing to a darker color while on an extremely hot polishing wheel. The diamond, eventually graded a light yellow-green, was sold to a customer who immediately returned it after witnessing her diamond change color upon removing it from a jewelry box where it had been kept for a prolonged period.


Chameleon diamonds originate from China, Africa and the Argyle mine in Australia.


Famous Chameleon Diamonds

Chopard Chameleon: at 31.31 carats, the Swiss-owned Chopard oval cut diamond is the largest known chameleon diamond that exists and is essentially free of inclusions. The color changing diamond was mounted in the center of a ring accented with small yellow diamonds in a pave setting. Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele designed the ring, which was unveiled at Baselworld in 2008. The diamond had an estimated value of $10 million as of 2008.

 famous chameleon diamonds

22.28 Carat Chameleon: the 22.28-carat heart-shaped chameleon diamond was once the largest color changing diamond in the world until it was unseated by the Chopard chameleon. It changes color from a stable fancy greyish yellow to an almost pure yellow.


At Diamond Envy, we offer an impressive selection of rare, color changing, chameleon diamonds. Whether you’re interested in a loose diamond as an investment opportunity or one-of-a-kind custom jewelry to give as a truly unique gift for someone special, shop our chameleon diamond collection today.