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A Guide for Buyers and Investors


Natural fancy yellow diamonds begin where the colorless D-Z grading scale ends. Although some stones on the colorless scale may exhibit a yellow tint, they are not considered Fancy Yellow. These stones are referred to as “Cape” colors, and are graded as follows: K-M (Faint Yellow), N-R (Very Light Yellow) and S-Z (Light Yellow). Once a stone demonstrates a yellow hue that extends beyond the Cape classification described here, it is considered a Fancy Yellow diamond.


Here at Diamond Envy, our team of GIA graduate gemologists, artists, activists and diamond enthusiasts has purchased each of our yellow diamonds with a very hands-on approach. The challenge of working with colored diamonds is fascinating, but being so involved in every step along the process ensures that our diamonds are conflict free, exceptional, and priced competitively. Yellow diamonds hold a particular place of fondness in our hearts, for their extraordinary qualities we’ve detailed below.


Canary Diamond Qualities



Similar to other fancy colors, Fancy Yellow diamonds (also referred to as Canary Diamonds) acquire their color due to the presence of trace elements in their atomic structure. In the case of yellow diamonds, this element is nitrogen, which when bonded to the carbon atoms that make up all diamonds, presents a vibrant yellow color. The more nitrogen is present, the more saturated with yellow color the diamond will be. The amount of color saturation is measured on the intensity scale.

 Canary diamond


The Yellow Diamond Scale of color intensity is based on a combination of saturation and tone. The following describe yellow diamond color intensities:


Fancy Light Yellow, Fancy Yellow, Fancy Intense Yellow, Fancy Dark Yellow, Fancy Vivid Yellow, Fancy Deep Yellow.


yellow diamond scale 



The further along this yellow diamond scale you go, the richer and more intense the color is to be seen in the diamond. The more intense a stone’s color saturation, the more it will be worth. For example, a Fancy Intense Yellow diamond will be worth more than a Fancy Yellow. That said, collectors tend to prefer Fancy Vivid Yellows to Fancy Deep Yellows. Intensity may be considered the single greatest contributing factor to yellow diamond value.

yellow diamond scale


Secondary Color Modifiers

It is rare for any color diamond to display its primary color in pure form. Most colored diamonds contain secondary or even tertiary color modifiers, or overtones. In the case of a canary diamond, these are most commonly brown followed by green and orange. Stones with secondary color overtones are referred to by name incorporating both (or all three colors). For example, “greenish yellow” or “brownish greenish yellow.” The presence of brown as an overtone may have a slight negative impact on the price of a natural fancy yellow diamond, while the presence of orange or green, given their rarity in combination with yellow, may enhance the stone’s value.


Distinct from overtones are split grades, namely stones that exhibit two colors (with one being the dominant color). For example, a stone may be graded as green-yellow, with the color listed in second position, in this case yellow, being the dominant hue. Split grades can affect yellow diamond value, but that depends entirely on the combination of colors. For instance, a split grade brown-yellow stone may be worth less than an intense yellow, but a split grade green-yellow may be worth more.


yellow diamonds 



Tone refers to the lightness or darkness of a canary 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. For someone looking for the appearance of a Fancy Intense Yellow diamond without the price tag of one, a good option may be a Fancy Yellow diamond with a darker tone.

 natural fancy yellow diamonds



It is very common for natural fancy yellow diamonds to display fluorescence. In fact, according to Gems and Gemology, about 25% of all yellow diamonds are fluorescent, with over 90% of those blue fluorescence. The presence of fluorescence itself does not necessarily devalue a yellow diamond; it can even lend it a greenish cast that provides a cool undertone to such a stone and make it appear lemony and, to some, more desirable. Fluorescence is also manifest in colors other than blue, including green, white, orange and yellow. In the final analysis, the enhancement to a stone’s aesthetics that fluorescence offers is entirely subjective.

canary yellow diamond 


Because yellow diamonds are more abundant than other fancy colors (such as pink, blue, green, etc.), clarity plays a much more important role as a differentiator than it may in the case of other colors. In the case of a pink or blue, a lower clarity may not make as much difference due to the overall rarity of the stone. In the case of yellows, a higher clarity will be the dividing line between stones of similar intensity. Canary yellow diamonds tend to contain fewer inclusions than other colored diamonds. According to Gems and Gemology (2008), nearly 75% of all yellow diamonds attain a clarity grade of VS or higher.



Because round cuts tend to produce lower color saturation, yellow diamonds, like other colors, are generally cut into fancy shapes such as cushions, emerald cuts, princesses, etc. Round cuts cause color desaturation because they are best at reflecting white light, which also gives them their scintillation. In the case of yellow diamonds, a round cut may make the yellow color appear fainter, whereas a fancy shape, which reflects less white light, will maximize color saturation. 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.

natural fancy yellow diamond shapes 


Yellow is one of the most common colors in the fancy color diamond universe. Approximately 60% of all fancy color diamonds fall somewhere in the yellow spectrum. That said, because only one in 10,000 carats produces a color diamond, yellows are still pretty rare in the realm of all diamonds. Because of their striking color and relative accessibility as compared to much more rare color stones such as pinks or blues, canary yellow diamonds are very popular and represent excellent investment opportunities. When considering a yellow diamond as an investment, opt for stones with deeper color saturation, higher clarities, larger sizes (two-carat-plus) and less common shapes (such as rounds).

 yellow diamond value


Yellow diamonds were first found in the Cape Province of South Africa in the 1860s, which is why faint yellow diamonds (those at the outer perimeter of the D-Z colorless diamond scale) are called “Cape” colors. However, despite their provenance from South Africa’s Kimberley and Dutoitspan mines, historical documents note that yellow diamonds were in use as far back as the 17th century, indicating a much earlier original discovery.



Famous Yellow Diamonds

Tiffany Yellow: found in South Africa’s Kimberley mine in 1877, the Tiffany Yellow is one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered. With a rough weight of 287.42 carats, it was acquired by Charles Tiffany (founder of the eponymous luxury retail brand) and cut into a 128.54-carat cushion. Set in a necklace, it was worn by Audrey Hepburn in publicity photos for the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


famous canary yellow diamond 


Sun Drop: the largest pear-shaped natural fancy yellow diamond in the world, this 110.3-carat Fancy Vivid Yellow was sold by Sotheby’s for $12.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a yellow diamond at auction.


 famous yellow diamond


The Florentine: the legendary Medici family, the great patrons of the city of Florence, once owned this 137.27-carat, nine-sided, 126-faceted yellow diamond. Light yellow in color with a greenish overtone, it is believed to have originally hailed from India.


 famous yellow diamond


At Diamond Envy, we offer an abundance of canary yellow diamonds in every beautiful shade.  Over 200 stunning options are available in stock and our experts can help you find the perfect one.  Whether you’re interested for investment purposes or to give an exceptional gift to someone special in your life, shop our natural fancy yellow diamonds today.