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Fancy Yellow Diamond Guide

What you need to know when buying a canary yellow diamond

Michael Fried
Michael Fried

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Bottom Line Recommendation:

It’s critical that you buy a yellow diamond from a vendor with high-quality photos like James Allen. Color can vary greatly even within a specific GIA color grade. In our experience, Leibish & Co. has the best prices and overall customer experience in the Fancy Color Diamond market. In addition, Leibish & Co’s expertise brings out the maximum color of a diamond when set in a ring.

Yellow diamonds are very popular in halo settings like this stunning set but also go well with elegant solitaire settings like this one from Leibish

What are Yellow Diamonds

Yellow diamonds are one of many kinds of Fancy Colored Diamonds that exist, produced both naturally and man-made. While diamonds are most often clear and colorless, fancy colors, such as yellow diamonds, provide an interesting and alluring alternative. They get their beautiful yellow color thanks to a small part of nitrogen that’s contained in their structure.

Regular “colorless” diamonds can have a yellowish hue, which is generally considered a negative quality; diamonds that are completely clear and colorless command a higher price. However, once the color reaches a level to where yellow is the dominant color, its value begins to rise again as a Fancy Colored Diamond.

Fancy Yellow Diamonds can have shades of other colors present as well, such as orange or brown. The most desirable and valuable yellow diamonds, however, are those with a pure, intense yellow color. These pure yellow diamonds are often referred to as Canary Diamonds, or Canary Yellow Diamonds.

Canary Diamonds, named because their shade resembles that of a canary bird, are the most desirable of all yellow diamonds, and thus command the highest price.

Origin of Yellow Diamonds

Yellow diamonds’ unique color comes from the presence of nitrogen in their composition. The nitrogen molecules absorb blue light, making the stone a yellow shade. Depending on the amount of nitrogen, a yellow diamond could range from light to dark.

Different chemicals present during the diamond’s formation result in additional colors present, such as the common brown or orange tint found with yellow diamonds. Due to the natural process necessary for a diamond to have a deep, intense yellow color, these diamonds – known as Canary Diamonds – are very rare.

What are Canary Diamonds

Canary Yellow Diamonds are the most sought-after and valuable type of yellow diamonds. Like the canary bird, these diamonds exhibit a deep, intense yellow hue, as opposed to a dull or light yellow tinge that can be considered a negative in diamonds.

Officially, canary diamonds are simply fancy yellow diamonds, graded anywhere from fancy intense to fancy vivid on the GIA color scale. Canary Yellow is a casual term used for yellow diamonds with a pure yellow color, not an official term.

Canary Yellow Diamonds are rare and beautiful, and thus come with a higher price and resell value than most other yellow diamonds.

Here are some examples of Canary Diamonds, and the price they command:

As you can see, Canary Yellow Diamonds carry an extremely high value. You may also see diamonds of similar quality referred to as Zimmi or Zimmy Diamonds. This name comes from an area in Sierra Leone known for producing diamonds with a beautiful, intense yellow color. Zimmi Diamonds can be even more expensive and sought-after than Canary Diamonds, as you can see from the price point of this 1.34 Carat VS2 Clarity Round Zimmi Diamond from Leibish & Co.

Yellow Diamond Grading – The Intensity Levels

White diamonds are graded on a color scale of D to Z, with D being a colorless diamond and Z having a distinct yellow or brown tint. If the scale were to continue past Z—all the way to a rich, yellow color—you’d have a Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond. In other words, yellow diamonds are fully saturated with yellow and carry no traces of whiteness whatsoever.

The GIA color grading scale for yellow diamonds is:

  • Faint
  • Very Light
  • Light
  • Fancy Light
  • Fancy
  • Fancy Intense
  • Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep or Fancy Dark

Assessing the color of yellow diamonds—or any Fancy Color Diamonds—is a difficult task. Most importantly, each Fancy color grade isn’t simply a point along a line. Each grade is a range in itself. For example, it’s possible to find a Fancy Yellow that just barely made it over the border from Fancy Light territory. It’s also possible to find a Fancy Yellow that just missed the cutoff into the Fancy Intense grade.

That’s why we recommend using a vendor like Leibish & Co. because they provide the highest quality of images—making it easier to determine which diamond is more beautiful and more valuable.

Yellow Diamond Prices

Fancy Yellow Diamonds can cost anywhere from around $2,500 per Carat to $20,000 or more per Carat, depending on a number of factors. For a decent quality yellow diamond, you can expect the price to be at least $3,000 – $3,500 per Carat.

Factors that influence the price of yellow diamonds include:

  • Yellow color grade: “Faint” or “Very Light” yellow diamonds are much cheaper, while Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid diamonds are much more expensive.
  • Supporting colors: the highest priced yellow diamonds are those with a pure yellow color (like Canary Diamonds) or diamonds with an orange or green overtone. On the other end, brownish yellow diamonds are often (though not always) cheaper.
  • Cut & Clarity: like colorless diamonds, the 4 C’s play heavily into the price of yellow diamonds. 
  • Carat: yellow diamonds at high carat weights are much more rare than smaller diamonds, and thus command a higher relative price.

Generally speaking, Fancy Yellow Diamonds are relatively common. Due to their commonality—relative to other Fancy colors—yellow diamonds can be fairly affordable.

Taking into account good but not spectacular grades, a 1 carat yellow diamond will likely cost between $3,000 – $5,000. Take this example from Leibish & Co.: a 1.08 carat oval shape diamond with VVS1 Clarity and Faint Color, for $4,950. This diamond has a very good clarity grade, but somewhat low for color, though with no brown overtones.

On the lower end is this fancy yellow radiant diamond from Leibish & Co., at $3,675. Again the color is pure yellow, though only a Fancy Light grade. The clarity of this stone is several grades lower than the first example, at VS2, resulting in a lower price.

At their strongest color intensity, Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamonds can become rather expensive. A 1 carat Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond will cost in the range of $8,000 to $16,000+. This 1.03 Carat, SI1 Clarity cushion shape diamond from Leibish & Co. comes in at the lower end for Fancy Vivid Yellow diamonds, at $8,950. While on the higher end we have this 1.01 Carat Canary Yellow Diamond with VS1 Clarity from Leibish & Co., at $16,775.

A Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond with a decent color and eye-clean clarity will cost approximately the same as a D Color Flawless white diamond of the same shape. At this point, it depends on which you and the wearer find more appealing: a unique, richly colored diamond or a white, colorless diamond.

This chart will give you an idea of the price range at each color grade for Fancy Yellow Diamonds:

Color Intensity0.50ct 1.00ct2.00ct
Fancy Vivid$3,000 – $5,000$8,000 – $16,000$35,000 – $45,000
Fancy Intense$2,000 – $3,500$4,500 – $8,000$15,000 – $20,000
Fancy$1,000 – $1,700$3,500 – $5,000$8,000 – $12,000
Fancy Light$900 – $1,300$3,000 – $5,000$5,000 – $10,000

Evaluating the price of a yellow diamond is detailed, as even the smallest tint can heavily influence price, positively or negatively. For this reason, we recommend consulting an expert before moving ahead with a yellow diamond purchase.

How to Choose the Best Setting for Your Yellow Diamond

When you purchase a ring with a yellow diamond, pay close attention to the color of metal used in the ring’s setting. With yellow diamonds, you have unique opportunities for either contrast or complementarity when it comes to color.

Engagement ring settings come in various types of metal, including platinum, white gold, yellow gold and rose gold. These metals have different colors which will influence how the diamond appears when it is set in the ring.

A lighter-colored metal, such as platinum or white gold, can create a stunning contrast with a Vivid Canary Yellow diamond. 

Fancy Intense Yellow Radiant Diamond Engagement Ring from Leibish
Fancy Intense Yellow Radiant Diamond Engagement Ring

Likewise, combining a yellow center diamond with colorless side stones, or in a halo setting, can accentuate the main diamond and make it stand out.

Alternatively, a darker setting like yellow or rose gold, can make a yellow diamond appear deeper and more intense than its color grade. This can allow you to save by purchasing a faint or light-colored diamond, which will have a darker appearance when reflecting the color of its setting.

Fancy Light Yellow Trapezoid Side Stone Ring from Leibish
Fancy Light Yellow Trapezoid Side Stone Ring

Yellow Diamond Engagement Ring Settings

Consider the points mentioned above when choosing your setting. Most often, a yellow gold setting will make the diamond’s color appear deeper, while a white gold setting may make it appear lighter. In order to save on your budget, you may wish to look for a yellow diamond of one intensity grade lower and have it set in yellow gold to maximize the color.

Style 1: Halo setting

A halo setting can boost the size appearance of your yellow diamond engagement ring, especially if there are two layers of surrounding stones.

Halo setting example: Fancy Intense Yellow Cushion Diamond Double Halo Ring from Leibish & Co.

Style 2: Pavé setting

Embedded side stones in a pavé setting give the ring additional sparkle. Your side stones can match the color of your center stone or be white diamonds.

Pavé setting example: Fancy Intense Yellow Cushion Pavé Side Stones Ring from Leibish & Co.

Style 3: Side stones setting

To accent and highlight your yellow diamond, consider a side stone setting. Your side stones can be round brilliants, triangle-shaped or any design that matches your style.

Side stones setting example: Platinum Fancy Yellow Radiant & Triangle Diamond Ring from Leibish & Co.

Popular Jewelry Settings for Yellow Diamonds

Design jewelry for a gift that will be treasured for years to come. Yellow diamonds make for stunning jewelry—whether that’s a bracelet, necklace or set of earrings.

Yellow diamond necklace inspiration: Fancy light yellow marquise diamond and pave pendant from Leibish & Co.

Yellow diamond earrings inspiration: Fancy Intense Yellow Cushion Stud Diamond Earrings from Leibish & Co.

Yellow diamond bracelet inspiration: Fancy Intense Yellow Cushion Diamond Halo Bracelet from Leibish & Co.

Want to ensure you’re getting the best value and beauty for your budget? Contact our diamond experts today.

Lab-Created Yellow Diamonds

Yellow Diamonds do not always need to be formed naturally. Scientists have perfected the processes to be able to create diamonds in a laboratory, which carry the same physical properties and beauty as naturally created diamonds.

Lab-Created Fancy Yellow Diamonds offer an interesting alternative for those who are on a tight budget. Lab-grown diamonds are significantly cheaper than natural diamonds, as they are easier to come by. Yet they are physically no different to natural diamonds and thus have the same visual beauty.

The downside is lab diamonds are not as rare as natural diamonds and thus carry very little resale value. However, if you simply want a beautiful diamond for the lowest price, you can consider going with a man made diamond.

Fancy Yellow Diamond FAQs

Are Canary or Yellow Diamonds Real?

Yellow diamonds are 100% real. They are created by the same processes as colorless diamonds, and are only different in that additional chemicals (most notably, nitrogen) are present during their creation.

Aren’t yellow-colored diamonds a bad thing?

When grading colorless diamonds, the more yellow a diamond is, the less valuable it is. However, once a diamond goes past the end of the classic color scale (D to Z), its value begins to go up again the deeper and more intense its color is.

Are yellow diamonds more expensive?

Light or faint yellow diamonds are fairly common and therefore are generally cheaper than colorless diamonds. Deep, intense yellow diamonds and Canary Yellow diamonds, however, are rare, valuable, and usually more expensive.

Are yellow diamonds rare?

Yellow diamonds are the most common kind of Fancy Colored Diamond. The rarity depends on the exact shade of yellow. Light-colored yellow diamonds are somewhat common, but those with an intense yellow color, or with an orange or green overtone, are quite rare and valuable.

Are Canary or Yellow Diamonds famous?

Beautiful, deep yellow or Canary diamonds are rare, and thus make for some of the most famous diamonds in the world. They create an iconic look, and Canary Yellow diamonds have been shown off by many celebrities, from Jennifer Lopez to Carrie Underwood to Hillary Clinton.

How does color affect the price of yellow diamonds?

Yellow diamond colors are graded on how deep and intense its color is. On the lower end of the scale are Faint or Fancy Light grades, which have a lighter color and are less expensive. On the other end are Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid Yellow diamonds, which carry a much higher price tag.

Supporting colors can also affect the price of yellow diamonds. Generally, a brownish tinge will lower a yellow diamond’s value, while an orange or greenish hue increases its price.

How do the 4 C’s affect the price of yellow diamonds?

The 4 C’s should be taken into account for yellow diamonds as they are for colorless diamonds. Colored diamonds are also graded on Cut, Color, Carat and Clarity. However, because the biggest difference in price comes from color, as yellow diamonds with a high grade in color (Fancy Intense – Fancy Vivid) carry a much larger price per carat than one with a lighter shade of yellow, if you loosen up a bit on the other Cs, you’re not going to lose that much.

What is the price of a 1 carat yellow diamond?

The price of a 1 carat yellow diamond can range from $3,000 to $16,000+, depending on how it’s graded, and the intensity of its color. Intense yellow diamonds, such as Canary Diamonds, are the most expensive, and usually cost at least $10,000 for a 1 carat diamond.

Leibish & Co Leibish & Co is the industry leader in the world of Fancy Color Diamonds. Their inventory size and prices are the best in the business, and their expertise in this highly specialized field will ensure that your diamond is set in a way to maximize its color.
What we love about them:
  • Largest and best inventory of fancy color diamonds
  • Best prices for fancy color diamonds
  • Industry leading expertise will ensure the color of your diamond is maximized in its setting
  • Leading bidders in the annual Argyle auction
  • Highest quality jewelry available online
  • Free shipping
  • Free resizing within first 2 years of purchase
  • Items comes with professional appraisal for insurance
  • 30 day no questions asked free return policy
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