Fancy Black Diamonds

The rare and beautiful fancy black diamond is the most exquisite midnight sparker of all!

India Rose" Earrings by Robert Lang

India Rose" Earrings by Robert Lang

General Diamond Primer

The diamond is the most valuable gemstone in the world. It is composed of a single element: CARBON. Along with trace elements, diamonds contain 99.95% - 99.99% pure crystallized carbon. Diamonds are produced in precise high pressure and high heat conditions in the upper mantle of the earth, 90-120 miles below the earth’s surface under the most ancient portions of the world’s land masses. Diamonds were first brought up to the earth’s surface by emplacement more than 2.5 billion years ago. The most recent diamond–bearing emplacement occurred around 20 million years ago. The oldest known diamond is about 3.3 billion years old and the youngest known diamond is about 628 million years old. Because of its tightly compacted atoms and covalent bonds, a diamond is the hardest known natural substance; its name stems from the Greek word "adamas" meaning invincible or unconquerable.

Diamonds were mined in India over 2,300 years ago but they were not cut until much later since they were deemed to possess magical properties which cutting would destroy. Up until the 18th century, most diamonds came from India, with some from Borneo. Brazil and then South Africa became the largest diamond producers. Today many countries produce diamonds (not exclusively, Angola, Australia, Borneo, Botswana, Canada, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Russia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, United States, Venezuela and Zimbabwe). Australia currently is the largest diamond producer by volume (weight), supplying about one-third of the world's production of natural diamonds (though only about 5% of this production is of gem quality, that figure is increasing upward) and many fancy colored diamonds (discussed below). Canada is becoming one of the most promising suppliers of high quality natural diamonds, especially large high quality diamonds.

At least 75% of all mined diamonds are suitable only for industrial purposes such as milling, drilling, cutting, polishing, and grinding. Only 25% of mined diamonds are gem quality sufficient for jewelry, and of that rough only about 11% is actually cut for jewelry.

With respect to a gem quality diamond, more than half its carat weight can be lost to the faceting process. Only a diamond can cut a diamond, and only other diamonds or diamond powder can polish a diamond. Today, lasers are a means to cut diamonds, but machine cut and hand cut methods are still frequently employed.

Colorless, Near Colorless and Normal Color Range Diamonds

General color principals apply to diamonds as to any physical object. The color we see is how our eyes interpret the interaction of light with the diamond. White light is a balanced blend of the rainbow colors (spectral hues). When white light passes through or reflected from an object some of the spectral colors may be absorbed. We see an object as colorless or white when little or no color is absorbed; whereas, we see black if all or nearly all spectral colors are absorbed. Gray results from a partial but balanced absorption of the spectral colors, while all other colors result from an unbalanced blend of absorbed spectral colors.

How an object absorbs color is dependent on a number of factors relative to the object itself, including its elemental composition, structure and size. For example, a diamond that is made of 100% pure carbon atoms bonded together in a perfect uniform isometric form (the "ideal" diamond) would be totally colorless because it would not absorb any white light. However, during a diamond's long developmental process, other trace elements ("impurities") typically invade the crystalline structure and cause at least some nominal color. With respect to gem quality diamonds, the fraction of impurities is so minimal (0.05% at most) they are considered one of earth's purest natural substances. As a result, diamonds are a symbol of purity in many cultures.

Diamonds in the normal color range, which include colorless and near colorless, through light yellow, light brown and light gray, are graded and valued accordingly to the “Four C’s” - Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat. Since most diamonds have impurities, rare gem collectors prize flawless purely colorless transparent diamonds. The color grading scale of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is an international standard which uses an alphabet letter scale beginning with D (colorless) and ending with Z (light yellow), with each letter grade representing a range of color rather than one specific color. Expert graders rate very few diamonds as colorless, and most diamonds in the normal color range are light yellows and light browns, yet most consumers see little or no color in all or many of the normal range stones unless pointed out.

Natural Colored Diamonds / Fancies

Diamonds are found in all colors. A natural colored diamond is produced by the presence of other elements to the carbon structure ("impurities") such as nitrogen, hydrogen and boron. Also, structural imperfections to the crystalline form such as graining can cause color (most notably pink or brown). Colored diamonds are exceedingly rare; it is reported that only 2% rough is a fancy color (e.g., color outside the normal D-Z color range). Only 1 in 10,000 fashioned diamonds (e.g., diamonds cut for jewelry) displays a fancy color, and only 1 in 25,000 fashioned diamonds displays an intense fancy color.

Colored diamonds are graded accordingly to the rarity of the color, its exact shade, as well as to the color's saturation level. The GIA describes color in terms of hue (the pure spectral colors of the stone), tone (the lightness or darkness of a hue) and saturation (the color's strength and purity from neutral to vivid). Colored diamonds that possess intense vivid hues are called fancy colored diamonds and are highly valued. Among the rarest fancy colored diamonds are pure orange, pure red and pure purple. Other natural fancy colored diamonds include gray, green, blue, pink, orange, yellow, brown and black.

Fancy Black Diamonds

Razzle Dazzle" Necklaces by Arpaia Lang

Fancy black diamonds are rare. Though structural defects might also be involved, minute graphite inclusions and iron clusters throughout the stone appear to be most responsible for the diamond’s rich black color. As a result, while other gem quality fancy colored diamonds are transparent, the black diamond is typically opaque and does not exhibit the fire and brilliance of a white diamond or transparent colored diamond.

Named "carbonados" by Brazilian miners in 1840 after discovered in quantity, most black diamonds are suitable for industrial use only, especially grit since they tend to be heavily knotted crystals or lumpy aggregate that is almost impossible to cut. The inclusions inherent in the natural black diamond, as well as its composite formation from multitudes of crystals, can also result in a more porous structure. Natural black diamonds fracture easily, typically do not cleave properly along crystal plains, and are seldom gemstone quality because they are extremely difficult to cut and polish.

With gemstone quality black diamonds being exceedingly rare, pure black transparent specimens are highly valued and sell at high collector prices. However, most gem quality natural black diamonds have white, gray or colorless streaks and surface imperfections such as pits and fissures that can be evident even after faceting and polishing. These more common natural black diamonds sell for more reasonable prices in the retail marketplace but still can command high four to low five figures per carat. While possible to find dense cleaner less blemished surfaces in very small carat weights, it is more difficult to nearly impossible to find clean surfaces in larger natural black diamonds. Though the presence, type and extent of blemishes can affect the value of a gem quality black diamond, flaws in gem quality stones do not negatively impact the integrity of the stone - gem quality dense black diamonds possess the harness, durability and gemstone beauty traits desirable for jewelry.

Imperfections in the natural black diamond (needle-like and irregular shaped inclusions throughout the stone) are visual evidence of the diamond's naturally-occurring black color and are part of the intrinsic beauty of the genuine black diamond. Accordingly, we embrace the black diamond's natural beauty of imperfection and surface variances.

Razzle Dazzle" Necklaces by Arpaia Lang

The below high resolution magnified image illustrates the imperfections caused by impurities in a gem quality fancy black diamond. Under strong magnification, imperfections are more readily visible and constitute identifying features of the naturally-occurring black color inherent to a genuine fancy black diamond. To the naked eye, a gem quality black diamond may appear near flawless (see the below actual size image of the same diamond). Especially at first blush, we see a near perfect surface. Small minor imperfections are barely visible, if at all. We see great beauty - the intense vivid black color, sparkles beaming from the excellent cuts (here, a precision rose-cut) and superior high polish - all the qualities we look for in a very rare fine quality fancy black diamond. On closer scrutiny with the naked eye, we can see slight imperfections because we are focused on them; but as we move our eyes away from the surface to view the gem more naturally, all we see once again is the stone's bewitching beauty.

Rosecut Fancy Black Diamonds

Inclusions throughout the stone are inherent in a fancy black diamond with naturally-occurring black color. While the enlarged image above of a rose cut fancy black diamond shows the imperfections closest to the surface, there are inclusions throughout the densely opaque stone. This enlarged image is of the same black diamond in the image below (on the left side).

Approximate actual size of rosecut fancy black diamonds set in stud earrings. The eye does not readily see small minor surface imperfections. The diamond on the left in this picture is the same diamond shown in the above, magnified image.

Treatments to Produce, Change or Enhance a Diamond's Color

There are several sophisticated techniques in the jewelry trade to improve the quality of a gemstone or to produce, change or enhance color. With respect to color, radiation and heat treatments are accepted commonplace techniques and are not fraudulent as long as they produce stable permanent color.

Heat Treated Fancy Black Diamonds

With the exception of black diamonds, the most valuable colored diamonds are natural untreated stones. Untreated natural black diamonds are highly uncommon. Naturally-occurring black diamonds generally contain white, gray or clear streaks and other color variations. As a result, it is reported that virtually all mined black diamonds undergo heat treatment to enhance the black color. At present, it is standard procedure for mined black diamonds in the rough to undergo high pressure high temperature (HPHT) to produce a more even black hue that is stable and permanent. HPHT is the same process that produces black diamonds in the earth. With respect to high quality naturally-occurring black diamonds, ** after they undergo heat treatment in the rough, they are faceted and polished but are not subjected to any further treatments or color enhancements. These rare fancy black diamonds behold a dazzling brilliance of lush rich intense black color and are the black diamonds of choice at Arpaia Lang. To obtain them, we work with renowned dealers in the industry to purchase conflict free black diamonds of the expected fine quality and specifications. Our goal is to purchase the most minimally treated magnificent black diamonds possible - as close to the natural black diamond that mother nature produced in the earth - we select from the highest quality, finest and rarest loose fancy black diamonds available. We never use irradiated or dyed black diamonds in our designs.

**Heat treated black diamonds are not "natural black diamonds." The word "natural" denotes that the gemstone is completely untreated and has not undergone any type of treatment whatsoever at any stage - whether in the rough or after cutting and polishing. As mentioned above, untreated natural black diamonds are near nonexistent in the fancy black diamond market since mostly all mined black diamonds are now treated. Herein, we use the term "naturally-occurring black diamonds" to describe these diamonds' original black color prior to heat treatment solely as a means to differentiate these HPHT black diamonds from other treated diamonds (e.g., irradiated diamonds or diamonds that prior to heat treatment to turn them black were in the normal color range or another color such as brown).

Diamond Treatments to Produce Black Color

As mentioned above, naturally-occurring black color diamonds are rare and expensive - these are the fancy black diamonds used in Arpaia Lang designs shown on this website. However, with black diamonds in vogue, high fashion demands a much more affordable and available alternative. Accordingly, it is common for genuine diamonds in the normal color range to be treated to completely produce the black color. Typically, these black diamonds appear to have a uniform deep black hue (although irradiated diamonds are really a very deep dark green and not black color) and good surface clarity (since they do not possess the impurity composition intrinsic to naturally-occurring black diamonds). It is claimed that these treated diamonds are the most commercially sold black diamonds. Accordingly, if you love black diamonds but cannot afford the fancy black diamond jewelry on this website, do not be discouraged - many retail stores and online sellers have affordable black diamond jewelry.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

Even though a picture says it all, we have more to say on the topic because we truly do LOVE LOVE LOVE talking about fancy black diamonds. To get straight to the point, we believe, feel and think in our hearts, minds and souls that fancy black diamonds are EXQUISITE! The above photo is simply one more example of their beauty. With complete honesty, the rose cut black diamonds in the picture are much more gorgeous in person because they come to life in the most elegant fashion. The picture does not show the full extent of the diamonds' depth of intense vivid black color, marvelous faceting, superb polish, and sparkle with movement. Yet, still, the picture is a testament to the seductive beauty of fancy black diamonds. They are magical.

A Gentle Reply to Black Diamond "Bad Press"

There appears to be very little bad press about black diamonds. Touted as rare, beautiful and a great investment in today's diamond market, black diamonds are seen in the very finest designer luxury jewelry from around the world and are still a very hot item at international jewelry trade shows. Black diamonds are also hot with the public and there is vast growing awareness.

In our constant quest for more information, even our searches yield mostly glowing appreciation for black diamonds. However, we did come across an online retail site that sold black diamonds with claims about the gem's inferiority. We are mystified by a retailer that begrudgingly sells black diamond jewelry merely because there is a market. As we hope our site conveys, we sell black diamond jewelry because of the gem's magnificence. We sell what makes us most happy. We are pursuing our dream work life. That said, since we LOVE to chat about black diamonds (as you already know!), we actually enjoy sharing the negative comments with you and providing our informal thoughts and opinions on the topic.

To sum up the "bad press":

  • black diamonds have ugly surface blemishes and therefore are less desirable, valuable and attractive than other colored diamonds; hence, if you really want a fancy colored diamond, buy any other color than black (which of course they seem happy to sell);
  • black diamonds are merely a fashion trend;
  • fancy black diamonds are way too expensive because they are so rare; and
  • wait to buy black diamonds because prices will go down.

First, we note, that everyone is entitled to their opinions, so in response, here are more of ours:

Obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So there will be people who do not grasp the beauty of black diamonds. As for our eyes, black diamonds are among the most beautiful gems we've seen (right up there with the Color D Diamonds – and truth be told, we admire all diamonds. We're fascinated fans.) But black diamonds are holding their own with the High Color Top Quality Whites! Dazzling, glamorous and alluring, even at night, black diamonds alight with shimmer and sparkle.

Inclusions and other imperfections in fancy black diamonds are unavoidable because the rich black color is caused by these very impurities. Imperfections are part of a genuine fancy black diamond's intrinsic beauty, just as leather, silk and other natural fabrics and materials have their natural imperfections.

We've heard stories in the industry that there was a time when some jewelers considered natural pink diamonds "junk" because they were not white, and so they threw them out! Admittedly inferior black diamonds are used for purely industrial purposes, as are most other diamonds. Gem quality black diamonds are very rare, valuable and expensive.

It is hard to imagine the cost of fancy black diamonds going down. They become more rare as mining continues and our world's natural diamond supplies are depleted, and their demand just keeps growing greater and greater as the public becomes more aware of black diamonds. Increasingly, the finite number of gem quality naturally-produced black color diamonds to adorn us through all time is less and less. An article in the September 2008 issue of National Jeweler about black diamond jewelry designers noted an opinion by one that retailers should purchase black diamond jewelry for their inventory now since prices are rising, referring back to the fact that black diamonds are 4-5 times more expensive then than in 2006 (p. 30). In that same issue, one of the "tips" mentioned for dealing with rising prices in the global diamond market is to purchase colored diamonds because their prices are going up all the time and therefore make a good financial investment (p.38). We personally have seen loose black diamond prices steadily increase over the past 7 years.

The new popularity of black diamonds is not a trend. For ages black diamonds have been incorporated in jewelry, and since the 1990s, there has been consistent movement in the jewelry industry to recognize black diamonds as the precious gemstones that they are. In 2008, we really started to see the public's awareness and interest. Similar to white diamonds, black diamonds are easy to wear everyday. They look great with all colors, offset other colors, and blend with any style. Trends come and go, but black diamonds are true treasures created by nature billions of years ago.