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Black Diamond Buying Guide – Dark & Stunning

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HomeDiamond AdviceBlack Diamond Buying Guide – Dark & Stunning

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leibish black diamond ring
Dark and stunning black diamonds are taking center stage in engagement rings. From Leibish.
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at Leinish

Black diamonds are an attractive alternative to colorless diamonds. Until recently, black diamonds-also called carbonados-were used only for industrial purposes. Non-traditional engagement rings have gained popularity, and black diamonds are now a top choice for alternative or edgy looks. If you're looking for a unique stone with the hardness and shine of a colorless diamond, consider a black diamond!

Color: Natural or Treated?

A salt and pepper diamond flanked by garnets. From Custom Made.
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at CustomMade

There are two types of black diamonds: natural fancy black diamonds and treated (or enhanced) black diamonds. Natural black diamonds get their color from graphite inclusions and are quite rare-they are found only in Central Africa and Brazil. 

Treated black diamonds are colorless diamonds that have been turned black by heat or radiation treatments. Colorless diamonds with lots of inclusions are often used for this process. The undesirable inclusions can't be seen once the surface of the diamond turns black and opaque.

Salt and pepper diamonds are a variation of black diamonds. These diamonds also have lots of inclusions but are translucent instead of opaque. Each salt and pepper diamond has a unique black and white speckled appearance. 

Pros and Cons of Black Diamonds

The inclusions in this I1 clarity 1.16 carat diamond weaken the diamond's structure, making it prone to fractures. They also give the diamond its unique gray color. From James Allen .

If you're looking for a black stone for your engagement ring, it's important to understand the pros and cons of choosing a black diamond. Fortunately, there are very few drawbacks to this beautiful colored diamond!

Pros: Like colorless diamonds, black diamonds are very hard and don't scratch easily. Compared to other black stones (like onyx or black sapphire), black diamonds won't lose their shine or luster over time. They also have the natural shine of colorless diamonds. 

Black diamonds can also be a very affordable option, especially the treated variety. Treated black diamonds cost about $300 per carat, compared to $1500-3000 for a natural black diamond.

Time Saving Shortcut

See all black diamonds at…

James Allen
With Clarity

Cons: Despite their hardness, black diamonds can be very brittle and prone to fracturing. Both natural and heat-treated black diamonds are typically heavily included. Inclusions are essentially tiny fractures within a diamond that weaken its structure. If a heavily included diamond is hit or bumped in the wrong spot, it can break. 

The unique structure of natural black diamonds also makes them susceptible to damage. Unlike other diamonds, they are a microcrystalline aggregate. The tiny crystals that make up a black diamond locked together in a random orientation. Like inclusions, this causes instability in a black diamond's structure. 

Judging the Quality

This 0.96 carat round cut natural black diamond reflects very little light and is almost opaque. From James Allen.

The process is a little different when it comes to judging the quality of a black diamond. Of course, always check the certification to see if a black diamond is natural or heat-treated.  When it comes to the 4C's, there's no need to worry about color or clarity. Both types of black diamonds are already heavily included, and there is only one color rating: fancy black. For salt and pepper diamonds, it's all about personal preference. 

Cut is the main factor to consider when choosing a black diamond. It can be very difficult to cut black diamonds since they are so brittle, which means high quality cuts can be expensive. Although black diamonds don't reflect light the way other diamonds do, a good cut can add some sparkle-especially for salt and pepper diamonds. To maximize the sparkle factor, look for a rose cut black diamond or one with a small table and large crown facets. 

Typically, black diamonds aren't cut in the fancier styles. You can usually find black diamonds in round, cushion, and pear shapes, but will have to look harder (or pay more) for other shapes. 

Carat is also different here since black diamonds are denser than other diamonds. Carat is the stone's weight, so a 1 carat black diamond will actually be smaller than a colorless 1 carat diamond. When you're picturing how a black diamond will look in a ring, focus on the cut and shape, rather than the carats. 

Wearing Black Diamonds

Black diamond engagement ring
Black diamond engagement ring with a double halo of colorless diamonds. The colorless diamonds add some sparkle to the dark stone. From Custom Made.
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at CustomMade

Black and salt and pepper diamonds make one of a kind engagement rings. For a modern look, pair them with colorless diamonds or rubies in a platinum setting. Polished and rough salt and pepper diamonds have an antique style, especially when set in a thin yellow or rose gold band. 

Although these diamonds are hard and won't scratch, their brittleness does put them at risk of being damaged. Smaller black diamonds are much less likely to fracture than the larger ones. If you love the dark beauty of black diamonds but don't want to worry about the stone cracking, incorporate black diamonds in a wedding band or pair them with a different center stone. Colorless diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and citrine look stunningly vibrant when surrounded by black diamonds. 

Buying Black Diamonds Online

leibish hexagonal fancy black
Cut in a hexagonal shape, this 2.22 carat black diamond is one of a kind. From Leibish

The quality (natural vs. treated) of black diamonds varies quite a bit. If you're buying one of these unique stones online, make sure to buy from a reputable vendor so you'll know exactly what you're getting. 

Online gem retailers James Allen and Leibish and With Clarity offer a selection of black and salt and pepper diamonds. Both retailers have several tools to help you understand the quality of your diamond: diamond certification, high-resolution photos, and 360° videos. James Allen's collection includes simpler cuts of black diamonds and fancy cuts of salt and pepper (gray) diamonds. At Leibish, you can find some less common shapes, like hexagon, kite, and shield. Whether you're looking for something modern, edgy or classic, there's a black diamond for you. 

Courtney Beck Antolik

Courtney Beck Antolik is a geologist and science writer based in Denver, CO. She received a B.S. (2010) in Geology from Texas A&M University and an M.S. (2013) in Geological Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Courtney’s experience with minerals includes a zircon geochronology project and a semester teaching mineralogy labs. Her favorite mineral is beryl, but diamond is a close second.

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