Chameleon Diamond Buying Guide - Quick Change Artists
When you think of chameleons (like lizards), one stand-out attribute is their ability to change color on their own depending on their environment. And amazingly, they revert back to their original coloration at will. Incredible as that sounds, there are also genuine earth mined diamonds that do exactly the same thing. There's no artificial enhancement added to produce the astonishing effect in chameleon diamonds.
So, What is a Chameleon Diamond Anyway?
Briefly described, chameleon diamonds are natural fancy colored diamonds with an ability to change color under specific circumstances. For instance, these stones may be kept in dark conditions, like a jewelry box or bank storage vaults for some time. When they are first brought out to light, they'll display one color (their unstable color), possibly an orangish yellow, and after a short while in the light, they revert to what is called their 'stable' color—like a greenish-brown. Other circumstances can produce this same phenomenon too. With chameleon diamonds, exposure to extreme heat, especially that which happens on the jeweler's bench can make the diamond change from its stable color to its chameleon effect hue. And best of all, this spectacle is infinitely repeatable.
Is Color Change Natural?
Let's think about color change stones for a minute. While it might catch you off guard to be offered a chameleon diamond—these stones are not a gimmick of some sort. They are a rare diamond anomaly that has wowed collectors for eons. Not all color change is equal in the gemstone realm. There is a trait called color shift—producing a different tone in the same color family that occurs on some stones. There is also color change whereby a colored gem converts into a radical color change of a different hue completely—when the stone has gone from one type of lighting (natural daylight for example to indoor incandescent light). This change is sometimes referred to as the Alexandrite Effect. When it comes to chameleons, this diamond fascinates us with a spectacular repeatable color alteration that happens in a different way altogether.
How did This Happen?
The behavior of these extraordinary color change diamonds is called thermo (heat induced) and photosensitive (light-dark induced) changes. While scientists have identified the results of these rare diamond sub-sets, the exact cause of the mechanism remains somewhat of a mystery. But their seemingly magic transformation holds gemologists and diamond fans completely mesmerized.
Now that chameleon diamonds have recently found favor with diamond lovers, more tests are being conducted on greenish diamond goods to determine if in fact those stone carry the phenomenal trait. It's not inconceivable that many such rarities have passed from retailer to consumer years back without either party knowing they were handling a phenom!
Pros & Cons of Collecting Chameleon Diamonds
For someone who loves the allure of naturally mined diamonds, it might be hard to dig up a "con" when considering if you should add one of these sparklers to your jewelry wardrobe.
The pros are obvious. The more unusual the better is the rule when it comes to fine jewelry. Long ago, high quality jewelry spoke of its creator—think the house of Cartier or Tiffany & Co. While we still conjure up an elegant image recounting these classic brand names, today the shift in paradigm goes more towards the collector. With so many well-designed choices to choose from now, modern jewelry fans demand their jewelry to be well crafted, beautifully styled, and most of all a personal expression of their taste and style.
With chameleon diamonds, you have a one-off to be sure. You can showcase the phenomenal effect of your stone. Remember, this trait is infinitely repeatable. No one will ever have the stone you have, and isn't that a fabulous safe-guard to have?
If we can say there's a 'con' to collecting these diamonds, we'll point out that you need to love the 'stable' color that your diamond normally exhibits. Chameleons found in most parts of the world are greenish-brownish-yellowish in their 'stable' or normal state. A few chameleons from Australia display grey-lavender in their stable state, and briefly change to blues or pinkish rose before reverting to their stable tint. Their alternate coloration, or their unstable state is a fleeting color change. Therefore, you've got to love the (stable) color of the diamond that you see as it will display that hue most of the time.
Since there are so few of these stones available, it's nearly a moot point discussing their quality characteristics. But like any diamond, when you have the chance to make a choice between a few of these stones, make sure you like the cut of the stone—not so much the shape—but the quality of the cut. Is the stone symmetrical to its shape? For instance, if you're looking at a round brilliant, or even a pear shape, does it look completely round—or--completely symmetrical on both sides of the pear? We say that because lesser known vendors may be willing to sell a not so beautifully shaped diamond that may have been a weight saving decision on the part of the cutter.
Clarity and Color Grading Chameleon Diamonds
GIA (Gemological institute of America) sets the standard for how we communicate clarity characteristics on all diamonds, both colorless and fancy colored diamonds. According to GIA, color is the big deal. So, you want to select the most appealing color of chameleon diamond that you can afford. Keep in mind that chameleons with less saturated colors display more subtle changes after heat exposure. Stones with less noticeable color-change may be the result of that stone's color being less saturated in the first place.
When it comes to clarity with any colored diamonds, GIA has a different viewpoint. Their position is that color is the dominant factor for value; even diamonds with a lot of inclusions resulting in a low clarity grade are valued if they have good face-up color. This is probably true unless the inclusion threatens the gem's durability, which will decrease the value of the gemstone.
Even as recently as a decade or two ago, diamond lovers had their job cut out for them when they went hunting for chameleon diamonds. The few purveyors who did offer them got to set whatever price they wanted ---take it or leave it. Today, a quick online search may turn up numerous sellers—from Etsy, eBay and other more. But when it comes to niche items like chameleons, it's probably best to go with trusted sellers who have built a reputation on delivering quality products and stand behind their diamonds.
Buying Chameleon Diamonds
When you're on the hunt for your chameleon, seek out reputable stores or dealers that are also expert in fancy color stones. It helps if your retailer has also gone that extra mile by having your stone graded at a laboratory. The certificate will verify that it is a natural fancy color chameleon diamond.
One of the top fancy colored diamond sellers, Leibish & Co., has been helping satisfy diamond consumers for decades who search for that something special—that can't be found elsewhere. They also have several loose and mounted chameleon diamonds in their collections, so the shopper gets to compare and contrast the stones prior to making a final selection.
If you're in love with chameleons, you're in good company. Some of the most knowledgeable diamond connoisseurs in the world are avid chameleon collectors. And it doesn't look like that trend will ever change.
Diana Jarrett GG RMV
Creative writer, author and Gemologist, Diana Jarrett is a graduate gemologist (GG GIA) and Registered Master Valuer.
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