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Green Diamond Buying Guide: Diamonds for the Elite Collector

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All gemstones and diamonds are rare to some degree. To be classified as a gemstone the material must be beautiful, durable, and rare. Scarcity is included in the definition. However, when discussing natural fancy color diamonds, a needle in a haystack situation quickly becomes a needle in an ocean.

Pliny the Elder, the famous Roman author and naturalist who lived between AD 23-79, wrote about colored diamonds as being attainable by only a few royals. Not only would one need the fortune of royalty to attain one of these majestic creations, but only the most elite of royalty knew of their wonder, majesty, and lure. To this day it is true that only the most elite of collectors can count themselves lucky enough to own a natural fancy colored diamond. This guide will attempt to explain the many aspects of natural fancy colored green diamonds and how to begin looking at these stones with a trained eye.

Are Green Diamonds Rare?        

Diamonds that exhibit a color beyond the well-known D-Z color range are exceptionally rare. Per every 10,000 colorless diamonds only one fancy color diamond is found. Diamonds come in every color, and natural green diamonds are some of the rarest and most hunted to those that can afford the large price tags.

1.65 Carat radiant diamond James Allen
This Fancy Light Green diamond from James Allen costs over $10,000 a carat!

Should a diamond be lucky enough to be resting near any radioactive material deep within the Earth’s crust, it may soak in enough radiation to cause color. Most commonly the stone receives enough radiation to develop a thin layer of green color on the surface. This thin layer is often referred to as a Skin. In fact, most natural green diamonds are submitted to a gemological laboratory as rough or partially polished so that the lab may correctly determine the cause of color before the stone is finished. It is, however, extremely rare for a natural green diamond to display color evenly throughout the stone. Research suggests that a stone must be exposed to both Alpha and Gamma waves of radiation for the color to penetrate the diamond evenly. There have only been a handful of stones that have entered the auction networks over time that display an even green coloring.

Are Green Diamonds Valuable?

The most valuable greens are those that do not exhibit a secondary color, known as True Green. Secondary colors in green diamonds are often blue or yellow. If the color is de-saturated it may also be grayish green or brownish green. The color in diamonds is caused by several trace elements that are found within the chemical structure as well as anomalies found in crystal structure; boron for blue diamonds, nitrogen for yellow, hydrogen for grey.

 0.71 Carat radiant diamond Fancy Green VS1 Clarity James Allen
This green diamond from James Allen has a blue secondary color.

Research has not concluded the exact reason we observe violet or orange diamonds. Although it is accepted that these colors come from variations in crystal lattice in addition to trace elements, green diamonds have only one source of color being radiation. Industry accepted color grades for green diamonds include faint green, very light green, light green, fancy light green, fancy green, fancy intense green, fancy dark green, fancy deep green, and fancy vivid green.

Only one in 10,000 colorless diamonds displays a fancy color. These stones are remarkably rare. In fact, there exists another variation in green diamonds called Chameleon diamonds. Chameleon diamonds change color from an “olive” brownish green to a brownish yellow or yellow when exposed to heat or stored in darkness for an extended period (thermochromic and photochromic color changes, respectively). Each fancy color diamond is a work of art, each is one-of-a-kind. Unlike in colorless diamonds, even green diamonds below 1 carat are considered extremely rare and valuable.

Fancy colored diamonds are valued based on their color, so it is common for these stones to be cut into shapes that help deepen the color. Often fancy colored diamonds are cut with large pavilions, the lower portion of the faceted gem. A deep cut pavilion will allow for more color to return to the viewer’s eye. Mixed cuts are also used to help the diamond cutter make the natural inclusions that may be causing the color less noticeable while allowing the magnificent color show at its best. When considering the purchase of one, it is important to access the color of the stone first and to treat it as the most important factor.

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James Allen
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Brian Gavin

Do the 4 C’s Apply to Green Diamonds?

When inspecting a green diamond for purchase one should keep the following in mind. The 4 C’s should be considered differently than colorless diamonds when assessing the quality of a fancy color diamond. Color is the most important factor. The color composed of hue, tone, and saturation is the most valuable attribute to these stones. Diamonds that lack a secondary color or de-saturation of color will command higher prices. Carat weight, even stones under 1 carat are extremely rare and valuable. Clarity, many fancy color diamonds owe their color to the inclusions found within the stone. Many of these glorious stones will have low clarity grades with amazing color. A higher clarity grade will still command a higher price. The fourth is Cut, in larger fancy colored stones, it is common to see faceting arrangements that have been chosen to provide the best color display. Be prepared to find diamonds with mixed faceting arrangements and uncalibrated sizes and shapes. 

0.70 carat, Fancy Vivid Green Diamond, Radiant Shape, SI2 Clarity, GIA
A fancy green vivid diamond for under 1 carat is so rare it sells for more than $250,000. © Leibish

Tips for Buying A Green Diamond

There have been remarkable strides in the creation of lab grown diamonds and today you can find synthetic diamonds in a full range of colors. Color treatment to create green diamonds from natural colorless diamonds has been commercially available since the 1940s. These are more cost effective in attaining a stone with the same chemical composition and crystal structure as natural diamonds. Since green diamonds are caused by radiation, a similar environment can be simulated in a lab to create something to match form and function. Gemological laboratories have a difficult task in assessing the origin of color whether natural or synthetic. It is for this reason that determining the origin of the color in the diamond is paramount when assigning value.

apple green diamond ring
Find this Ringat CustomMadeA fancy, apple green diamond in an ultra-delicate three-stone setting for a unique take on the popular, modern styling. By CustomMade.

When deciding to purchase a green diamond it is wise to insist on one that comes with a natural diamond grading report from a reputable gemological laboratory which identifies the origin of color. Synthetics should not be confused with simulants, which can be composed of anything that mimics the optical properties of its natural counterpart.

There are some green diamonds worth mentioning. The Dresden Green has been on display for over 200 years in Dresden, Germany. At 40.70 carats it is the largest natural green diamond in the world. Not only does this superb stone feature a completely even distribution of color, but it is also chemically pure. Stones that receive this designation lack the chemical elements that are often found in colored diamonds: Boron, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen. The most expensive natural green diamond ever sold was bought at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Hong Kong auction in 2016. The Aurora Green, a 5.03 carat rectangular cut, VS2 clarity, Fancy Vivid Green diamond sold for $16.8 million. That is $3.3 million per carat!