Jewelry Blog

Complete Guide to the Canary Yellow Diamond

Customer Wearing Yellow Diamond Halo Engagement Ring

“Regular” diamonds are classic and never go out of style. But they are not the only choice. Fancy color diamonds don’t cease to impress with their uniqueness, wonderful shades, and rarity. You can find them in numerous shades: canary yellow, blue, green, purple, red, pink, etc.

In this article, we’ll talk about yellow diamonds. This complete guide to the canary yellow diamond will tell you everything you need to know about this beautiful stone.

What Is a Canary Yellow Diamond?

Customer with Yellow Diamond and Loupe

The value of “classic” diamonds decreases if they aren’t transparent and colorless. With fancy color diamonds, it’s completely the opposite. The more color they have, the rarer and more valuable they are.

Yellow diamonds are the second most common fancy color in diamonds. However, this doesn’t mean they can be found everywhere. According to some data, only one in 10,000 diamonds has a fancy color, which makes these diamonds extremely rare. They weren’t very popular until they were discovered in South Africa in the 1860s.

Fancy color diamonds, including yellow diamonds, have their grading scales. Of course, the most valuable characteristic of yellow diamonds is their color. The more intense and saturated the color, the more valuable the diamond.

Natural yellow diamonds have their distinct color thanks to the presence of nitrogen. The nitrogen molecules in a diamond’s composition absorb the blue light, giving the diamond a yellow shade. If there’s a lot of nitrogen in a diamond, it will be richer in color.

Yellow diamonds range from light to deep, dark yellow. Canary yellow diamonds represent the most sought-after and rarest category. These diamonds remind one of a canary because of an intense, bright yellow hue that many find appealing.

Keep in mind “canary yellow” isn’t an official term. People use it to describe fancy yellow diamonds, but it’s a casual term that doesn’t exist on the GIA color scale. Since we all perceive colors differently, what may be canary yellow to one person could be light yellow to another. Hence, the GIA color scale is the only reliable measurement of a diamond’s color.

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Yellow Diamond Grading Scale

Yellow diamonds are graded based on a carefully designed scale. The 4 Cs (color, cut, clarity, and carat) apply to the fancy color diamonds as well, but with adjusted criteria.


Loose 2 Carat Canary Yellow Diamond

As you can assume, color is one of the essential characteristics of any fancy color diamond. With classic diamonds, the colors scale ranges from D to Z. Colorless diamonds are labeled with the letter D and are very rare and valuable. Diamonds with the letter Z have a distinctly yellow tint and aren’t as valuable because they contain only traces of nitrogen.

When the amount of nitrogen increases and becomes an advantage rather than a flaw, we get fancy yellow diamonds. These diamonds are more valuable if they have a stronger, richer color. For that reason, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) formed a unique color scale for grading fancy color diamonds.

The yellow diamond scale consists of six levels:

  1. Fancy Light
  2. (Standard) Fancy
  3. Fancy Dark
  4. Fancy Deep
  5. (Canary) Fancy Intense
  6. (Canary) Fancy Vivid

The final option, Fancy Vivid Yellow diamonds, is very rare and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. These diamonds feature a deep, saturated yellow shade that many enjoy. The term “canary” typically refers to diamonds that are graded as Fancy Intense or Fancy Vivid.

Grading the color of fancy color diamonds is extremely complex and requires high levels of expertise.

Hue Modifiers for Yellow Diamonds

1.15 Carat Green Diamond and Platinum Ring - Barrow Ring - Hand Video

Besides the color intensity, hue modifiers are another crucial factor that affects the appearance and value of a yellow diamond.

When we talk about yellow or canary yellow diamonds, we mean pure yellow diamonds. These diamonds are very hard to find, and that affects their price. Most often, yellow diamonds contain secondary colors or hue modifiers that change their shade. Common combinations include brown-yellow, orange-yellow, green-yellow, etc.

It’s very hard to talk about “impure” yellow diamonds because everything depends on the secondary color. For example, a brown-yellow diamond will be more affordable than a pure yellow diamond of the same quality. This is because brown diamonds are the most common fancy color diamonds on the market.

In contrast, if the secondary color is rarer and more expensive than yellow, the price will go up. Consequently, an orange-yellow diamond will cost more because orange diamonds aren’t common.

Of course, color intensity is still important. A deep orange-yellow diamond will have a higher price than its lighter counterpart.

If a diamond has more than one color, it’s essential to learn how to read its description. The main color of the stone is always stated last. For example, a green-yellow diamond is mainly yellow with a green hue modifier. But a yellow-green diamond’s main color is green with traces of yellow.

Also, keep in mind the GIA uses adjectives or nouns to describe the modifier. If a diamond is greenish-yellow, it only has a slightly modifying tone of green. But if a diamond is green-yellow, it has a more obvious green modifier.


Canary Yellow Diamond with Black Clarity Inclusion in Center

The standards for determining the clarity are the same regardless of whether it’s a fancy color or colorless diamond. The fewer inclusions and blemishes, the higher the price of the diamond.

The clarity scale has six levels:

  • Included (I1, I2, I3)
  • Slightly included (SI1, SI2)
  • Very slightly included (VS1, VS2)
  • Very very slightly included (VVS1, VVS2)
  • Internally flawless
  • Flawless

While clarity is important, it can’t beat the color. For example, a canary yellow diamond with less clarity will typically be more valuable than a light-yellow diamond with a higher clarity grade.


Yellow Diamond Emerald Cut

Fancy color and colorless diamonds can feature the same cuts. With colorless diamonds, it’s all about finding a cut that increases their sparkle and light reflection. Unlike these, fancy color diamonds are cut in such a way that emphasizes their color. While some cuts may suit a yellow diamond, they may not work for other colors.

For example, classic colorless diamonds often feature a round brilliant cut. However, this cut usually dilutes the shade of yellow diamonds. These diamonds often have fancy cuts such as pear, oval, radiant, etc.


Diamond Carat Size on Fingers of model

Every diamond is measured in carats. But keep in mind the number of carats doesn’t represent a diamond’s size; the term is related to the stone’s weight. Each carat equals 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams.

For example, if a diamond has three carats, it means it weighs 600 grams. While carat weights can limit the diamond’s size, it’s not a crucial factor. You can find diamonds of the same weight in various sizes.

It’s also essential to mention there isn’t a universal price per carat for every diamond. Generally, the more carats a diamond has, the higher the price per carat. This could mean that two 0.50-carat diamonds cost less than a single 1-carat diamond.

Yellow Diamond Prices

Tray of Canary Yellow Diamonds in Estate Diamond Jewelry Showroom

As mentioned, color is one of the biggest factors determining the price of yellow diamonds. But other characteristics such as size, carat weight, cut, and clarity can’t be neglected. Like “classic” diamonds, yellow diamonds widely range in price depending on their overall quality and rarity.

The price of one carat can be anything between $2,500 and $20,000 or much more. A 4 carat yellow diamond will go for a lot more.

A canary yellow diamond will cost tens, if not hundreds of dollars more than a diamond with a light, faint shade of yellow. This is because canary diamonds are extremely rare. You can expect the price of such a diamond to match or be higher than the price of a colorless, flawless white diamond. Even the slightest change in color or the presence of another shade can affect the diamond’s price.

Keep in mind yellow diamonds don’t always have to be naturally formed. Scientists have perfected the techniques for creating yellow diamonds that look the same as the natural ones in labs. While they may possess the same beauty, they are much more common than natural yellow diamonds, which dramatically affects their price.

Important Note: Unfortunately, manufactured (lab-created) diamonds are not a good option, even if you’re on a tight budget. Even though artificially-made yellow diamonds can look identical to natural ones, their resell value is close to zero, and they are therefore considered a very bad jewelry investment.

Yellow Diamonds vs. White Diamonds

Yellow Diamond vs White Diamond

Classic white diamonds are what most people think of when talking about diamonds. Of course, this doesn’t mean yellow diamonds are any less valuable or visually appealing. Let’s discuss the essential similarities and differences between the two.

Both yellow and white diamonds are graded the same for clarity and weight. They are more valuable if they have fewer or no inclusions or blemishes and if they weigh more. Another similarity between the two stones is that they can feature the same cuts. The difference is that white diamonds are cut to maximize brilliance. With yellow diamonds, it’s all about emphasizing the color.

These two groups also share similar pricing based on their overall quality and appearance. As the quality rises, the price rises as well, and even a minor difference in quality can be measured in hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Essentially, out of the four Cs (clarity, cut, color, and carat), three are the same for both yellow and white diamonds. The essential difference between the two lies in color grading scales.

White diamonds are more valuable if they are colorless. The existence of even slight yellow shades decreases their worth. With yellow diamonds or any fancy color diamonds, it’s completely the opposite. They are worth much more if they have a richer, deeper color.

Both white and fancy color diamonds have their pros and cons, and it’s impossible to say one category is better than the other. Many prefer white diamonds because they are classic and pair well with any metal and gemstone. On the other hand, yellow diamonds are a popular choice for anyone who likes to stand out from the crowd. Their spark and color are truly unique and can look great in various combinations.

Why Are Yellow Diamonds More Expensive?

Diamond Engagement Ring in Box Held Box Customer

Yellow diamonds can be more expensive than white diamonds, but they don’t have to be. It’s incredibly hard to compare the prices of yellow and white diamonds because various factors are involved.

Generally, lower-graded yellow and white diamonds have a similar price. Yellow diamonds of a lesser quality can even be more affordable than white diamonds because they are somewhat common. The price difference is more obvious with high-graded diamonds. A natural, canary yellow diamond usually costs much more than a colorless classic diamond. While both are rare, canary yellow diamonds are much rarer, which is reflected in their price.

If you find an affordable yellow diamond with vivid color, check its characteristics. Nowadays, diamonds can be subjected to various treatments that enhance their saturation. While these may look identical to the natural diamond, the difference in value is enormous.

How to Choose a Mounting for a Yellow Diamond?

Greenish Yellow Diamond Engagement Ring Artistic 11773
Greenish Yellow Diamond Engagement Ring

Some people like how a yellow diamond looks on platinum or white gold. Others prefer yellow gold, opting for one mounting may be harder than you thought. Due to their color, yellow diamonds might seem more difficult to combine with different types of metal. Your choice should depend on your preferences, but also on the effect you want to achieve.

Most often, you’ll see yellow diamonds combined with yellow gold. This comes as no surprise because yellow gold emphasizes the diamond’s color and makes it seem richer and deeper. Plus, don’t forget about reflections: Yellow gold next to a yellow diamond adds to the brilliance and shine.

Another option is to combine yellow and white gold. The diamond can be prong or bezel-set in yellow gold, while the rest of the ring can be white gold, platinum, or silver.

While yellow diamonds pair well with yellow gold, other combinations are possible, too. A fancy yellow diamond can look wonderful in a handcrafted platinum ring.

Yellow diamond rings often feature a halo of white diamonds that highlights the center stone’s beauty and saturation. On the other hand, those who don’t like halos can opt for a classic solitaire ring featuring a yellow diamond.

We can safely say the options for combining yellow diamonds are endless. When in the market for a ring featuring this beautiful diamond, don’t forget its color is affected by the metal surrounding it.

Also, remember not to surround 4 carat yellow diamond (or larger) with a halo.

Famous Yellow Diamonds

Yellow diamond rings and blue diamonds and green and brown

Several yellow diamonds gained popularity due to their exceptional size, weight, and beauty.

Tiffany Yellow Diamond

One of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered is the 128.54-carat Tiffany Yellow diamond. Upon its discovery in 1878 in South Africa, this diamond weighed 287.42 carats, and it was cut in a cushion shape with 82 facets. This diamond was added to the Tiffany collection in 1879. Nowadays, this beautiful diamond is displayed in New York as a part of the “Bird on a Rock” brooch.

The Sun of Africa Yellow Diamond

This impressive diamond was discovered in 2007 in the Kimberley mine in South Africa. Originally, it weighed 127 carats, but it was transported to the Netherlands. Here, the stone was cut to 70 carats and a wonderful pear shape. The GIA classified this exquisite diamond as Fancy Vivid Yellow, the rarest and most valuable category.

The Kahn Canary Diamond

This wonderful yellow diamond has an interesting history. It was discovered in The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas, US, which has a “finders’ keepers” policy. George Stepp found the diamond and sold it to Stan Kahn of Kahn Jewelers, who named the stone. Due to its beautiful triangular pillow shape and flawless condition, this diamond has remained uncut.

The diamond was mounted 18k yellow gold and platinum and famously worn by Hillary Clinton at her husband’s inaugurals.

Shopping Tips for Yellow Diamonds

Yellow Diamond with Diamond Halo Engagement Ring on Model Hand

Purchasing a diamond is never an easy task. We’ve compiled a mini guide for buying a yellow diamond.

Find a Trusted Seller

Customer in Estate Diamond Jewelry looking at Vintage Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands

The first action you need to take is to find a reputable, experienced seller that can offer valuable advice and help you with your decision. Buying from unreliable retailers often results in scams, and you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a diamond that isn’t what you wanted.

It’s best to read online reviews or consult with someone who’s recently purchased a similar diamond. That way, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re in safe hands.

Ask for Documentation

GIA D Color Diamond in UV Seal

Every genuine diamond will have the necessary certifications and documentation that proves its quality. This is something you need to see before purchasing a diamond. Don’t rush your decision. Instead, take time to review the documentation.

The seller should be able to answer all your questions regarding the diamond. They usually know the diamond’s origin and history. If you’re interested in this part, feel free to ask.

Pay Attention to the Mounting

Vintage Ring without a center diamond

As mentioned, certain types of metal complement the diamond’s color. For example, yellow gold makes the diamond seem darker and richer in color. In contrast, white gold or platinum make the diamond appear lighter. If you’re purchasing an already mounted diamond, you need to be aware the color may look different because of its surrounding.

Insure Your Diamond

Signing contract for jewelry insurance

Regardless of how much you paid for your diamond, it may be a good idea to get it insured. You don’t want to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a diamond and have no coverage in case of damage or theft.

Talk to a Diamond Expert

Benjamin Khordipour in Estate Diamond Jewelry Showroom

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about yellow diamonds. If you’re interested in purchasing one, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our collection features numerous yellow diamonds in different shades and sizes.

If you have a specific idea in mind, you’ll be happy to know our jewelers can handcraft a ring using traditional methods. Schedule an appointment, and we’ll make your vision a reality.


About Benjamin Khordipour

Benjamin Khordipour is one of the jewelry researchers and gemologists at Estate Diamond Jewelry. He received his official gemological degrees from both the GIA and GUBELIN. He also regularly contributes to Business Insider, Forbes, Rapaport, CNBC, and Brides Magazine. Benjamin was born in New York and joined Estate Diamond Jewelry in 2014. He is passionate about vintage jewelry and diamonds. This blog was built on his strong belief that jewelers have a responsibility to properly educate their customers. In 2019, Benjamin co-authored the book The Engagement Ring Guide for Men. His favorite vintage jewelry era is the Art Deco Era and his favorite type of stone is the Kashmir Sapphire. He also collects rare antique pins.