1.92 Carat round diamond James Allen1.92 Carat round diamond James Allen

Yellow Diamond Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

When someone mentions diamonds, the first image that most people think of is the colorless variety. It may surprise you to learn that only a tiny fraction of colorless diamonds are actually colorless. Rather, many of them contain at least a small contribution of yellow. For a diamond to be graded a fancy yellow, the hue must be highly concentrated. True fancy yellow diamonds are the second most plentiful of all fancy-colored diamonds with only brown being more abundant.

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When someone mentions diamonds, the first image that most people think of is the colorless variety. It may surprise you to learn that only a tiny fraction of colorless diamonds are actually colorless. Rather, many of them contain at least a small contribution of yellow. For a diamond to be graded a fancy yellow, the hue must be highly concentrated. True fancy yellow diamonds are the second most plentiful of all fancy-colored diamonds with only brown being more abundant.

1.92 Carat round diamond James Allen
The color of this beautiful 1.92 ct. yellow gem with a grade of Fancy Vivid is about as good as it gets.

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Yellow Diamond Value

When evaluating colorless diamonds with a yellow color component, values generally go down as the amount of yellow increases. Conversely, in fancy-colored yellow diamonds, values increase as the color deepens. Unlike some of the rarer fancy colors, the value of yellow diamonds is more significantly affected by their clarity and cut grades because there are so many gems to be had. Essentially, buyers have enough options to be selective about their purchases.

Partly thanks to their abundance, fancy yellow diamonds are among the most affordable of all the fancy-colored diamonds with prices hovering in the same realm as otherwise similar colorless diamonds for small to medium-sized stones. As such, purchasing fancy yellow diamond jewelry is a fun way to add some flavor to your jewelry box without having to stretch your budget.

Also, it is not uncommon to find gems that are relatively large, something which is quite rare for other fancy-colored diamonds. Unlike their smaller counterparts, these gems can sell for millions of dollars.

Color Grading Yellow Diamonds

To understand the grading process of fancy yellow diamonds, you first need to grasp how colorless diamonds are graded. Colorless diamonds are graded using the GIA’s D-to-Z scale which was first implemented in the 1950s. Diamonds with absolutely no color expression of any kind are graded “D” and are exceedingly rare. With each letter down the alphabet, the diamond has slightly more yellow, brown, or gray expressed. When a diamond has more yellow than is acceptable for a grade of “Z,” it is then classified as a fancy colored stone.

Once you get into the fancy colored category, yellow gems are graded differently than the other colored diamonds because of the D-to-Z scale. The other fancy diamonds are organized using the GIA’s 9-level Colored Diamond Color Grading System whose grades are Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, and Fancy Vivid. Yellow gems skip the first three grades (Faint, Very Light, and Light), jumping from “Z” directly to Fancy Light.

With a grade of Fancy Light Yellow, this 0.45 ct. yellow diamond expresses just enough color to classify it as a fancy yellow, rather than a “Z” on the colorless grading scale.
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Does Yellow Diamond Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

Diamonds are the hardest mineral on Earth and have respectable toughness and stability scores which are the other two factors that gemologists consider when they are evaluating overall durability. There is no difference between the durability of a colorless diamond and a yellow one.

The greatest vulnerability of diamonds is their propensity to chip or cleave if impacted and their edges and corners are especially vulnerable. If you want a gem that has a point (such as pear, marquise, or princess-cuts), it is best to find a design that protects those delicate corners.

Matching Yellow Diamonds

Because Nature has provided so many yellow diamonds, creating matched pairs or sets is a significantly easier task than it is for some of the other fancy colors.

The History of Yellow Diamond

While there are currently many active diamond mines and promising unexcavated kimberlite pipes around the world, the yellow diamonds used to come from one place in particular - India. India was historically the premier source of diamonds and yielded gems of many sizes and colors, yellow included. There is one tradesperson in particular whose travels to and from India brought some incredible diamonds to Europe's elite - Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Tavernier is famously responsible for bringing the Hope Diamond to France and was the first to describe pink diamonds. Specifically with regards to yellow diamonds, he spoke of seeing an impressive 137.27 carat gem during one of his tours.

Today, small to moderate-sized yellow diamonds are commonly found alongside colorless gems, however, a reliable source of beautiful significant yellow diamonds was not discovered until the 1860s when diamonds started emerging from African ground. In fact, the very first documented diamond discovery in Africa occurred at the end of 1866 or the beginning of 1867 when a beautiful yellow gem, which came to be known as the Eureka, was unearthed. This discovery boosted the African diamond mining rush, and the continent now plays host to many distinguished and lucrative diamond mines. To this day, many of the best and most impressive fancy yellows still come from Africa. 

Yellow Diamond Color

Yellow diamonds may have a pure hue or their color may be mixed with cool green or warm orange and brown with varying intensity. As such, there is an uninterrupted combination of hues, tones, and saturations for you to discover. This is different from other fancy colors like blue and pink whose tone always darkens as saturation deepens.

You can compare the color expression of this Fancy Intense Yellow 0.34 ct. diamond to the one at the beginning of the guide. Its color is less saturated, making it appear a bit more dull, and it has a darker tone.
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Regardless of what hue, tone, or saturation the stone shows, the color of yellow diamonds is rarely severely color-zoned. Gems may have patches of concentrated or transparent colors, but it is not often as exaggerated or angular as other colors like blue can be. When a yellow diamond does show patchy color expression, some in the trade call the effect "scotch and water."

What Causes Yellow Diamond Color?

Fortunately, the natural abundance of yellow diamonds has allowed researchers to analyze many gems from all over the world. Recently, in 2020, Gems & Gemology published a study by Breeding, et al. reflecting decades of research and the analysis of hundreds of thousands of gems. This has shown them that the mechanisms that trigger yellow color expression most often involve nitrogen impurities in the crystal lattice. In total, there are four different circumstances that lead to a yellow color expression. Interestingly, the defects that cause a yellow color expression are similar to those that cause an orange color. However, orange is one of the scarcest fancy colored diamond hues while yellow is one of the most common. Let's first explore the diamond crystal and see how nitrogen atoms become trapped within them.

Diamond Crystal Structure

In its purest form, the diamond crystal is made of carbon atoms interlocked together in a perfectly ordered atomic arrangement. When this crystal structure is free of impurities and atomic defects, the gem is truly colorless. However, perfection is not something that happens very often in nature. More commonly, the growing environment of diamond crystals will contain chemical impurities which are captured as the gem increases in size, the most common impurity being nitrogen.

Diamond Types

Gemologists classify diamonds in two broad categories according to the presence of nitrogen: the abundant nitrogen-rich Type I gems and rare nitrogen-free Type II stones. Yellow gems are Type I, and there are a number of ways that nitrogen atoms are incorporated into the crystal lattice. The locations where irregularities are present are called "defect centers".

Firstly, Type Ia stones represent about 98% of all gem-quality mined diamonds and they are characterized by nitrogen atoms grouped together inside the gem. Zooming in to look at the localized areas, when a defect center has two nitrogen atoms paired up, that center is called an A-center. When there are four nitrogen atoms surrounding a vacant spot where a carbon atom should be, that is called a B-center. When A-centers outnumber B-centers, the diamond is listed as a Type IaA gem. If the reverse is true, the diamond is a Type IaB stone. 

Type Ib diamonds are rarer, representing only about 1% of mined diamonds. The individual nitrogen atoms in these gems are scattered inside the stone rather than congregated together. The single nitrogen defect is called a "C-center." C-centers are stronger coloring agents than A or B centers, so the color of Type Ib gems is often darker than Type Ia even if they have fewer nitrogen impurities overall.

Nitrogen Centers

Interestingly, scientists believe that the nitrogen presence in diamonds morphs over time depending on how long they sit in their underground nurseries. It is thought that diamonds absorb isolated nitrogen atoms as C-centers first. If the gems remain under the enormous pressure and temperatures present inside the Earth while waiting to be brought to the surface, the C-centers gravitate towards each other. First, A-centers are made, then A-centers merge to make B-centers. This is why most diamonds have a mix of different nitrogen centers rather than hosting a single type. 

Now let's analyze the four primary types of irregularities that give yellow diamonds their cheerful hue.

N3 Defects

The most common abnormality which results in a yellow color is called the N3 defect which involves three individual nitrogen atoms surrounding a vacancy where a carbon atom should be. Gemologists have come to call N3 defects "cape defects" and they directly cause some visible light to be absorbed, leaving yellow to shine through. The more abundant the N3 defects are, the deeper the color. Breeding et al. estimated that over the last decade, about 74% of all fancy yellow diamonds examined by the GIA are colored by cape defects. Additionally, about 15% of the yellow diamonds colored by N3 defects also were observed containing defects related to hydrogen impurities. These particular gems show either brown or green color components.


Next, approximately 13% of yellow gems are Type Ib and owe their color to C-centers. As mentioned above, C-center are very powerful color generators, strongly absorbing other hues. As such, these gems tend to be highly saturated even when only a few defects are present. Gemologists have come to call these diamonds true "canaries." Most melee-sized fancy yellow gems are canaries because their color is dark enough to be observed even in tiny gems.

480 nm Absorption Band

Another possible cause of yellow expression is a mysterious feature called the 480 nm band which is a broad absorption band that is observed in the visible spectrum. Gemologists aren't quite sure what causes this absorption band, but it does seem to occur in gems that boast both A-centers and a lesser concentration of C-centers.

H3 Defects

Additionally, yellow may be created by H3 defects which are centers where two nitrogen atoms are separated by a single carbon vacancy spot with the whole unit existing in a charge-neutral state. H3 defects can trigger a yellow color on their own or they may be coupled with nitrogen A-centers if there is a high enough concentration of nitrogen. If only a few A-centers are present, a green color is more likely. 

H3 defects may also be paired with a 550 nm absorption band which is created as a result of plastic deformation. Plastic deformation is defined as a plane of atomic slippage within the diamond crystal which is caused by exposure to extreme heat and pressure that is applied to a mature diamond in the Earth's mantle. The crystal remains intact, but a plane aligning with the octahedral plane has been created that generates and concentrates color. Also known as "graining patterns," plastic deformation can cause a yellow color expression with a subtle orange modifier, as well as pink, brown, and pure orange hues.

How Different are the Yellows Created by Different Causes?

It is important to note that, while the full scope of yellow expression is continuous, different types tend to look like each other. For instance, Type Ib gems often have warmer golden colors associated with grades of Fancy Deep and Fancy Vivid grades. Gems with green or brown modifiers are commonly hydrogen-rich stones. Some evidence indicates that the scotch and water effect is slightly more common in hydrogen-rich fancy yellow gems than Type I stones, but any kind can express it.  

The GIA report for this 0.48 ct. Fancy Light Yellow diamond notes that the color distribution in the stone is "uneven." You can clearly see a band of concentrated yellow color cutting through the gem with paler patches at the top and bottom of the image.
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Additionally, how cutters arrange the facets of a diamond can change the apparent color. The radiant and cushion cuts, in particular, are known to deepen color so you can expect to find lots of them when looking for yellow diamonds.

Yellow Diamond Trade Names

As you now know, there are a few trade names that are associated with fancy yellow diamonds. Here are the two most commonly used.

Cape Diamonds

The first yellow diamonds came from Cape Province in South Africa and, for a while, yellow diamonds were called "cape" diamonds referring to this location. Over time, this term became more refined and now refers to the N3 defect specifically. The saturation of most cape gems tends to be pale.

Canary Diamond

Diamonds with exceptional yellow color are called "canary" gems. It is used specifically for Type Ib gems with highly saturated color owing to their C-centers. 

Identifying Yellow Diamond

Standard Diamond Characteristics

While issues like fluorescence change with the various fancy colors that diamonds can exhibit, some measurements are universal. 

  • Using a standard refractometer, diamonds will register as over the limit (OTL). 
  • Their dispersion which causes the beautiful multicolored fiery flashes that diamonds are known for is 0.044. 
  • They will not show birefringence (also known as doubling) and are not pleochroic. 
  • Lastly, their specific gravity (SG) is 3.52 (+/- 0.10).

Absorption Spectrum

The various causes of yellow expression can appear differently on the visible absorption spectra, but all absorb blue light up to about 510 nm. The spectra for cape defects may include bands at 415, 451, 463, and 478 nm. Type Ib canary diamonds and the 480 nm gems only show a broad absorption at the blue end of the spectrum. H3 colored stones also show broad absorption of wavelengths under 500 nm.


Cape diamonds very consistently show a moderate to strong fluorescence under longwave UV light and a weak or moderate yellow or orange color to shortwave UV light. Alternatively, Type Ib gems tend to be inert under both longwave and shortwave UV, but some may show faint yellow, green, or orange fluorescence. Diamonds colored by the 480 nm band regularly show moderate or strong yellow or orangy yellow fluorescence under longwave UV light and a weak or moderate yellow color under shortwave UV light. Finally, yellow gems colored by H3 defects often glow green under both longwave and shortwave UV light.

The GIA report for this 0.51 ct. princess-cut diamond says that it exhibits strong blue fluorescence.
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Clarity Features

Other diamond colors like red or blue are so rare that their clarity is of far lesser importance than their hue. Because yellow diamonds are so much more commonplace, their clarity grade has a much more significant impact of value. As yellow diamonds and colorless diamonds are so closely related, the inclusions observed are often the same. Black graphite which is carbon that failed to convert to diamond is the most common. These black crystals may occur in small sizes in clouds or be larger and distributed around the diamond individually. Other included materials that are often observed include garnet, rutile, olivine, and diopside.

Some of the four different types of yellow diamonds have distinctive microscopic features. Cape diamonds and those colored by H3 defects tend to look just like colorless gems. Type Ib canary diamonds may have dense clouds of particle inclusions or aligned needles. Diamonds colored by the 480 nm band tend to be highly included and small regions of color zoning may be observable under the microscope.

This 0.30 ct. Fancy Yellow diamond has a clarity grade of SI2. While the GIA grading report says the color is natural, the many obvious dark inclusions keep the price for this diamond low.
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Are There Synthetic Yellow Diamonds?

The market for synthetic diamonds has exploded in recent years as technology has progressed to the point where large batches of diamonds may be grown for relatively low costs. Some people love the beauty of synthetic stones while others are strongly opposed to having them be available at all. Regardless of your stance, synthetics are here, and they are here to stay. There are two primary ways that diamonds are grown today: high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Both of these methods may produce yellow stones.

The report for this 0.70 ct. lab-grown diamond says that it was made using the HPHT process.
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Synthetic diamonds are diamonds in every sense of the word except for their origins. As such, it can be difficult to identify synthetics using basic testing methods. While you might get lucky and observe some obvious giveaways like bright orange fluorescence, testing at a professional grading laboratory is often required. This becomes more important with each passing year as technology progresses and synthetics are becoming harder to separate from natural stones.

Yellow Diamond Enhancements

Sometimes diamonds display a color that is not the most valuable or desirable hue. Under such circumstances, certain treatments may be applied to the stone to change its apparent color. Some of the most common treatments are HPHT (a separate process from HPHT growth), annealing, and irradiation. These treatments may be used in isolation, or in conjunction with each other, to create beautiful colors.

For example, brown diamonds (the most common fancy color) may be changed to a more valuable yellow when treated with HPHT. The process of annealing which involves carefully controlled heating and cooling, can also yield yellow (in addition to a wide range of other colors) when it follows HPHT or irradiation. 

Unfortunately, not all treatments are permanent. The color of irradiated and annealed gems can be affected by subsequent exposure to heat like from a jeweler's torch. Dealers are required by law to inform purchasers if a diamond has been treated and if you do purchase a treated gem, be sure to inform your jeweler before they do any work. Of course, there is also the simple method of coating a diamond in a colored wrapping or filling internal fractures with a colored epoxy or resin. Both are certainly short-term treatments that will scratch, discolor, and/or peel over time.

Where are Yellow Diamonds Found?

Many of the colorless diamond sources around the world also regularly produce yellow gems, however, there are only a few places of note that yield impressive numbers of large yellow diamonds.

No one can discuss this issue without mentioning the mines in South Africa. Following the discovery of the Eureka, many diamond mines sprang up in and around the Kimberley region especially near the Orange River, including one named for the location which is now inactive. Other local mines are the famous Premier and the Dutoitspan Mines.

There have also been some fancy yellow gems from Central Africa.

Famous Yellow Diamonds

The Eureka Diamond

The Eureka is, perhaps, the most important yellow diamond in history as it is partly responsible for triggering diamond mania in Africa. Currently, this cushion-cut gem weighs 10.73 ct. Like many historically important gems, the Eureka has had several owners. The gem was found by members of the Jacobs family who were Dutch farmers living in South Africa. They didn't know what they had and actually refused payment when their neighbor, a geologist, inquired about the stone. At one point the gem was owned by Queen Victoria, but it now sits on permanent display in the Mine Museum in Kimberley, South Africa after De Beers presented it to the citizens of South Africa.

The Tiffany Yellow

While the Eureka may be the OG of the significant yellow diamonds, the Tiffany Yellow is one of the world's most visible gems which is quite a feat considering it has only ever been worn for a few occasions by four women: Mary Whitehouse, Audrey Hepburn, Lady Gaga, and, most recently, Beyonce. Unearthed in 1877 and purchased by Charles Lewis Tiffany, this impressive cushion-cut gem weighs 128.54 ct. and was, for a while, the largest yellow diamond ever found. 

The Red Cross

According to the GIA report for this impressive stone, the Red Cross is graded a Fancy Intense yellow and weighs 205.07 ct. This gem has exchanged hands several times and was most recently sold through Christie's in 2022 for over fourteen million dollars. Discovered in South Africa in 1901, the diamond is cut so that the facets form a Maltese Cross when viewed through the table facet. It was sold at auction in 1918 to benefit the Red Cross which is where the diamond gained its name.

The Oppenheimer

The Oppenheimer Diamond is the only gem on this list that is not faceted. The gem has remained in its raw crystal form because it is shaped like an almost perfect octahedron. Under uniform growing conditions, diamonds grow as double-sided pyramids, but nature rarely provides a pristine and uniform growing environment to foster a textbook symmetrical stone. What makes the Oppenheimer particularly special is its massive size. Weighing in at 253.7 ct. the Oppenheimer now resides in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History having been donated by Harry Winston and is named for the onetime chairman of the board of DeBeers, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer. 

The Incomparable

The rough of the diamond now known as the Incomparable Diamond weighed approximately 890 ct. and was found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1984. Years of careful planning resulted in the gem being fashioned into a 407.48 ct. modified shield-cut with a color grade of Fancy Deep Brownish Yellow. A total of fourteen other smaller gems also emerged from the primary rough crystal. Interestingly, this gem was put up for auction in both 1988 and 2002 but bidding failed to reach the reserve price.

Yellow Diamond Sizes

Yellow diamonds come in all sizes from tiny melee to 100+ carat crystals. Small to medium-sized gems can come from anywhere and tend to be modestly priced. Many of the largest yellow stones come from Africa. 

Currently, Blue Nile lists just over 5,600 fancy yellow diamonds. Of those, almost 2,900 weigh under 1.0 ct. like this 0.51 oval-cut gem.
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How to Care for Your Yellow Diamond Jewelry

Diamonds are one of the easiest gems to care for. Thanks to their superior hardness, only a diamond can cause significant scratches to another diamond. They are resistant to most of the chemicals that we are exposed to daily (like soaps and basic cleaning products) and can be worn regularly. Yellow diamonds are no different. However, as mentioned above, treated diamonds may discolor if exposed to high levels of heat. See our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.

Emily Frontiere

Emily Frontiere is a GIA Graduate Gemologist. She is particularly experienced working with estate/antique jewelry.

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