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Diamonds: In Living Color

While most are familiar with the fiery sparkle of clear, colorless diamonds, the coveted gemstones actually occur in all colors of the rainbow.

Diamonds are the product of time and nature. It took an average of two billion years for highly compressed carbon, 90 to 500 miles underground, to form hardened crystals known as allotropes. Then, sometime within the last 100 million years or so, volcanic eruptions deep within the Earth deposited the highly structured crystals in vertical “pipes” of igneous kimberlite. Commercial miners have been extracting diamonds from kimberlite ever since the first major diamond discoveries in South Africa, in the mid-19th century. 

Your diamond ring or pendant tells a great story of creation from stone to symbol of love as it dazzles and throws off light in every direction. But pass a light through a clear, colorless diamond just right and you’ll discover that it reflects all the colors of the rainbow.

Pick a color, any color, and it can probably be seen in a diamond. From the colorless to the darkest black, with variations of color in between, diamonds are hued according to the impurity of chemicals found in the Earth itself.

Colorless diamonds, for example, have no visible impurity apart from small specks of black carbon called inclusions. However, an additional natural chemical impurity and how the atoms are distributed (called “lattices”) can change the colorless into a palette of colorful options. According to the diamond industry, there are 27 different official variations of diamond colors.

A GIA-certified fancy yellow diamond weighing 4.17 carats in a cushion-modified brilliant cut fluoresces a gentle yellow hue. It sold for $50,000 in September 2019. 
Image courtesy Kissing Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

What is a diamond color?

In 1953, the Gemological Institute of America (http://www.gia.com) classified the rarity of polished diamonds based on the now iconic four ‘C’s: carat (weight), how it’s cut, and its clarity. Most diamonds made into pendants, rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and brooches are clear. But even colorless diamonds usually display some subtle shade of color. The more colorless, the more valuable a diamond is per carat. 

To determine a diamond color, a standard grading system was developed that classified an individual polished diamond according to the shade of color ranging from D (colorless) to Z (light color). The closer to grade D, the more colorless it is and the more valuable. How is the color measured? A loose, cut diamond is exposed to ultraviolet light, which measures its “fluorescence,” or the light a diamond gives off. A yellow fluorescence is less desirable than a blue fluorescence, for example, which affects the final value of the cut diamond.

So with all that in mind, here’s a primer on diamond colors, based on information from the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association (http://www.dmia.net). 

Red diamonds certified as a “D,” the highest color standard, would be worth millions per carat as they are the rarest diamonds mined. This fancy red 2-carat example is at the far end of the color standard near the “S” range and sold for $37,500 in March 2014. 
Image courtesy Vancouver Island Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers

The fancy color diamonds

Clear 

These are not actually clear or translucent, according to the diamond industry. They are classified as white diamonds, usually free of additional impurities other than pure carbon called inclusions, which determine its final value. 

Brown

Curiously enough, brown diamonds are the most common color of diamonds overall. The lattices reflect the darker brown color. They don’t have the brilliance of the more pastel varieties and were mostly intended for industrial use. However, these ‘chocolate’ diamonds are gaining gaining interest beyond their industrial applications and are being set as a distinctive counterpoint to the more reflective diamonds in jewelry. 

Orange

An orange diamond gets its appearance from its high concentration of isolated nitrogen. While pure orange color is very rare, those that have secondary colors such as yellow, brown or even pink are more commonly seen. 

Yellow

Like orange diamonds, yellow diamonds contain more of the nitrogen atom that fluorescences yellow than other diamonds. The brighter the shade, the more valuable the stone. Lighter shades of yellow that also show shades of green, yellow or even brown are more readily available.

According to diamond sites, values for diamonds in fancy colors can range from thousands of dollars a carat to nearly $50,000 a carat for the very intense color range. 

 

One of the rarer diamond colors, this 3.5 carat fancy blue, marquis-cut diamond whose “…clarity may be potentially internally flawless…,” according to the auction-catalog description, is set off by a platinum band and baguette diamonds along the band. The ring sold for $1.4 million (hammer price) in April 2013.

 

The rarest diamonds

Blue and pink are among the rarest diamond colors. Such stones can sell at auction for millions of dollars per carat, depending on the vibrancy of its color.

Other diamonds that rarely appear at auction are gray, purple and green. Green diamonds, for example, are formed from natural exposure to radiation and the formation of lattices. Once found, these diamonds are usually professionally cut and retained as an investment rather than being set into jewelry. 

Black diamonds have an overabundance of graphite that makes the stone rather opaque and particularly rare in a completely dark black color. 

These color diamonds can range in value from $10,000 to several times that per carat depending on the vibrancy or absence of other colors when placed under UV light. 

The most rare of any diamond shade is the red diamond. A pure-red diamond can auction for millions of dollars per carat. Like brown diamonds, the red diamond’s color comes from its lattice construction and not necessarily from a chemical impurity, but is very difficult to find a diamond that is pure red.  

This more-standard “white” diamond shows brilliantly when cut into a heart shape and set in white gold. Its total weight is 1.65 carats. Sold for $4,600 in March 2019.
Image courtesy Great Deal Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

An investment that sparkles

Diamonds are considered a great addition to an investment portfolio. They hold their value, even during inflationary periods, don’t take up a lot of room, and are portable. Yet, diamonds are one of the few investments that can be appreciated aesthetically, as jewelry, rings, pendants, brooches or watch adornments. And they make a lasting personal connection when given as gifts on special occasions. That’s hard to do with stocks and bonds.

Diamonds and ethics

Diamonds are mined in different ways. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is the international standard for overseeing the import and export of diamonds to severely restrict “conflict” or “blood” diamonds from reaching the end consumer. This terminology refers to diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, an invading army’s war efforts, or a warlord’s activity. While the KPCS isn’t always successful, diamonds exported to the United States, the largest diamond market, it has strengthened the diamond trade’s efforts to keep “blood diamonds” out of the marketplace. A retailer should have the certification available to prove a diamond’s source, if asked.

From millions of years as pressurized carbon to a dazzling accessory, diamonds really are “forever.”

Fine jewelry, couture offered in Jasper52 sale March 18

From classic Hermes Birkin bags and Versace jackets to trendy Chanel bracelets and Tiffany rings, the Jasper52 online auction inspired by the Las Vegas Show on March 18 features the best of the best in luxury jewelry and fashion. All items are sourced from trusted dealers that exhibit at shows in Las Vegas.

There are only two sapphires in the world like this 26.14-carat blue Ceylon sapphire and diamond ring in 18K white gold. Estimate: $260,000-$312,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Fine jewelry, fashions, decorative arts go up for bid Feb. 11

From iconic Bulgari jewelry to Georg Jensen silver, rare Versace designs and more, a Jasper52 online auction of Jewelry & Decorative Arts Inspired by Miami Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 11, features the best in jewelry, decorative art and fashion.

Signed David Webb diamond and enamel bracelet, Animal Kingdom Collection, 1990s, 18K gold, platinum, enamel, diamonds, rubies. Estimate: $42,000-$50,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Colorful Stambolian jewelry starring in online auction Jan. 22

On Wednesday, Jan. 22, Jasper52 will conduct an online auction devoted exclusively to the designs of the Stambolian House of Jewels, the fine jewelry brand specializing in 18K gold, diamond, and precious and semiprecious stones. More than 300 lots of Stambolian jewelry, all handmade in the United States by highly skilled and experienced artisans, will be offered.

Stambolian 18K gold bangle bracelet with pink sapphires (12.25 carats) and diamonds (4.30 carats). Estimate: $16,000-$19,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Jasper52 auction highlights lustrous pearl jewelry Nov. 19

Jasper52 will hold a jewelry auction on Tuesday, Nov. 19, that showcases the beauty and versatility of fine cultured South Sea pearls. Pearl jewelry of elegant simplicity and glowing showstoppers are offered in this exclusive collection of 66 lots.

South Sea pearl with five round brilliant cut diamonds (0,04 carats) and an 18-inch 18K yellow gold chain. Estimate: $1,000-$1,100. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Cartier among top names in online auction Oct. 13

Exquisite jewelry and high-quality decorative arts are offered in an online auction to be conducted by Jasper52 on Sunday, Oct. 13. Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels rings, brooches and bracelets; Patek Philippe and Cartier watches; Hermes handbags, English sterling silver and superb European porcelain fill out the 322-lot catalog.

Cartier 18K yellow gold, diamond, sapphire, emerald and ruby ring, size US 5 ¼, with original Cartier box. Estimate: $8,000-$10,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Designer & luxury jewelry showcased in online auction Sept. 25

Jasper52 will host an outstanding selection of luxury jewelry from a variety of designers, eras and mediums on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Highlights of the 174-lot sale include a classic pair of Buccellati diamond earrings, a head-turning Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet and several fancy yellow diamond rings.

Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo ‘Ludo-Hexagonal’ bracelet, yellow gold and platinum set with diamonds, made in France, 1940s. Estimate: $80,000-$85,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Fine jewelry, watches highlight Jasper52 auction May 29

More than 600 lots of fine jewelry, watches and decorative art are offered in an online auction taking place Wednesday, May 29, through Jasper52. Names synonymous with the highest quality design and craftsmanship are presented: Tiffany & Co., Buccellati, Rolex and Jaeger-Lecoultre, to name a few.

Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., 18K ring with 2.06 heart-shaped diamond and 14 round diamonds weighing approximately 0.28 carats, 1960s. Estimate: $34,000-$41,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Reflecting on rhinestones’ flash from the past

NEW YORK – Rhinestones are named for Rhine stones, sparkly, highly coveted rock crystals found along Europe’s Rhine River. They date from the early 1700s, when Georg Friedrich Strass devised a method of backing faceted glass crystals with metal powder. As a result, light, instead of passing through their facets directly, refracted into brilliant rainbow spectrums.

His individually cut, hand-finished pieces, also known as Strass and diamantes, were marketed as “poor men’s diamonds.” Nonetheless, many well-to-dos, fearing that their precious jewels would be lost or stolen, often commissioned rhinestone replicas to wear while traveling or attending public events. Since hand faceting and molding rhinestones was laborious, these faux ornaments were often as costly as their originals.

Elsa Schiaparelli, Aurora-Borealis set of bracelet and earrings, marked ‘Schiaparelli’ with patent number ‘2383,’ France, 1956, realized €1,100 in 2015. Image courtesy Auctionata Paddle 8 AG and LiveAuctioneers

As jewelry became simpler, smaller and more elegant, colored rhinestones, created by backing clear stones with metallic foil in a variety of shades, became the height of fashion. Their shimmering, transparent shades, known as turquoise, sapphire or ruby-rhinestones, for example, reflect the gems they simulate. Colorful chokers, bracelets and brooches, featuring romantic floral motifs, were also charmers.

Elsa Schiaparelli suite of ear clips and brooch, aurora rhinestone brooch and matching ear clips, the brooch with prong-set marquis Swarovski crystals and three marbleized prong-set cabochons, marked ‘Schiaparelli,’ 3.25 in. From the Collections of Carole Tanenbaum, Toronto, Canada, realized $225 in 2012. Image courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

In the late 1890s, as pieces became more extravagant, Daniel Swarovski, son of a Bohemian gem cutter, invented a water-powered machine that mechanically cut and faceted lead crystal faster, more precisely and affordably than before. Since each facet breaks reflected light into a striking rainbowed fragment, the more facets, the more flash. When their lead percentage was increased, Swarovski’s multifaceted creations grew flashier still. Indeed, due to their multiple, consistent facets and exceptional brilliance, many consider vintage Swarovski rhinestone pieces to be top of the line. Marked or signed ones in prime condition are doubly desirable.

Costume jewelry bracelet with rhinestones and simulated emeralds, 6¾in. long, realized $60 in 2017. Image courtesy Auction Gallery of Boca Raton and LiveAuctioneers.

At the turn of the century, when garnet or pearl petit point edgings adorned delicate diamonds, scores wore versions with less costly rhinestones. Some, instead, preferred romantic winged, whirled, or feathered bow hearts, bow knots, or floral spray brooches. Others flaunted showy, multihued, rhinestone frogs, dragonflies, swans, snails, peacocks or tortoises.

French rhinestone shoe clips, circa 1800s, marked ‘Holfast Pat. App. For.’ Few rhinestones missing from each, realized $20 in 2017. Image courtesy of Cordier Auctions & Appraisals and LiveAuctioneers

Rhinestones came into their own, however, in the 1920s, when white-on-whites, say diamonds or white topaz on platinum, were the cat’s meow. Coco Chanel, parting from tradition, championed rhinestones not as diamond wannabes, but as glamourous, cutting-edge glories worn day or night. In time, glittery, mass-produced rhinestone earrings, hat pins, shoe clips and evening bags were available not only in exclusive shops, but also at five-and-dimes.

During the Great Depression, whimsical, brightly hued rhinestone flower, bird and butterfly brooches brightened the gloom. In addition, dazzling dress clips, hair clips and necklaces, inspired by Hollywood glitz and glam, made simple outfits look like a million.

Vintage Eisenberg brooch, with colored stones and rhinestones in shape of a dragonfly, 4in. x 3.5in., realized $300 in 2011. Image courtesy of Jay Kielstock Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Through the following years, American manufacturers such as Coro, Haskell and Trifari, produced fine, detailed pieces of rhinestone costume jewelry, many with imported Swarovski stones. Exquisite, highly detailed Eisenberg & Sons dress clips, snowflakes and swirling bows were also popular. After World War II, when jewelry styles grew big and bold, many earrings, chokers and brooches bloomed with large-stone, razzle-dazzle rhinestone floral clusters. Others depicted birds, bows, snakes, scrolls or ribbons.

Black floral lace dress worn by Sharon Tate to the London premiere of Roman Polanski’s film ‘Cul-de-Sac’ in 1966, featuring raised waist with satin bow, rhinestone and simulated pearl brooch, Boutique Christian Dior London label, realized $15,000 in 2018. Image courtesy of Julien’s Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

In the mid-1950s, the Swarovski company introduced a new type of stone featuring clear glass crystals coated with micro-thin layers of vaporized blue metal. These extraordinary jewels, illuminated by bursts of colorful, otherworldly lights against pale-blue grounds, are known as Aurora Borealis (AB). Since they also reflect hues of nearby fabrics, they caused a sensation. Christian Dior, in fact, embellished scores of his signature evening gowns with them. Furthermore, when his exclusive rights expired, other famed designers, like Elsa Schiaparelli, quickly secured them.

A vintage rhinestone creation is not only an unabashed fashion statement. It’s also a flash from the past.

Jasper52 serves up sterling silver, exquisite jewelry April 28

Fine jewelry and decorative arts inspired by Miami Beach living will be the exclusive fare of an online auction conducted by Jasper52 on Sunday, April 28. From Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra and Cartier Panthere jewelry to the finest French silver, this special sale features only the best in jewelry, watches, decorative art and silver.

Cartier Panthere 18K yellow gold bracelet watch. Estimate: $54,000-$65,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.