Yellow Diamonds: A Drop of Sunshine
By Amber Michelle - Chief Curator & Storyteller

The elegance of the Edwardian era is embodied in this 2.56-carat Vivid Yellow diamond ring.

From lovely pastels to vibrant hues, yellow diamonds are a magical combination of sparkle and color. The sunny shades of yellow diamonds add a joyous burst of color to any piece of jewelry. Yellow diamonds are among the more accessible of all colored diamonds. While rare, they are still more prevalent than pink, blue or green diamonds. Yellow diamonds are found primarily in Africa, but are also sometimes found in Australia and Brazil.

What Gives Yellow Diamonds Their Color?

White diamonds are graded on a universally standardized color scale from D through Z. With white diamonds, the more transparent the better the quality of the diamond. As you go through the alphabet white diamonds become less white. They began to take on tinges of other colors, especially as you get closer to Z. Those diamonds will sometimes have a very faint yellow color and are known as “Cape” diamonds. However, to be considered a true fancy color yellow diamond the gem must have more robust color. Yellow diamonds get their color from the presence of nitrogen in the stone. The more nitrogen that is present in the stone, the yellower the diamond will become.

Are All Yellow Diamonds the Same Color?

Most colored diamonds are not a pure color. They often have a modifying shade that will shift the color of the stone. Yellow diamonds most often have green, orange or brown as the modifying color, which can totally change the look of the stone. Brown may make the diamond appear warmer in color, while green may give the stone a more neon pop and orange may make the stone more of a butterscotch color. The modifying colors create a range of shades that are unique to each gem.

Famous Yellow Diamonds
Tiffany Diamond set as Bird on a Rock.

There are several famous yellow diamonds, but perhaps the most well-known is the Tiffany Diamond. The 287.42-carat rough from which the Tiffany Diamond was fashioned was found in South Africa in 1877. It was purchased by Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1878. Dr. George Frederick Kunz was the chief gemologist at Tiffany’s at the time and he oversaw the cutting of the diamond. Once it was complete, the Tiffany Diamond was a 128.54-carat cushion cut. Tiffany & Co. designer Jean Schlumberger created the Ribbon Rosette necklace showcasing the gem, that was worn by Audrey Hepburn to promote the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” In 1995, the Tiffany Diamond was mounted in a Schlumberger Bird on a Rock setting for a retrospective of the designer’s work at the Museé des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. To celebrate the 175th anniversary of Tiffany & Co. in 2012, the stone was once again set into a necklace, which is currently on display at the store’s Fifth Avenue location in New York City.

Another very famous entry in yellow diamond lore is actually two diamonds known as the Donnersmarck Diamonds. These two yellow diamonds were gifted to La Païva, one of the greatest courtesans of the 19th century, by her husband, Guido, Count Henckel von Donnersmarck. Those diamonds stayed in the Donnersmarck family until 2007, when they were sold to a private collector during an auction at Sotheby’s Geneva.

Yellow diamonds offer an approachable opportunity to expand your diamond wardrobe into color. The color range in yellow diamonds is broad. Review a few choices, make sure the color is evenly distributed throughout the stone and pick the one that sings to you.