The stone that kicked off South Africa’s diamond rush in 1868 was a 21-carat yellow rough that was later cut into a 10.73-carat oval cushion called the “Eureka.” This find would have seemed to augur great things for the world supply of colored diamonds, especially those of the yellow variety, which until then had been as rare as any other color.
Fate had nothing that grandiose in mind. Instead, South Africa merely swelled the number of what the trade has ever since called “cape” (after South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope) diamonds. These are stones whose yellow content is generally not considered a plus. But when the yellow was sufficient to give the diamond an identity as a full-fledged colored stone, it was deemed “canary.” Today, such diamonds are more apt to be called “fancy yellow.”
However, it must be stressed that very few diamonds merit the designation of fancy yellow, or fancy color of any sort.
“I doubt that there are ever more than 4,000 carats of fancy color diamonds over one carat available to consumers worldwide in any given year,” says one New York specialist in these goods.
Yet the fact that fine fancy yellow diamonds are far scarcer than fine whites does not seem to have much impressed the jewelry buying public. Although fancy color diamonds are the darlings of connoisseurs worldwide, top-notch yellows are still not all that more expensive than top-notch white goods despite their greater rarity.
Why haven’t consumers flocked to these bargains?
The Second Time Around
Fancy-color diamonds rarely attract novice buyers. One specialist in these goods says tradition, which associates the diamond with the attribute of brilliance rather than color, calls for a buyer’s first stone to be colorless. However, he adds, “The second time around, many diamond purchasers tend to be far more indulgent and far less traditional, thus opening the way for sales of fancy color diamonds.”
This may be because the same money spent for a medium, but not fine, quality one-carat colorless diamond can also buy a decent fancy yellow stone.