White/Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds

When one thinks of a diamond, visions of a sparkling clear, white diamond engagement ring most likely comes to mind. Known as the most classic and traditional choice for centuries, colourless diamonds have certainly ruled in terms of popularity in Hollywood movies and jewellery store cabinets. But there’s a new ‘rock on the block’, and fancy colour diamonds have been growing in popularity in recent years. From gorgeous pink to captivating blue and canary yellow, these coloured diamonds delight with their unique shades and characteristics. But what’s the difference between colourless diamonds and natural fancy colour diamonds, and which one is more valuable? We take a look at some of their differences:

Geological Formation

Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Geological Diamond Formation 

Colourless diamonds: Diamonds were formed more than 3 billion years ago, deep within the Earth’s crust under intense heat and pressure. These special conditions caused carbon atoms to crystallise, forming diamonds. The diamonds were brought to the surface by a very deep-seated and violent volcanic eruption that is thought to have occurred a very long time ago.

Fancy colour diamonds: Created in the same way as colourless diamonds, with the exception that coloured diamonds undergo unique geological conditions where chemicals penetrate the diamond during formation. This makes these enchanting gems scarce and highly prized, commanding a higher market price. Each colour depends on the different types of minerals and molecules that were present when the diamond was formed. There are three different ways in which natural fancy colour diamonds are formed and categorised as Type l, Type ll and Type lll diamonds. You can read more about this here.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans believed the fascinating gemstone was a product of a falling star. Some were so amazed by its beauty that they were convinced diamonds were tears of gods. Other theories involved Cupid walking around on earth with an arrow dipped with diamonds. To counterpoint this, Hindus strongly believed that the gorgeous gemstone was formed after a lightning storm. One common factor was that everyone who came across a diamond’s beauty believed that the stone was something out of this world. But how exactly are these magnificent gemstones formed?


Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Large Colourless/ White Diamond 

Until the 16th century, the most celebrated diamonds – colourless and fancy colour diamonds – all came from India. Today, they are found in various parts of the world.

Colourless diamonds: Some of the largest diamond manufacturing regions for white diamonds include South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Canada and Russia.

Coloured diamonds: The most well-known historical and current sources of natural fancy colour diamonds are from India, South Africa and Australia, as well as Brazil, Venezuela, South America, Russia, and Indonesia. In South Africa we are known for our red, pink, blue, orange and yellow natural fancy diamonds.


Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Variety of Fancy Colour Diamonds

Colourless diamonds: The term diamond colour” for white diamonds means lack of colour. White diamonds possess very subtle hints of hints of yellow or brown, which affect the value of the stone. The colour of a diamond is measured on an alphabetical scale starting from D (colourless). Each letter grade has a defined range of colour appearance that determines its value, and as you move down the scale, the colour tint in the diamond increases. A pure and structurally perfect white diamond has no hue, like a drop of pure water, making it higher in value than a diamond with hints of yellow or brown.

Coloured diamonds: When the colour of the diamond falls outside of the normal colour range (D-Z), it is called a fancy colour diamond. There are thousands of different shades of fancy colour diamonds. Yellow and brown are relatively common, while other colours can be much harder to come by. Fancy colour diamonds can be divided into four main colour groups, based on their prices.

  1. Relatively affordable: Grey, Brown and Fancy Yellow Diamonds
  2. Mid-range: Intense and Vivid Yellow Diamonds and Orange Diamonds
  3. High: Pink, Purple, Violet, Green and Blue Diamonds
  4. Ultra-High: Red

Until recently, brown diamonds were used primarily in other industries, as they were not deemed ‘worthy’ of jewellery. Brown diamonds, renamed and rebranded as chocolate diamonds, are increasing in popularity.

Which Diamond Is Rarer?

Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Red/ Pink Fancy Colour Diamonds

Whilst all diamonds are rare, some are rarer than others. White diamonds can be found relatively easily in comparison, but coloured diamonds are much harder to come by.

The rarest diamond is, without a doubt, the red diamond. It is so rare that even if the red colour is the modifier, the secondary colour, the price of the diamond spikes. No other colour has such a dramatic effect as a modifier.

Which Diamond Is More Expensive?

Why a Diamond is the Best Christmas Gift | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Fancy Colour Diamond Rings

Are natural fancy colour diamonds more expensive than white diamonds? This simple question has a bit of a complex answer – yes and no. Price is determined by various factors including rarity, demand and grading.

Fancy colour diamonds are generally more expensive than white diamonds. However, this isn’t a hard rule. For example, a coloured diamond that doesn’t have a strong depth of colour may be worth less than a white diamond with a D colour grading and no imperfections.

The rarity of a diamond also plays a big part in determining its value, and here, coloured diamonds as whole beat their colourless counterparts.

Pink diamonds, which are sourced mostly from the Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia, are due to be exhausted by 2020. This has increased both their rarity and their price. Pink diamonds are currently 1150 times as expensive as the finest white diamond, which is internally flawless and has the highest colour rating.

Demand & Fashion Trends

Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Celebrities and Their Fancy Colour Diamonds

When it comes to demand, human nature dictates the trend – wanting to have what’s not easily available (rare) along with fashion and celebrity trends.

While white diamonds will always remain popular due to tradition, coloured diamonds are currently in vogue thanks to the obsession with celebrities. For example, when Paris Hilton got engaged with a large canary yellow diamond engagement ring, the demand for coloured diamonds increased dramatically. This spike in demand also causes a spike in prices; however, this is usually a short-term effect.


Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Diamond Colour Grading System

Diamonds are graded on the 4Cs: Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat to determine a diamond’s value. If we’re comparing colourless diamonds to fancy colour diamonds, the most important differentiating grading factor will be their colour.

 Colourless diamonds: Lack of colour equals maximum brilliance and shine, raising its monetary value.

Coloured diamonds: Grading fancy colour diamonds is complex and specialised, and it takes highly trained laboratory graders to complete the process accurately. For coloured diamonds, the depth of colour is the determining factor when it comes to value.

Famous Diamonds

Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Elizabeth Taylor and Her Famous Diamond Jewellery

Colourless diamonds: The Cullinan diamond (the largest gem quality diamond ever found),  the Excelsior and The Taylor-Burton are just a few of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Coloured diamonds: Two of the most famous diamonds in the world are coloured diamonds: the beautiful Yellow Tiffany Diamond and the brilliant blue Hope Diamond. Other famous coloured diamonds include the blue Heart of Eternity, the Golden Jubilee and the Moussaieff Red Diamond.

Benefits of the Diamond

Colourless Diamonds vs Fancy Colour Diamonds | Cape Town Diamond Museum

Cut and Polished Round Brilliant Cut Diamond

While both are aesthetically appealing in their own unique way, colourless and coloured diamonds both have various benefits.

Colourless diamonds: Timeless appeal and tradition are the biggest benefits of these dazzling clear gems, along with being more affordable than coloured diamonds.

Coloured diamonds: A level of uniqueness that allows the wearer to express their individuality and style, is one of the biggest benefits of coloured diamonds. Coloured diamonds also hide inclusions better, so while a white diamond with inclusions loses value, a coloured one will not. As the colour is permanent, the inclusions can remain hidden through the entire life of the diamond. Coloured diamonds are more valuable and expensive compared to white diamonds, making them a better choice for investments.

In Conclusion

So, the question remains, which diamond takes the cake in the competition for coloured versus white? At the end of the day, both types of diamonds are rare and exceptionally beautiful in their own way – so it purely comes down to your personal taste.

Learn more about the differences between white and fancy colour diamonds and see remarkable replicas when you visit the Cape Town Diamond Museum. Open 7 days a week, 9am – 9pm, at the V&A Waterfront Clock Tower in Cape Town.