Glossary: Black Diamond
Black diamonds are impure forms of polycrystalline diamond consisting of graphite, diamond and amorphous carbon. While a typical natural diamond gets its tint of color from impurities that develop during the formation process (boron causes blue diamonds, for instance), black diamonds are much like white diamonds but have so many inclusions and graphite clusters they take on a black appearance.
These days, black diamonds have become a trendy choice for people who want unique jewelry pieces and compelling engagement rings.
A Brief History
Now commonly referred to as "fancy blacks," natural-color black diamonds weren’t always held in such high regard. Still, the gem has always had a place in historical lore.
Take for instance the so-called Eye of Brahman, a 67.50 ct Black Orloff diamond. This famous stone was supposedly stolen from an ancient idol in India sometime during the early 19th Century. In turn, it was thought to be so cursed that many of its owners took their own lives. So feared was the legend, the gem was eventually recut to break the supposed curse.
Despite their legacy for supernatural powers, consumers had weak interest in black diamonds until the late 1900s, when jewelry designers began using them to contrast with tiny colorless diamonds in beautiful pavé settings.
Still, black diamond engagement rings didn’t really gain mainstream appeal until 2010. That’s when Mr. Big gave Carrie Bradshaw (played by actress Sarah Jessica Parker) a 5-carat black diamond ring at the conclusion of the popular movie Sex and the City 2. The dark diamond received even more press a couple of years later when model Carmen Electra and famous tattoo artist Kat Von D showed off their black diamond engagement rings to the world.
Since then, interest in black diamond jewelry has continued to grow, as more and more jewelers have showcased the stone on contemporary jewelry pieces.
Is Black Diamond a Real Diamond?
Black diamonds are real diamonds that get their dark color from large quantities of tiny mineral inclusions such as hematite, pyrite or graphite that extend throughout the gemstone.
It’s these concentrations of small internal features that give it such a dense, dark appearance. In fact, the actual color of a naturally mined black diamond can range from almost colorless to brownish or even olive green. Natural black diamonds are usually opaque, with a considerable luster that gives the gems a near-metallic appearance.
Most black diamonds used for engagement rings and other jewelry are treated to induce the color. Many start with a gray hue before they are subjected to low-pressure/high-temperature treatments, which effectively graphitizes the existing fractures, turning them dark black.
Since black diamonds are significantly included, polishing and cutting them can be hard. They must also be set with great care. That said, a fine natural-color black diamond is a striking gemstone, with a uniquely compelling look unlike other diamond stones in the modern marketplace. They are also often less expensive than other diamonds.
How Are Black Diamonds Graded?
The 4Cs – color, clarity, cut and carat weight are the worldwide standards by which any colorless to near-colorless diamond is graded. Since black diamonds exist outside this established color range, their color is usually graded based on the GIA’s International Diamond Grading System for colored diamonds.
Since black diamond gems are opaque and heavily included, they can’t be graded by clarity. Likewise, since they have no variation in the saturation and tone, the stones are only labeled with the single grade term, “fancy black.”
Due to their unique characteristics, GIA doesn’t issue grading reports for black diamonds. Instead, the organization issues a Colored Diamond Identification and Origin Report, which described the stones as fancy black with either natural or treated color.
Are Black Diamonds Expensive?
A natural fancy black diamond will be relatively affordable, depending on the size of the stone. Treated black diamonds, on the other hand, are less expensive due to lower demand. In general, a natural fancy black diamond will cost about $3,000 up to $5,000 per carat.
With all that said, other factors will work to determine your final cost. This includes the jeweler, the setting, the cut and the ring metal.
If you're searching for a uniquely compelling alternative to traditional diamonds, John Atencio is the only name you need to know. Make an appointment at one of our many locations, where our knowledgeable team can help you select the right diamond for your beautiful jewelry piece.