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Color Them Natural

There's nothing artificially enhanced about these babies!

Jordan Fine has a problem. As managing director of a diamond company and new president of the Natural Color Diamond Association, his passion has turned to obsession and he now sees much of life as colored diamonds. "Whether it's a Hawaiian sunset or the green grass in Central Park, everywhere I look I see the colors of diamonds. My personal favorites are blues, greens and pinks, more valuable than yellow and champagne diamonds because of their rarity."

So what are natural color diamonds and why are they so highly coveted? Historically associated with royalty, it's only these past few years that natural color diamond sightings on the red carpet have created much media buzz. (Fine credits J.Lo's five carat heart-shaped fancy pink diamond that she wore to an awards show about three years ago for starting the trend.)

According to the NCDIA, only one in every 10,000 diamonds is a natural color diamond, formed in a process that requires the presence of trace elements as well as distortions to the typical diamond crystal. If an element interacts with carbon atoms during diamond creation, its color can change. Radiation and pressure on a diamond's structure can also impact its color. For example, the presence of nitrogen can impart a yellow-orange hue whereas boron colors it blue and hydrogen, violet. Natural radiation over millions of years can create green diamonds. Shades of red, pink,purple and brown result from tremendous pressure deep in the earth that compresses the diamond's structure.

For those more interested in style and sophistication than science, know that the value of a natural color diamond depends more on the rarity of its color than on the other three Cs (cut, clarity, carats). Some colors occur in a broad range of sizes and shapes while others are rare, even in the smallest sizes.

According to experts at the Gemological Institute of America and the International Gemological Institute, it's been difficult to develop a grading system to capture the special character of each individual stone. That said, they use three key parameters to judge color:

  1. Hue, which is the dominant color of the stone. If no secondary tints exist, the hue is said to be pure
  2. Tone, which refers to how much light the stone retains; and
  3. Saturation, the strength and intensity of the hue.

Fine urges buyers to read the GIA or IGI report on their purchase to ensure the diamond's natural color origin and to determine if it's been artificially treated. (Enhanced diamonds can be detected in a laboratory, says Fine.They are often expensive but do not retain or increase their value like natural color diamonds.)

As for Fine's obsession, he admits there's no known cure and he's doomed to a lifetime of seeing the world through rosecolored diamonds.

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