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Giving a Diamond Its Color July 26, 2010

Posted by Jill Renee in : Jewelry , trackback

How Diamonds get Their Color

People should be forgiven for thinking that diamonds have no color and are brilliantly and sparklingly clear.  The truth is that this sparkling, transparency is sold and marketed by diamond merchants and jewelers and the idea that a diamond should have any color at all has been banished from the minds of many.  The truth is that almost every diamond has some color to some degree, and there can be a startling variety in the colors that are encountered in nature.

First of all, it is necessary to understand how a diamond is formed to be able to see how color variations are introduced by deformities in the otherwise, precise crystalline structure.  Diamond is formed from pure carbon at great depths within the earth’s crust where the pressures and high temperatures are extreme.  By heating and crushing the carbon atoms, they are forced into a compact atomic structure which is exceptionally strong and stable.  So strong is this atomic, crystalline structure that diamond is the hardest, naturally occurring material known to man.

This crystalline structure is also colorless with light being able to pass through the atomic lattice unhindered.  Pure diamond is indeed colorless, and there are some rare examples of them but expect to pay an exceptionally heavy price for them.  The fact is that during the formation process, Mother Nature ensures that there is plenty of opportunity for variation in how the crystal structure is formed and which will affect color variation in different ways.

The bulk of color variation in diamonds is caused by impurities being present when the diamond is formed from the carbon melt.

The most common color for diamonds is yellow or brown, and most diamonds you are likely to encounter for jewelry purposes will not be completely colorless but will have a yellowish-hue.  For most examples, there will be no discernible color or yellow-hue to be seen with the naked eye, however you may catch a tinge of yellow or a “dirtiness” to the tint of the stone.  The yellowing is created by the presence of nitrogen in the carbon forming the diamond, and because this atom is of a slightly different size to the carbon atoms in the crystal lattice of the diamond, this causes some distortion.  The physical distortion of the lattice-work in turn creates a distortion of the light passing through the stone, creating a yellow hue.

Other elements may be present such as hydrogen or boron (which will create a grey color), however it is not only impurities which create color variation.

Some diamonds are subjected to radiation sources when they are being formed or lying fully-formed in the earth’s crust.  The effect of radiation on the crystal structure is to excite the atomic structure which in turn gives off energy in the form of light and this is responsible for green diamonds.

A third cause of color variation is known as “plastic deformation” and this involves a warping of the diamond crystal lattice itself.  The precise arrangement of the carbon atoms is strained or in some instances, broken (but at the atomic level and not visible to the naked eye).  Plastic deformation creates the red and pink colors found in diamonds and in some instances, brown diamonds are created by this defect.

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1. Rick the Wedding Ring Guy - September 16, 2010

One of the things to keep in mind is that diamonds look great when set in a naturally white metal like platinum, and to a lesser degree palladium. Platinum is also very strong, so your diamond will be held secure.

2. cornstoves - September 19, 2010

people have all these different ideas on how THEY think diamonds reall y get their colour so it is refreshing to see a person that knows what they’re talking about INFORMING us that don’t know.thanks

3. Vincent Jhingree - February 29, 2012

Excellent website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get advice from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Many thanks!

4. Jill Renee - April 24, 2012

Hi Vincent! The best website that I know of is called pricescope.com. It will allow you to type a question or start a forum on a topic that you are interested in. There are a lot of forums on there about rings, diamonds, metal types, etc and you can get other people’s personal experiences and opinions on your topic. I hope this helps.