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The Beauty Behind Fancy Black DiamondsThe Beauty Behind Fancy Black Diamonds
The Rare and Beautiful
Fancy Black Diamond 

  Rosecut Black Diamonds
"India Rose" Earrings by Robert Lang
 Click on Picture for more information.
General Diamond Knowledge
The diamond is the most valuable gemstone in the world.  Composed of 99.95% - 99.99% pure crystallized carbon, diamonds were produced in the great depths of the earth ages ago from high pressure and high heat.  The oldest known diamonds are 3.3 billion years old and the youngest known diamonds are almost a billion years old.  Because of its compacted atoms, a diamond is the hardest known natural substance; its name stems from the Greek word "adamas" meaning invincible or unconquerable. 
Diamonds were mined in India over 2,300 years ago but they were not cut until later years since they were deemed to possess magical properties which cutting would destroy.  Up until the 18th century, most diamonds came from India, with some from Borneo.  Brazil and then South Africa became the largest diamond producers.  Today many countries produce diamonds (not exclusively, Angola, Australia, Borneo, Botswana, Canada, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Russia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, United States, Venezuela and Zimbabwe).  Australia currently is the largest diamond producer, supplying about one-third of the world's production of natural diamonds (though only about 5% of this production is of gem quality, that figure is increasing upward) and many fancy colored diamonds (discussed below).  There are great expectations that in the future Canada will become one of the most promising suppliers of quality natural diamonds.

At least 75% of all mined diamonds are suitable only for industrial purposes such as milling, drilling, cutting, polishing, and grinding.  Only 25% of mined diamonds are gem quality sufficient for jewelry. 
With respect to a gem quality diamond, more than half its carat weight can be lost to the faceting process.  Only a diamond can cut a diamond, and a diamond can be polished only by other diamonds or diamond powder.  Today, lasers are a means to cut diamonds, but machine cut and hand cut methods are still frequently employed.
Colorless, Near Colorless and
Normal Range Color Diamonds 
General color principals apply to diamonds as to any physical object.  The color we see is how our eyes interpret the interaction of light with the diamond.  White light is a balanced blend of the rainbow colors (spectral hues).  When white light passes through or reflects off an object, some of the spectral colors may be absorbed.  We see an object as colorless or white when little or no color is absorbed; whereas, we see black if all or nearly all spectral colors are absorbed.  Gray results from a partial but balanced absorption of the spectral colors, while all other colors result from an unbalanced blend of absorbed spectral colors. 
How an object absorbs color is dependent on a number of factors relative to the object itself, including its elemental composition, structure and size.  For example, a diamond that is made of 100% pure carbon atoms bonded together in a perfect uniform isometric form (the "ideal" diamond) would be totally colorless because it would not absorb any white light.  However, during a diamond's long developmental process, other elements ("impurities") typically invade the crystalline structure and cause at least some nominal color.  With respect to gem quality diamonds, the fraction of impurities is so minimal (0.05% at most) they are considered one of earth's purest natural substances.  As a result, diamonds are a symbol of purity in many cultures.
Diamonds in the normal color range, which include colorless and near colorless, through light yellow, light brown and light gray, are graded and valued accordingly to Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat, referred to as the "Four C's."  Since most diamonds have impurities, rare gem collectors prize flawless purely colorless transparent diamonds.  The color grading scale of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is an international standard which uses an alphabet letter scale beginning with D (colorless) and ending with Z (light yellow) with each letter grade representing a range of color rather than one specific color.  Expert graders rate very few diamonds as colorless, and most diamonds in the normal color range are light yellows and light browns, yet most consumers see little or no color in all or many of the normal range stones unless pointed out. 
Natural Colored Diamonds/Fancies

Diamonds are found in all colors.  A natural colored diamond is produced by the presence of other elements to the carbon structure ("impurities") such as nitrogen, hydrogen and boron.  Also, structural imperfections to the crystalline form such as graining can cause color (most notably pink).  Colored diamonds are exceedingly rare; it is reported that only 1 in 10,000 mined diamonds is a color other than white (e.g., a color outside the normal color range).

Colored diamonds are graded accordingly to the rarity of the color, its exact shade, as well as to the color's saturation level.  The GIA describes color in terms of hue (the pure spectral colors of the stone), tone (the lightness or darkness of a hue) and saturation (the color's strength and purity from neutral to vivid).  Colored diamonds that possess intense vivid hues are called fancy colored diamonds and are highly valued.  The rarest fancy colored diamond is blood red, closely followed by pure purple.  In addition to natural purple and red colored diamonds, other natural fancy colored diamonds include gray, green, blue, pink, orange, yellow, brown and black.

The Fancy Black Diamond
  razzle dazzle with gold clasprazzle dazzle with white gold clasp
"Razzle Dazzle" Necklaces by Kimberly Arpaia
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As mentioned above, only 1 in 10,000 mined diamonds is a natural colored diamond, and only a portion of all natural colored diamonds is black.  While other diamond colors are mostly attained from the existence of trace elements in the carbon structure, a black diamond derives its color from
minute inclusions of graphite and iron clusters throughout the stone.  As a result, while other colored diamonds are transparent, the black diamond is typically opaque, and therefore, does not exhibit the fire and brilliance of a white diamond or transparent colored diamond. 
The inclusions inherent in the natural black diamond, as well as its composite formation from multitudes of crystals, can result in a more porous structure.  Natural black diamonds fracture easily and are seldom gemstone quality because they are extremely difficult to cut and polish.  Named "carbonados" by Brazilian miners in 1840 after discovered in quantity, most black diamonds are suitable for industrial use only.   
With gemstone quality black diamonds being rare, pure black specimens are highly valued and sell at high rare gemstone collector prices.  However, most gem quality natural black diamonds have white, gray or colorless streaks which cause surface imperfections such as pits and fissures which can be evident even after faceting and polishing.  These more common natural black diamonds sell for more reasonable prices in the retail marketplace but can still command high four to low five figures per carat.  While possible to find dense cleaner less blemished surfaces in very small carat weights, it is more difficult to nearly impossible to find clean surfaces in larger natural black diamonds.  Though the presence, type and extent of blemishes can affect the value of a gem quality black diamond, flaws in gem quality stones do not negatively impact the integrity of the stone - gem quality dense black diamonds possess the harness, durability and gemstone beauty traits desirable for jewelry. 
Imperfections in the natural black diamond (needle-like and irregular shaped inclusions throughout the stone) are visual evidence of the diamond's naturally-occuring black color and are part of the intrinsic beauty of the genuine black diamond.  Accordingly, we embrace the black diamond's natural beauty of imperfection and surface variances.  
The below high resolution magnified image illustrates the imperfections caused by impurities in a gem quality fancy black diamond.  Under strong magnification, imperfections are more readily visible and constitute identifying features of the naturally-occuring black color inherent to a genuine fancy black diamond.   To the naked eye, a gem quality black diamond may appear near flawless (see the below actual size image of the same diamond).  Especially at first blush, we see a near perfect surface.  Small minor imperfections are barely visible, if at all.  We see great beauty - the intense vivid black color, sparkles beaming from the excellent cuts (here, a precision rose-cut) and superior high polish - all the qualities we look for in a very rare fine quality fancy black diamond.  On closer scrutiny with the naked eye we can see slight imperfections because we are focused on them; but as we move our eyes away from the surface to view the gem more naturally, all we see once again is the stone's bewitching beauty.*    
  Magnified Image of Fancy Black Diamond to show Rosecut Surface Imperfections
Inclusions throughout the stone are inherent in a fancy black diamond with naturally-occuring black color.  
While the enlarged image above of a rose cut fancy black diamond shows the imperfections closest to the surface, there are inclusions throughout the densely opaque stone.
This enlarged image is of the same black diamond in the image below (on the left side). 
  Example rosecut black diamonds
Approximate actual size of rosecut fancy black diamonds set in stud earrings.
The eye does not readily see small minor surface imperfections.
The diamond on the left in this picture is the same diamond shown in the above magnified image.
*Fancy black diamonds are breathtaking and the reason we sell fancy black diamond jewelry on this website.  We are completely passionate and obsessed, and totally dedicated and sincere about each piece of jewelry sold on this website.  Please click on this link if you are interested in reading more on our informal thoughts about the beauty of fancy black diamonds.
Treatments to Produce, Change or
Enhance a Diamond's Color

There are several sophisticated techniques in the jewelry trade to improve the quality of a gemstone or to produce, change or enhance color.  With respect to color, radiation and heat treatments are accepted commonplace techniques and are not fraudulent as long as they produce stable permanent color. 
Heat Treated Fancy Black Diamonds
The most valuable colored diamonds are natural untreated stones.  Untreated gem quality black diamonds are exceedingly rare.  Natural black diamonds generally contain white, gray or clear streaks and other color variations.  As a result, it is reported that virtually all mined black diamonds undergo heat treatment to enhance the black color.  At present, it is standard procedure for mined black diamonds to undergo high pressure high temperature (HPHT) in the rough to produce a more even black hue, which is stable and permanent.  HPHT is similar to conditions that produce black diamonds in the earth.  After HPTH in the rough, the black diamonds** are faceted and polished but are not subjected to further treatments or color enhancements.  These fancy black diamonds behold a dazzling brilliance of lush rich intense black color and are the black diamonds of choice at Arpaia Fine Jewelry.  To obtain them, we  work with renowned merchants in the industry to purchase conflict-free black diamonds of the expected fine quality and specifications.  Our goal is to purchase the minimally-treated magnificent black diamonds - as close to the natural black diamond that mother nature produced in the earth.
**Heat treated black diamonds are not "natural black diamonds."  The word "natural" denotes that the gemstone is completely untreated and has not undergone any type of treatment whatsoever at any stage - whether in the rough or after cutting and polishing.  As mentioned above, untreated natural black diamonds are near nonexistent in the fancy black diamond market since mostly all mined black diamonds are now treated.  Herein, we use the term "naturally-occuring black diamonds" to describe the diamonds' original black color prior to heat treatment solely as a means to differentiate these HPHT black diamonds from other treated diamonds (e.g., irradiated diamonds or diamonds that prior to heat treatment were in the normal color range or a color other than black).
Irradiation Produces Black Color
With black diamonds in voque, fashion demands a much more affordable, available alternative. Diamonds in the normal color range can be treated to completely produce the black color.  Typically, these black diamonds appear to have a uniform deep black hue.  Actually, irradiated black diamonds are really a very deep dark green color - not black.  In addition, irradiated black diamonds tend to have good surface clarity since they do not possess the impurities intrinsic to naturally-occurring black diamonds.  It is claimed that irradiated black diamonds are the most commercially sold black diamonds.