All you need to know about coloured diamonds, before investing in one

All you need to know about coloured diamonds, before investing in one

Colour me beautiful

Text: Karan Tilani

On the hunt for a coloured diamond? Let Karan Tilani, director of World of Diamonds, prep you on the sources, processes, and prices of these rare, coveted gems

What percentage of the world's traded diamonds are coloured? 
Approximately 2% of all mined diamonds are coloured. Once they are fashioned, however, the figure is considerably less. Perhaps under a quarter of a percent, since over half of all coloured diamonds mined exhibit a very faint saturation, and their colour would most probably be lost during the cutting process. Eventually, it's only one in 10,000 polished diamonds that display a fancy colour, and one in 25,000 that exhibits a fancy intense colour. A fancy intense blue diamond — which is prized significantly more than yellow or even pink — is one in thirty million diamonds.

What proportion of your company's total business comes from coloured diamonds?
The World of Diamonds Group (WOD) places a huge emphasis on fancy coloured diamonds anywhere from over a carat, and colourless diamonds that are at least three to five carats in weight. In terms of volume, approximately 30% of our diamonds traded are fancy coloured; revenue-wise, almost 85% of our business is sustained through fancy coloured diamonds. Russia is fortunately blessed with plenty of natural resources. Diamonds that are recovered from our mines and would not qualify as a 'WOD diamond', are traded through our sister companies.

As with soaring demand, mining groups release larger percentages of fancy coloured diamonds from their reserves to keep up with the trends.

Where do you source your coloured diamonds from?
Our group has had diversified interests in mines from Brazil and Canada to Africa and Russia. South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire), Angola, Botswana and Namibia have been predominantly known for their diamonds, especially in the 1900s. However, with the rise of the Argyle diamond mine in Australia and the commercialisation of Russia, diamond exploration and mining operations took a whole new turn, greatly aided by growing demand and availability of cutting edge technology. Exploring in the Arctic for example, used to be highly impossible without advanced machinery.

WOD's operations are now highly concentrated on the outskirts of the Arctic circle, in the North-Eastern part of Russia. In the case of fancy coloured diamonds, modern technology has contributed to newer diamond cuts consisting of more facets, with lesser loss of weight and of remarkable proportions — influencing the intensity of a diamond's colour. This is why it appears that newly mined fancy coloured diamonds are more brilliant and generally have a more apparent colour as compared to older or vintage coloured diamonds.

Coloured diamonds have always been historically valued and loved, but they seem to be more available recently. Why is this so?

Firstly, the recent commercialisation of yellow diamonds (case in point: The unique campaigns from Tiffany's), the attractive marketing of 'champagne' and 'cognac' diamonds, and the realisation of pink, purple, blue and other fancy coloured diamonds have spurred a growing appetite for end consumers. At the end of the day, they're looking for something special. As with soaring demand, mining groups release larger percentages of fancy coloured diamonds from their reserves to keep up with the trends. Fashion has also strongly influenced consumer preferences, with individuals getting bolder and daring to flaunt a diamond that isn't of a pure colourless grade.

Secondly, diamond mines require several years (eight to 14 on average) to discover, explore and develop, and many Canadian and Russian mines that have been recently discovered in the late 1990s began production only about five to ten years ago. This has contributed to the availability in fancy coloured diamonds.

Last but not least, the introduction of innovative software, for example, utilising mapping technology that uses lasers to read the potential mine's entire surface and detect most suitable areas to commence operations, has yielded in a higher proportion of fine-quality sparklers churned out by mines. This includes diamonds with better clarity grades and of more desirable colours (including fancy coloured diamonds). In addition, technology has contributed in faint fancy coloured diamonds being able to retain their hue even after the cutting process — take for instance, laser cutting which doesn't require diamonds to be cleaved along specific planes or angles, and thus eliminating the risk of the diamond losing its colour.

5.18 carat reddish-orange fancy diamond internally flawless
How has the Asian buyer warmed up to coloured diamonds in general? What about Singaporeans?
Typically, Asians tend to be less adventurous not only with fancy coloured diamonds, but are also very selective in rare wines and fine arts, although this has been changing. Even though the Japanese are very conservative in nature, they adore pink diamonds due to the strong association with nature — namely, the cherry blossom season. Men in the Middle East feel that a white diamond is too feminine and choose invariably the more masculine colours, and hence, blue diamond rings are much appreciated. Most of the wealthy Singaporeans already boast a collection of large yellow diamonds and perhaps pink diamonds, although a growing appetite for truly rare sparklers has seen some fine connoisseurs and billionaires procuring blue diamonds in the last few years.

While wearing their fancy coloured diamond jewelry with pleasure, our end clientele realises that it is also a great investment.

In your business and experience, what are the colours and sizes that are popular, and why do your customers buy?
Pinks, purples, and blues are the top picks with the super-affluent, and definitely red, green, and orange — although these are hardly ever available. Primarily, they would go for any coloured diamond above half a carat to about three carats, as these sizes are very manageable. In the case of yellow diamonds, popular sizes are about two carats and above, and with intense to deep saturations. While wearing their fancy coloured diamond jewelry with pleasure, our end clientele realises that it is also a great investment. In most cases, the owners get so emotionally attached to their diamonds that they would never even sell for marginal gains. Not surprisingly, the top spenders for fancy colored diamonds are Russians. We are beginning to see couples as young as in their 20s, settling for coloured diamonds as engagement rings.

How has the price for coloureds changed over the years?
Yellow and brown diamonds have appreciated very slightly over the last decade. However, it is their pink and blue counterparts which have commanded sky-rocketing prices. Pink diamonds have risen by over three times in value, and blues more than doubled during the last ten years. However, the appreciation is far from over; a one carat fancy vivid blue diamond is at least 10,000 times more rare than a one carat colourless diamond. Today, a one carate colourless, Internally Flawless diamond goes for no more than USD50,000, while its fancy vivid blue counterpart goes for at least USD800,000 to 1,000,000 if it’s of a decent clarity grade. Judging by the proportion between their price and rarity, the blue diamond is a great bargain.

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