The History and Grading of Fancy Yellow Diamond Jewelry

The History and Grading of Fancy Yellow Diamond Jewelry

In this article we're discussing the history of fancy yellow diamond jewelry, some of the most infamous and historic yellow diamonds, and how yellow diamonds are graded. We're also showcasing some stunning yellow diamond pieces from the vault

Legacy of Yellow Diamonds

Yellow diamonds have held a special place in the hearts of gem enthusiasts throughout history, as evidenced by writings dating back to the 19th century. Notably, French traveler and gem dealer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier described a 137.27-carat yellow diamond he encountered in India, known as the "Florentine" or the "Austrian Yellow." These exquisite gems have also gained prominence through iconic stones like the 128.54-carat Tiffany diamond and the 101.29-carat Allnat diamond.

Tiffany Diamond
Image Courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Tiffany Diamond on a trip to New York, and it was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had. The diamond serves as an extraordinary tribute to the impeccable craftsmanship and heritage of Tiffany and Co. The Tiffany Diamond was (re)unveiled at the opening of The Landmark within the “breathtaking high jewelry creation, which can be worn as both a pendant and a brooch, [that] draws inspiration from Jean Schlumberger’s iconic Bird on a Rock design.” Having read about the diamond, I thought I knew what to expect, but seeing the Tiffany Diamond set in the Bird on a Rock pendant in person left me speechless and inspired to share my passion for high jewelry with my clients. 

Interestingly, the first authenticated diamond found in Africa, the 10.73-carat Eureka, was a striking yellow gem discovered in the late 1860s. This discovery played a pivotal role in sparking the African diamond mining rush. While there had been sporadic finds of yellow diamonds in India, Brazil, and other places over the centuries, the major breakthrough occurred in South Africa in the late 1860s.

woman with two rings on

South Africa's Cape Province yielded an abundance of light yellow diamonds, commonly called "cape stones" in the jewelry trade. Although they are not classified as colored diamonds today, they stand out with their noticeable color compared to the near-colorless or brown diamonds found in other deposits. Alongside these, numerous diamonds with unmistakable yellow hues were also uncovered. One of the earliest recorded finds along the Orange River was a 21.25-carat yellow crystal, later cut into the Eureka diamond. In 1878, a 287.42-carat rough diamond from the Kimberley mine was transformed into the iconic Tiffany diamond, and the Dutoitspan mine yielded a stunning 253.70-carat transparent yellow octahedral crystal, known as the Oppenheimer diamond, now showcased at the Smithsonian Institution.

Woman in side profile with earrings and rings

While many larger yellow diamonds originate in South Africa, “the occurrence of fancy color yellow diamonds is so widespread that no particular deposit stands out as an important source.” As yellow diamonds are not as common as white diamonds, they are rarer and more expensive than their less colorful counterparts.

Today, mixed yellow and white diamond jewelry are en vogue as a notable trend that graced many high-jewelry and high-fashion runways at the 2023 Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris.  Read our article about modern yellow diamond jewelry designs inspired by high-fashion.

How are yellow diamonds graded?

Yellow diamonds are graded based on several key factors determining their quality and value. The primary considerations in grading yellow diamonds are color, clarity, cut, and carat weight, often referred to as the "Four Cs." Here's an overview of how each of these factors is evaluated when grading yellow diamonds:


Yellow diamonds are considered “Fancy” since they fall outside of the D-Z color grade. Based on the intensity and saturation of the yellow color, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) assigns a yellow diamond one of six color grades: Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid. The presence of nitrogen determines how yellow a diamond will appear. Vibrant yellow diamonds are rarer and more valuable.  


Clarity refers to the presence of internal or external imperfections, known as inclusions and blemishes, respectively. Like other diamonds, yellow diamonds are graded for clarity. The GIA's clarity scale ranges from "Flawless" (no visible inclusions or blemishes under 10x magnification) to "Included" (inclusions and/or blemishes visible to the naked eye). Clarity can significantly affect a yellow diamond's value, with those with fewer and less visible imperfections being more valuable.


The cut of a yellow diamond includes factors such as proportions, symmetry, and the quality of the diamond's facets. A well-cut yellow diamond will maximize its brilliance and showcase its yellow color. The cut grade assesses the diamond's ability to reflect and refract light effectively, enhancing its overall appearance.

Carat Weight:

As with all diamonds, the carat weight of a yellow diamond is an important consideration in its grading. Larger yellow diamonds are rarer and often more valuable than smaller ones.

Secondary Colors:

Some yellow diamonds may display secondary hues, such as green or brown. The presence and intensity of these secondary colors can influence the diamond's grading. The combination of yellow with secondary colors can result in unique and distinctive color grades.


Yellow diamonds are graded primarily based on their color, with additional consideration given to clarity, cut, carat weight, and the presence of secondary colors. A comprehensive grading report, known as a certificate of authenticity, from GIA helps assess and communicate the quality and value of yellow diamonds accurately.

Yellow diamond ring on a woman's hand

Fancy Yellow Diamond Jewelry Showcase

Here are some yellow diamond collectors’ pieces from our high-jewelry vault that truly showcase the rarity, vibrance, and nuanced glow of fancy yellow diamonds. 15.63CT Cushion Fancy Yellow Diamond Ring

15.63CT Cushion Diamond Ring

Set in flawless 18k white and yellow gold, this majestic ring centers a GIA-certified 15.63 carat light yellow cushion cut diamond flanked by trillion-cut diamond shields. With subtle and nuanced hues of orange and brown, the center diamond glows with fire. A marvel in any collection, this ring carries a distinguished legacy as an heirloom ring meant to be passed on for generations. Fancy Yellow Diamond Eternity Band Fancy Yellow Diamond Eternity Band

Boasting striking luxury, this cushion cut fancy yellow diamond eternity band is the perfect choice to complement your wedding set or to wear as a stunning show-stopper all by itself. With 7.93 carats of drama and glamour, this eternity ring inspires joy as it glows from within. The ring’s u-prong setting of 18k yellow gold, secures the stunning diamonds while allowing them to reflect the maximum amount of light, emitting unparalleled sparkle in all directions. 

Radiant Cut Fancy Yellow Tennis Bracelet Fancy Intense Yellow Radiant Diamond Tennis Bracelet

With 16 radiant cut fancy yellow diamonds and 15 white diamonds, this is the tennis bracelet to end all other tennis bracelets. Few gemstones radiate brilliance quite like a diamond, and yellow diamonds exemplify this, boasting a vivid, vibrant, and mesmerizing hue. The diamonds in this 20.63 carat bracelet reveal the intense yellow colors, distinctive of the world's most valuable gemstones. The alternating white diamonds accentuate the striking fire, luminosity, and exceptional glow that endears us to yellow diamonds. Set in both platinum and 18k yellow gold, this bracelet embodies harmony and elegance.  

The Fancy Greenish-Yellow Diamond RingThe Fancy Greenish-Yellow Diamond Ring

While this diamond is technically green, it contains secondary yellow hues. Among the rare colors for natural fancy stones, green diamonds are as elusive as they are valuable. With two layers of baguette diamonds and round diamonds surrounding the center stone, the white diamond halo emphasizes the complexity and beauty of the center diamond’s color and maximizes the ring’s presence on the finger. This amazing Fancy Light Greenish Yellow diamond ring has a halo of white diamonds that not only helps to accentuate the color of the center stone but increases the finger coverage.


Our Difference

At Brandon Boswell Diamonds, we’re driven by our mission to provide our clients with exceptional value for their investment in exquisite high-jewelry. We’re infatuated with mixed diamond jewelry that combines the undeniable charm of fancy diamonds and the timeless splendor of white diamonds. We’ve curated a selection of yellow and white diamond heirloom jewelry that speaks to an enduring legacy. Visit our El Paseo shop to experience the craftsmanship, aesthetic designs, and radiance of our fancy yellow diamond jewelry.