Last updated on December 27, 2022
We are used to thinking of diamonds as white sparkling stones. But did you know that there are also fancy black diamonds? These are among the most popular choice of coloured diamonds, but there are a lot of rumours about them. So let’s find out what black diamonds are.
What Are Black Diamonds?
Black diamonds, also known as fancy black diamonds, have the same chemical composition as colourless stones. However, the crystal structure of black diamonds is different. They consist of many crystals stuck together in random formation instead of solid crystals with identifiable natural lines.
Natural black diamonds have an extremely high amount of inclusions, such as graphite, pyrite or hematite, causing them to differ in colour. The real body colour of natural black diamonds may range from near-colourless to brown or olive green, but the concentration of numerous inclusions makes them appear black. Natural black diamonds are usually opaque with a high lustre, which gives them a metallic appearance.
Although black diamonds are still graded 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, they are known to be even harder than the majority of diamonds. This unparalleled durability is the result of the differences in their structure which is why these gems were used for a variety of functions before being applied in jewellery.
Treated black diamonds are created in labs by treating colourless diamonds, usually of extremely low value, because of the high amount of inclusions. Heat or radiation treatment graphitizes the fractures and turns the colour of these gems to black. As you might guess, treated black diamonds are more affordable and common than naturally occurring ones. Since natural black diamonds are relatively rare, you should know that if you are about to buy a black diamond at an affordable price, it is very likely to be a treated white diamond.
How Are Black Diamonds Graded?
In contrast to other coloured diamonds, black diamonds are found in only one colour grade: fancy black. Moreover, since most black diamonds are heavily included they cannot be graded on the GIA clarity scale as well. That is why instead of a grading report, GIA issues a Coloured Diamond Identification and Origin Report where black diamonds are described as fancy black, and their colour origin is noted as natural or treated.
Since black diamonds are opaque, there will be no mention of the polish and symmetry grades, only colour grade, colour origin, carat weight and measurements.
It is highly recommended to purchase black diamonds graded by reputable laboratories as this is the only way to know for sure if the gem is natural or treated.
Are Black Diamonds Low-Quality Stones?
The colour of black diamonds is not only due to their inclusions but also due to their unique structure. The structure affects how they reflect light, which is mostly absorbed by the stone. Black diamonds do not display any brilliance or sparkle.
Treated black diamonds, in their turn, owe their colour to the treatment and not the structure. Whether the original white diamond was of high quality is a different matter. But let’s agree, it is very unlikely that someone will take an expensive white diamond of the highest quality and change the colour to black to sell it for less money.
Just keep in mind that regardless of the origin, such stones have a very low clarity grade because of their colour and structure. However, traditional quality guidelines used to evaluate colourless diamonds do not apply to black diamonds. That is why the term “low quality” does not make sense when used for black diamonds.
Featured image: RP designs / Shutterstock