Found everywhere from high end shops to online jewelry stores, black diamond jewelry is now more popular than ever. Unlike clear, sparkling white diamonds, natural black diamonds are often opaque, with hues ranging from deep, impenetrable black to earthy brown, and when juxtaposed with other stones – particularly white diamonds – or precious metals, black diamonds offer a lively and pleasing appearance.
Natural black diamond deposits are rare. To date, they have been found only in Central Africa and Brazil. In their natural, uncut state, black diamonds look like shiny, blackish-grey rocks, sometimes with mottled streaks of brown or green. Also known as carbonado, a natural black diamond is described as impure polycrystalline diamond with amorphous carbon and graphite. Black diamonds contain hematite and pyrite inclusions which is what gives them that dark, penetrating color they are known for. Though black diamond ranks a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, the stone typically contains multiple fractures and is considered to be less stable than colorless diamond which is makes it more difficult to set.
For those interested in the science behind black diamonds, the research is quite recent. There are a few different theories on the origins of black diamonds:
The gemstone’s actual formation remains a mystery, as science has yet to prove any of these black diamond origin theories.
Many people are curious about the value of black diamonds. As with other gemstones, much depends on origin, authenticity, size, and other factors. Natural fancy black diamonds are sourced from carbonado deposits, while enhanced black diamonds are often low-quality colorless diamonds that have been heat-treated to bring out a deep, greenish-black hue. Both natural and enhanced black diamonds are beautiful and are used in many types of jewelry settings.
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Of the two black diamond types, natural black fancy diamonds are usually more valuable than heat-treated ones since they are much rarer than enhanced black diamonds. Per carat, excellent examples of fancy black diamond prices start at around $1,500, with some being valued a bit higher or lower. Heat-treated or radiation-enhanced black diamonds, on the other hand, may cost as little as a few hundred dollars per carat, and offer the advantage of being stronger as they contain fewer or no inclusions. Of course, these are real diamonds, and as such will vary greatly in value. Whatever your budget, it is likely that you can find beautiful black diamonds to start off or add to your jewelry collection.
While black diamonds are eye-catching, their history is even more intriguing. One of the most famous black diamonds, the Eye of Brahma, also known as the Black Orlov Diamond, is large both in size and in infamy, originally weighing in at 195 carats. The diamond was originally set into a statue of the Hindu god, Brahma, but was stolen by a monk, incurring a curse on anyone who owned it. J.W. Paris, who bought the diamond in 1932, brought it to the states and soon after jumped to his death. Two additional owners, Russian princesses Leionila Galitsine-Bariatinsky and Nadia Vygin-Orlov committed suicide in the same manner after the diamond came into their possession. After being cut in three pieces, the Black Orlov diamond went through more owners, including Dennis Petimezas, a diamond dealer who stated that he was “confident that the curse was broken.” The Black Orlov diamond has been put on display at venues all over the world, including London’s Natural History Museum and New York’s American Museum of Natural History.
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Unlike the Black Orlov Diamond, the Korloff Noir black diamond is believed to bring good fortune. An 88-carat black diamond that weighed 421 carats in its rough form, this stone is insured for $37 million and is owned by the Korloff Company, who often places it on public display to promote new luxury jewelry.
The privately-owned Spirit of de Grisogono began as a 587-carat rough stone. Using the Mogul cutting technique, the stone was cut into a 312.24 carat gem and set in a white gold ring with over 36 carats of white accent diamonds. It is thought to be the world’s largest natural black diamond as well as the fifth-largest diamond in the world. It was also one of the first black diamonds to be set into a piece of jewelry, sparking the trend we still see today.
Other famous black diamonds include the 160-carat Table of Islam and the 202-carat Black Star of Africa. Both are privately owned and shrouded in mystery, and neither is available for public display.
While it is easy to find black diamond engagement rings and other jewelry containing black diamonds, always check whether you’re investing in natural fancy black diamond jewelry or heat-treated black diamond jewelry. Both types are beautiful, so let your preference be your guide.
It’s important to note that the 4C’s grading system does not apply to black diamonds and, when it comes to grading, black diamonds cannot receive the traditional grading report from the GIA. Instead, the GIA provides a colored diamond identification and origin report which only considers the criteria that applies to these stones. Because black diamonds are opaque and often highly included, clarity is not considered. They also fall outside the traditional color range of colorless or near colorless stones and are simply labeled as “fancy black”.
Whether you are looking for black diamond engagement rings or other jewelry, you’ll be amazed at the many options available. Stunning black diamonds are often used as center stones in engagement rings, while other pieces use them as accent stones, including beautiful halos that bring out an intense sparkle in a colorless diamond.
Most of all, have fun with the process. Black diamonds are wonderful, unique stones that bring a fantastic combination of beauty and contrast to your jewelry wardrobe.
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