Technical Analysis of Color Diamonds

Brown diamonds at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Diamond has a wide bandgap of 5.5 eV corresponding to the deep ultraviolet wavelength of 225 nanometers. This means pure diamond should transmit visible light and appear as a clear colorless crystal. Colors in diamond originate from lattice defects and impurities. The diamond crystal lattice is exceptionally strong and only atoms of nitrogen, boron and hydrogen can be introduced into diamond during the growth at significant concentrations (up to atomic percents).

Transition metals Ni and Co, which are commonly used for growth of synthetic diamond by high-pressure high-temperature techniques, have been detected in diamond as individual atoms; the maximum concentration is 0.01% for Ni and even much less for Co. Virtually any element can be introduced to diamond by ion implantation.

Nitrogen is by far the most common impurity found in gem diamonds and is responsible for the yellow and brown color in diamonds. Boron is responsible for the blue color. Color in diamond has two additional sources: irradiation (usually by alpha particles), that causes the color in green diamonds; and plastic deformation of the diamond crystal lattice. Plastic deformation is the cause of color in some brown and perhaps pink and red diamonds.

In order of rarity, yellow diamond is followed by brown, colorless, then by blue, green, black, pink, orange, purple, and red. "Black", or Carbonado, diamonds are not truly black, but rather contain numerous dark inclusions that give the gems their dark appearance. Colored diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the coloration, while pure or nearly pure diamonds are transparent and colorless. Most diamond impurities replace a carbon atom in the crystal lattice, known as a carbon flaw.

The most common impurity, nitrogen, causes a slight to intense yellow coloration depending upon the type and concentration of nitrogen present. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) classifies low saturation yellow and brown diamonds as diamonds in the normal color range, and applies a grading scale from "D" (colorless) to "Z" (light yellow). Diamonds of a different color, such as blue, are called fancy colored diamonds, and fall under a different grading scale.

In 2008, the Wittelsbach Diamond, a 35.56-carat (7.11 g) blue diamond once belonging to the King of Spain, fetched over US$24 million at a Christie's auction. In May 2009, a 7.03-carat (1.41 g) blue diamond fetched the highest price per carat ever paid for a diamond when it was sold at auction for 10.5 million Swiss francs (6.97 million euro or US$9.5 million at the time). That record was however beaten the same year: a 5-carat (1.0 g) vivid pink diamond was sold for $10.8 million in Hong Kong on December 1, 2009.

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