By Llyn L. Strelau
In the early days of my career, I turned up my nose at diamonds. The way I saw it, they were just boring white things that were way too expensive and had none of the interest I appreciated in coloured gemstones.
Naturally, I soon got over my snobbishness, as I discovered their many advantages, thanks to their durability and hardness, not to mention their beauty when cut well. Today, diamonds are a major part of my repertoire. When I discovered not all diamonds are white, it was the best of all possible worlds—the combination of the positive qualities of diamond with the beauty of colour!
Of course, natural fancy colour diamonds are extremely rare. Famous stones like the Dresden Green, the Hope Diamond, and the Hancock Red are the talk of legends. Despite this, coloured diamonds were, up until 30 years or so, the near-secret passion of savvy collectors, underappreciated by the general public or most of the industry, for that matter.
About the time I was getting started as a jeweller, the Argyle Mine in Australia came into full production. Although the rare and very desirable pink and red stones to come out of it were (and still are) beyond the reach of most people, cleverly Rio Tinto began promoting the much more plentiful brown-tone diamonds that were the bulk of the Argyle production, dubbing them ‘champagne’ diamonds. This infused glamour into brown diamonds—which were previously only a step above their industrial counterparts—and so began the love affair with coloured diamonds. For my part,”¨ I was immediately fascinated by the subtle and delicate lighter shades, and especially fond of the richer and more saturated cognac and chocolate stones, especially when they exhibited a hint of deep red.
In more recent years, consumers have become more aware of coloured diamonds and their desirability. Celebrity engagement rings and coloured diamonds in mainstream jewellery have increased interest not only for well-priced earth-tone stones, but also fancy yellows, and to a lesser extent, the vastly more expensive fancy pinks and even rarer blues, greens, and oranges. Black diamonds have also found their place in design, adding drama both for pavé accent and larger rose-cuts used as centre stones.