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This is what you need to know before you buy your first coloured diamond

More than a decade ago, one of my customers from an erstwhile royal family brought a pouch of inherited jewellery for appraisal. It contained natural pearls, a ‘nath’ , a pair of ruby bangles and a delicate vintage aquamarine necklace with a centerpiece hidden in an ungainly closed setting. Upon lab testing, the central aquamarine turned out to be a lustrous 1.12 carat, pear-shaped, vivid blue, old mine-cut natural diamond. It’s worth in the market would easily out-value all the contents of that pouch put together. It wasn’t surprising that my customer didn’t know what she had. Most people can’t tell how good a diamond is, let alone experiment with its styles. Here’s a diamond buying guide to get you started.

Experiment with squares
Sparkling cushion-cut Tiffany Yellow diamond
Sparkling cushion-cut Tiffany Yellow diamond. Image: Courtesy Shutterstock

Fancy-shaped diamonds don’t have the meticulously designed 58 facets of the traditional round brilliant cut, but they’re 20 to 50 percent cheaper. The ‘squares’ – princess and cushion cuts – have always had celebrity fans, including Grace Kelly and Meghan Markle. But like many Indian women, if you aren’t crazy about harsh squares, experiment with the radiant cut, which has soft rounded corners. 

The extraordinary trio

Ovals and pears are not only bold and unusual choices, but they lengthen round faces and stubby fingers. If you want to make a statement, choose the elegant marquise – as solitaire studs – which has the largest surface area of any diamond shape. The stunning heart-shaped diamond is often in danger of being shabbily cut. You need to pay attention to a clear outline and symmetry in the wings; the cleft should be in line with the pointed (but never too pointy) tail and the wings shouldn’t be too thin or fat.

Step up to a new style 
Set of two emerald cut shape diamonds.
Set of two emerald cut shape diamonds. Image: Courtesy Shutterstock

For adventurous millennial brides, here are a few pointers from our diamond buying guide. I recommend playing with the trio of Art Deco ‘step cuts’ – Asscher, baguette, and the cheapest and most forgiving of all, the chic emerald cut. You’ll get bigger rocks at the price you’d otherwise pay for the superior (but boring) round shape and the lack of brilliance is compensated by a sophisticated lustre and glow, which is perfect for the workplace.

A match made in heaven

One in every 10,000 diamonds possesses natural colourmaking them extremely valuable, besides being recession-proof and very alluring! Marry your love for fancy shapes with fancy colour and you have a winner on your hands, both aesthetically and investment-wise. A fancy shaped diamond has fewer facets than a round brilliant cut, thus it holds saturated colour better. For example, a brown coloured emerald-cut solitaire would look sophisticated thanks to the shape’s large table, while the same colour would wash out in a round brilliant solitaire. Colour is the most important of the 4Cs for coloured diamonds – it often hides the stone’s internal flaws – and grades range across a spectrum from Faint to Fancy Light to Fancy Intense and the most desirable Fancy Vivid rating.  

The smarter investment choice
Pink diamonds in different shapes.
Pink diamonds in different shapes. Image: Courtesy Shutterstock

Rarity, increasing demand and decreasing supply make fancy coloured diamonds an investor’s dream. This year, the Argyle mines in remote Western Australia – the main producers of fancy pinks – have announced closure by 2020. It’s the perfect time to hunt down a heart or pear-shaped pink rock. Don’t expect returns for the short period; coloured diamonds are always long-term investments, at the least 5-10 years.

Buying and selling

Always buy your diamond investments from reputed dealers, never retailers. The premium that your retailer will charge (50 percent onwards) cuts into your returns. It’s also important to note that selling diamonds is never as easy as it’s made to be. Just like real estate, there is a price indicator index, but it ignores market realities. In the real world, your colourless, round brilliant diamond isn’t as rare as you think. But hold on to that Fancy Intense Blue Marquise or Fancy Vivid Pink Pear for long enough and you’ll reap rich dividends.    

The checklist

Know your budget – and how much you’re willing to stretch it – before setting out to buy fancy shaped and coloured diamonds. 

If you aren’t buying large coloured diamonds for investment purposes, consider the alternative – rubies, emeralds and sapphires – which are often equally, if not more, valuable. 

Design-wise, ease into the world of fancy coloured diamonds by making ‘melee jackets’ (tiny round diamonds set around the centre stone) to pair with your colourless, round brilliant solitaire studs and rings. 

Natural diamond enhancements such as laser drilling and fracture filling are legitimate, but they affect price and must be disclosed during your purchase. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or IGI (International Gemological Institute) certificates are non-negotiable during purchase.

Aparna Pednekar

A freelance travel journalist, gemologist and jewellery designer with a weakness for solitary road trips, big cats, emeralds and aquamarine.