We are all used to thinking of diamonds as white, sparkling stones, but did you know that there are also black diamonds? Are those stones real diamonds? Aren’t they just really low quality regular diamonds? Keep reading to learn what black diamonds are and if you should buy them.
What Is a Black Diamond?
A black diamond has the same chemical structure as a regular white diamond, and the two differ only in color.
Are Black Diamonds Real Diamonds?
Black diamonds are as real as white diamonds but are not as common. It should be noted, though, that there are diamonds whose color has been artificially changed to black. There are, however, genuine black diamonds that occur naturally.
Types of Black Diamonds
There are two kinds of black diamonds: those that occur naturally and those that used to have a different color (usually white) but have been dyed black.
Natural black diamonds are mined in Africa and Brazil, and are relatively rare. This type of black diamond is called “carbonado.”
Like white diamonds, natural black diamonds are made up of carbon, but their crystal structure is slightly different, making them more porous than other diamonds.
Treated black diamonds are regular diamonds whose color has been changed through treatment with heat or radiation.
The physical and chemical characteristics of these stones are the same as those of white diamonds.
How Natural Black Diamonds Are Formed
Natural black diamonds, also called “carbonado”, can only be found in Brazil and Africa.Black Friday Deal: Click here to get up to 50% OFF engagement ring settings from James Allen.
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Although these stones have the same chemical composition as white diamonds, their crystal structure is different and they have many inclusions, causing them to differ in color.
There are different hypotheses as to how black diamonds were formed – some say that they were created within the earth under high pressure; others think that they came from space, on an asteroid that fell to earth some 2 million years ago.
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Treated Black Diamonds
Lab-made black diamonds are created by treating white diamonds with heat or radiation. As a result, the color of these stones was changed.
Treated black diamonds are more common as the naturally occurring ones are relatively rare.
You already know what a genuine black diamond is, but you should also know that if you are about to buy a black diamond, it is very likely to be a normal diamond that has been darkened.
Are Black Diamonds Low-Quality Stones?
Many people think that black diamonds are simply stones that have so many inclusions as to look black.
Actually, the color of natural black diamonds is not only due to their inclusions but also due to their unique structure, which affects how they reflect light, most of which is absorbed by the stone.
Lab-created black diamonds, on the other hand, owe their color to their treatment, not their structure. Whether the original diamond whose color was changed was a high quality stone is another story, though.
Since black diamonds are usually cheaper, it is highly unlikely that a jewelry dealer would take an expensive white diamond of the highest quality and change its color just to sell it for less money.
But would you really care what the clarity, color, or cut of the original stone was when none of these characteristics affect its appearance once it’s black?
Regardless of their origin, such stones will have a very low clarity grade simply because of their color and structure.
However, keep in mind that the traditional quality guidelines used to evaluate white diamonds are not really applicable to black diamonds. That’s why the term “low quality” is not very meaningful when used for these stones.
Should You Buy Black Diamonds?
Whether you like black diamonds is a matter of taste. Don’t expect these stones to display any brilliance or sparkle similar to that of white diamonds.
Many people buy black diamonds because they just find them interesting and exotic.
Black diamonds are usually cheaper than their white counterparts. They can be a good choice if you want to add a black stone to your jewelry collection.
Of course, an onyx or a similar stone would also do the trick, but black diamond has unparalleled durability.
Black diamonds are especially suitable for white settings, which make these stones stand out. Platinum, white gold, and silver are all good choices to have a black diamond set in.
If you want an even stronger contrast, consider pieces that combine black diamonds with white ones, whose sparkle will greatly enhance the appearance of your jewelry.
Buying Black Diamonds: Natural vs. Treated Stones
You might be wondering whether it is better to buy a natural black diamond or a treated one.
The reality is that you may not have much of a choice, as genuine carbonado diamonds are relatively rare, and many stores do not carry them. Most black diamonds on the market have actually been treated artificially.
A treated black diamond may be your only option, but is there any downside to buying such a stone instead of a natural one?
For the most part, whether a black diamond is natural or dyed doesn’t make much of a difference. Treated black diamonds have the same composition as other diamonds and are just as hard.
The only thing you need to pay attention to when buying a treated stone is if there any special directions for cleaning and care.
Depending on the method used to turn the stone black, it may not be advisable for it to be exposed to high temperatures as this might alter the diamond’s color.
This is important to remember because if you need to have your black-diamond jewelry repaired, you should warn the jeweler that the stone is treated so that he or she is careful when handling it.
Evaluating the Quality of Black Diamonds
Evaluating the quality of a black diamond is not exactly the same as evaluating that of a white one.
For example, standard color grading is not really applicable to black stones as they are either black or very dark grey. Clarity grading is also not feasible, as black diamonds are not transparent and clear at all.
The cut of black diamonds is a characteristic that cannot be evaluated in the same way as that of white diamonds.
For one thing, the traditional quality grade of cut is linked to how it enhances the brilliance of a diamond, and since black diamonds don’t reflect any light, they also don’t have any brilliance.
When looking at the cut of a black diamond, you should simply make sure that the stone has such proportions that will make it look good when it is mounted.
For example, sometimes it might be desirable to choose a shallower cut, which will make the stone’s visible surface look bigger when the diamond is mounted.
Prices of Black Diamonds
Black diamonds are usually cheaper than white ones of passable quality. This is not always true, however – natural black diamonds are relatively rare, and some of them can be quite expensive.
As already mentioned, you are much more likely to see treated black diamonds instead of natural ones when shopping.
This doesn’t mean that someone wouldn’t try to sell you a treated stone at a much higher price by passing it off as a natural black carbonado.
To make sure you know what you are actually buying, shop for black diamonds at reputable jewelry stores, and always ask for the grading report of the stone to see what its origin is, i.e., if it is natural or treated.
The diamond certificate should be issued by a reputable and independent third-party organization such as the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or the AGS (American Gem Society).
Choosing a Setting for a Black Diamond
If your black diamond is going to be put in a setting, consider the metal it will be made of. Black diamonds go especially well with white, so a setting that is made of platinum, white gold, or silver is a good choice.
Of these metals, platinum is the most durable but also the most expensive. Silver, on the other hand, is cheap but pretty soft. While not as durable as platinum, white gold holds up reasonably well and costs less.