The first colorless diamond engagement ring was given in 1477 by Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg to Mary of Burgundy. This unique gift started a trend that became popular among the wealthy ruling classes of Europe. However, as diamonds became more available and affordable and the Industrial Revolution put more money into the hands of a rising middle class, the 1800s saw "commoners" purchasing diamond engagement rings for their sweethearts as a token of their love and good intentions.
Today, 80 percent of America's married women wear engagement rings. While colorless or white diamonds remain the most common and more expensive choices, once again the masses are following the lead of the rich and famous. Rare, colored engagement rings such as Paris Hilton's $5 million yellow diamond and Victoria Beckham's $1.8 million pink diamond have been widely publicized. The demand for non-clear diamond engagement rings continues to grow. For some, the intention is to imitate the choices of favorite celebrities. For others, it is a desire to be unique and non-traditional. Still other women simply find a colored diamond to be more visually attractive than a clear one.
Fortunately, there are several ways to afford the look of a coloured diamond ring. Natural "fancy" diamond engagement rings are genuine and unaltered. Artificially treated diamonds are enhanced to bring out their best features. Synthetic diamonds are man-made replicas. For some buyers, a more affordable, matching gemstone is an attractive substitute.
Clear, or white diamonds, are graded according to their lack of colour. The highest level is a D rating and extremely expensive. As the rating drops alphabetically, F, G, and H levels become the more popular and affordable. Yellow and brown tinges are more noticeable to the naked eye from level I to W. Levels X, Y, and Z are so yellow that they are considered fancy. Because they are rare, they can actually cost as much as the more expensive D-level colorless diamond.
While colorless diamonds are graded according to their cut, clarity, colour and carat weight, fancy diamonds are valued by their color hue, consistency and intensity. Generally, the darker the color, the more valuable will be the diamond. Seven grading levels range from a "Faint" color to "Fancy Deep." Online stores such as BlueNile.com and Leibish & Co. (www.fancydiamonds.net) as well as fine jewelry stores such as Cartier carry or can special-order colored diamond engagement rings.
The following are the most popular fancy diamond engagement ring colors:
Colored diamond engagement rings are also available in smoky grays, oranges, yellows, browns and purples. Any ring becomes even more valuable to its wearer if its color choice carries personal significance. Is it the birthstone color of either partner, or is its hue a reminder of the values it represents? Whether the wedding is happening immediately or in the more distant future, a lovely diamond engagement ring will be a treasured gift for years to come.