A Language to Describe Natural Color Diamonds Or A Rose by Any Other Name

by Alan Bronstein

The structure and design of one universally accepted system for grading natural colored diamonds has been dominated for 30 years as the standard for the gemstone and jewelry industry. It presents communication limitations that often inhibit consumers and retailers from having confidence in their own judgment of what is perceived attractive, charming, desirable and beautiful. We can state with great confidence, however, that the color grading of colorless and near colorless diamonds has achieved a standard of objective, consistent repeatability. Natural color diamonds, because of their subtle and infinite possibilities, remain difficult if not impossible to describe on a consistent basis of nomenclature that is universal and does not create a hierarchy of relative importance. In truth there may never be a perfect system that can accurately describe the color of a diamond or any other object without reducing it to a code, such as used in other industries, standardized by color specialists Pantone Corporation and Munsell Corporation. This is the equivalent of describing the features and beauty of a human being by presenting their DNA code.

Colored diamonds, whether they be a pure color (hue) or modified by one or more colors will always fall in a range of description based on its primary color (hue) and modifiers if any; (saturation), the strength, vividness or amount of color present; and the (value or tone), the scale or measurement of lightness to darkness, or white to black of an object.

The present use of terms used by most labs in the world such as Light, Fancy Light, Fancy. Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep and Fancy Dark; take into account all levels of lightness, saturation, value and tone. The demarcations of such grades can often vary between competing labs. The terms used to describe the color of a diamond for example, Purplish Pink, will presumably take into account any stone that has a primary visible color (hue) of pink, and a secondary or modified color of purple. As long as the primary color is seen as pink, the percentage of purple as the modifier can theoretically vary from 1%-49%. While this may be the best way to scientifically describe natural colored diamonds, subjectivity of grading and nomenclature choices, in addition to differences of opinion between labs, does become a factor. The hierarchy of this language thus has an effect on perceived value and desirability.

We feel it is necessary to assist the process of decision making for the retailer and most of all the consumers, in a way that gets everyone involved in a non technical dialogue that opens up the perception of color relative to the natural and fashion world around us. This process does not create the concept of one color being superior or inferior to another. Could one describe sky blue as more or less desirable, then ocean blue? If we were to use these terms, do we imply the sky at a particular time of day or the ocean in a particular part of the world? Color terms in nature and fashion are not absolute and often are interchangeable with other descriptive terms. They are used to enhance the mental image of an object. The use of common color terms in nature and fashion, are analogies that allows the potential customer to experience the color on an emotional and personal level. They now have a language, even though it is subjective and probably interchangeable with a variety of other terms, which they can relate to.

In no way does the use of such terms reduce the scientific and technical information supplied which provides the crucial "color origin." Is the diamond natural color, manmade, enhanced, altered or treated? The primary color and modifiers are identified to the highest standards, and under controlled conditions. All identifying characteristics, measurements, etc. required and requested by the submitting owner are documented.

The addition of common color terms as a possible description is strictly for the purpose of romancing the stone and allowing the clients to relate to colored diamonds in a new light.

Scientific language and color descriptions are all too powerful in the consumers mind. Often what is perceived as an unfavorable description creates a negative attitude towards a stone that may be truly unique and beautiful. The concept of what is desirable shouldn't be interpreted by the attempt to define the color by scientific means.

The belief that a pure color, (i.e. pink, blue, green, purple) is somehow more desirable or attractive than a modified color has created a false and unrealistic goal for color diamond collectors. As a matter of fact most so called pure color diamonds are not pure colors at all with blue diamonds containing gray as a modifying component; pink diamonds containing purple, orange or brown; red diamonds containing purple or brown; green diamonds containing yellow, blue or gray; and purple diamonds containing pink, brown or gray. Color differences in diamonds require analogies from other natural or fashion objects to visually identify their appearance.

Thus a blue diamond can be cornflower, sky, sea, ink, navy, etc
A pink diamond can be shell, strawberry, shrimp, bubblegum, etc.
A red diamond can be wine, garnet, maroon, burgundy, etc
A green diamond can be jade, grass, sea foam, teal, lime, etc.
A purple diamond can be lilac, plum, orchid, eggplant, etc.
This was the language of color description before the development of the lab created color scales of the last few decades.

When we look beyond the scientific description to the colors we see in nature, our mind and taste can open to express what excites us, makes us happy, and one should not be intimidated by the possibility of making a bad choice. There is no wrong choice if it is your taste.

There is no flower or color that is universally favored by everyone. We must go beyond the diagnostic limitation to the personal experience that is unique and satisfying to each of us. Let the imagination and the language of color run wild. The world of diamonds is too magnificent and diverse to be contained in a one or two word description.

In no way do we suggest that the terms used are other than the opinion of the individual and are possibly interchangeable with another similar color description. In no way does our description imply the rarity, value, desirability or beauty of the diamond. Beauty cannot be defined by any grading report or color description because beauty is different to every individual in every part of the world. The use of common color terms is open to interpretation and is only meant to encourage discussion and greater enthusiasm for a broader range of natural color diamonds that cannot be classified by gemological terms that imply something is the rarest, best, or most valuable of gemstones.

Ultimately it is up to consumers to follow due diligence before buying any product. This approach to color and language will assist consumers in making more meaningful choices.

A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet and be as beautiful.