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Black Diamonds vs. White Diamonds: What are Their Differences?

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Black vs White Diamonds

Most diamond shoppers quickly narrow their selection to a white diamond. After all, it’s the most popular color and is what many envision as the traditional diamond in an engagement ring.

But many diamond retailers have more to offer than just white diamonds, and in recent years, black diamonds have seen higher demand as buyers consider the striking, bold look of a dark diamond.

We’ll compare black diamonds versus white diamonds across their primary characteristics, such as composition, price, shapes, durability and more so you’ll be informed about which is right for you.

What are Black Diamonds?

Black diamonds have a high number of inclusions that result in the diamond appearing completely dark.

Most white diamonds also have inclusions that form as dark specks on the inside, but when there are enough inclusions to cover the whole diamond, it instead turns black.

Black Diamond

They’re part of a category of diamonds called fancy colored diamonds, which also include blue, yellow, and pink diamonds.

Even though they have a distinct look from the classic, colorless ones, black diamonds are real diamonds.

There are two types of black diamonds. 

The first are called natural black diamonds, and they turn from white to black during the formation process. They contain large quantities of mineral inclusions such as graphite, hematite, and pyrite, and these inclusions expand throughout the stone.

It results in a metallic aesthetic.

The other type of black diamonds are ones that have been treated to change the appearance. 

The manufacturer starts with a white diamond that often has a high number of fractures and inclusions.

That means it already has a grey appearance. It’s then placed under a high-temperature, low-pressure treatment to bring about the black color.

What are White Diamonds?

White diamonds appear colorless because of their lack of inclusions. 

Cloudy Diamond

They’re considered the traditional style diamond, and the most valuable ones are completely colorless. As you move down the GIA color scale from D (colorless) to Z, there will be stronger hints of yellow and brown to the point you wouldn’t consider it a white diamond.

Most diamonds mined are white, and their exact color grade is then determined by the number and type of inclusions.

Even a white diamond with dark specks scattered throughout is still considered a colorless diamond. It just won’t score as high on the GIA clarity scale.

Comparing Black and White Diamonds

Black vs White Diamonds Infographic

To make the best purchasing decision between a black and white diamond, it’s important to compare them across the aspects that influence your decision.

Although black and white diamonds have some similarities, they each offer a unique aesthetic and style that could be the right choice for you.

Composition

Black and white diamonds have similar composition. They’re both formed when high amounts of pressure is placed on carbon about 100 miles below the Earth’s surface. The mineral is transported from deep within Earth to the surface, where they’re then mined.

The difference in the composition between black and white diamonds is black diamonds have a graphite inclusion that white diamonds lack.

Price

There are significant differences in price for black diamonds versus white ones. But the key to understanding the price for black diamonds is knowing whether it’s natural or treated.

Natural black diamonds are priced with a premium because of their rarity, even though their demand relative to white is lower. For a natural, fancy black diamond, you can expect to pay $1,500-$2,000 for one carat.

Black Diamond Prices

As you move to higher carat weights, the price increases exponentially, so the same quality diamond at two carats can cost about $5,000.

If you compare that to an average colorless diamond, such as one with a VS1 clarity grade, G color, and very good cut, you can expect to pay between $5,000-$6,000.

The price of a diamond is determined by many qualities aside from its color of black or white, but in general, even a rare, natural black diamond will cost less than a similarly-graded white one.

The discrepancy is even more pronounced when comparing treated black diamonds to white ones. Treated black diamonds are made from low-quality white ones that have an excessive number of inclusions, so they have less value in the marketplace. 

Additionally, there’s a lower demand.

For example, you can purchase a 1.50 carat black diamond treated with heat, including a 14kt white gold band setting, for $1,400. Even if you moved up to two carat diamond, the price only jumps to $1,700.

These examples show the demand and resulting prices are highest for white diamonds, followed by natural black diamonds, and then treated black diamonds.

Origin

White diamonds are the most popular color found in mines around the world. The downside is many of these white diamonds are low quality, small, and full of inclusions, so the demand and price for quality white diamonds remains high.

Natural black diamonds are mostly mined in Brazil and Central Africa. Treated black diamonds can come from anywhere because all it requires is a white diamond with inclusions.

History

White diamonds have always been held in high regard and prized for their clarity and brilliance. Black diamonds, on the other hand, were traditionally thrown out.

Black Diamond Necklace

That changed in the late 20th century, when designers started promoting them in pieces of jewelry as a way to contrast colorless diamonds.

Now, they’re used in necklaces, earrings, pendants and more as a bold choice for those shifting away from the classic styles.

Clarity

Fancy black diamonds do not receive a color grade in the same way white diamonds do. The extent of inclusions in a black diamond versus a white diamond leaves little to compare.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the clarity for each.

For black diamonds, check that there aren’t any obvious defects visible to the naked eye. Those purchasing a black diamond often want a dark, solid black, and some inclusions can inhibit the pure shade they desire.

For white diamonds, the highest quality ones have inclusions only visible through a microscope. Their clarity is graded by the GIA on a scale from flawless to included, and each grade below flawless indicates a higher presence of inclusions.

If you’re looking for an eye-clean diamond, we recommend choosing one that’s at least an SI1 clarity grade.

Shapes

Black diamonds come in all the same shapes as white ones. That’s because they’re often cut with a laser, which can turn the rough diamond into almost any shape.

From the popular round shape to fancy ones such as pear and cushion, you can decide which shape is the right style for you.

Black Diamond Shapes

The most popular shapes for each are round, but others such as princess, Asscher, and oval are trending upward.

Durability

The issue of durability is important to consider in comparing black versus white diamonds. The presence of inclusions, especially large ones near the edges of a diamond, generally warrant concern about its susceptibility to chipping.

Inclusions can create weak points in the diamond, so a natural black diamond filled with inclusions is less durable than a white one without them. Diamond manufacturers understand this distinction and have to be more careful cutting black diamonds.

On the other hand, white diamonds that were treated to become black are considered just as durable because the treatment doesn’t add those weak points.

But both black and white diamonds are still rated a perfect 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so you should only be concerned about durability if either experiences a hard impact. A solution to this problem is protecting the diamond with a strong setting that can withstand the damage.

Light Performance

Light performance is a coveted quality in diamonds because buyers want it to sparkle and glimmer as it twirls. 

When comparing white diamonds to each other, the most important aspect to consider is the cut. All else being equal, a diamond with a very good cut will reflect light far better than one with a fair or poor cut.

The difference in light performance between black and white diamonds is pronounced. That’s because the crystal structure and inclusions in a black diamond don’t reflect light. Instead, they absorb it.

White diamonds capture light and then reflect it outward through the table to create its shine. One of the reasons they’re the most popular type of diamond is because of its brilliance. 

Choose a white diamond with a round cut that scores very good or excellent on the GIA scale, and it’ll have some of the best sparkle you can find.

Color

Color is the most noticeable difference between black and white diamonds. White diamonds are graded along the GIA scale, denoting where it sits between completely colorless and having a strong yellow or brown tint.

Black diamonds aren’t graded on this same scale. Unlike other fancy colors such as red or pink, black diamonds only come in one color: fancy black. Those other colors are specified by their intensity grade, such as fancy light, fancy dark, or fancy deep.

Even though black diamonds aren’t graded by their intensity, some have stronger tones than others. You should always examine the diamond in person or in a high-resolution photo before buying so you know the intensity of the color.

You may want a pitch black diamond or one that borders grey. Many diamond retailers have a range of tones available for black diamonds.

Certification

The GIA has separate grading systems for white and black diamonds. White diamonds are graded along the four Cs of color, cut, clarity, and carat, as well as many other qualities. These include symmetry and polish, fluorescence, and specific inclusions.

Black diamonds aren’t given a traditional grading report. Instead, the GIA provides a colored diamond identification and origin report. It features some of the same measurements as a white diamond, but also includes whether it’s natural or treated color.

GIA Colored Diamond Report

The report also documents the color distribution, so you know whether it’s evenly distributed throughout the diamond or is concentrated in one area.

Another area of distinction is the GIA doesn’t grade black diamonds on the clarity scale. They’re often heavily included and are opaque, so it’s clarity isn’t a factor in determining its value.

Cleaning and Care

You clean and care for a black diamond in many of the same ways you do a white diamond. You can clean your diamond by putting a few drops of mild dishwashing soap in water and gently rubbing it with a toothbrush. Pat it dry with a polishing cloth.

Don’t use steam or ultrasonic cleaners on black diamonds. These machines have the potential to damage the stone because of all its inclusions.

You should also have it cleaned professionally once or twice a year.

Settings

There are a variety of settings available for both black and white diamonds. There isn’t a right or wrong setting for either, but popular styles for black diamonds are three-stone and halo settings.

For example, this three-stone diamond ring features a 2.2 carat fancy black diamond surrounded by two white side stones. The contrast continues down the shank with smaller colorless diamonds.

Three Stone Black Diamond Ring

Similar to the three-stone setting, this halo micro pave diamond engagement ring has a 1.8 carat black diamond surrounded by dozens of smaller white accents. It commands the high price because all the diamonds are untreated.

Micro Pave Halo Black Diamond Ring

It’s recommended the band consist of platinum or white gold because its brightness will contrast the black diamond.

For white diamonds, the most popular is a prong and solitaire setting. This classic look features a single white diamond held in place by four or six prongs. 

The second most popular setting is a bezel setting. Metal encircles the diamond, covering all its edges to hold it in place. It’s considered the most secure setting but does cover more of the diamond than prongs.

If you desire a unique setting, one of the most modern styles is a tension setting. It works for both black and white diamonds. The ends of the curved band hold the diamond in place in a way that looks like it’s suspended in mid-air.

Tension Setting with Diamond

The downside of this style is it doesn’t allow for covering up any inclusions, but the upside is there’s no part of the diamond that’s hidden.

Is a Black or White Diamond Right For You?

White diamonds are significantly more popular than black diamonds, but that doesn’t mean you should immediately go the traditional route. Black diamonds have appeal due to their bold, striking appearance, and pairing it with the right side stones and shank can create the perfect diamond ring.

You should understand all the differences between the two types and their unique clarity, light performance, certifications, and more.

The most important aspect of purchasing a black or white diamond is knowing exactly what you’re paying for by ensuring its quality matches the price.

Once you’ve decided on the right diamond, you can let it complement your personal style for years to come.

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler is the founder of TeachJewelry.com.

He earned an Applied Jewelry Professional Diploma from the Gemological Institute of America and now brings you essential information about diamonds, settings, and more.

Devon has consulted with leading jewelry brands, and his work has been cited in Diamond Nexus and other industry publications.

He's also a member of the International Gem Society.

Devon enjoys discussing jewelry with readers, so contact him with any questions at tyler.devon@teachjewelry.com.

Learn More About Devon