CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

Eternal Classic: Why White Diamonds Will Never Go Out of Style

5 minute read

It’s no secret that the popularity of colored diamonds has skyrocketed in the 21st century with their record-smashing sales and auction records. Colored diamonds have taken the fine jewelry industry by storm, representing virtually the entire color spectrum — from shades of canary yellow to rosy pink hues and even black. Yet, consumers and jewelers alike continue to return to the classic white diamond time after time. Here’s a closer look at why this ubiquitous symbol of eternity, purity and luxury remains timeless despite these colorful trends.

What is a white diamond?

Diamonds that fall within the Gemological Institute of America’s D-to-Z color scale are often dubbed “white diamonds,” but this variety of diamonds are not white at all — they are a class of colorless diamonds. Hues of these diamonds can range from truly colorless, like a pure drop of water, to containing tinges of pale yellow, light brown or shades of gray. White diamonds are a popular choice for those in the market for antique jewelry, from antique necklaces to antique engagement rings. The closer a diamond comes to being classified as genuinely "colorless," the more expensive it is. In this case, the rarity of a pure, colorless diamond’s hue directly affects its value.

Colored Diamonds

Many diamonds fall outside the GIA’s D-to-Z color range exhibiting distinct colors. The gemological conditions required to produce these distinctly hued gemstones are quite rare. Because this “perfect storm” measures up to a monumental feat of nature, natural colored diamonds are scarce and highly prized by collectors and the fine jewelry industry as a whole.

White Diamonds Versus Colorless Diamonds

Determining the color grade of a white diamond is no easy task, and a number of factors make this ordeal especially challenging. A true white diamond is not color graded according to the GIA’s D-to-Z color scale. Why? Because they are not colorless, they are white. As a color, white does not appear in the color spectrum — white is the sum of all the spectrum’s colors. The presence of sub-microscopic inclusions in these cut diamonds scatter light passing through the gem, lending a translucent, milky white face-up appearance. White diamonds are occasionally described as “opalescent” due to the flashes of color sometimes captured when these cut diamonds are viewed face up. Rarely, these diamonds are reminiscent of white opals, but with a weaker play-of-color. Much like the famed Golconda diamond, technically “white” diamonds are very rarely submitted to the Gemological Institute of America. The few that are examined by this institution tend to hail from the Panna mine in India, making them exceedingly rare finds for shoppers and gemologists alike.

The History of Diamond Engagement Rings

White and colorless diamonds are pervasive treasures of engagement rings and commitment jewelry. The sentimental Victorians — the first generation to emphasis the importance of true love and affection in marriage — popularized the use of these diamonds in engagement rings in America, England and across Europe in the 19th century. Often crafted to resemble flowers, these ornate designs mixed diamonds with other gemstones, enamels and precious metals, and were colloquially dubbed “posey rings.” Diamond engagement rings of the Edwardian era continued to follow in the Victorians’ design footsteps, pairing diamonds with many other jewels and gemstones, commonly mounted in intricate filigree settings. But the history of diamonds sealing marriage proposals goes back centuries further. Many anthropologists and historians believe the custom of grooms-to-be presenting their prospective fiancées with a diamond engagement ring dates to ancient Rome. In the ancient Roman world, it was fashionable for married women to don rings adorned with diamonds and other gemstones attached to small keys symbolizing their husband’s legal "ownership" of them in marriage. This is likely the first inkling of the key-and-lock tropes omnipresent at Valentine’s Day and in more saccharine motifs of commitment jewelry. During the high Middle Ages, diamond engagement rings — among other luxurious jewels — were sought-after by European aristocracy and nobility. Archduke Maximilian of Austria may have sparked this trend when he commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, in 1477.

Fast-forward to the 20th century and 1947, when famed diamond retailer De Beers launched its now classic ad campaign slogan, which claimed that “a diamond is forever.” This historic campaign spurred even more sales of diamond engagement rings, aligning with the boom of single men returning to America after World War II to settle down, get married and have kids. De Beers’ slogan implied not only a diamond’s natural durability as the strongest carbon-based substance in existence, but also imprinted a message in the American psyche conveying that marriage is forever. In the 1950s, the diamond’s purity and eye-catching sparkle were elevated to symbolize the depth of a man’s commitment to his spouse in practically all corners of the globe. Plus, a diamond wedding band or a diamond pendant serves as a classic piece of jewelry, making it the perfect stone for everyday wear. Browse M.S. Rau’s stunning selection of classic white and colorless diamonds and antique rings today, and find your perfect token of love and devotion. 

 

References:

"What Is a White Diamond?" Gemological Institute of America. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://4cs.gia.edu/en-us/blog/what-is-white-diamond/

"The History of the Diamond as an Engagement Ring." American Gem Society. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://www.americangemsociety.org/page/diamondasengagement

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