Yellow isn't always an easy color to wear. But when it comes to diamonds, sunny hues are seducing increasing numbers of jewelry wearers. In most of the high-end jewelers around Paris's Place Vendôme, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari, canary yellow diamonds sparkle in the display cases."Yellow diamonds have become incredibly popular," says Katharina Flohr, creative director for Russian jeweler Fabergé. De Beers Diamond Jewellers, which has stores around the world, has seen strong growth in yellow and other diamond colors over the past few years, said a spokeswoman for the company.
Yellow diamonds were long seen as either rarities reserved for royalty or, worse, low-quality cousins of white diamonds. But luxury consumers' appetite for all colored diamonds, as well as the soaring price of white diamonds, has given yellow gems a boost. While white diamonds have long been the first port of call for jewelry shoppers, says Ms. Flohr, "women today want color."
Since 2004, the price of white diamonds has risen more than 30%, according to the Idex Online polished diamond index, driven by demand from a growing class of wealthy consumers in emerging markets and interest in gems as an investment vehicle.
"For consumers who wanted to stay with diamonds, moving across to yellow diamonds was an affordable option," said Olivier Reza, a French jewelry designer who recently reopened the Place Vendôme salon founded by his father, gem dealer Alexandre Reza.
A Harry Winston colored diamond necklace with a detachable pear-shaped intense yellow diamond.
At the same time, jewelry fashions in recent years have favored brighter hues, bringing a broad range of colored stones into favor. "We are more fashion-conscious when buying jewelry, not like our mothers," Ms. Flohr adds.
Yellow diamonds are much rarer than white. The yellow color in diamonds is caused by nitrogen replacing carbon atoms in the diamond's structure. The more nitrogen in the stone's composition, the deeper the color.
Celebrities have long been wearers of brightly colored stones, starting with Marilyn Monroe more than 50 years ago. But stars are playing an ever-increasing role as jewelry trend-setters. In recent years, model and TV host Heidi Klum made a splash when she sported a yellow diamond engagement ring given to her by the musician known as Seal, now her ex-husband. Actress/singer Jennifer Lopez wore a yellow diamond ring on television's "American Idol" in April.
The sunny stones have also filtered into mainstream culture via perfume stores—with the U.S. launch in January of Versace's "Yellow Diamond" fragrance—and song lyrics. "Yellow diamonds in the light," sang artist Rihanna in her 2011 hit "We Found Love." In her video, the singer wears jewelry made by Bijules, though not any visible yellow diamonds—according to the brand's creator Jules Kim.
Aiming to tap into popular interest in the stones, U.S.-based Signet Jewelers SIG -0.33% —parent of Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry—is testing a range of yellow diamond jewelry in some of its stores.
Yellow diamonds vary greatly in price. Lighter stones can sell for less than half the price of top-quality colorless white diamonds, while the most fiery, vivid yellow diamonds will command small fortunes.
According to a color-grading scale for diamonds from the GIA, or Gemological Institute of America: Colorless, or "white," diamonds range from those which are colorless to the naked eye, graded from D to J, to faintly yellow-colored stones, graded from K to Z and seen as lower-quality colorless diamonds.
Only outside of that alphabetical range do diamonds enter the "fancy" classification, with yellows and other rare hues, such as blue, pink or green. There is just one of these fancy yellow diamonds for every 10,000 white diamonds in the world, says Ms. Flohr.
While there is no industry-recognized price list or index for yellow diamonds, a round, D-grade white diamond can cost around $14,000 to $15,000 per carat, according to Gemdax, an Antwerp-based consulting firm that specializes in diamonds. A similar "fancy light" yellow diamond will cost around $6,500 per carat, while a more strongly colored "fancy, vivid" yellow diamond can sell for more than $40,000, according to Gemdax.
Last November, a yellow-diamond price record was set when the Sun-Drop diamond—later renamed "Lady Dalal" by its new owner—was sold at a Sotheby's auction in Geneva for about $12.4 million.
Tiffany TIF -0.35% & Co., a name long linked with diamonds, has also played a part in the stone's rising tide. The U.S. jewelry maker—owner of the 128.54-carat Tiffany Yellow Diamond—has developed its own cuts and designs for fancy yellow diamonds, said Stephen Wetherall, sales and marketing executive for Gem Diamonds Ltd., GEMD.LN 0.00% owner of the Ellendale diamond mine in Australia, a significant producer of fancy and vivid yellow diamonds.
Mr. Wetherall says that, by signing an exclusive supply agreement with a subsidiary of Gem Diamonds, Tiffany's secured the principal rough supply of fancy yellow diamonds in the world. In the first half of the year, Gem Diamonds said that fancy yellow diamonds sold to Tiffany & Co. made up around 12% of carats sold by the mine and accounted for 80% of Ellendale's total revenue.
Tiffany's declined to comment for this article.
In 2009, the jeweler launched a campaign to promote yellow diamonds in Japan. Last month, the company celebrated its 175th anniversary by resetting the Tiffany Yellow Diamond and showcasing it at events in Tokyo, Beijing and Dubai.
At Fabergé, more customers are voicing interest in the stones, says Ms. Flohr, with notable demand coming from Russia, Asia—China, in particular—and the U.S.
As Asia's luxury boom continues, yellow diamonds are likely to remain in demand. "For Asians and the Chinese more specifically, yellow is a really appealing color, both for gold and for diamonds," says Cindy Chao, a Taiwanese jewelry designer. "It's often associated with money."