Plain white diamonds no longer cut any ice.Today it's all about ultra-rare coloured stones. Here is Lifestyle's lowdown on all you need to know...
Perhaps you thought white diamonds were the last word in luxury.
Well, think again.
Coloured diamonds — the most exquisite gemstones on the planet — are the rocks everyone is talking about.
Once worn exclusively by royalty or billionaires, they are the most covetable accessory du jour.
"Movie stars want coloured diamonds because no one else has them," explains Carol Woolton, jewellery editor of British Vogue. Scroll down for more...
Clockwise from top left: Gold rings with yellow diamonds, from £1,700. Rose gold ring with pink sapphires, from £1,290, Shaun Leane at Selfridges, 0800 123 400 Natural fancy pink heart diamond. Price on application, Welcome to Boodles - Britain's Finest Jewellers since 1798 Black diamond earrings from a selection starting from £2,975, Manguette, 020 7937 2897 Starlit Rocks ring with natural yellow diamonds, £1,200, Cox & Power, 020 7935 3530 Cocktail ring with nine fancy 0.92ct diamonds, £10,000, Cox & Power, as before Brown diamond leaf earrings with amethyst, pink sapphire and white diamond lily, £5,438, Shaun Leane, as before. Natural fancy coloured commitment rings from £1,000, Wint & Kidd, 020 7908 9990. 'Catherine wheel' ring with green diamonds, £10,800, Solange Azagury-Partridge, 020 7792 0197 Natural fancy coloured commitment rings from £1,000, Wint & Kidd, as before.
"It sets them apart. Women love them because they are beautiful. Men love them because they make a sound investment."
In the past two years their value has rocketed by 300 per cent, which justifies why they are now top of the shopping list for the super-affluent in pursuit of the exceptionally rare.
As a response to this coloured diamond fever, Cartier recently launched an eyepopping jewellery range inspired by the brand's Indian gemstone heritage.
The Inde Mysterieuse collection features 34 whoppers, and the smallest piece — a pair of earrings featuring two rose-cut yellow diamonds with brown diamond beads and drops — costs £169,000.
Despite the astronomical prices, it has already almost sold out.
"Coloured diamonds are about for ever fashion," says Lucy Willis from Selfridges, who are now selling coloured diamonds by Tiffany and Cartier for the first time in their newly-opened Wonder Room in its Oxford Street store.
But the best place to see the latest rockson- the-block is The Vault, a new gallery that will open at The Natural History Museum this Wednesday.
The piece de resistance of the exhibition is the Aurora Collection, which features 296 naturally-coloured diamonds, some the size of golf balls.
"Most stones half as interesting are locked in a vault and never see the light of day," explains curator Alan Hart.
"This is without a doubt the best coloured diamond collection you are ever likely to see"
But, thankfully, you don't have to be a film star or a millionaire if you want to do more than just look.
As coloured diamonds become increasingly popular, more and more jewellers are sourcing small stones in all colours of the rainbow, with prices startingfrom around £800.
"Historically, diamonds are all about power," believes Carmen Busquets of Couturelab, a fashion shop selling coloured diamond jewellery.
"White diamonds have connotations with engagement. Coloured diamonds give a show of individuality and independence.
"Before, if you wanted coloured diamonds you went to Cartier or Van Cleef and spent £1million.
"But recently, contemporary designers who work with the same quality coloured diamonds are offering personalised designs on a much smaller budget.
"Something to wear all day — not just at night."
Prices for her coloured diamond jewellery start at £8,000.
Kate Moss bought herself a discreet pink marquise diamond commitment ring from Wint & Kidd (020 7908 9990) to celebrate the birth of daughter Lila Grace.
Although the rings start from a mere £1,000 — the price of two pairs of Louboutins — these are designed to be collected and worn piled up as a style statement.
Chances are you'll run out of fingers well before you run out of colour combinations.
Fancy bagging yourself some rainbow bling?
Just in time for your Christmas wish-list, we've compiled the Lifestyle guide to buying coloured diamonds.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Out of 80,000 carats of rough diamonds mined every year, only 0.001 per cent have a colour (that's one in 10,000).
Their colour is the result of naturally occurring chemicals and processes in formation.
Yellow diamonds are the result of the presence of nitrogen. Blue is an excess of boron. Pink and red are thought to be the result of manganese. Green diamonds are caused by exposure to naturally occurring radiation from radioactive elements such as uranium.
Stones are graded by their vivacity of colour.
No two are the same, and often there is a secondary as well as a predominant colour.
The secondary modifying colour is described using the suffix "-ish".
So a "vivid greenish yellow" is a yellow diamond with green overtones.
When a diamond has two colours equally present, then both are named.
All diamonds are graded on a scale from D to Z.
With white diamonds, D is colourless and Z is bright yellow.
As colour becomes saturated they become known as "fancy" diamonds and graded from fancy intense to faint.
Least unusual (so least expensive) are pale grey, brown and black. Yellow and orange are quite rare, while pink is rare. Rarer still are violet, green, blue and red.
"A fancy stone is about colour and consistency," says Tony Cox, designer at Cox & Power (020 7935 3530).
• PINK was put on the global map after Jennifer Lopez was given a 6.1 carat pink diamond engagement ring, costing around £1 million, by Ben Affleck. Victoria and David Beckham own his and hers pink diamond rings. Visit www.pink diamonds.co.uk.
• PURPLE made headlines when American basketball superstar Kobe Bryant gave his wife an 8 carat purple diamond costing $4 million.
• GREEN commands astronomical prices. Mined in Brazil, South Africa, Ghana and Siberia.
• BLUE. Most famous stone is the Hope Diamond, a staggering 45.52 carats, housed at The Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington. The diamond is legendary for the curse it supposedly puts on whoever possesses it.
• RED is by far the rarest of all coloured diamonds and almost priceless. The largest fancy red ever graded is the Moussaieff Red, which is 5.11 carats and was discovered in the 1990s by a now not-so-poor farmer tending his crops in Brazil.
• BROWN: The most widely available and most affordable coloured diamonds, they range from cognac to chocolate.
• BLACK: These stones are usually opaque, yet they still display the sparkle and lustre unique to diamonds.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: THE FOUR Cs
Cut, colour, clarity and carat dictate cost.
"We show customers the biggest stone they can get for their money and work backwards from here," says Ben Marriott of Wint & Kidd, who advises people always to buy from a specialist.
"Buy the colour you love and the best you can afford," says Tony Cox, who specialise in one-off pieces featuring coloured diamonds from around £800 (for a pair of cognac stone earrings).
"We look at 100 stones and only select five. Not all are lovely."
You can buy coloured diamonds online from sites such as Buy Diamonds from Diamond Celebrations, Fine Diamond Jewellery and Engagement Rings Online UK, Ireland. If you have £31,964 to spare, it will get you a 1.08 carat faint reddish-brown cut-heart shape; £2,416 buys a .43 carat fancy intense orange yellow stone.
Or visit a wholesalers — London's Hatton Garden, Birmingham's diamond quarter, Antwerp's diamond district, New York's 47th Street and downtown Dubai — if you are an expert.
Tiffany & Co has got a spectacular new assortment of coloured diamonds in its Old Bond Street store until January.
ALTERNATIVES: COLOURENHANCED DIAMONDS
Artificial colouration or "enhancement", while unpopular with purists, has benefited from recent developments in technology which have seen colours and quality improve — and stones that are infinitely cheaper than the real thing.
Processes are always carried out on white diamonds.
Creating a man-made coloured diamond means simulating the natural process of tainting it with a trace element.
Although green is one of the rarest to find naturally, it is the easiest to create artificially.
A clear diamond placed in a nuclear reactor at temperatures of 1,200C, will go green.
Further heat will turn it yellow, orange, brown, pink or mauve.
Blues and pinks remain the hardest manmade colours to pull off.
Jewellers are divided about enhanced coloured diamonds.
Ben Day, who only works with coloured diamonds, uses both enhanced and natural.
"For someone who loves colour, the palettes you now find in treated diamonds are interesting.
"Enhanced diamonds can have a more intense hue that would cost thousands if they were natural," says Day. "You find a strength in a diamond you would never get in a pink sapphire, and there are so many people who would love pink diamonds but could never have the means to afford natural pinks."
School of rocks : All you need to know about coloured diamonds | the Daily Mail