Dear DD,

My dad recently gave me a square-shaped diamond ring that my mother used to wear every day. It is a yellow diamond that he bought for her in the early ’70s. He said they called it a “canary” color. Can you please explain what that means? Is it worth more or less than a white diamond?


Dear Canary,

Diamonds come in a range of colors. The industry uses a system developed by the GIA for color grading. The finest white diamond color grade is a “D” color, defined as completely colorless and the most valuable. The next best is “E,” and so on.

Colorless generally means there is no yellow in the stone. The more of this yellowish tint that appears in the diamond, the more the color grade is reduced. It goes from D all the way down to XYZ.

If the yellow color is strong, then it moves off the alphabet grid, and is categorized as a “fancy” color. For these fancy colors, the GIA established a new grading system that goes from faint to light and up to intense or vivid fancy color. Here the pendulum swings upwards; the stronger the yellow, the more valuable the diamond is.

There are also brown colors at the lower price level, and there are pink, blue, and some other even rarer colors that can achieve significantly high values.

As part of the grading, the GIA determines the color origin. All of the above pertains to diamond with natural color. If the diamond color is treated, then the diamond is not so valuable.

All evaluations, in addition to the color grade, are subject to the size, clarity, and cut of the diamond.

Most fancy yellow diamonds are rendered in radiant cut, which I assume your square diamond is. That’s because that particular cut maximizes the diamond material’s color strength.

What’s the canary? In the early 1970s, the GIA grading system for fancy color diamonds was first evolving. Most of the trade did not look to them for certification. There was only a very limited market for strongly colored yellow diamonds. If the stone was considered what today is called a “fancy” yellow color, the industry referred to it as a “canary” color. If the color was strong, they said, “The canary sings!”

You should have the diamond pulled from the ring and submitted to the GIA. They do not accept rings or provide price evaluations. They will advise if it is indeed natural color. They will issue a report of all the specifications and details of the diamond and give you the current color grade.

I hope your canary sings!

Diamond Dave

“Diamond Dave” is an expert in the diamond and jewelry retail industry. Send questions and comments for him to

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