What Is a Chameleon Diamond?

January 16, 2024

You've likely seen diamonds with deep fuchsia pink hues, bright canary yellow tones, or sparkling colorless ones, but imagine a diamond that transforms from a cool, mossy green to a fiery orange. Although that sounds like magic, it's not; it's the life of a chameleon diamond, a rare and mesmerizing diamond that possesses a true color-changing phenomenon.

The ability for these ultra-rare gemstones to change color was first discovered in 1943 when Peter Kaplan noticed that as he was polishing a diamond, its color became darker, which he attributed to the heat generated from the polishing wheel. As more of these color changing diamonds popped up, the gemstones became known as chameleon diamonds, named after the lizard, which also can change colors.

So, what exactly causes the natural phenomenon? Are chameleon diamonds rare or valuable? In this article, we'll answer those questions and more!


What Is a Chameleon Diamond?

A chameleon diamond is a natural diamond with a unique ability: it temporarily changes color under specific conditions. This transformation, typically lasting minutes or even an hour, can be triggered by heat, light, or even darkness.

In normal temperature conditions, the chameleon diamond exhibits a vivid green hue, characteristic of green diamonds.

After being heated, it transforms into a deep orangy amber, showcasing how diamonds change.

 While the science behind this has yet to be fully understood, some gemologists and scientists speculate it's due to a combination of high hydrogen concentrations and traces of nitrogen and nickel. Others believe phosphorescent and luminescent qualities play a role in light absorption and emission, fueling the color shift.

When looking at chameleon diamonds under ultraviolet light, you can see unique patterns in the diamond’s fluorescence due to impurities and imperfections. Within the same diamond, some zones fluoresce greenish yellow while others fluoresce blue. The co-occurrence of the two zones suggests that the diamond came into existence in an environment with changing geological growth patterns.


Chameleon Diamond Color Variations

Unlike other fancy colored diamonds, which can have a single color, such as fancy pink, chameleon diamonds always have multiple natural colors, combining green, gray, yellow, or brown. Some common combinations include gray-yellowish, grayish-yellowish, gray-greenish, green-yellow, brownish-greenish and brownish-yellowish.

This2.19 carat chameleon diamond's GIA color grade is fancy dark brown greenish yellow:

2.19 carat chameleon diamond

Chameleons can be categorized into "stable" and "unstable" shades. The stable shades exhibit the color-changing property consistently and reliably. In contrast, the unstable shades may not display the phenomenon as prominently or predictably.

There are two types of chameleon diamonds: classic and reverse. Classic chameleon diamonds display thermochromic and photochromic behaviors, changing color based on temperature and light exposure. When classic chameleons are heated to 150° - 250° Celsius, they temporarily become deep, gray, green, or brown. As the stone cools, it returns to its natural state - a lighter gray, green, or yellow hue. The same darker color shift happens when the stone is kept in a dark place for a long time, but the lighter color returns once it's brought out into the light.

As the name suggests, reverse chameleons shift colors in the reverse order. These stones have a darker, stable color, making them lighter when stored in the dark. Unlike the classic ones, reverse chameleons do not change color when heated or cooled.


Are Chameleon Diamonds Rare?

Compared to their color diamond counterparts, chameleon diamonds are scarce. They hold their own in terms of value. A chameleon diamond’s price per carat comes at a premium, sitting significantly above most colorless diamonds of the same quality. However, they can cost less than coveted hues like fancy intense pinks, fancy reds, or fancy vivid blue diamonds. 

Similar to other fancy colors, size matters. Large chameleon diamonds are exceptionally hard to come by, making them treasured collector's items, not just dazzling adornments. Their investment potential, a testament to their enduring allure, adds another layer of charm to these captivating gems.

Here’s an example of a chameleon diamond with a greener hue:

Are Chameleon Diamonds Rare

Popular Jewelry: Famous Chameleon Diamonds

Chameleon diamonds, known for their remarkable ability to change color, have become a highlight in the world of high-end diamond jewelry. These natural fancy chameleon diamonds are a wonder of nature, possessing a unique characteristic that sets them apart from other gemstones.

One of the world's largest chameleon diamonds made headlines when it appeared at Christie's Hong Kong auction. This exceptional stone captivated audiences with its astonishing ability to temporarily change to a darker hue. Chameleon diamonds change color depending on the lighting and temperature conditions, a phenomenon that adds to their allure and mystique.

The ring was sold at Christie's and was a stunning example of how these diamonds can be incorporated into luxurious jewelry. The green chameleon diamond, nestled within an exquisite setting, showcased a mesmerizing color combination that oscillated between lush greens and richer, darker tones under different conditions.

What makes these diamonds particularly fascinating is their ability to possess diamond fluorescence. This property, combined with their color-changing ability, creates a visual spectacle unlike any other. The largest chameleon diamonds, such as the one sold at the Christie's auction, are especially sought after for their rarity and the dramatic effect of their color change.

The sale of the chameleon diamond ring at Christie's marked a significant moment in the history of diamond jewelry. It highlighted the growing interest in unique and rare gemstones that offer more than just static beauty. The ability of chameleon diamonds to transform in color not only captivates the eye but also tells a story of nature's magic encapsulated within a precious stone.


Chameleon Diamond Rings and Jewelry

The dynamic nature of chameleon diamonds makes them ideal for statement jewelry. There are so many options when it comes to designing a chameleon diamond ring. These versatile gemstones hold their own in solitaire settings. They can easily be the star of the show without any enhancement or intricate designs. Chameleon diamonds also pair beautifully with diamond halos, adding a touch of classic brilliance to their playful nature. In a three-stone ring, a chameleon diamond can nestle between matching stones, such as two colorless diamonds or rubies. 

For a touch of French romance, consider a custom-designed Toi et Moi ring, which translates to "you and me." In this popular setting, two distinct stones, like a chameleon paired with a fancy pink diamond, represent two souls coming together in a dance of light and color.

And there's no reason this awe-inspiring diamond can't be featured in a pendant or bracelet. Should you be lucky enough to get your hands on two similar chameleon diamonds, they can make a stunning pair of earrings that will be the talk of the town.

These matching chameleon diamonds have a softer yellow green color:

Chameleon Diamond Rings and Jewelry

Beyond the Sparkle: Buying a Chameleon Diamond

As you embark on your chameleon diamond shopping adventure, there are several things to keep in mind. First, ensure your gem is certified by a reputable gemological laboratory like the GIA (gemological institute of America). Factors like carat weight, color intensity, and cut quality influence the price tag. In the case of chameleon diamonds, you'll need to balance quality with your budget and personal taste for the stone's color under typical lighting and heating parameters. Although you may fall in love with the stone's fiery orange hue when it is heated, that won't be its standard color or state when you wear it.

While other color-changing gemstones like alexandrite or spinel have their charm, the chameleon diamond stands out. It's a natural diamond, imbued with a magical, unpredictable nature that defies expectations and transforms not just in color but also the perception of what a diamond can be.

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