NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Once a gem reserved for the rich and famous, colored diamonds are increasingly falling into the hands of mainstream consumers.

"From colored diamonds splashed across the pages of fashion magazines to celebrities on television to women and men flaunting them at high-society events, these stones have accumulated a strong following," said Gino DiGeso, director of the Natural Color Diamond Association.

"Today, colored diamonds are becoming more popular and mainstream," DiGeso explained.

The palette of colored diamonds span from yellows and browns to pinks, blues, reds, greens, purples and blacks. Popular styles range from classic rounds to the increasingly in-demand rectangular-cut.

In the very high-end of the spectrum, colored diamonds are fetching record prices at auction. At a Christie's auction this May, a 13.22-carat pear-shaped blue diamond sold for $23.8 million, setting a world auction record of $2 million per carat.

When it comes to mass marketing, jewelers are tapping into this segment and making these colored gems more attainable for the average consumer.

Take Gemesis Diamond Company, a major distributor of gem-quality lab-grown diamonds and diamond jewelry, for example. The company specializes in eco-friendly, socially responsible, lab-grown diamonds, also referred to as cultured diamonds, which, the company said, are physically, chemically and optically the same as high-quality mined diamonds.

A major selling point for these diamonds: they are conflict-free.

According to a recent BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, two-thirds of Americans said it's important to buy products that have social or environmental benefits.

Gemesis's inventory of high-quality colorless and fancy colored diamonds is produced by two gem-quality diamond creating processes: high-pressure, high-temperature situations (HPHT) and chemical vapor decomposition (CVD), by which stones are grown from a hydrocarbon gas mixture.

As a result, prices for colored diamonds have come down dramatically.

Martin DeRoy, director of marketing for Gemesis, explained that given the rarity of fancy colored mined diamonds, stones can be priced in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In contrast, last year Gemesis' high-quality fancy colored offerings ranged from $1,250 per carat for smaller yellow diamonds to over $10,000 per carat for larger pink diamonds.

"Before now, only celebrities and other members of the elite have been able to own fancy colored diamonds of this quality and beauty, but now, we're making these stunning yet sustainable styles accessible to mainstream consumers," said DeRoy.

Josh Holland, spokesperson for online jeweler Blue Nile, said that when looking for the most affordable colored diamonds, consumers typically go with fancy yellow diamonds, followed closely by brown or "champagne" diamonds.

At Blue Nile, colored diamonds are currently starting at $462 for a 0.24-carat fancy yellow marquise-cut diamond.

Holland also explained that criteria such as cut proportions and clarity, which is important when purchasing a white or colorless diamond, is less relevant when purchasing a fancy colored diamond.

"Fancy colored diamonds are primarily cut to emphasize their color," Holland said. "This contrasts with colorless diamonds that are cut to maximize sparkle or brilliance, which in some instances can actually detract from the natural color of a fancy colored diamond."

Holland emphasized that consumers should be sure fancy colored diamonds are independently certified, just like other diamonds. Blue Nile's fancy colored diamonds, for example, are graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

"Shoppers should do their research before making a purchase," Holland said. "They should also comparison shop at jewelers, both online and off, to find the best price."

--Written by Renee Morad for MainStreet

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