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Warmth & Luxury; the Sparkle of Cape Diamonds

Cape Diamonds | Mark Solomon Jewellers | Diamonds in Macro | Photo by Edgar Soto on Unsplash (Modified)
Diamonds in Macro (Modified) | Photo by Edgar Soto

Are you considering choosing a Cape diamond for your engagement ring or perhaps wondering what Cape diamonds really are? Read on to find out more about these distinctive diamonds and how they could work for you.

What are Cape diamonds?

The term Cape diamond refers to diamonds within a rather broad light yellow scale, ranging from barely perceptible to typically warmer hues. While most of us could only dream of owning a pure white diamond (with substantial carat weight, of course), Cape diamonds possess a particular warmth and luxury extremely unique to them. These diamonds sparkle with as much radiance as their pure, icy white counterparts and are desirable due to their lively, sunlit tones and overall affordability per carat. When choosing a Cape diamond, keep in mind that just as with whiter diamonds, cut and clarity will still influence the quality and value of your diamond, and these factors should be carefully considered and discussed with your jeweller or qualified gemologist.

The History of Cape Diamonds & Other Old World Terms

Before the GIA developed the diamond color and clarity grading scale, the term Cape diamond referred to a diamond’s place of origin. Diamonds from Brazil and India were whiter in comparison to Capes, and so the term Cape came to be synonymous with the diamonds that had more yellow saturation, the majority of which came from the British Cape Colony in South Africa. However, after the GIA standardized the diamond color and clarity grading scale in 1931, the designation was used exclusively to reference the color of a diamond which fell in the light yellow color scale, regardless of their place of origin.

More quixotic terms for diamond terminology were used prior to the industry language being standardized:

Cape Diamonds | A table of old word terms and present-day GIA color grades

Jager and River Diamonds (Blue White – Finest White)

The terms Jager and River, now known as D-E diamonds, were used to refer to diamonds that appeared colorless against a white background. Jager is derived from the name of a kimberlite diamond mine, the Jagersfontein Mine, located a few kilometers outside Bloemfontein, South Africa. Jagers diamonds were famous for the faint, blueish tint they displayed, and both the Excelsior and the Reitz -two of the largest and finest diamonds ever discovered- were both mined at Jagersfontein.

The old world term River was used to refer to diamonds of exceptional color that were found in rivers or alluvial deposits and is now occasionally used by diamond trade members when referencing D – finest white diamonds. This is because the term Jager was later replaced by River once it was discovered that the blueish tint Jager diamonds were famous for was in fact a result of fluorescence, and not a result of blue suffusion.

Top Wesselton & Wesselton Diamonds (Fine White – Commercial White)

Top Wesselton and Wesselton diamonds derived their name from the Wesselton Mine in South Africa which became famous for producing superior quality stones in comparison to the mines in the surrounding areas. The terms Top Wesselton and Wesseton were adopted to describe colorless, fine white to white diamonds.

Cape diamonds | A top Wesselton diamond
A Top Wesselton diamond

Top Crystal & Crystal Diamonds (Very, Very Slight – Slightly Tinted)

Although it is not known for sure, it’s thought that Top Crystal is an early trade term to designate diamond color grade between Wesselton and Crystal in the river-to-light-yellow system. Top Crystal and crystal, known today as G-I color, are derived from likeness to crystal glass. Diamonds in this group present a very slight trace of color that is not apparent to the untrained eye and stones of 0.50ct or less will look colorless; this makes it one of the most popular color groups for those purchasing diamonds. J-K color diamonds once referred to as Crystal, are slightly warmer in hue than Top Crystal.

Top Cape, Silver Cape & Cape Diamonds (Light Yellowish – Yellowish)

Top Cape and Top Silver Cape were used to distinguish K-L diamonds and while these diamonds have a notable trace of color, they may face up (the usual position from which a mounted diamond is observed) white and while most people today categorize diamonds that fall in the M+ color scale as Cape Diamonds, diamonds in the M+ color range were originally referred to as Light Cape diamonds. Diamonds in the R-Z scale were simply known as Cape diamonds.

Cape diamonds do not have full yellow saturation, as this would classify them as Fancy color diamonds. Fancy color diamonds display lavishly rich color saturation and are graded according to a different scale. Because of the color saturation found in Fancy color diamonds (colors ranging from blues, greys, pinks, reds, to yellows), they are extremely rare and can be more expensive than pure, colorless diamonds.

Cape Diamonds | Our African Glory, a masterfully crafted, classically designed necklace, heralds a magnificent 6.16ct, internally flawless, fancy yellow cushion cut diamond, embraced by a halo of fine white round brilliant cut diamonds, suspended from a necklace set with meticulously selected diamonds subtly graduating from yellow to fine white
Our African Glory, a masterfully crafted, classically designed necklace, heralds a magnificent 6.16ct, internally flawless, fancy yellow cushion cut diamond, embraced by a halo of fine white round brilliant cut diamonds, suspended from a necklace set with meticulously selected diamonds subtly graduating from yellow to fine white (123 yellow and white diamonds = 10.66ct).

Why choose a Cape diamond?

Cape diamonds can appear soft and buttery and perfectly complement warmer precious metals like rose and yellow gold.

Cape Diamonds | Our stunning, GIA-certified Top Cape (L Color) oval diamond solitaire. Set in a rich rose gold setting which perfectly compliments that warmer sparkle this diamond shows off
Our stunning, GIA-certified Top Cape (L Color) oval diamond solitaire. Set in a rich, rose gold setting which perfectly complements the warmer sparkle this diamond radiates

Cape diamonds are an excellent choice for those desiring a higher carat weight at more affordable prices. Unfortunately, due to misinformation, those in the diamond market are immediately put off by the idea of a diamond having a “yellowish tint”, whether this is perceptible in natural lighting or not (and it’s often not). A client’s first priority is to purchase the whitest diamond at the highest carat weight, but because near-colorless diamonds are exceedingly rare and extremely costly, this often has a disappointing end result.

We encourage our clients to view diamonds in person at our showroom as there are many misconceptions around diamond color, factors that influence color, and the subtle differences between color grades. We also offer our clients a unique opportunity to view their diamonds in natural daylight, revealing the true color and beauty of the stones.

It’s important to understand that diamond color has nothing to do with how brilliantly a diamond reflects light and diamonds in the Cape range may face up well, especially between 0.50cts and 0.70cts. A Cape diamond with excellent cut and clarity will sparkle just as brilliantly and with as much fire as a whiter stone, perhaps even more magnificently. However, if you’re looking to purchase a Cape diamond specifically, chances are you already appreciate the lavish beauty of Capes and aren’t looking to hide the color of your diamond, but rather actively desire the warmer sparkle this diamond has to offer.

Cape Diamonds at Mark Solomon Jewellers | Tue South African Diamonds and Diamond Jewellery at out store in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa

As one of the largest, and most trusted, suppliers of South African diamonds, tanzanites, and other gems, you will find any stone that your heart could possibly desire at our showroom – whether for investment purposes or with the intention of personally selecting the ideal Cape diamond for your diamond engagement ring.

If you are considering buying South African Cape diamonds or South African jewellery, please visit our Contact Page and enquire about our diamond and jewellery collections online. We will be glad to assist you in any way we can.

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