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What is a chameleon diamond?

What is a chameleon diamond?

A chameleon diamond is a rare and fascinating type of diamond that appears to change color when viewed from different angles or under different lighting conditions. Chameleon diamonds exhibit an array of rainbow hues, from greens and yellows to pinks, blues, and violets. This color-changing phenomenon sets chameleon diamonds apart from other diamonds and makes them highly sought after in the world of colored diamonds.

In this article, we’ll explore what makes chameleon diamonds so unique, where they come from, how they develop their color-changing abilities, how they are graded, and more. We’ll also discuss the history, lore, and mystique surrounding these extraordinary gems. By the end, you’ll have a full understanding of the singular beauty and intrigue of the chameleon diamond.

What Causes the Color Change?

The chameleon effect in these diamonds is attributed to structural anomalies and impurities present within the stone. Here are the main factors that enable chameleon diamonds to show their shape-shifting colors:

Factor Description
Optical phenomenon Light reflects and refracts within the diamond to produce the kaleidoscopic colors. This is influenced by the cut, inclusions, and growth structure.
Lattice distortions Irregularities in the crystal lattice act like prisms to break up light.
Grain boundaries Boundaries between crystal growth sectors with different orientations scatter light.
Twinning wisps Microscopic crystal twinning distortions also break up light.
Trace elements Impurities like nitrogen and boron interact with light to produce color.

The interplay between all these factors within the diamond enables the chameleon effect to occur. Master diamond cutters must consider these optical effects when cutting a rough chameleon diamond to maximize its potential color display.

Where Do Chameleon Diamonds Come From?

Chameleon diamonds originate from just a handful of mines worldwide. The Golconda region in India was renowned historically as a source for chameleon diamonds. Today, most chameleon diamonds come from the following locations:

Mine Location
Argyle Australia
Ellendale Australia
Siberian Mines Russia
Letseng Lesotho
Kao Mine Lesotho

The Argyle mine in Western Australia was once the world’s primary source of chameleon diamonds, producing over 90% of global supply. But Argyle ceased operations in 2020 after its resources were exhausted. This makes chameleon diamonds from Argyle highly prized and valuable for their rarity.

Going forward, the remote Ellendale mine and Siberian mines in Russia will likely become the main sources for newly mined chameleon diamonds. The Letseng mine in the small African kingdom of Lesotho also produces sizeable chameleon diamonds.

How Rare Are Chameleon Diamonds?

Chameleon diamonds are one of the rarest diamond varieties in the world. They constitute less than 0.1% of all naturally occurring diamonds.

To put their rarity into perspective:

Diamond Type Rarity
Colorless Diamonds Most common – around 60% of all diamonds
Black Diamonds Uncommon – 2% of diamonds
Pink Diamonds Very rare – 0.1% of diamonds
Chameleon Diamonds Extremely rare – 0.01% of diamonds

As you can see, chameleon diamonds are magnitude rarer even compared to highly coveted pink and black diamonds. Their scarcity heightens their value and exclusivity.

Large polished chameleon diamonds over 2 carats are exceptionally rare. Mining and cutting a gem-quality chameleon diamond over 5 carats is an event of great significance in the diamond world. The few that exist are truly one-of-a-kind specimens likely worth millions.

Grading Chameleon Diamonds

Given their shifting colors, grading and valuing chameleon diamonds requires specialized expertise. They are evaluated based on:

Factor Description
Body color The primary color the diamond appears in normal light.
Color change The array of colors seen from different angles.
Strength of change How pronounced the color shifts are.
Cut quality How well the diamond is cut to show colors.
Clarity The diamond’s clarity characteristics.
Carat weight Larger chameleon diamonds are exceptionally rare.

The most prized chameleon diamonds have strong color changes from blue to pink or green, with vivid hues. Top colors like these in a flawless diamond with an excellent cut grade will command the highest prices.

Famous Chameleon Diamonds

Some of the world’s most famous colored diamonds exhibit the chameleon effect, like:

Diamond Carat Weight Details
Tereschenko Diamond 42.92 carats Changes from azure blue to green.
Darius Diamond 33.74 carats Blue to purple shifts.
Supernova Diamond 53.6 carats Blue to pink changes.
De Beers Centenary Diamond 273.85 carats One of the world’s largest; blue to red changes.

These diamonds are considered some of the most important in existence due to their grandeur, pedigree, and allure as chameleons. They have sold for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars at auction when available.

Chameleon Diamonds in History and Lore

Chameleon diamonds have been shrouded in mystique and lore since ancient times. According to legend:

– They were considered sacred in India, believed to have healing and protective powers.

– Greek and Roman rulers prized them as potent talismans that could detect poisons.

– Medieval kings treasured them as bringers of good fortune in battle.

– The chameleon effect was thought to result from witches or alchemists capturing light within the diamond.

References to chameleon diamonds appear in various historical texts:

– In the 4th century, Epiphanius wrote of emerald-like diamonds from India that changed to purple, red, and blue.

– Marco Polo documented a chameleon diamond belonging to Kublai Khan that shifted from green to red.

– French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier described 44-carat and 68-carat chameleon diamonds from the Golconda mines.

Today these mesmerizing diamonds continue to intrigue gemologists, collectors, and diamond lovers from around the world.

Impact on Jewelry and Fashion

Chameleon diamonds make showstopping centerpieces in jewelry and fetch lofty prices at auction. Some examples:

– A 4.01-carat chameleon diamond sold for $1.8 million in 2015, setting a new price-per-carat record.

– Graff Diamonds unveiled the $15 million Graff Vivid Chameleon diamond at Baselworld 2019.

– Christie’s sold a heart-shaped chameleon diamond pendant for over $2 million in 2021.

Chameleon diamonds have also become red carpet favorites for celebrities, seen on stars like Beyoncé, Elizabeth Taylor, and Angelina Jolie. Their ability to fluidly transform appeals to the most glamorous circles.

Many prestige jewelers like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Harry Winston have showcased exquisite chameleon diamond designs. This visibility in high jewelry further drives the allure and demand for these phenomenal gems.

Are Chameleon Diamonds a Good Investment?

For investors and diamond connoisseurs, natural chameleon diamonds represent one of the most sound options in the rare colored diamond market. Key reasons why:

Factor Description
Extreme rarity Their scarcity ensures high value retention.
Production slowing Few mines yield these diamonds, and resources are depleting.
Prestige factor Chameleon diamonds command awe and fascination.
Distinct beauty Their magical shifting colors have captivated people for centuries.

Between their rarity and splendor, chameleon diamonds are expected to appreciate substantially in the coming decades as high-quality sources diminish. They represent the pinnacle of natural diamond uniqueness.

However, authentication by respected gemological labs like GIA is essential to verify genuine chameleon properties. Synthetics and diamond treatments have also attempted to mimic their effect. But only naturally occurring chameleon diamonds can offer enduring value.


Chameleon diamonds are some of the most spellbinding and coveted gems known to humankind. Their ability to morph between rainbow hues makes them true natural wonders. Owing to their unparalleled rarity and allure, these phenomenal diamonds will continue enthralling connoisseurs and collectors for centuries to come. From ancient lore to modern red carpet glamour, chameleon diamonds remain the epitome of luxury, intrigue, and romance.