Champagne and Brown Diamond Buying Guide – Natural Diamonds with a Hint of Warmth
Brown diamonds are the most common natural fancy colored diamonds and come in a variety of hues, from champagne to cognac. For years, brown diamonds were only used for industrial purposes until gemologists and jewelers began to see their unique beauty.
The Argyle Mine in Western Australia produces the majority of the world’s brown diamonds. In the 1980s, the Argyle Mine began selling their brown diamonds to jewelers in India, who used them in pavé settings with yellow gold. Consumers grew to love the rich, warm hues of brown diamonds. Today brown diamonds–and the lighter style, champagne diamonds–are popular stones for engagement rings and other jewelry. With so many color varieties to choose from, there’s a brown diamond for every personality.
Brown diamonds come in a variety of shades, ranging from fancy light to fancy dark. On the left, a 1.32 carat fancy light brown diamond. On the right, a 0.83 carat fancy dark brown diamond. Both diamonds are from James Allen.
Chocolate. Champagne. Clove. Cognac. Coffee. Caramel. Brown diamonds naturally occur in a spectrum of hues, ranging from light brown with a yellow tint to deep brown with an orange tint. Since brown diamonds are relatively new to the market, jewelers often use their own descriptions for marketing. So how can you tell the difference between brown diamonds and make sure you’re getting the color you want?
First, let’s learn why brown diamonds are brown. Diamonds naturally occur in many colors–these are called fancy color diamonds. Chemical impurities, inclusions, and radiation can all cause color variations in diamonds. For example, blue diamonds get their beautiful color from the element boron. Inclusions–tiny cracks or air bubbles in a diamond–give salt and pepper diamonds their unique gray appearance.
Brown diamonds are a little different. Diamonds form deep below the surface of the earth and are under massive amounts of pressure as they grow. Pressure can deform the internal structure of a diamond, causing an effect called “graining.” This affects the way the diamond reflects light, giving the diamond a brown color. These brown shades range in intensity, from light to vivid. Champagne diamonds fall at the lighter end of the spectrum and have a yellowish tint. Cognac diamonds are a deep brownish-orange color.
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Evaluating a Brown Diamond’s Color
With so many names and color variations, it can be hard to know where to start if you’re looking for a brown or champagne diamond. The most important thing is to make sure you know what you’re getting. Light brown diamonds are often similar in color to low-quality colorless diamonds, so always check the diamond’s certificate to verify the color. Natural brown diamonds are part of the “fancy color” or “colored” category, so look for the word “brown” in the color description on a diamond’s certificate. If it’s not there, then it’s not a genuine brown diamond.
Brown diamond colors are graded in a few different ways. Like other fancy color diamonds, brown diamonds are graded based on color intensity. The color intensity scale includes Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep, and Fancy Dark. Champagne diamonds are typically fancy light or fancy brown diamonds. They have a barely-there shade of brown with undertones of yellow or pink, evoking the warmth and sparkle of the bubbly drink. Fancy vivid and fancy deep brown diamonds tend to have orange undertones, which is why they’re named after cognac, the dark orangish-brown brandy. Brown diamonds with a dark, pure brown shade also have a delicious name–chocolate.
Two brown oval shaped diamonds from Blue Nile. On the left, a 0.91 carat yellow-brown diamond. On the right, a 1.07 carat dark yellowish brown diamond. Both colors are warm and rich, with a golden honey appearance.
To make things easier, there’s a separate color scale just for champagne diamonds. This color scale was developed by the mining company Rio Tinto, who owns and operates the Argyle Mine in Australia. The scale ranges from C1 to C7, with yellow-tinted diamonds at the lower end and orange-tinted diamonds at the higher end. C1 diamonds are the lightest in color, similar to colorless diamonds with a yellow tint. True champagne diamonds are classified as C2-C3, and cognac diamonds are C4-C7. Of course, this color grade won’t necessarily be on a diamond’s certificate. Still, it can be beneficial in your search for the perfect brown diamond.
Brown Diamonds and the 4 C’s
Like all diamonds, the 4 C’s still apply to brown or champagne diamonds. Color, of course, is the most important. Once you’ve decided on the hue you want–champagne, yellow-brown, brown, or orange-brown–do your research. Authentic brown diamonds will always have their color listed as brown in the certificate. Colorless diamonds will have a letter corresponding to their color. Don’t be fooled by a low-quality colorless diamond masquerading as a brown diamond. They may have a similar appearance, but you’ll likely end up paying more than you should.
Another factor to consider is how rare the color is. Dark, vivid colored diamonds are the rarest and most expensive. Brown diamonds with a yellow hue are the most common and will be the most affordable. Orange-tinted brown diamonds are rarer and more expensive. And pink-tinted brown diamonds are the rarest and most expensive of all.
Compare these two brown diamonds from Blue Nile. Both are cushion cut and 1 carat. The diamond on the left is pink-brown and slightly included and costs $4,354. The diamond on the right is yellow-brown and very slightly included and costs $1,755. Brown diamonds with a hint of pink come at a premium.
Clarity isn’t as important for brown or champagne diamonds as it is for colorless diamonds. Since brown diamonds are darker in color, inclusions won’t affect the color or sparkle that much. Brown diamonds have the same strength and hardness as colorless diamonds, so they won’t scratch or break easily.
Cut is important, of course, to make sure your diamond has the sparkle you want. Radiant cuts will show a diamond’s color, which is ideal for fancy color diamonds. Sparkly, radiant cut champagne diamonds can have a warm, golden hue–perfect for a sophisticated look.
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As with colorless diamonds, the larger the diamond, the more expensive it will be. Unlike colorless diamonds, however, the price per carat of brown diamonds doesn’t skyrocket as carat size increases. This means that larger stones may be within your budget if you choose to go with a brown or champagne diamond.
Buying Brown Diamonds Online
Brown diamonds are elegant and sophisticated. Set in rose gold or yellow gold, they make beautiful engagement rings and statement pieces for anyone who wants a warm, natural tone. Fancy color diamonds are widely available online, but it’s essential to use a reputable retailer. Companies like Blue Nile and James Allen offer high-resolution photos and 360° videos so you can inspect before you buy. Both companies are transparent about the nature of a brown diamond’s color and provide certification, so you can buy with confidence.