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Everything You Need to Know About Buying Brown Diamonds

Brown diamond engagement ring in a box

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Although brown diamonds were once considered inferior and cheap gemstones, today they’re highly sought after and often seen on the red carpet.

Brown diamonds are common and typically affordable, and when the color is intense and clear, a brown diamond looks stunning. It makes for an excellent gemstone for jewelry and is ideal for couples wanting an alternative engagement ring gemstone.

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Here’s what you need to know about buying a brown diamond.

Are Brown Diamonds in Style?

In the past, brown diamonds weren’t considered valuable or stylish, but today this notion has completely changed. For the 2018 Grammys, Rihanna wore a $130,000 worth chocolate diamond necklace that made headlines. Brown diamonds today are frequently worn on the red carpet and flaunted by celebrities. They’ve become a stylish alternative to colored diamonds.

What Are Brown Diamonds and How Do They Get Their Color?

Fancy deep brown diamond cushion cut

Fancy deep brown diamond. Check Price Here.

The first question most people have when they hear about brown or other colored diamonds is “How can a diamond have such a color?” And that’s understandable, after all aren’t all diamonds colorless?

Technically, the only natural color for a diamond with no inclusions is the clear colorless… color. However, diamonds almost always have inclusions which give them certain hues. It’s those same inclusions that serve to create even the most intense colors in natural fancy color diamonds – there just needs to be more of a specific inclusion and the color becomes more pronounced.

In the case of brown diamonds, the presence of nitrogen gives the stone its color (nitrogen is also what gives a yellow diamond its color). Enough nitrogen molecules in a diamond plus a bit of light absorbed through some structural defects during the formation of the stone’s crystal lattice and viola! – a natural brown diamond is created.

The word “defects” can be off-putting at first but the simple fact of the matter is that all colored diamonds owe their unique appearance to certain inclusions and impurities in their structure and formation – that’s what makes them special and brown diamonds are no exception.

The Different Intensity Levels of Brown Diamond Color

Brown diamonds have the same 9 intensity level grades as most other colored diamonds:

Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Dark, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep

If these grades feel similar to the D-Z alphabetical grades for colorless diamonds, that’s because they are essentially a continuation of the D-Z scale. The first 3 grades, Faint, Very Light, and Light, are in fact part of the D-Z scale and are considered “low-quality colorless diamonds”. It’s the other 6 grades from Fancy Light to Fancy Deep that are true colored diamonds and they grow in price exponentially – the more intense the color of the diamond, the more valuable the stone is.

Brown diamonds are called by many names in the industry:

  • Champagne diamonds – pale, yellow-brown stones
  • Cognac diamonds – deep, rich brown color like a glass of cognac
  • Chocolate diamonds – dark brown diamonds

These varying intensity levels do get more expensive as the intensity increases.

The most expensive brown diamonds are the dark brown or Fancy Deep brown diamonds that are often called “chocolate diamonds”. This term is actually a trade mark of Le-Vian, however, who’ve used this glamorous name to boost the price of their dark brown diamonds. The company has been criticized for inflating the worth of their brown diamonds to the point where you aren’t paying for the diamond so much as for the brand.

Aside from the different intensity levels a brown diamond can come in, it’s also important to mention that these stones can also have secondary color hues in them, usually yellow, orange or green ones. Unlike other colored diamonds, however, where secondary color hues are usually undesirable, in brown diamonds having a secondary green or orange color can drive the price up.

Brown Diamonds and Cut, Color and Clarity

The relationship between cut, clarity and color in colored diamonds is quite different than in colorless diamonds. While cut and clarity take center stage in colorless stones, it is color that’s most important when it comes to colored ones like brown diamonds.

In fact, if you look at any search filters at online diamond vendors, clarity doesn’t even feature as an option because the more intense the color of the diamond is, the more unnoticeable any of its inclusions become.

The cut of a brown diamond is not without significance, however, its goal is different than in colorless diamonds. Instead of maximizing the brilliance of the stone, in brown diamonds the goal of the cut is to maximize the color.

Brown Diamond Rarity and Value

Brown diamonds are among the most common of all colored diamonds, second only to yellow ones. They are also not as highly valued as most of the other green, blue, red or black diamonds which is why they are so much more affordable. However, with the marketing and attention they’ve received in recent years, brown diamonds have become desirable gemstones.

In general, a high-quality colorless diamond like this 1.84 carat round cut stone will be much more expensive than a similar brown diamond, like this 1.84 carat fancy orange brown diamond.

Best Ring Designs for Brown Diamonds

As with any other gorgeous colored diamond, the best ring design for these brown gemstones is any design that leaves them open and visible instead of hiding them. Brown diamonds perfectly suit  with all metal colors, white, yellow or rose gold settings, and work great with colorless side stones.

Brown diamond halo setting engagement ring

Brown diamond in halo setting by Carat Nile. Check Price Here.

Halo settings also look magnificent with these stones as the white diamond halo can really soften and contrast a dark brown diamond. The more intense the color of the diamond the more contrast it will create, and the better the overall effect is going to be.

Rustic brown diamond engagement ring

Rustic hexagon brown diamond ring by eMeraki Studio. Check Price Here.

Because brown diamonds are very durable and tough, they’re perfect options for engagement ring gemstones. They can be worn daily with minimal maintenance.

Best Alternatives for Brown Diamonds

Natural brown diamonds are among the more budget-friendly diamonds out there but there are less expensive alternatives if you’re on a budget.

Synthetic Brown Diamonds

As with any other diamond, scientists have perfected the process of growing brown diamonds in laboratory settings as well. These diamonds are virtually identical to their naturally growing counterparts but they are even cheaper because they don’t need to be mined.

Alternatively, there are also processes of color-treating yellow or colorless diamonds so that they turn brown. These two can be cheaper than natural darker brown diamonds mainly because the yellow or colorless diamonds used for this process are of a lower quality. The intense brown color these stones are given typically hides all their inclusions and they look just as good as the real thing.

If you want the prestige and satisfaction of owning a natural diamond, however, that’s a different matter.

Gemstones that Look Like Brown Diamonds

Citrine ring

Citrine ring by Titani Aco. Check Price Here.

Brown tourmaline, brown topaz, brown citrine, andalusite, and smoky quartz are the closest natural alternatives you’ll likely be able to find. They are all much softer than diamonds and they can vary quite a bit in price, although all are cheaper than diamonds.

There are other gemstones you might want to consider as well such as mahogany obsidian, tiger’s eye, fire agate or chocolate opal but these are typically opaque and don’t look like diamonds.

Meaning and Symbolism of Brown Diamonds

As one of the more common types of colored diamonds, brown diamonds have gathered quite a lot of different meanings and symbolic interpretations over the years. It’s safe to say that most of these associations are derived from the meanings most associated with the brown color in general. If you’re curious what a brown diamond ring or another piece of jewelry can symbolize, here are the most common interpretations:

  • Strong bonds.
  • A repaired relationship.
  • A good match.
  • A balanced and even relationship.
  • Reliability and responsibility.
  • A positive attitude.
  • A peace of mind.
  • A fresh start in life.
  • Being grounded and at peace.

Where to Buy Brown Diamonds

When buying brown diamonds, always choose a reputable and trustworthy retailer. Always look for a certificate of authenticity from an independent lab and ask about the origin of the stone.

For the best in loose brown diamonds, we recommend checking on James Allen. They have one of the largest online diamond inventories and offer a collection of brown diamonds to suit most budgets.

For more variety, Amazon and Etsy are two excellent sources. However, it’s important to have a clear idea of the type of black diamond jewelry you are after to help you pick out the best. Make sure that you check the after sales policies of the vendor you buy from and do your due diligence as each Amazon and Etsy retailer has their own standards and policies.