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A Brown and Champagne Diamond Guide for Buyers & Investors


Natural brown diamonds are the most common type of diamond that exists. They experienced an uptick in popularity only when the Argyle mine in Australia orchestrated a large-scale advertising campaign with the objective of changing the perception of brown diamonds in the marketplace during the 1980s and early 1990s. Argyle was able to ensure the success of their push to bring glory and recognition to brown diamonds by aligning the diverse scope of brown diamond shades with luxury fare similarly colored such as champagne and cognac. Eighty percent of Argyle’s output consists of brown, or champagne, diamonds. Without a concerted effort by Argyle to change the image of this once forgotten color diamond, brown diamonds would not be enjoying their current commercial success worldwide.


At Diamond Envy, our team  is comprised of GIA graduate gemologists, artists, activists and diamond enthusiasts. With a combined 40 years’ experience in the industry, we have evaluated each of our brown diamonds for cut, color and clarity  to ensure we feature only the best diamonds at the best prices.


Natural Brown Diamonds – Often Referred to as Champagne: Diamond Prices, Value, and Color 




Fancy brown diamonds, much like pink diamonds, obtain their color from molecular level defects in their crystal lattice known as ‘plastic deformation,’ a state in which the lack of alignment of the atoms comprising the lattice causes holes to form and absorb light that enters the diamond. It is the absorbing of light by the cavities that gives brown diamonds their color.

 natural brown diamond


Unlike other varieties of fancy colors, however, brown is not considered a self-contained color but an expression of darkness of tone in hues that skew warm, namely, yellow, orange and red. A common example is best illustrated by yellow diamonds that have a dark tone – such diamonds will typically feature brown in their GIA grades. GIA defines fancy color diamonds that are ‘Intense’ and ‘Vivid’ as having high saturations and lightness of tone. As a result, any diamond that has brown cannot be Intense or Vivid. Fully saturated natural brown diamonds are graded by the GIA as Fancy Deep. Brown diamonds can also be given GIA grades of Fancy Light, Fancy and Fancy Dark.


It is worth noting that because brown diamonds comprise a wide-ranging set of hues, they tend to exhibit the greatest differences in their color presentation compared to all other fancy color diamonds. Fancy brown diamonds are frequently coupled with modifying colors of yellow, orange and pink. The presence of these secondary colors becomes more apparent as the saturation increases. If the brown diamond is limited in saturation, however, the strength of the brown color will be limited and any modifying colors are usually absent.






Natural fancy brown diamonds are assessed according to intensity of color, or a combination of saturation and tone.  The following describe brown diamond intensities:


Fancy Light Brown, Fancy Brown, Fancy Dark Brown, and Fancy Deep Brown


 natural brown diamonds


The further along this spectrum you go, the richer and more intense the brown is to be seen in the diamond. The more intense a diamond’s color saturation, the more it will be worth. For example, a Fancy Dark Brown diamond will be worth more than a Fancy Light Brown diamond. That said, stones that are a split grade containing a much rarer color, such as Fancy Pink-Brown, will typically be more desirable and valuable than just pure brown diamonds.


Argyle uses their own grading scale to grade tone and saturation in natural brown diamonds, ranging from champagne-like C-1 diamonds to the deep cognac brown C-7.


Secondary Color Modifiers


 A colored diamond is generally rare when it exists as one color without any modifying colors.  However, a brown diamond that is modified by a much rarer color, such as pink or orange, resulting in Fancy Pink-Brown or Fancy Orange-Brown, will be more rare and valuable than a Fancy Brown diamond. Brown diamonds can be found paired with yellow, orange and pink modifying colors. The secondary colors will be most apparent as the saturation of color increases.

champagne diamond colors 




Tone refers to the lightness or darkness of a brown diamond, and the continuum in between. GIA grading does not make a distinction in tones, but to the eye a stone with darker tones may appear more intense in color. For someone looking for the appearance of a Fancy Dark Brown without the added cost, a good option may be a Fancy Brown with a darker tone.


 champagne diamonds tone




Natural brown diamonds do not have a marked tendency to exhibit fluorescence to UV light. On those occasions when they do show fluorescence, the resulting color is typically weak to moderate green or yellowish green or moderate to strong blue. In the final analysis, the enhancement to a stone’s aesthetics that fluorescence offers is entirely subjective.





All levels of clarity are possible in fancy brown diamonds. Type I brown diamonds will experience a much wider range of clarities where both flawless and I1, I2 and I3 are equally possible. On the other hand, type II brown diamonds will usually have a very high clarity, which is characteristic of all type II diamonds. (To learn more about diamond types, visit the GIA.)Most diamonds that originate from the Argyle mine have low clarity – because the majority of brown diamonds are produced by the Argyle mine, it can be assumed that this holds true for brown diamonds in general.




Natural brown diamonds can be found in all shapes, oftentimes including the round brilliant cut, which is not common in fancy colored diamonds. From an aesthetic standpoint, in brown (or champagne) diamonds, the conflation of dark color and brilliance is best shown in a round cut, which is traditionally designed to reflect white light, resulting in a diamond’s scintillation. In the case of brown diamonds, a round cut does not necessarily desaturate color, as they usually have darker tones than other color diamonds. Take note of uneven color distributions as well (these will be noted on your GIA certificate), as they can certainly affect a diamond’s appearance and value.


natural brown diamonds 




Because the bulk of the output from the Argyle and other mines results in brown diamonds, they are found in greatest abundance compared to all diamonds. In contrast to the much rarer and highly prized pink, blue, and green diamonds, they are much easier to obtain. Consequently, their accessibility makes champagne diamond prices the most affordable. While champagne diamond value may be low in terms of investing, their beauty is something to behold.




Before the 1980s, brown diamonds languished in total obscurity. It was Rio Tinto, the company that owns the Argyle mine in Western Australia, who singlehandedly reformed the public image of natural brown diamonds. Prior to their emergence as lower-cost alternatives to traditional colorless and fancy color diamonds, the function of brown diamonds was chiefly industrial. They originate primarily from the Argyle mine, which is the top global source of fancy brown diamonds, as well as South Africa and Russia.  Rest assured, however, that fancy brown diamonds on the market today sold loose and in jewelry, are considered gem quality, whereas those used for industrial purposes are not.




Famous Brown Diamonds


The Golden Jubilee Diamond: with a polished weight of 545.67 carats, the type IIa Fancy Yellow-Brown cushion cut from the Premier mine of South Africa, which also produced the Cullinan and Centenary diamonds, remains the world’s largest faceted diamond. De Beers selected renowned cutter Gabriel Tolkowsky to work on the diamond, which was found in 1985 and weighed 755.5 carats in its rough state. For the next decade, the diamond was referred to as the “Unnamed Brown” until it was purchased by Thailand’s Henry Ho and his cadre of business executives and eventually named the “Golden Jubilee” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s coronation. The champagne diamond is estimated to be worth $4 million to $12 million.


 famous champagne diamond


The Incomparable Diamond: at 407.48 carats, this shield-shaped step cut Fancy Brownish Yellow Internally Flawless diamond is the world’s third largest cut diamond. In a moment of serendipity, a young girl in the Congo came across the rough diamond, then weighing 890 carats, in 1984 while playing among rubble by her uncle’s house. The diamond exchanged hands commercially a couple of times before finally ending up in the ownership of the Antwerp-based De Beers company. De Beers in turn sold it to Donald Zale, the head of Zales Jewellers, who partnered with Marvin Samuels and Louis Glick in the purchase of the stone. Samuels and his team of cutters spent four years only studying the rough diamond to decide whether they should choose size over superior clarity. They eventually opted for cutting the diamond into Internally Flawless rather than strive for an oversize diamond. The polished diamond went to auction at Christie’s in London in 1988 as “The Golden Giant” but its name of “The Incomparable” ultimately stuck.


 famous brown diamond


Star of the South: discovered by a female slave at the diamond mine by the Bagagem River in Brazil in 1853, the Star of the South weighs 128.48 carats and is a type IIa Fancy Light Pinkish Brown VS2 cushion cut diamond. In its rough state, the stone weighed 261.88 carats. For her chance encounter, the girl was freed and given a pension. The most recent ownership of this diamond can be traced to Cartier, who purchased it in 2002 from Rustomjee Jamsetjee of Mumbai, India.


 famous natural brown diamond


At Diamond Envy, we offer over 40 natural fancy brown diamonds in every stunning shade of champagne, cognac, and chocolate. Whether you’re interested in a loose diamond for your collection or jewelry to give as an amazing gift for someone special in your life, shop our champagne diamond collection today.