Champagne Diamonds: What You Need to Know
Most Champagne diamonds come from the Argyle Mine in the remote East Kimberly region of Western Australia. They are close to the lower end of the value scale in comparison to other natural fancy diamonds because they are still quite abundant.
However, industry experts believe that Champagne diamonds will likely follow the same ‘lucrative’ trajectory as Pink diamonds when the world’s largest producer of Champagne diamonds, the Argyle Mine closes in 2018.
Until recent years, Brown diamonds were only used for industrial purposes. They went from a zero to a 5 billion dollar industry in 5 short years.
Today, Champagne diamonds are sold everywhere and are becoming the choice of many celebrities. Champagne Diamonds that receive a high clarity grade or contain pink or orange modifiers are considerably more valuable than those that don’t.
Characterization of Champagne (Brown) Diamonds
When someone describes a diamond as being “brown,” they are referring to the dominant color seen in that stone.
“If you are looking through the side of a polished brown diamond (body color), this is referred to as the inherent color variety of a diamond,” says Stephen Hofer (Collecting and Classifying Colored Diamonds, 1998).
However, he shows if you are looking at the same diamond from a birds-eye perspective (face-up color), this is referred to as apparent color variety.
Brown diamonds are beautiful diamonds and industry writers have made various attempts to help the public understand the complexity of browns.
The Rio Tinto Argyle Mine developed a simple grading scale based on the visual comparison (C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7). The seven grades are intended to distinguish between different (shades) of brown (Hofer, 1998).
This has been an important step in raising awareness and communicating the beauty of brown diamonds, however, for the avid collector, it oversimplifies the problem of differentiating brown diamonds (Hofer, 1998).
The problem in grading brown diamonds is that the region of ‘color’ that defines brown diamonds (the brown color space) is three-dimensional, more like a box, which covers a large lightness range including considerable variations in hue and saturation (Hofer, 1998).
Plastic deformation is the reason for the brownish color in Champagne (brown) diamonds and it refers to a change in the diamond’s molecular structure.
Champagne diamonds contain low levels of nitrogen making them more susceptible to this deformation. Nitrogen is an impurity atom that causes yellow coloring in diamonds.
Natural color brown diamonds occur in four colored tone quadrants; pale, bright, dull, and deep. Pale, dull, and deep occur in nature more often than bright.
That is because as browns lighten and saturate i.e. brighten they appear orange or yellow sometimes even pink or red (Hofer, 1998).
As noted above, Champagne diamonds are graded on a scale from C1 to C6. C1 is the lightest color and C6 the most intense. C1 and C2 are light champagne, C3, and C4 medium champagne, and C5 and C6 dark champagne.
Diamonds graded C7 exhibit the most intense, deep brown color and are the rarest and expensive (Argyle: Past and Present). Dark brown diamonds that contain larger amounts of orange are referred to as Cognac.
A pure brown diamond with no secondary color is extremely rare and to find one with a certificate stating that it is pure brown is a special occurrence.
The color blue with brown creates unusual effects, which do not frequently occur in nature. But when it does, its fluorescence can look ‘oily blue’ (and/or green) (Hofer, 1998).
Hofer explains that these are called color modifiers (1998). Color modifiers- also referred to as minor, subordinate, or secondary hues.
Artificially Treated Brown Diamonds
Modern coloring methods (i.e. heating) can produce close replicas however they are not exact facsimiles. Most treated brown diamonds are saturated in tone and will appear artificial to the trained eye.
Most of them exhibit orange like modifiers and sometimes yellow or red (Hofer, 1998).
Neutron-irradiated browns seem un-natural because the brown color appears as if the brown is masking the previous color (i.e. Yellow, gray, olive) resulting in a muddy brown diamond.
Artificially treated brown diamonds are not that common, however, pale brown diamonds that have undergone radiation treatment to look like blue diamonds are more common because the financial incentive is far greater (Hofer, 1998).
Famous Champagne Diamonds
The Golden Pelican is a large 63.93 carat pure brown rectangular Emerald Cut diamond named after the famous street in Antwerp and was sold at Christie’s in 1974.
The Golden Jubilee Diamond is the world’s largest brown diamond and weighs a total of 545.67 carats.
It was given to the King of Thailand as a gift in 1997 as a gift for the 50th anniversary of his coronation. What’s most remarkable about the stone is its yellow-brown color.
The most anticipated Brown diamond sale is Elizabeth Taylor’s 32.14 carat Cognac – fancy deep brownish orangey yellow VSI which will probably make a record on December 13, 2011. It is suspected to break world records.
Growing in Popularity
More and more celebrities are wearing Champagne Diamond pieces at various recent awards ceremonies.
Cameron Diaz donned a 20-carat cognac colored diamond with a Prada dress while Jennifer Love Hewitt flaunted a 7-carat chocolate diamond ring.
Maria Menounos from Entertainment Tonight was the most talked about celebrity at the 2004 Oscars for wearing a stunning 2,000-carat studded champagne diamond dress designed by Randi Rahm. In addition, she wore a 6-carat cognac diamond ring. In total, the dress had 3,000 carats and was worth 2.5 million dollars.
Champagne Diamonds are expected to follow the same historic trajectory as natural fancy pink diamonds which were once considered worthless oddities and are now one of the most concentrated forms of wealth on the planet, not to mention an excellent hard asset investment.
If experts are right, Champagne diamonds could potentially become even more valuable than they already are.
Champagne Diamonds: What You Need to Know
Bottom Line Recommendation:
Champagne diamonds are a stunning choice if you desire a unique, beautifully colored stone. The brown and yellow tint offers an engagement ring with a distinct and appealing look.
While some prefer a darker stone like this fancy dark orangy brown diamond, others enjoy a lighter shade, like this fancy light brownish stone.
When selecting a champagne diamond, you want to consider its color along with its cut quality. These two components impact beauty more than anything else.
Above all, we recommend purchasing a champagne diamond from a trustworthy seller who offers high-quality photos, like James Allen or the Blue Nile.
Be sure to review each individual diamond closely before making your selection. If you want help in finding the best champagne diamond for your budget and taste, email our experts.
WHAT IS A CHAMPAGNE DIAMOND?
A champagne diamond is a type of colored diamond that’s naturally brown, with a noticeable yellow tint. They can range in hue from light brown to darker shades, resembling the color of champagne.
These fancy brown diamonds, like other colored diamonds, make for stunning engagement rings and other champagne diamond jewelry. Their eye-catching color enhances unique pieces that offer plenty of personalities.
These diamonds gain their color from traces of other elements in the crystal’s structure. Champagne diamonds contain small amounts of nitrogen trapped during diamond formation. The higher the nitrogen content, the deeper the intensity of the brown color.
Champagne diamonds are often referred to as cognac diamonds. While colorless diamonds typically lose their value with increased tint, champagne stones are specifically sought out for their beautiful, natural coloring.
It’s also common for champagne diamonds to be marketed as Chocolate Diamonds. This is a specific brand name used by Le Vian.
For the most part, these diamonds are exactly the same as regular champagne diamonds – something we’ve covered in more detail below.
WHERE DO CHAMPAGNE DIAMONDS COME FROM?
Champagne diamonds are formed and mined in various parts of the world, including Australia, Siberia, and Africa.
The largest champagne diamond mine is the Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia, where other colored diamonds are mined as well, including pink diamonds.
Over the course of billions of years, champagne diamonds are formed with traces of nitrogen in the crystal, causing their signature color. The compression and heat involved also contribute to the formation of these unique gemstones.
Like white diamonds, champagne diamonds rank a 10 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, making them the most durable stones in the world. Champagne diamond jewelry, therefore, is incredibly resilient and great for everyday wear.
HOW RARE IS A CHAMPAGNE DIAMOND?
You may be wondering if a colored diamond, specifically champagne, is rarer and more expensive than a white, colorless diamond.
In general, champagne-colored diamonds are less rare than colorless diamonds and other fancy colored diamonds. Therefore, the prices of champagne diamonds are significantly less than these diamonds as well.
Popular fancy diamonds, like the yellow canary diamond, are more expensive than brown and champagne diamonds. The price of a champagne stone depends on its carat weight, the intensity of color, and its clarity.
Also Read: Round Diamond Engagement Rings
For example, this yellowish-brown 1-carat diamond costs $4,110, while this darker brown 1.51 carat round cut stone costs $3,800.
Fancy champagne diamonds with no overtones are rarer than those with secondary tints. For example, a famous 69.93-carat champagne diamond called the Golden Pelican is estimated to be valued at $3 million dollars.
The Golden Jubilee, another famous champagne diamond presented to the King of Thailand in 1997, weighs 545.67 carats and carries an estimated value between $5-12 million dollars.
As champagne-colored diamonds continue to increase in popularity, their prices also increase. However, a wide selection of champagne diamonds remains available at reasonable and competitive prices.
Like other fancy diamonds, the price of a champagne diamond hinges primarily on its color intensity, carat weight, and cut quality. In general, though, the deeper the color, the higher the price tag.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CHAMPAGNE DIAMOND
The beauty and value of champagne diamonds vary greatly, just as with colorless diamonds. The main features to consider are the Color, Cut, Clarity, Carat Weight, and Shape.
We recommend choosing a champagne diamond that comes with a gemological certificate from the GIA or AGS, so you have lab verification of the stone’s features and qualities.
As with all fancy diamonds, the intensity and shade of color indicate how beautiful and expensive a stone is. Diamonds range in color from light to dark brown and often carry a secondary hue like orange or yellow.
While color preference is based on the individual wearer, the richer the hue, the rarer and more expensive the stone is. When grading champagne diamonds, gemologists look at three main factors:
Hue: Denotes the visible color of the stone
Tone: Describes the darkness of the color
Saturation: Explains the intensity of the color
Taking into account these three features, champagne diamonds are graded for color quality. The Argyle Mine carries its own grading system for champagne stones, while the GIA and AGS utilize a different scale.
Here is the Argyle Mine grading scale for champagne diamonds:
Light Champagne: C1-C2
Medium Champagne: C3-C4
Dark Champagne: C5-C6
If your diamond is graded by the GIA (which we recommend), the scale will look different. The GIA doesn’t use the word “champagne” on a grading report. The color might be described as brown, fancy dark brown, fancy yellowish-brown, or a similar phrase.
If you choose a diamond on the lighter end of the scale with a yellow tint, you may see the following color grades from the GIA:
N-V: Very Light Yellow or Light Yellow
W-Z: Light Yellow
Because it can be difficult to assess a champagne diamond’s quality, we recommend you reach out to our experts for a second opinion. It’s better to catch a poor purchase before it’s too late.
A diamond’s Cut impacts how much brilliance and fire the stone gives off. In other words, it affects how sparkly the diamond is. The better the cut, the more beauty and, typically, the higher the price.
With champagne-colored stones, there aren’t standardized cut options like there are with colorless diamonds. For example, you can opt for an “ideal” cut with a white diamond, but not with a champagne one.
Ultimately, it’s up to the diamond cutter to maximize the individual diamond for its unique combination of color, clarity, and brilliance.
In darker champagne stones, brilliance plays less of a role because white light reflection is less visible. With these diamonds, it’s important to consider how the cut impacts the color intensity.
If the cut makes the diamond appear richer in hue, then it’s a more desirable cut. On the flip side, a poorly cut champagne diamond may appear uneven in its coloring or may present no brilliance or sparkle-ultimately leaving the stone dull and lifeless.
A diamond’s clarity denotes how clear it is of blemishes and inclusions. The fewer the flaws, the more beautiful and valuable the stone is.
When evaluating clarity, we recommend looking for an eye-clean diamond. In other words, to the naked eye, blemishes and inclusions should not be noticeable.
Like colorless diamonds, champagne diamonds are graded on the following scale:
Internally Flawless (IF)
Very Very Small Inclusions (VVS1 and VVS2)
Very Small Inclusions (VS1 & VS2)
Small Inclusions (SI1 & SI2)
Inclusions (I1 & I2)
It’s often difficult to find a champagne diamond on the lower end of this scale. Many champagne diamonds have a clarity grading in the range of SI1-I2. You can, however, find some reasonably priced champagne diamonds in the VS (Very Small Inclusions) range.
So while it’s hard to find a champagne diamond without any imperfections, you still want to aim for a diamond that doesn’t have any glaring or distracting inclusions and blemishes.
A diamond’s Carat refers to its weight. A 1 Carat diamond is equal to 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams. For perspective, a 1-carat diamond weighs roughly the same as a quarter of a raisin.
When choosing a champagne diamond, we recommend spending more of your budget in the areas of Color and Cut. These qualities impact the beauty of champagne diamonds more than any other feature.
A heavier or larger looking stone isn’t necessarily more beautiful. For example, it’s better to purchase an exquisite 1.47 Carat champagne diamond than a lifeless 3.09 Carat champagne stone.
Must Read: Radiant Cut Diamonds
Diamonds can be cut in a variety of shapes. Which shape you prefer is completely up to personal preference.
Most importantly, choose a shape that matches the style and personality of the wearer. Champagne diamonds can be found in anything from emerald and oval shapes to round and cushion cuts.
CHAMPAGNE DIAMOND PRICING
As we mentioned above, a champagne diamond will usually cost significantly less than a colorless diamond of the same cut quality, clarity, and carat weight.
This can make a champagne diamond a great choice if you’re looking for a diamond that’s unique and beautiful yet still highly affordable.
For example, this 1.51 carat, SI1 clarity yellow-brown diamond from James Allen is available for $2,470. This H color, SI1 colorless diamond of the same cut quality and carat weight is available for $8,220 – a significant premium.
Color intensity can affect the price of a champagne diamond. For example, this 1.84 carat round SI2 orange-brown diamond is significantly more expensive (comparing to the light yellow-brown diamond above) at $6,840, or around $3,717 per carat.
If you need help choosing a champagne diamond that’s within your budget, feel free to contact us.
WHERE TO BUY A CHAMPAGNE DIAMOND
Throughout our years of experience in the diamond industry, we’ve vetted several diamond dealers-both online and bricks and mortar stores. With our consistent pulse on the market, we know which companies you can trust and which ones to avoid.
To ensure you purchase a high-quality champagne diamond at an excellent price, we recommend the following vendors.
If you’d like help in choosing the most beautiful champagne diamond for your budget, just email our experts.
Here are the vendors we highly recommend:
James Allen has a diverse selection of champagne diamonds in numerous sizes, including a variety of dark brown diamonds. Most of their diamonds come with GIA certification, although some of the smaller fancy brown diamonds only have an IGI certificate.
Because James Allen features high resolution, color-accurate photos for all of their diamonds, it’s easy to compare champagne diamonds for hue, tone, and saturation.
- Provides high-tech photography (the best in the business) for their brown diamonds
- Large range of high-quality settings, making them a great choice for engagement rings
- Some of the most competitive pricing (for both diamonds and settings) of any vendor
- Emphasizes an excellent customer experience
- Leibish & Co.
Leibish & Co. specialize in fancy color loose diamonds and diamond jewelry. Their selection of champagne diamonds includes some of the highest quality fancy color diamonds on the market, all with GIA certificates.
Maintains a large inventory of champagne diamonds with GIA certification
Offers a huge selection of stunning, custom-built settings
An excellent choice if you’re looking for a very high-quality champagne diamond
Excellent customer service with a 100% money-back guarantee and lifetime warranty
While the Blue Nile doesn’t specialize in fancy color diamonds like Leibish, they have a large selection of high-quality champagne diamonds.
Blue Nile’s product photography is consistently excellent, and GIA certificates are provided for the vast majority of their fancy color diamonds.
- Offers a beautiful collection of fancy color diamonds with GIA certification
- Focuses on remarkable diamond and jewelry quality
- A wide range of high-quality engagement rings and other settings available
- Fantastic customer service with free returns, secure shipping, and lifetime warranty
CHAMPAGNE DIAMONDS VS. CHOCOLATE DIAMONDS
As we briefly mentioned earlier, it’s common to see brown, champagne diamonds promoted as Chocolate Diamonds.
“Chocolate Diamond” is a trademark owned by the jewelry company Le Vian. In general, it isn’t a term that’s widely used within the diamond industry by gemologists and other industry experts, except when referring to Le Vian’s products.
Le Vian launched the Chocolate Diamonds range in 2000 and has since positioned Chocolate Diamonds as their proprietary brand of rare, chocolate-inspired fancy color diamonds.
In short, Chocolate Diamonds are a type of branded diamond. As we’ve covered before in our review of Hearts on Fire diamonds, branded diamonds are usually sold at a premium using all sorts of emotional marketing tactics designed to differentiate them from the competition.
In Le Vian’s case, it’s emphasizing the diamonds’ uniqueness – as stated on their website, Le Vian’s original ideas and Chocolate Diamonds “appeal to women who want to have something as unique as they are.”
While there’s nothing wrong with marketing a product by emphasizing its uniqueness, the reality is that diamonds of this type aren’t all that unique.
To source their Chocolate Diamonds, Le Vian chooses “less than 5%” of all brown diamonds that are produced by the Argyle Mine in Australia. Specifically, they select brown diamonds that have a rating of between C4 and C7 on the Argyle Mine color scale.
In short, these are diamonds that are rated from medium champagne to cognac in color. Le Vian state that their diamonds must have a certain hue, tone, and saturation. They also need to have a clarity of SI (slight inclusions) or higher, meaning they’re eye-clean.
Champagne Diamonds: What You Need to Know
While these requirements sound strict, in reality, they aren’t particularly restrictive. As we briefly covered above, SI clarity ratings (Le Vian doesn’t specify whether their cutoff is SI1 or SI2) are quite common for champagne diamonds and are far from the highest levels of clarity.
Like with other branded diamonds, Chocolate Diamonds usually don’t offer very good value for money.
For example, this Le Vian Chocolate Diamond ring from Kay Jewelers is priced at $6,999. The ring has a total carat weight of 1⅜ carats.
It features a round Chocolate Diamond center stone, as well as a halo of round white diamonds and numerous other diamonds in a pavé setting.
Ignoring the setting for a moment, let’s look at the center stone. The Chocolate Diamond has a carat weight of 0.5 carats, meaning it accounts for a fairly modest amount of the ring’s total carat weight. While Kay doesn’t provide a GIA certificate, they rate its clarity as SI2.
In comparison, look at this 0.5 carats fancy dark pink-brown diamond from Leibish & Co. Like the Le Vian diamond, it has a clarity grade of SI2. It’s also exactly the same carat weight, although it is cut in a different shape.
This diamond costs $2,100 on its own. In order to compare it to the Le Vian diamond, we need to add it to a setting. Although it’s slightly different in design from the Le Vian setting, this halo, mill-grain diamond ring setting shares its major features and even uses a purer 18k gold.
Together, the complete ring from Leibish & Co. costs $4,650 – significantly less than a Le Vian ring with a Chocolate Diamond of equal clarity and carat weight.
Champagne Diamonds: What You Need to Know,
Likewise, this 1.01 carat round, brown diamond from James Allen is double the carat weight of the Le Vian stone, with a higher SI1 clarity grade. It also comes with a GIA certificate, which is important for verifying its grading.
In this 14k yellow gold triple row pavé halo engagement ring setting, the complete ring costs a total of $3,695, which is just over half the price of the Le Vian Chocolate Diamond ring.
While there are minor differences between these rings – namely, the design of the setting – the general point is still the same: branded diamonds, such as Chocolate Diamonds, usually aren’t the best choice from a value for money perspective.
Instead, it’s best to stick to GIA certified champagne diamonds from our recommended vendors, such as James Allen, Blue Nile, and Leibish & Co.
CHAMPAGNE DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT RINGS
Champagne engagement rings are growing in popularity, as many celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Halle Berry proudly show off these unique rings.
To design an extraordinary champagne engagement ring, we recommend focusing first on finding the right diamond. From there, you can design your ring with any type of setting and precious metal.
What color is champagne diamond?
The most important factor when choosing a colored stone is (not surprisingly) color! Champagne diamonds range from the faintest brown to darker brown, with secondary hues of yellow, pink, or orange. Generally, the richer the hue, the more expensive and rare that stone is considered.
Are brown diamonds expensive?
Having said that, brown diamonds do number higher than most other fancy color diamonds and are considered one of the more common and less expensive color diamonds.
How much is a 1 carat champagne diamond worth?
The price of a champagne stone depends on its carat weight, the intensity of color, and its clarity. For example, this yellowish-brown 1-carat diamond costs $4,110, while this darker brown 1.51 carat round cut stone costs $3,800. Fancy champagne diamonds with no overtones are rarer than those with secondary tints.
Are champagne diamonds rare?
Champagne diamonds are generally less rare than colorless diamonds. Due to this, they are often less expensive than white diamonds. A yellow canary diamond is more costly than a brown and champagne diamond. The price of champagne diamonds still depends on the intensity of color, weight, and clarity.