Diamond Guide

Why Everyone is Falling for Brown Diamonds

You will be tempted by these stunning stones.

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When Scarlett Johansson flaunted a huge brown diamond ring following her engagement to Colin Jost in 2019, it made us think twice about brown stones. The once ugly stepsister to bright white diamonds, the light brown diamond in Johansson’s ring was a declaration of subtle, chic luxury.

Designed by the legendary jeweler and tastemaker, James de Givenchy for Taffin, this ring features an 11 carat oval-shaped diamond on a slim black ceramic band for a supremely sophisticated yet understated design. And that’s exactly what so many of people are striving for these days.

Scarlett Johannson Engagement Ring
Image Source: Getty Images

Brown diamonds—also called nude, toffee, champagne, cognac, etc.—have been part of our diamond vocabulary for years.

But the spin has changed. High end designers are embracing diamonds in shades of brown. After all, they are a discreet alternative to white or pink diamonds, but they still have the sparkling refractory qualities of a delicious jewel.

Lorraine Schwartz was the first to unveil a collection of what she called “nude diamonds” or “skin tones”, which remains Kim Kardashian’s favorite. Whatever color you call them, they are a variation of brown appearing from light to dark.

The spectrum is also favored by influential designers like Sylva Yepremian of Sylva & Cie who is featuring big juicy brown diamonds in statement rings. “I love brown diamonds because of their soft color,” she says. “They are still bright and refractive like a white diamond, but their ‘nude’ hue is softer, especially for daytime and everyday wear.”

Sylva & Cie Brown Diamond Ring
Sarah Ho Brown Diamond Ring

A brown diamond headlined Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale in June.

Sotheby’s was so excited about the Earth Star, an historic 111.59 carat fancy deep orange-brown diamond, that it commissioned David Webb to create an artistic setting for the stone for its June sale. David Webb’s design team created a carved azurmalachite (a mixture of azurite and malachite) pendant meant to enhance the stone’s earthy brilliance.  

David Webb Earth Star design
Image Source: Sotheby’s

“This stone spoke to me,” says Quig Bruning, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President, Head of Jewelry, New York, who has seen his share of great diamonds. “It is a beautiful orange-brown hue and has a life to it with great brilliance and scintillation. The diamond has a beautiful allure to it that goes far beyond the GIA certificate.”  

Still, at over 100 carats, that diamond was a bargain. A white diamond of similar size would have sold for significantly more. Sotheby’s offered the Earth Star without reserve, estimating it would sell for between $1.5 and $2.5 million. Surprisingly, it sold for just $693,000. So, if you are looking for a good deal, think brown.

Fred Leighton Brown Diamond Ring
Fred Leighton Brown Diamond Ring

Brown diamonds aren’t an alternative—they are a first choice.

One visionary diamantaire who recognized the unique beauty of brown diamonds decades ago was the pioneering William Goldberg. Indeed, he owned some of the world’s greatest diamonds, but chose to wear a brownish-orange pinky ring as his signature power piece; he was rarely seen without it. Turns out the diamonds are currently making a comeback with men’s pinky rings.

Today, more people want brown diamonds as alternatives to the traditional colorless diamonds, says Goldberg’s daughter, Eve Goldberg, who is also never without strands of easy-going diamond chains. “A lot of people today are looking for something different, something truly unique and love the warm tones of brown diamonds,” she says. Goldberg goes on to express how brown diamonds are an everyday accessory. “They are fun to design with because they are not as sparkly as white diamonds and can really be worn very casually. I have even seen some cool brown pendants worn on the beach!”

William Goldberg Emerald Cut Brown Diamond Ring
William Goldberg Brown Diamond Pendant Necklace

What are your daytime diamonds?

At Sethi Couture, the go-to source for diamond stacking rings and layering necklaces, the style is more is more. But that layered look appears more casual with brown diamonds set in equally warm rose gold. “What I love about using champagne diamonds is when set in yellow and rose gold, it gives a warm aesthetic that is soft and subtle,” says Pratima Sethi.

 What Makes Diamonds Brown?

Lorraine Schwartz brown diamond ring
Lorraine Schwartz Brown Diamond Ring

Brown diamonds get their color from the presence of nitrogen atoms in the crystal. They range in hue and character, and often have a secondary color such as yellow or orange. But it appears the favorable shade are lighter, warm shade of browns, colors reminiscent of Brunello Cucinelli’s neutral cashmere sweaters and separates.

Read More: The Science of Colored Diamonds

Originally brown diamonds were used largely for industrial purposes because consumers demanded pure white diamonds. Of course, fancy pink, yellow and blue are coveted in their own league.

A smart marketing campaign in the ‘80s brought chocolate brown diamonds into the jewelry industry. But it was Scarlett Johansson’s Taffin ring that got everyone thinking it’s time to think more seriously brown.

If you aren’t ready for the big brown solitaire rock yourself, check out stylish designs that you might wear to the beach or wherever this summer!