Brown Diamonds

In 1985 production from the Argyle Mine in Australia took the international diamond market by storm. Suddenly there was a large supply of brown tinted diamonds entering the supply chain. This created a problem. Prior to this event most of the diamonds bought and sold in the market had a tint of yellow. The few brown tinted diamonds sold were graded using the universally color grading system which was based on grading yellow tinted diamonds. This was an imperfect solution only acceptable because there were so few brown tinted diamonds. Suddenly there was a bountiful supply of brown diamonds and the diamond trade was coping with ways to grade these diamonds for color.

That brings us back to the Argyle mine. They were the owners of a large supply of strongly brown tinted diamonds and they, needless to say, wanted to sell them. The simplest approach would be to sell the diamonds for use in industrial applications. This of course would result in the lowest return. Instead they choose to market the color as as a benefit not a liability. Thus, the term “champagne color was born”. Today the phrase “chocolate diamond” is used as well. It seems in the diamond buying public there are more lovers of chocolate than champagne, I for one will admit to this fondness. Fortunately for Argyle the mine produce a ready supply of diamonds with more intense color . These fancy color diamonds have facilitate the adoption of the lighter tinted brown diamond in the marketplace.

The Argyle Mine introduced their own color grading system. I have attached a copy of their system here.


Brown diamond color chart
Brown Diamond color chart created by the Argyle Mine.

The scale is unfortunately too simplistic. These images should illustrate the problem.


From left to right - Fancy pink brown, fancy orange brown and fancy yellow brown
From left to right – Fancy pink brown, fancy orange brown and fancy yellow brown

The Gemological Institute of American chose to develop their own system . The GIA system has its own critics. Still it remains the preferred approach for grading fancy color diamonds.

So, that’s the story on brown diamonds, at least that is how I remember it.

Today we have a large selection of color from which to choose how could this be interpreted as anything other than good news?

Argyle Mine Diamonds
Color range of the fancy color diamonds found at the Argyle Mine in Australia.