Champagne, just the word conjures up visions of luxury and decadence.
Champagne diamonds are no different. Their popularity is on the rise, but few people, while they may have heard of them, really know what champagne diamonds are and remain quite clueless about their origins.
What Is a Champagne Diamond?
Champagne colored diamonds are in fact brown colored diamonds that often have a yellow tint. They range in color from mid-brown to a lighter, yellow or orange tinged hue that can, yes, look a lot like champagne. You may also come across darker brown colored diamonds that have been labelled ‘cognac diamonds’, again, after their resemblance to the popular drink, which has a much richer, darker brown hue than champagne.
While a ‘true’ champagne may come from the region of the same name in France, champagne diamonds can be found all over the world. Much of the current ‘supply’ came from the famed Argyle diamond mine in Australia, but with that mine having ceased operations in 2020, the world now has to look to other regions of the world for more. Brazil and Russia, as well as a handful of countries in Africa, have also been known to produce champagne colored diamonds so the focus will likely turn to the diamond mines there.
It was the owner of the Argyle Mine, Rio Tinto, who coined the term champagne diamonds in the first place. More than half the diamonds their Australian operation produced were brown, but calling them champagne lends an extra air of luxury and prestige to what are already very beautiful stones.
How Are Champagne Diamonds Formed?
Champagne diamonds get their color thanks to the presence of extra nitrogen in their make up, and the higher the nitrogen levels, the darker the stone. They do also have a slightly different crystalline make up than other fancy colored diamonds which does, according to expert diamond polishers, make them harder to work with, as they scratch more easily.
Rio Tinto found an answer to that problem too though, by creating a unique polishing process that is executed at one of their facilities in India.
What Are Champagne Diamonds Worth?
We should make it clear at this point that you will never see the term ‘champagne diamond’ on an official GIA certificate. Instead, they will be called fancy light yellow brown, fancy yellowish brown, or something similar in the section that describes their hue and intensity.
However, keen to market their brown diamonds as champagne diamonds, Rio Tinto devised a separate color scale specifically to grade champagne diamonds. This scale ranges from C1 to C7. C1 to C2 are light champagne, C3 to C4 are medium champagne, C5 to C6 are dark champagne, and C7 is considered “cognac.’
While this scale is helpful to the average shopper perhaps, it is not official and so your jeweler may not refer to what seems like a champagne colored diamond in that way at all.
Whatever you want to call them, champagne diamonds are beautiful, but they are not as expensive as other fancy colored diamonds, nor are they as rare.
As is the case with any other fancy colored diamonds, it is the strength of the stone’s hue that is the most important factor in determining an individual stone’s value. Those at the high end or the scale – the C6s and C7s – tend to be the most expensive while the lightest options, because they are the most common, are less expensive.
Champagne Diamonds Cut and Clarity
There are no defined cut options for champagne colored stones like there are for colorless diamonds. With a white diamond, for example, you can choose a "perfect" cut, but not with a champagne diamond. In the end, the diamond cutter is responsible for maximizing each diamond's particular combination of color, clarity, and brilliance.
Because white light reflection is less noticeable in darker champagne stones, brightness plays a smaller role. It's crucial to evaluate how the cut affects the color intensity of these diamonds though.
It's often considered a more desirable cut if the cut makes the diamond appear to have a richer hue. A poorly cut champagne diamond, on the other hand, may have uneven hue or lack brilliance or sparkle, actually making the stone seem dull and lifeless.
The clarity of a diamond refers to how free of imperfections and inclusions it is. The stone is more beautiful and expensive if it has fewer faults. When it comes to clarity, we recommend opting for a diamond that is eye-clean. In other words, flaws and inclusions should not be visible to the naked eye.
Champagne diamonds are graded on the same scale as colorless diamonds:
Internally Flawless (IF)
Very Very Small Inclusions (VVS1 and VVS2)
Very Small Inclusions (VS1 & VS2)
Small Inclusions (SI1 & SI2)
Inclusions (I1 & I2)
On the lower end of this range, finding a champagne diamond can be challenging. The clarity of many champagne diamonds ranges from SI1 to I2. In the VS (Very Small Inclusions) level, however, you can locate some reasonably priced champagne diamonds that are the truly stunning stones you are perhaps hoping to find.
Why Have Champagne Diamonds Become So Popular?
Fancy colored diamonds are out of the economic reach of many people who would love to have one. As some champagne diamonds are actually even more affordable than white diamonds, they offer a way for diamond lovers to sport fancy colored stones and stay within their budget. These are rarely stones for investors, unless they are of a spectacular size.
Economic considerations aside, champagne diamonds are gaining popularity with fashionistas because they are beautiful and incredibly versatile. They are subtle enough for day wear and yet will still shine, sparkle and impress at night. They are well suited to rings, earrings, bracelets and more and will compliment almost any skin tone.
As is often the case these days, the ‘Instagram’ factor comes into play as well. A number of celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Simpson and even Dame Helen Mirren have sported them, and in some less than usual ways.
Dame Helen, for example, chose a champagne diamond brooch to match her gown at the Oscars and US TV reporter Maria Menounos even wore a dress that was adorned with 2,000 champagne diamonds totaling 3,000 carats woven into it. A dress worth, it was estimated at $2.5 million.
Champagne Diamond 'Meaning'
The Rio Tinto coined the term champagne diamond as a marketing ploy to position brown diamonds as a luxurious, decadent choice in diamond lover's minds. The brown diamonds they really are have their own meaning as well, for those who are interested in such things.
According to gemstone lore, brown diamonds signify stability, dignity and power, one of the reasons, perhaps, that they are becoming a popular diamond choice for both men and women interested in colored diamonds.
Take Care When Shopping for Champagne Diamonds
The unfortunate fact is that as champagne diamonds have gained popularity a number of less than reputable jewelers have made use of the term and attached it to a low quality diamond to make it sound more appealing – and add a heftier price tag than it deserves.
That’s why it is still important to ask to see any diamond’s GIA certificate. As we mentioned earlier, that will not feature the champagne ‘grading system’ but the standard terminology for a gemological certificate. This will give you a clearer picture of the stone’s true worth.
Noteworthy Champagne Diamonds
As is the case for any type of fancy colored diamond there are stones considered champagne diamonds that are particularly noteworthy. The most ‘famous’ of them is the Golden Jubilee.
This is a diamond that was presented to the King of Thailand in 1997 to celebrate his fifty-year reign. Discovered in the Culligan Mine, in South Africa, the stone, which was formerly known only as the ‘Unnamed Brown’ weighs a whopping 545.67 carats and is officially the largest faceted diamond in the world, and is estimated to have a worth of between $5 and $12 million.
Asteria Diamonds features fancy brown diamonds in a variety of shades, sizes, cuts, and shapes. Head to our website to explore the selection currently available.