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The facts behind chocolate diamonds

Two years ago there was a hoo-ha about brown, or chocolate diamonds. Jezebel published a post entitled The truth about chocolate diamonds, focusing on jewellery brand LeVian’s trademarked term for it's chocolate diamonds. The Daily Mail then screeched; “How jewellers are fooling women by repackaging the common brown diamond as an expensive gem”.

As these articles “revealed”, brown diamonds are indeed far more common than their white peers – about 80% of the diamonds produced from Australia’s Argyle mines are brown. Originally these lesser-quality stones were used mainly for industrial purposes, but when vast deposits of brown diamonds were discovered in the 1980s, savvy marketers repositioned them as cognac, champagne or chocolate diamonds and jewellers gradually began to use the highest-quality examples. While prices for fancy coloured diamonds (pink, yellow, blue and green) have rocketed due to their rarity, the abundance of brown diamonds makes them more affordable. But what the “exposés” didn’t consider is that, far from being fooled, some women might just like the look of brown diamonds.

This occurred to me recently when I saw the debut collection from London jeweller Georgina Boyce. Sleek, geometric pieces inspired by the Cubist movement – the idea is that they look equally intriguing from every angle – I was immediately drawn to the pendants featuring a delicate pavé of brown diamonds.

icon / image Brown Diamond Iso pendant by Georgina Boyce

“Brown diamonds have been pushed into the gem quality market, and rightly so,” says Boyce. “They have the same make-up as white diamonds – bar the impurities – so there’s no reason they shouldn’t be coveted in the same way.” Despite their industrial association, she points out that “there is still a vast difference between the brown diamonds used in industry and gem-quality stones”. While white diamonds are prized for their lack of colour, a patchwork of differently-hued brown stones is quite mesmerising. “The many different colours of brown diamond allow you to create a cinnamon-toned blanket without the colour being too uniform,” explains Boyce.

It’s not the first time I’ve been seduced by the subtle sparkle of these previously shunned stones, and I’m not alone. Rich and warm, they look especially alluring wrapped up in rose gold – the enduring popularity of which may explain why they appear in so many of today’s fashionable fine jewels: from Pomellato’s chunky, glamorous Tango chains to the architectural new Geometria collection by Sicilian jeweller Maurizio Pintaldi.

Alexia Jordan also chose to set her tattoo-inspired range of stacking rings with brown diamonds. “I've always loved brown diamonds – especially paired with rose gold – the colours marry perfectly,” she says. “At times, I prefer that they have less shine; it lends the piece a completely different aesthetic, keeping some deserved focus on the rose gold, which is so rich and beautiful.”

Their less obvious sparkle may also account for brown diamonds’ current popularity. They complement a modern, discreet-luxury ethos – a precious gemstone that can be worn everyday like a logo-less designer handbag; less shouty than white diamond bling. “Consumers now have a desire to break away from traditional habits like wearing only colourless diamonds,” says up-and-coming Lebanese jeweller Gaelle Khouri, whose nature-inspired, gothic-tinged pieces lend themselves to a more mysterious, less ‘clean’ sparkle. “There is a need for originality in every aspect of our lives, and brown diamonds have a unique quality that is elegant, different and strong.”

Georgina Boyce agrees; “Personally, I find brown diamonds more interesting than generic white diamonds because they offer a point of difference. And if you can get more ‘bang for your buck’ by wearing brown diamonds, I say go for it!”

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