The Truth About Chocolate Diamonds and Why You Should Avoid Them

Brown Diamonds - The truth and history

Large cushion cut brown diamond mounted in white gold halo ring. 

Large cushion cut brown diamond mounted in white gold halo ring. 

With the holiday season of 2017 over and Valentines 2018 fast approaching you might have noticed an influx in advertisements for Chocolate Diamonds®. This is totally normal and in line with the other ad increases for retail jewelry, but lately we've noticed a large spike in general interest all year long for these popular and "fashionable" stones. But the truth about chocolate diamonds isn't as sweet as some would think. We're here to tell you let you in on the industry secret everyone but the general consumer knows....brown is bad!

Full disclosure - brown diamonds aren't bad. If you love the look of them and really want one, that's great. Just be very cautious about the source and how much you pay. We'll go into further detail...


What is a "Chocolate" diamond?

Short and simple, Chocolate Diamonds® is just a fancy name and branding package for what is commonly known, industry-wide, as brown diamonds. They are by far the most common occurring diamonds in nature. There are literally tons upon tons of brown diamonds found and mined every year. They're the diamonds that are typically pushed aside while miners are looking for the more rare white or colorless diamonds or the even more uncommon fancy colored diamonds: red, pink, blue, yellow. 

Brown diamonds' color comes from internal graining in their formation which is due to irregularities in the stone's crystal. There has long been an oversupply of brown diamonds even before they were so brilliantly marketed to the public by Le Vian's campaigns. Even today brown diamonds are more commonly used as material for making industrial abrasives or cutting products.

The website for the Gemological Institute of America notes:

Brown diamonds were typically considered good only for industrial use until the 1980s, when abundant quantities of them began to appear in the production of the Argyle mines.


Supply & Demand

Abandoned mine. Brown diamonds are the most commonly found of all diamond colors.

Abandoned mine. Brown diamonds are the most commonly found of all diamond colors.

Remember that old saying? Usually it's referring to the fact that the higher an items' demand is (how badly people want it) or how limited it's supply is (how few of them there are in the world) the higher it's price. Or occasionally you get the wünder-combination of both high demand and limited supply. This is considered to be the driving factor behind diamonds prices - people want them, and there aren't that many in the world. The less a diamond occurs in nature, perfectly white and clear, the more rare it is and the more desired it is. So the price goes up. Makes sense right?

Why is the Hope Diamond so renowned worldwide and worth $350 million+? It's the world's largest natural deep blue diamond.

The rarest diamonds in the world? It might surprise you to learn that red colored diamonds are found the least often naturally and are therefore the most prized. The two most famous red diamonds ever sold are the Moussaieff Red Diamond the Hancock Red Diamond.

What doesn't make sense is the high price on brown diamonds. Some brown diamonds are selling for the same price as their equal in a white stones. Same size, clarity, and cut. This shouldn't happen according to George Halow. The common reasoning behind WHY they shouldn't be the same price all comes down to supply and demand. Where do they fall on the rarity scale for diamonds? Dead. Last. They are the most commonly found diamonds worldwide. There's no competition. The supply exceeds the demand by leaps and bounds, so what's the draw?


Marketing Genius 

If "chocolate" diamonds are so common and undesirable, what made them rise to a fashion trend and demand prices on par with the standard white diamonds then? Brilliant. Marketing. 

Let's go back, back, back to the early 2000's...  Le Vian designed and released a new collection of jewelry featuring brown diamonds that was given exclusively to celebrities and models to be worn at high profile and red carpet events. Slowly, as public awareness for the fashion-forward jewelry sported by beautiful and famous women grew, so too did the public's desire to own a piece for themself. Le Vian received a slew of requests for the acclaimed jewelry but the prices for their red carpet line were just too high for the average jewelry lover. Le Vian very cleverly then released a much lower priced line of jewelry featuring brown diamonds to the public for what seemed a very affordable price range hovering around $750.

"Chocolate" diamonds, and Shane Co.'s "Birthmarks" are some of the most clever jewelry marketing of our day.

"Chocolate" diamonds, and Shane Co.'s "Birthmarks" are some of the most clever jewelry marketing of our day.

The appeal for chocolate diamonds continued to grow due partly to how truly versatile brown diamonds are - they can be set in, and paired with, almost anything. If you think from a color perspective, or a fashion perspective, brown is an earth tone and it's common knowledge that earth tones match well with almost any color. 

There's a lot to a name as well. Which sounds better: brown (normally not associated with pleasant things) or chocolate.....who doesn't love chocolate??? It's rich, luxurious, silky, romantic.

To pair with this brilliant marketing and the brown diamond's natural ability to pair well with other colors, particularly rose gold, Le Vian also released a collection of brown "chocolate" diamonds set in rose gold that they coined their "Strawberry Gold" collection. Strawberries and chocolate....come on.


Some people find the marketing offensive

Dodai Stewart wrote an article for Jezebel where she reams Le Vian for what she calls “brainwashery way” of convincing women “to spend their hard-earned dollars on something that they don’t need—and something the jewelry industry has trouble getting rid of.”

“What LeVian glosses over, of course, is that ‘chocolate’ diamonds are just brown diamonds,'"
 “And brown diamonds are the most common kind of diamonds. There are tons of them. Tons.”
Some people claim Le Vian's marketing is sexist and demeaning to women. 

Some people claim Le Vian's marketing is sexist and demeaning to women. 

She continues to take Le Vian to task: “But the real issue with chocolate diamonds is how they’re aggressively marketed as a thing women should buy for themselves. A treat, like chocolate. Except they’re not a cheap, sweet, delicious snack. A LeVian chocolate diamond ring can cost from $1,300 to $8,000. And what are you really paying for? What is the value of that piece? What is it actually worth? There’s no resale market.”

The difficult part is that could be said for almost any luxury item on the market. They're values are all dependent to some degree on how they're marketed. Are Jaguar cars really more luxurious than Mercedes? Bentley more than Jaguar? That's a very tough question to answer and much would depend on the person giving that answer's opinion and how they've been influenced by outside sources, or their experiences. 

People don't necessarily buy jewelry or luxury items for their resale value or because they're a good bargain. They buy them because they want and enjoy them. 

We just want people to understand their purchases fully.


Market Cost Comparison

Brown diamonds, industry-wide, are cheaper than white diamonds. Fact.

1.63ct Round Diamond, I2, Fancy Brown, GIA - eBay

1.63ct Round Diamond, I2, Fancy Brown, GIA - eBay

1.42ct Heart Shaped Diamond, Si2, Orangish/Brown - eBay

1.42ct Heart Shaped Diamond, Si2, Orangish/Brown - eBay

1.18ct Cushion Cut Diamond, Si1, Light Yellowish/Brown, GIA - eBay

1.18ct Cushion Cut Diamond, Si1, Light Yellowish/Brown, GIA - eBay

As a quick example, we hoped on eBay compared prices for brown diamonds, currently on the market, with their colorless retail diamond counterparts. Note: These are not a reflection of our prices, as we sell our diamonds below retail value.

1.63ct Diamond GIA Round I2, Fancy Brown/Rose - $1,595
1.63ct Diamond GIA Round, I2, I color - $4,075

1.42ct Heart Shaped GIA Diamond, Si2, Orangish/Brown - $4,375
1.42ct Heart Shaped GIA Diamond, Si2, F color - $7,384

1.18ct Cushion Cut GIA Diamond, Si1, Light Yellowish/Brown - $3,669
1.18ct Cushion Cut GIA Diamond, Si1, F color - $7,198

As you can see there's a significant price difference between a GIA certified brown colored diamond of good quality and what would be it's equivalent in a white or colorless stone. 


In Conclusion

"But if they're cheaper, and I love the look, what's wrong?"

In all honesty? Nothing.

It's true brown diamonds are less expensive than the other natural diamond options out there. And if you really love the look of a brown diamond, more power to you! We just prefer our customers make the most educated buying decision they possibly can, so we feel it's important they understand the true history of "chocolate" diamonds.

Not to mention the fact that they have almost zero resale value. No one wants to think that they'll ever have to sell their jewelry, but one thing for sure is you can count on not only getting more money for a white diamond on the second hand market, but you'll have a faster and easier time selling it. 

As the kids these days say, "Stay woke." Do your due diligence before big purchases, speak with people you trust, and just because it's on TV or an ad, doesn't mean it's true.