What Are Chocolate Diamonds? Price, History, Pros & Cons

what are chocolate diamonds guideBrown diamonds sold as attractive “chocolate diamonds” came on the jewelry scene starting in the 1980s, changing the perspective of brown diamonds as undesirable to unique and chic.

It’s no secret that diamonds are beloved worldwide. They’re chosen as a centerstone in over 80 percent of engagement rings, according to the Diamond Trading Company. But most people associate “diamond” with colorless examples. 

Findings of colored diamonds in Australia in the 1980s brought a new rainbow of options, for both brides-to-be and everyday gemstone lovers. One of those new colors was the brown diamond, most popularly called “chocolate diamond.” 

But what are chocolate diamonds? Are they worth buying? We’ll answer all your questions in this guide as we break down chocolate diamond quality, prices, and history. 

Let’s jump in!

what is chocolate diamond guide

What Are Chocolate Diamonds?

Before we get into the history, trademarks, and marketing behind chocolate diamonds, let's start with the basics. 

Brown diamonds have been around as long as diamonds have been mined, but chocolate diamonds are brown diamonds that are “gem-quality” — meaning they have transparency, clarity, and color attractive enough to be used in diamond jewelry.

Besides “chocolate,” you may hear descriptive adjectives relating to everything from coffee (e.g. “cappuccino diamond” or “café créme diamond”) to alcoholic beverages like champagne or cognac. 

What does a chocolate diamond look like? These brown diamonds can range from light champagne or golden to deep brown, most having medium tones. The brown diamonds must have pretty good clarity and transparency, as most brown diamond rough comes out opaque.

Are chocolate diamonds natural? Yes, brown diamonds form naturally, though they can also be lab-created (synthetic). 

When formed naturally, their brown color often comes from nitrogen impurities, creating darker shades of yellow with higher amounts of nitrogen. The right amount of heat alters that yellow to brown. 

We’ve used the terms “brown” and “chocolate,” but is a brown diamond the same as a chocolate diamond? Yes and no. 

brown diamond vs. chocolate diamond rough crystal

Brown Diamonds vs. Chocolate Diamonds

Technically, the term “chocolate diamonds” has been trademarked by Le Vian, a well-known jewelry company based in New York. When discussing the brown diamonds specific to Le Vian, we’ll write it as Chocolate Diamonds®. 

Le Vian describes their Chocolate Diamonds® as “natural fancy colored diamonds that are chosen for their rarity and chocolate flavor.” Many jewelers, especially Le Vian, only qualify a brown diamond as a “chocolate diamond” if it meets certain grading criteria. 

Where do chocolate diamonds come from? Brown diamonds are found all over the world, but the majority of chocolate diamonds are famously from the Argyle Mine in Australia, the first source of chocolate diamonds marketed for jewelry. 

Fun fact: Argyle Mine is also famous for producing roughly 90 to 95 percent of the world’s pink diamonds. 

How rare is a chocolate diamond? If we’re talking about brown diamonds, they’re actually the most common diamond, making up around 15 percent of diamonds uncovered from most mines. But most brown diamonds aren’t attractive enough to become cut gemstones. 

In contrast, Le Vian claims their Chocolate Diamonds® are the rarest diamonds on Earth, but that only applies to the brown diamonds that meet Levian’s strict standards for Chocolate Diamonds®. 

Speaking of, what are those strict requirements?

chocolate diamond ring in rose gold le vian

Quality Requirements for Chocolate Diamonds®

Most diamond grading criteria is based on the famous 4 C’s — color, cut, clarity, and carat weight — developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). 

Le Vian’s requirements for Chocolate Diamonds® are higher than that of most other diamonds. 

The Le Vian requirements of Chocolate Diamonds® are:

  • Color: The diamond must have a color between C4 (medium champagne) and C7 (cognac) on the Argyle champagne diamond color scale that goes from C1 to C8. (See image of chart below)

  • Clarity: The diamond must have a clarity of SI (Slightly Included) or better on the GIA clarity scale. 

  • Source: The diamond must be responsibly sourced from areas not involved in conflicts funded by diamond trade or unethical labor practices. 

With such strict requirements, under 1 percent of all the world’s diamonds used as gemstones count as Chocolate Diamonds®. 

Argyle Chocolate Diamond Color Chart:

chocolate diamond color scale argyle

History of Chocolate Diamonds

As mentioned up top, colored diamonds only started gaining notable popularity in the 1980s. Though some trends had preceded this — such as different colors of diamonds denoting class status in ancient India — colored diamonds didn’t represent a significant part of the gemstone market outside of collectors and gemologists.

The change started in 1979 when British geologist Maureen Muggeridge first discovered the Australian Argyle diamond deposit. The Argyle Mine opened in 1983. 

Surprisingly, only 5 percent of the Argyle mine’s diamonds were gem-quality — for reference, about 20 percent of diamonds mined worldwide are gem-quality. 

In 1996, the mine’s owner, Rio Tinto, ceased working with De Beers and began the mine’s own marketing practices. 

While only 0.1 percent of the diamonds mined were pink, Tinto first focused on marketing Argyle pink diamonds, which turned out to be quite successful. 

Since the mine started operation, around 80 percent of the diamonds found were brown. Tinto had tried to introduce brown diamonds into the gemstone market, but he didn’t make much headway initially. 

2000s Marketing

In 2000, Le Vian kicked off what would end up being a massively successful marketing campaign for brown diamonds from Argyle Mine, using descriptors like “cognac,” “champagne,” and most notably, “chocolate.” 

By 2007, Le Vian officially trademarked their Chocolate Diamonds®. In subsequent years, Le Vian rolled out new chocolate diamond collections, like the palette of Nude Diamonds™ introduced in 2014. 

Soon, major designers started incorporating the gems into their collections. In the years since, chocolate diamonds have made some famous appearances. 

In 2021, the Argyle Mine announced that its supply had been depleted and they subsequently shut down operations. However, plenty of brown diamonds from Argyle Mine are still in circulation, and other sources have popped up around the world. 

Celebrity Chocolate Diamond Appearances

One popular example of a celebrity wearing chocolate diamonds was at the 2018 Grammy Awards. Singer Rihanna showed up at the red carpet rocking an ombre chocolate diamond necklace, along with Le Vian cognac quartz earrings. 

Actress Scarlett Johannson’s engagement ring from comedian Colin Jost features an 11-carat light brown diamond centerstone. 

The 2020 Golden Globes saw even more chocolate diamonds on display. Model Jasmine Sanders (a.k.a. Golden Barbie) wore earrings featuring Le Vian Nude Diamonds™, while actress Julie Ann Emery showed up in earrings featuring both Chocolate Diamonds® and Vanilla Diamonds®. 

Also in 2020, singer Lizzo chose a daring chocolate-based ensemble for the Brit Awards, complete with a Hershey’s Bar dress accessorized by Lorraine Schwartz with 38 carats of chocolate diamonds, including a chocolate-bar clutch encrusted with brown diamonds, brown diamond hoop earrings, and chocolate diamond rings. 

Other notable examples include earrings worn by Anna Farris in 2018, the rough brown diamond earrings worn by Michelle Obama at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010, and the array of Le Vian Chocolate Diamond® rings worn by Jennifer Lopez at the 2013 Golden Globes. 

Outside of celebrity adornment, some brown diamonds are simply famous in their own right. 

chocolate diamond ring design historical 1930sImage credit: Ring (ca.1936) by Kurt Melzer. Original from The National Gallery of Art. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel. Public domain, rawpixel

Famous Chocolate Diamonds

Plenty of diamonds are famous for holding world records or carrying centuries of lore — the Hope Diamond is arguably the most well-known example. Some brown diamonds have also earned their spot in this upper echelon of world-renowned diamonds:

  • Star of the South (Estrela do Sul): Light pinkish-brown diamond found by an African slave in Brazil in 1853, who subsequently traded it for her freedom. It was eventually cut into a 128.48-carat cushion shape and helped establish Brazil as a diamond source.

  • Lesotho Brown: Rough, pale brown diamond found in the African country of Lesotho in 1967 later cut into 18 separate diamonds, one of which (Lesotho III) was once owned by former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. 

  • Earth Star Diamond: Deep brown, brilliant diamond found in South Africa in 1967, originally weighing 248.9 carats before being cut into a 111.59-carat gem. 

  • Incomparable Diamond: Yellow-brown diamond found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1984 by a young girl playing among diamond mine waste, now the 4th-largest rough diamond and largest brown diamond. Originally 890 carats, it was cut into a 407.5-carat gem and 14 satellite stones. 

Arguably the most famous is the Golden Jubilee Diamond, a brown diamond found in South Africa in 1985. It was cut into a 545.67-carat gem, making it the largest faceted diamond in the world. This jewel has historical and religious significance, having been blessed by the Pope and Thailand’s Buddhist Supreme Patriarch.

Of course, most of us can only dream of adorning the jewelry of the rich and famous or getting a peek at the huge, legendary chocolate diamonds. For everyday buyers, how much do chocolate diamonds actually cost? 

chocolate diamond ring in rose gold with white accent diamonds

Chocolate Diamond Prices

Chocolate diamonds’ value has significantly increased since the 1980s to 2000s. Back then, most would sell for around $1,500 per carat. Today, many chocolate diamonds fetch prices of $10,000 per carat — a 567 percent increase.

So, why are chocolate diamonds so expensive? Part of the steep price has to do with marketing and exclusivity. The Chocolate Diamonds® of Le Vian are most well-known and have a reputation for being the highest-quality, so the company can charge premium prices. 

Outside of Le Vian, chocolate diamonds come at a wider, more accessible price range.

Overall, brown diamonds weighing 0.3 to 0.99 carats range from $300 to $1,000 per carat. Brown diamonds weighing 1 to 1.5 carats range from $1,500 to $1,650 per carat.

At wholesale or auction sites like Gem Rock Auctions, you can find high-quality brown diamonds for as low as $25 per carat, going up to $10,000 per carat but many falling around $100 to $200 per carat. 

Compared to other colored options like blue or pink diamonds, brown diamonds are much more affordable. 

chocolate diamond flower pave pendant with fancy colored diamonds

Should You Buy Chocolate Diamonds?

Now that you know all about the history and pricing of chocolate diamonds, you may wonder if these jewels are worth buying. 

While much of the chocolate diamond’s reputation comes from clever marketing and celebrity recognition, that doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful. 

The majority of brown diamonds used to be tossed aside, so having a market open up for them means less waste and better sustainability.

On the other hand, it’s crucial to only buy brown diamonds that are ethically and sustainably sourced. Plus, some brown diamonds on the market are treated (which should lower value), so always request or obtain a certification for your diamond. 

All in all, it’s up to personal preference. Many people love the earthy, unconventional look of brown diamonds. Others prefer the classic white diamond or even a different color of diamond. 

The important part of buying chocolate diamonds — any gemstone for that matter — is knowing what to look for (i.e. grading criteria), making an educated decision, and shopping with reputable jewelers. 

Craving Some Delicious Chocolate Diamonds?

Chocolate diamonds have been blowing up since the early 2000s, and celebrities are still rocking these gems. They can be a divisive colored diamond, which may make deciding on buying one tricky.

Our advice? Choose the diamond you’re into, not just what marketing or ads tell you to be into. If you’re into chocolate diamonds, you have all the education you need now and plenty of delectable choices to choose from, so shop away!

Ready to shop? Browse our collection of beautiful brown diamonds to find the perfect stone for your jewelry!

Was this article helpful?

2 people found this article helpful

Search the Fashion Encyclopedia

Buying Jewelry

Buying Jewelry

Everything you need to know about Jewelry
103 articles
Jewelry How To's

Jewelry How To's

Ever wondered how to...
22 articles
Trending Jewelry News

Trending Jewelry News

What's new in the world of all things sparkly
43 articles