Brown is not the most popular colour for gemstone jewellery. In fact, it is quite an unusual colour and you won’t find a lot of brown gemstones in most jewellery stores. But lately, with the rise in popularity of coloured gemstones, more people are turning towards jewellery that is non-traditional in style and design. And brown diamonds are seeing a rise in popularity. With high profile celebrities flaunting brown gemstones on the red carpet, brown is a statement gemstone that is eye-catching and unique.
From a symbolic point of view, the colour brown is a warm colour that represents friendliness, warmth, simplicity, nature and health. Brown gemstones have a subdued earthy look and can be found in a range of beautiful tones, from dark to light and opaque to transparent varieties. Because brown is a gender-neutral colour, brown gemstones are ideal for both men and women. If you wish to add a brown gemstone to your jewellery collection, you’ve come to the right place. We have picked out our top 11 brown gemstones that you can easily add to your gemstone collection.
- Brown Diamond
Beautiful brown diamond studs set in yellow gold. The most prestigious of brown gemstones, brown diamonds are known by a range of intriguing nicknames – champagne, chocolate and cognac. These terms refer to different hues of the brown spectrum but they have one thing in common – they’re all beautiful varieties of diamonds. Brown diamonds are among the most affordable of all coloured gemstones and the most common. Dark brown diamonds are more popular among consumers, so these are the more expensive sort. Choose a stone that has vivid saturation and a medium to dark body tone.
One benefit of brown diamonds is that they hide impurities well and generally appear very clear. Just look for a stone that is eye-clean and has no visible impurities. Brown diamonds make beautiful centre stones for engagement rings and are a welcome change to the traditional colourless diamond. Due to its rising popularity, there are many places that you can now buy high-quality beautiful brown diamonds. If you find a natural brown diamond beyond your budget, you can consider a synthetic or treated brown diamond.
- Chocolate Opal
The chocolate opal has a distinct brown colour that distinguishes it from other opal varieties. It has a dark body tone and sometimes contains interesting snakeskin-like patterns. Chocolate opal often has a clear and intense flash of colour, and unlike other opal varieties, it can display all the colours of the spectrum.
Chocolate opals are generally translucent to opaque and have a waxy, glossy lustre. While most chocolate opals have small impurities and flaws, these generally don’t affect the overall value of the stone. However, the most expensive chocolate opals are those that have no visible flaws or cracks. Although they are quite soft and delicate gemstones (Mohs 5.5 to 6.5), they are commonly used for all types of jewellery. You can always opt to buy a loose chocolate opal and have it set into a jewellery setting of your choosing. Bezel settings and heavier mountings are a better option as they protect the opal.
- Brown Tourmaline
Tourmaline, Tourmaline known as the rainbow gemstone, comes in every colour imaginable including brown. Brown tourmaline is not a mainstream gemstone and can be difficult to find in jewellery stores. Brown tourmalines often have secondary shades, such as pink or purple that can enhance their appearance. The most expensive varieties are the dark, vivid and intensely saturated stones with excellent clarity and brilliance.
Most brown tourmalines are faceted to enhance their brilliance. They are a fiery, transparent stone that is quite durable for all types of jewellery (Mohs 7 to 7.5). Just check whether any heat treatment has been conducted on your stone, as this is a common procedure done on tourmalines. Brown tourmaline are perfect in earrings, pendants and rings as they catch light beautifully and have an eye-catching sparkle.
- Fire Agate
Fire agate is a brown variety of agate that is known for its smooth sheen and iridescence. It is only found in a few locations in the world, with most deposits located in Mexico and the USA. A high-quality fire agate has a stunning play of colour, a waxy lustre and is generally translucent. It is a hard stone (Mohs 7) and because it is a variety of quartz, fire agate is very tough. It is beautiful when crafted into unique designs, highlighting the shape and sheen of the stone.
Fire agate jewellery is usually found in handmade artisan stores and are not common in mainstream jewellery stores. They are notoriously difficult to cut and shape and requires a high level of expertise to craft into jewellery items. Although fire agate is an affordable stone, the workmanship and settings used often raises the price of the final item.
- Brown Topaz
The word topaz is believed to have originated from the Sanskrit word tapas, which means fire. Brown topaz is not the most sought-after topaz variety (blue is the most popular), however it does have its own charms. Topaz is a brilliant stone and is usually faceted to accentuate this feature. When faceted into shapes such as ovals, trilliants, marquis, round, baguettes and square, brown topaz catches light well and appears fiery and sparkly.
Brown topaz is a very hard stone (Mohs 8) and is suitable for all types of jewellery, even rings. Most topaz on the market is free of inclusions. While most brown topaz is irradiated to enhance the colour, this is standard procedure.
- Tiger’s Eye
Tiger’s Eye is a type of quartz that is very affordable and easy to find. It is known for its beautiful golden-brown colour and intriguing patterns across the surface. Most Tiger’s Eye are translucent to opaque, and often exhibit chatoyancy which is the cat’s eye effect. When cut into cabochons, the stone may display an interesting pattern that looks like a cat’s eye. Tiger’s Eye may sometimes display iridescence and has a smooth, silky lustre. It is good for regular use and is durable enough to be used in most types of jewellery (Mohs 6.5 to 7).
Tiger’s Eye is often used to make beautiful and unique jewellery pieces and come at affordable prices.
- Mahogany Obsidian
Obsidian is created from rapidly cooling lava and comes in a variety of colours and textures. Mahogany obsidian is a dark-brown variety of obsidian, that contains beautiful black, red and brown patterns. It can sometimes be found in banded varieties.
Because of its waxy, opaque lustre, mahogany is often cut into a cabochon, tumbled or carved, and is rarely faceted. Obsidian is a fairly soft gemstone (5.5 Mohs) and is prone to scratches and breakage. It is not recommended in use for rings unless in protective settings. Mahogany obsidian has a very earthy vibe and is often used in bohemian or hippie designs.
- Brown Citrine
Citrine is a popular brown gemstone and is known for its golden hues. It is highly transparent and has a vitreous (glassy) lustre. Brown citrine gemstones are often faceted to maximize its brilliance. Citrines generally have very good clarity and very few visible impurities, making them perfect as centre gemstones, especially in rings.
Citrine is a popular gemstone and it is quite easy to find high quality citrine jewellery. The stone is relatively durable (Mohs 7) and can be worn for a long time with reasonable care. It is also more affordable than most similar gemstones.
Most people haven’t heard of andalusite, a beautiful gemstone found in a range of brown hues, but it is slowly increasing in popularity. Andalusite gets its name from Andalusia, the Spanish region where it was initially discovered.
One of the desirable characteristics of this gemstone is that it often displays pleochroism, which means that it exhibits two colours at the same time, depending on the angle at which the stone is viewed. Most brown andalusite will have secondary tones of yellow, green or orange. When cut expertly and set in jewellery, andalusite often shows a beautiful mix of colours.
Andalusite is typically translucent to opaque, while transparent varieties are rare and expensive. It is generally faceted to enhance its pleochroism as well as its brilliance. It a durable gemstone (7.5 Mohs) and is suitable for any type of jewellery. Andalusite is perfect for rings, earrings and pendants, where light can interact with the stone and display the pleoichroism.
- Smoky Quartz
Smoky quartz is one of the most popular brown gemstones used in jewellery. It is relatively inexpensive and is very common. Smoky quartz is the brown variety of quartz, and ranges in colour from faint, smoky brown to solid black. Medium to vivid brown hues are considered the best but this depends on your preferences.
Most smoky quartz is translucent to transparent, with a vitreous lustre, and contain little to no visible flaws. Because it can be found in large sizes, it is perfect for fashion and costume jewellery at an affordable price.
Most smoky quartz is faceted and displays a good amount of brilliance. When cut into a cabochon, the gemstone looks waxy and smooth. With a good hardness rating of 7, smoky quartz is used in all types of jewellery.
- Cat’s Eye Apatite
Cat’s eye apatite, like tiger’s eye, is known for exhibiting chatoyancy. If you look at this gemstone under direct light, you’ll see the cat’s eye effect running down the centre of the stone, which occurs due to the type of impurities in the stone. To highlight this cat’s eye effect, cat’s eye apatite is always cut into a cabochon. Always look for the strength and quality of the chatoyancy before you buy cat’s eye apatite, as that is what the gemstone is known for.
Cat’s eye apatite occurs in a variety of shades, with brown being one of the most common. These gemstones often have inclusions, and eye-clean varieties are rare. Because cat’s eye apatite is quite soft (Mohs 5) it is not suitable for most types of jewellery. Choose a protective setting, such as bezel or halo, if you wish to have your cat’s eye apatite in a ring.
There are many brown gemstones in the jewellery world. Here are some other brown gemstones that didn’t make the top 11 list:
Axinite, a beautiful vitreous gemstone known for having a unique mineral structure.
Boulder Opal, a variety of opal that has interesting patterns and a smooth, waxy lustre.
Mali Garnet, a highly lustrous variety of garnet that is found in a range of brown shades.
Enstatite, a rare gemstone that has a vitreous lustre and often contains little to no visible inclusions.
Zircon, known for being a diamond substitute, brown zircon is brilliant and fiery.
Brown Gemstones and Metals
Because brown is a fairly neutral colour, brown gemstones pair well with all types of metal colours. When paired with yellow or rose gold, brown gemstones have a beautiful vintage vibe. These colours are harmonious and go beautifully together. The reason is that the contrast between the stone and the setting is not very high. The transition from stone to setting is smoother and easier on the eyes.
However, pair brown gemstones with silver-hued metals for a contemporary, contrasting look. Silver metals make the brown gemstone stand out and take centre stage.
Brown Gemstones and Skin Tone
Most people overlook how skin tone can affect their jewellery choices, but this is a factor to consider. Certain colours compliment certain skin tones better than others. If you aren’t sure what your skin tone is, read our article on skin tones. Brown is an earthy colour that goes best with warm skin tones. It flatters the warm undertones of the skin and complements the overall look.