Brown gemstones may not be a popular choice in jewelry.
Most of these precious nature stones are very durable and are great for everyday wear.
In this article, you'll learn:
- What brown gemstones are
- Where to buy them
- And our top picks when it comes to popular brown gemstones
What Are Brown Gemstones?
The color brown isn't high demand for fine gemstones. In fact, most of the best stores to buy colored gemstones will only have a few of these stones in stock.
One good example is the brown diamond which is recently gaining tract with famous people.
In essence, brown colored gemstones are a symbol of nature, health, and simplicity.
There aren't too many common facetable brown gemstones. Majority of the ones on our list are brown crystals used for metaphysical purposes, like crystal healing.
Their earthy look can be found in an array of shades from dark to light. These stones are not gender-centric and will fit perfect for jewelry for both men and women.
What Metal is Best for A Brown Gemstone?
While anyone can wear brown colored gemstones, there's a certain color science that says some people will look exceptional in this color.
Brown is considered a warm toned color. Rich, velvety, chocolate colored gemstones look best when set in yellow gold. The three colors of yellow, orange, and brown all complement each other. They all have a warm base.
Brown colored stones look especially great on people with warm skin tones. The brown color would look gorgeous in a yellow gold setting. It will look even better if you have a darker skin tone. The color intensity of the yellow metal will stand out against the skin tone as well as accentuate your brown center stone.
Similarly, a brown stone will look gorgeous in rose gold. The copper-pink shade of the metal will also reflect the warmth of the stone. Rose gold also looks great on darker skin tones. It doesn't look the best with people with fair skin or pink undertones.
What Are The Types of Brown Gemstones?
Normally when we do one of these lists of precious stones, diamonds and sapphires tend to be our precious gemstones. However, brown sapphires aren't one of the most popular brown gemstones today. Most brown crystal sapphires are less common tones in orange or yellow sapphires.
For brown stones, the brown diamond is the only other precious stone. All other brown crystals and gemstones are semi-precious.
1. Brown Diamond
A few decades ago when people always thought the pinnacle of a diamond was based on clarity, brown diamonds were simply undesired.
The millennial wave brought a sudden urge to break out the norm of colorless diamond jewelry.
Brown diamonds are known by many nicknames such as cognac, chocolate, and champagne. Brown diamonds are probably the most common of all diamonds and affordable too. Dark brown varieties are the most valued and are rather expensive.
A light brown diamond is going to be value less than a dark brown diamond. However, a "champagne diamond" is usually more than a "very light brown diamond". Medium-brown diamonds will be less than "cognac diamonds". They're the same, but branded and marketed differently.
As with all diamonds, they have excellent brilliance and still the hardest of all gems. Most people go for the dark brown varieties since they’ll easily hide any inclusions. However, if you insist on inclusion free dark brown diamonds, synthetic varieties are available.
Read also: Where to Buy Colored Diamonds
2. Smoky Quartz
Smoky quartz is another brown variety of crystalline quartz ranging from yellowish brown hues to dark brown.
Smoky quartz is one of the most abundant gemstones and even the brown hue is not as popular. It is mostly found in huge crystals of great transparency with minor inclusions.
Most smoky quartz is affordable. Unless you buy into major brand names like Kay's and Zale's LeVian line.
The LeVian brand markets both brown diamonds and smoky quartz jewelry as "chocolate diamonds" and "chocolate quartz". They also charge way more than they're worth. Sometimes smoky quartz will be branded as smoky topaz, but it's not topaz.
The brown hues form because of irradiation of aluminum impurities during its the smoky quartz crystal formation. Most smoky quartz has a vitreous luster and displays decent amounts of brilliance.
When cut "en cabochon", smoky quartz looks waxy and smooth and when faceted, the darker shades appear orangish brown to a smoky brown. Some brown quartz may also have rutile inclusions. With a reasonable hardness of 7 Mohs, the stone is great for all jewelry types.
3. Tiger's Eye
Tiger’s Eye is a common quartz form that is very abundant and easy to find.
It is a great stone having unique patterns across its surface.
With its golden-brown color, most tiger's eye exhibits the cat’s eye effect (chatoyancy), especially when cut into cabochons. Rough tiger's eye may exhibit light through the stone when tilted as an angle. These pieces can usually become chatoyant cabochons
Tiger’s Eye has a silky luster sometimes displaying iridescence. It has a hardness of 6.5 to 7 Mohs.
Tiger's eye is durable enough to be used in everyday jewelry. Ancient healers used these brown gemstones to help people release anxiety and stimulate creativity.
Many people choose to wear tiger's eye as bracelets or healing crystals to carry around. Tiger's eye is very affordable in large pieces.
4. Brown Tourmaline
Tourmaline is a colorful gem and the brown variety can be a difficult one to find. It's also referred to as dravite.
However, these brown gemstones may have secondary undertones of pink or purple.
Read Also: Most Popular Pink Gemstones
Collectors value the dark, intensely saturated brown tourmaline with perfect clarity and brilliance. Brown tourmaline specimens are quite expensive.
Some lighter golden brown tourmaline may be confused with brown topaz. Some golden hues may appear orange.
Brown tourmalines are faceted into different shapes to bring out their brilliance. They are quite compatible with all types of jewelry and can last for a long time (7 to 7.5 Mohs).
Brown tourmaline gemstones are great for rings, pendants, and earrings as they have an attention-seeking sparkle.
5. Brown Citrine
Citrine belongs to the quartz family and its brown hue is an effect of trace iron during formation.
However, most market specimens are actually heat-treated amethysts.
Of course, brown natural citrine is widely available and does exist in countries like Madagascar, Brazil, Burma, and the USA.
Brown citrine gemstones are often vitreous and generally transparent. Faceting is done to maximize in the brilliance of these brown stones. Brown citrine is a relatively hard gemstone (7 Mohs), and can last for ages with reasonable care.
These brown gemstones are mostly inclusion free and quite visible, making them perfect choices for statement rings and other jewelry.
6. Brown Zircon
Zircon comes in a rainbow of colors, but the color brown isn't a popular variety. That's because zircons aren't intentionally brown. Brown zircon is the result of brown stones between yellow zircon and orange to red zircon.
Brown crystals will usually have secondary tones of yellow and orange. It also has a vitreous luster. They may appear a chestnut brown color or a honey brown. Due to the lack in popularity, brown zircon is pretty affordable at less than $100 per carat.
Colorless zircon is very common and used as a diamond simulant. All zircon material has a hardness is 6-7.5.
Color treatment may be used to enhance browns stones with weaker hues. If treatments are important to you, make sure to fully read any descriptions and details. You probably won't find this one locally.
7. Mahogany Obsidian
The common variety of obsidian is black but it all depends on what enters the rock during its volcanic formation.
Sometimes, varieties of inclusions may interfere with obsidian’s color forming a dark-brown variety containing interesting red and brown patterns. We call it mahogany obsidian.
The stone has a waxy luster and is mostly cut en cabochon. As the inclusions affects mahogany obsidian’s compact nature, faceting is not suitable.
Mahogany obsidian is generally soft (5.5 Mohs) and is susceptible to breakage when exposed to rough conditions. It’s a great option for creating a hippy or even bohemian vibe.
Read also: Onyx vs Obsidian Differences
8. Chocolate Opal
Opals are a rainbow gemstone that usually has a white body color. It can also be blue, orange, black, and brown.
Chocolate opal has a brown color that is distinct from other varieties of opal. Its dark tone contains interesting patterns that are sometimes snakeskin-like.
Chocolate opals are translucent to opaque and have a glossy luster. Some specimens have minor impurities and flaws but they’ll not significantly affect the price of the stone.
However, highly valued chocolate opals may not have inclusions and are often very glossy.
Chocolate opal is relatively soft (5.5 to 6.5 Mohs) and the gemstone quality can get damaged if not cared for. Due to their soft nature, it’s advisable to buy chocolate opal with protective settings or buy loose gemstones then find the best setting for your stone.
Most jewelry stores won't have a chocolate opal in stock. They'll mostly have opals with white or neutral color. Kay Jewelers has a lab created blue opal jewelry collection too.
Read also: Where to Buy Opal Engagement Rings
9. Brown Topaz
Like many brown gemstones on this list, brown topaz is a gem that can fluctuate between a yellow gold or honey brown color. However, brown topaz is the deeper gold brown hues.
Common topaz varieties are yellow and orange, so if you run into a truely brown topaz, it's less common. Still, brown isn't a desirable color in topaz, so these run around $60 per carat.
Topaz has a hardness of 8 and normally eye-clean. It has good wearability, but can still chip or crack. To better protect it, you might consider choosing a low profile ring setting.
10. Golden Beryl
Golden Beryl is one of the trade names for yellow beryl. You might know other colored varieties of beryl as aquamarine, morganite, and emerald.
However, golden beryl doesn't only occur in yellow and orangish shades, but brownish yellow shades as well. Many pieces of golden beryl can fall under brown gemstones. These just send to have brown secondary hues.
Red beryl is the most expensive variety of beryl, but the price of golden beryl is much cheaper at $150 per carat. It has a hardness of 7.5-8. It's wearability is so-so, but a protective setting would help protect it.
Golden beryl might go by the name Heliodor. Most heliodor named gems are transparent varieties with a light yellow gem color.
11. Cat's Eye Apatite
Similar to Tiger’s Eye, cat’s eye apatite exhibits chatoyancy.
This effect is better seen when you look at the stone under direct light as it exhibits the cat’s eye effect running down the gem’s surface.
For a better chatoyancy, the stone is usually cut en cabochon optimizing the cat’s eye effect.
So, the quality of chatoyancy is one crucial aspect to look for on cat's eye apatite . Because the stone is soft (5 Mohs), it’s not your best brown gemstone for jewelry. If you insist on having one, make sure to ask for protective settings like bezel.
You won't find cat's eye apatite in physical stores, but you're more likely to find them online.
Initially discovered in the Spanish town of Andalusia, brown andalusite gemstones are beautiful, and undiscovered.
On the other hand, a few varieties have been on the spotlight-setting the pace for the brown hued gemstone.
12. Brown Andalusite
Andalusite is pleochroic and shows two shades of color depending on the angle you view it from. Most forms of the gem have undertones of yellow, orange, and green.
These brown gemstones aren't popular, and aren't faceted. You'd be more likely to see brown andalusite in chunky and bohemian jewelry
If perfectly cut, the stone could show a great deal of colors. Andalusite is typically faceted to enhance its brilliance.
The gem is mostly translucent to opaque, but there are transparent varieties (extremely rare and expensive). It is a durable stone (7.5 Mohs) and fits in almost any type of jewelry.
Anixnite is a rare gemstone that you probably haven't heard of unless you're a gem enthusiast. This stone is most often found in purplish brown hues. Axinite stones have a strong pleochroic brilliance and vitreous luster. Pleochroism is when a gem reflects multiple colors at different angles.
It's hardness level is 6.5-7 and is considered to have very good wearability. Unfortunately, this brown gemstone is rare, so consider yourself lucky if you can get your hands on one. They're not too expensive ($150 per carat), just harder to obtain.
Sillimanite is another rare brown stone most people haven't heard of. It can go by the name of fibrolite too. However, most people wouldn't recognize either one of these names. If found, many compare it to cat's eye apatite.
It occurs in brownish hues and has a hardness of 6.5-7.5. Fibrolite may be from Sri Lanka or Myanmar (Burmese sillimanite).
Sillimanite also comes in chatoyant brown gemstones, but they're just as rare as the regular. Most sillimanite mined that are gemstone quality are under 5 carats. Because of its rarity, it doesn't really have a price per carat.
If you've seen our black gemstones list, you'll find cassiterite too. That's because like many brown gemstones, cassiterite occurs from black to brown. It's not a well-known gemstone but it's not super expensive or rare either.
Cassiterite are abundant brown gemstones and used as the main ore for tin. However, faceted pieces are very rare, despite their decent wearability (Mohs 6-7). Most pieces of cassiterite are sold as specimens on matrix for collecting purposes.
16. Brown Mali Garnet
Most people know garnet for its red hues, but there are other color varieties of the January birthstone. Other varieties of garnet might fall under brown tones, like hessonite garnet. Most people associate these stones with orange and red, but some nickname it the cinnamon stone for the reddish brown colors.
Mali garnet is a hybrid of two other garnet varieties: grossular and andradite. It's only found in Mali too.
Garnets have a 6.5-7.5 hardness and can also chip or crack. They don't make the best engagement rings, but low impact jewelry or protective settings will keep it from getting damaged.
Brown mali garnet exists as yellow brown, brownish orange, and light brown colored gemstones. The prices for these brown gemstones has fluctuated over the years. However, due to less material availability, the price has started to rise. Currently, mali garnets of the brown variety go for around $30-35 per carat.
17. Brown Enstatite
Enstatite aren't popular brown gemstones either, but they do exist. It's most valued for its colorless varieties, but occurs in gray, green, yellow, and brown. Enstatite can be split up into bronzite and hypersthene.
You won't want to add this one to your brown jewelry collection because of its poor wearability. It has uneven fractures and a hardness rating of 5-6. It's a very affordable stone at under $100 per carat.
18. Fire Agate
Fire agates have beautiful colors similar to opal occurring in different bubbles and swirls. The brown types have great iridescence and smooth sheen.
However, you’ll only find deposits of fire agate in a few locations (generally in Mexico and USA).
A high quality fire agate is translucent, has a waxy luster and a hardness of 7 Mohs. Since the stone is a member of the quarts family, fire agate is very tough. It is often cut into cabochons and crafted into unique patterns, bringing out the sheen of this brown gemstone.
Fire agate is beautiful and colorful pieces go for more. Agate comes in an array of different banded colors and is pretty common.
Where to Buy Brown Gemstones?
If you're looking for the infamous "chocolate diamonds", make sure you skip Kay's and Jared for those. While Le'Vian may own the name, chocolate diamonds and brown diamonds are the same thing.
Places like these overprice brown diamonds a lot. They aren't rare, similar to yellow diamonds.
If you're looking for a brown diamond, I recommend James Allen or Leibish & Co. James Allen's diamonds will be more affordable, but Leibish will have the highest quality. If you want to learn more make sure to check our list of best places to buy diamonds from.
Many of the brown stones on this list aren't facetable. You can find both specimens and faceted gemstones at places like Etsy and Gem Rock Auctions.