Salt and Pepper Diamonds – A Practical Buying Guide

Salt and pepper diamonds are an excellent alternative to the traditional colorless diamond. They’re affordable, unique, and beautiful to look at especially when mounted in a well-crafted setting. But are they right for you?

What’s a Salt and Pepper Diamond?

A salt and pepper diamond is so called because of the black and white inclusions that can be found within the stone. These inclusions give the diamond its unique, speckled appearance, much like a mix of salt and pepper.

JamesAllen Engagement Rings

In the past, salt and pepper diamonds were considered to be of too low quality, due to the heavy inclusions they contained, and were not used in jewelry. However, today they’re viewed quite differently.

Advantages of Salt and Pepper Diamond Ring

salt and pepper diamond engagement ring in rose gold setting
Salt and pepper diamond ring by Divine Elements Studio. See it here.

The beauty of a salt and pepper diamond lies in its very imperfection. Here are some reasons to choose a salt and pepper diamond:

  • Salt and pepper diamonds are unusually attractive. 

The gorgeous, speckled appearance of these diamonds make them unique and appealing, with no two diamonds exactly alike. This gives each stone character and style. For example, this kite shaped salt and pepper diamond has attractive and uncommon inclusions.

  • They’re versatile. 

Salt and pepper diamonds suit a variety of ring styles, from vintage to contemporary. They suit minimalist or maximalist styles and look perfect whether set in rustic designs, like this raw rose cut diamond ring, or classic settings, like this hexagon side stone ring. This versatility makes salt and pepper diamonds a perfect choice for any type of fashion sense.

  • Salt and pepper diamonds are affordable. 

While colored diamonds can be more expensive than their colorless counterparts, salt and pepper diamonds are quite the opposite. Although they’re also a form of colored diamond, they’re much more affordable because they aren’t ‘perfect’ stones.

  • They’re environmentally friendly.

The mined diamond industry is known for its connections to conflict, unethical practices, and enormous impact on the environment. Salt and pepper stones are readily available. While they still have an impact on the earth (any type of mining does), they’re still much more sustainable than other types of diamonds.

4Cs of Salt and Pepper Diamonds

When evaluating the quality of a diamond, we take into account the 4Cs (cut, color, clarity and carat). The higher these grades are, the more perfect and expensive the diamond.

Colorless diamond round engagement ring
Colorless diamond set in white gold. See this here.
Salt and pepper hexagonal ring
Hexagon cut salt and pepper ring. See this here.

For salt and pepper diamonds, however, the 4Cs don’t apply. These diamonds aren’t evaluated in the same way as traditional diamonds and no grading report is given for them. For the sake of being thorough, let’s take a look at the 4Cs in relation to salt and pepper diamonds.

Salt and Pepper Clarity

All diamonds have some level of imperfection. Even diamonds with perfect clarity have miniscule inclusions, which is one of the distinguishing factors between natural and synthetic diamonds.

In salt and pepper diamonds, the inclusions are the standout feature. They are a neat distribution of typically black and white inclusions, that give each stone its own unique look.

Salt and Pepper Color

Salt and pepper diamonds come in varying shades of grey – from very light grey, like this pave set diamond ring, to dark grey, like this solitaire round cut diamond, depending on the number of inclusions. The body color of the salt and pepper diamond also impacts its overall look and can range from colorless to milky and grey. There’s no consensus on what color is best for this variety of diamonds – it all comes down to personal preference.

Salt and Pepper Cut

rose cut salt and pepper diamond
Rose cut salt and pepper diamond. See this here.

While traditional diamonds are cut to enhance their brilliance and fire, salt and pepper diamonds are cut to bring out the unique inclusions and patterns in the stone.

The high number of inclusions means that the brilliance of salt and pepper diamonds is heavily reduced. To compensate for this, cutters highlight the beauty of the stone through fancy cuts. These include step cuts and rose cuts and shapes like hexagons, kites, round, oval, pear, triangles, and coffin (yes, that’s a thing – check out an example here).

Rough or raw salt and pepper diamonds are also highly popular, typically used in bohemian and rustic settings. These bring out the natural look of the stone with minimal human interference.

Salt and Pepper Carat

Because these stones are affordable and available, they’re easy to find in larger sizes. Unlike traditional diamonds, salt and pepper diamonds don’t increase in price exponentially with the increase in carat weight.

You could find a 4-carat salt and pepper stone for around $10,000, which might sound expensive, but compare it to a 4-carat colorless diamond that costs around $40,000 and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.

Salt and Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring Styles

Salt and pepper pear shape engagement ring
Solitaire style ring. See this here.

Salt and pepper diamonds pair well with any metal color. When set in yellow or rose gold settings, the color and patterns of the stone contrast beautifully with the metal.   These hues also give salt and pepper diamonds a vintage and sophisticated touch.

When paired with white gold settings, salt and pepper diamonds have a cooler, icier look. They’re beautiful and avant-garde, perfect for a contemporary aesthetic.

Salt pepper diamond engagement ring
Gorgeously crafted rough salt and pepper ring. See it here.

Pairing salt and pepper center stones with small, sparkling white diamonds adds brilliance and contrast to the ring. For this, halo and side stone settings are ideal.

However, bezel settings are also popular for salt and pepper diamond rings, as the metal provides a perfect frame to highlight the look of the stone.

Are Salt and Pepper Diamonds Durable?

Like regular diamonds, these diamonds also rank 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making them the hardest gemstone used in jewelry.

However, because of the numerous inclusions in the stone, salt and pepper diamonds can be more brittle and prone to fracture than traditional diamonds. The inclusions can compromise the integrity of the stone.

Having said that, if the diamond is mounted carefully and treated with reasonable care, it can last for generations.

When cleaning a salt and pepper diamond, avoid using ultrasonic cleaners as these can cause fractures and cracks in a more fragile stone. Use a mild soap and a soft brush to restore the brightness and sparkle of the stone, instead of using harsh chemicals and abrasive materials.

Should I Choose a Salt and Pepper Diamond?

salt and pepper men's ring
Salt and pepper diamonds are ideal unisex stones. See these men’s rings here.

A salt and pepper diamond ring isn’t for everyone, as it’s quite unique and stands out.  Like all diamond types, these diamonds have their pros and cons as well.

  • Eye-catching and stylish
  • Every stone is different
  • Versatile – there are many design options available
  • Much more affordable than traditional white diamonds
  • More eco-friendly
  • Minimal sparkle compared to traditional diamonds
  • An unconventional choice – it’s not for everyone
  • Limited availability
  • Not sold by most diamond retailers

Salt and pepper diamonds aren’t for everyone, but they’re perfect if you’re someone who doesn’t want to follow tradition or societies dictates. They’re also ideal if you’re someone who sees the beauty in imperfection.

Where to Find Salt and Pepper Engagement Rings?

Because salt and pepper diamonds aren’t mainstream stones, finding one at your local jewelers might prove difficult. Instead, take your search online to make the most of the choices available.

While most retailers don’t offer these stones on their sites, you’ll find a range of salt and pepper diamond rings on platforms like Etsy and Amazon.

We particularly like Etsy’s salt and pepper engagement ring collection as it ranges in price and style, with something for everyone. These rings are typically hand-crafted and made to your specifications. If you aren’t sure about shopping on Etsy, we’ve covered that and more in this article on how to shop for jewelry on Etsy.

Wrapping Up

Salt and pepper diamonds are beautiful and unique. They’re not your typical diamond, and when crafted beautifully, they look stunning in rings, whether for engagements or casual. They’re a great alternative to colorless diamonds.

What are salt and pepper diamonds

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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