Jewelry Guide

Salt and Pepper Diamonds – Buy or Avoid?

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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?

Should I Choose a Salt and Pepper Diamond?

If you’re looking for a stone for your engagement ring, think about what you want the ring to say and how you want it to look. A salt and pepper ring isn’t for everyone.

Buy a salt and pepper ring if you:

  • want a unique looking ring
  • want lots of design options
  • want an affordable diamond
  • want to stand out with your choice
  • don’t care what people think or say about your ring
  • don’t really want to conform to society’s norms
  • think imperfection is beautiful
  • want a more ethical stone
  • want the durability of a diamond

Don’t buy a salt and pepper diamond if:

  • you’re after brilliance and sparkle
  • you’ve always wanted a colorless diamond
  • you want to follow tradition
  • want to have more diamonds to choose from

What’s a Salt and Pepper Diamond?

A salt and pepper diamond is essentially a colorless diamond of such low quality that it’s full of inclusions. These inclusions are black and white creating a salt and pepper effect.

In the past, salt and pepper diamonds were outcasts of the diamond industry, considered undesirable and too inferior to be used in jewelry. But today, this view has changed, and they’ve gone from being the pariahs of the diamond world to the next big thing.

Why Choose a Salt and Pepper Diamond?

If salt and pepper diamonds are simply diamonds with inclusions, why buy them at all? Wouldn’t it make sense to avoid them altogether? The answer is no, because beauty doesn’t always lie in perfection. Simply hold up a salt and pepper diamond ring and you’ll notice that it gives off an attractive appeal that’s very different to a colorless diamond.

Here are some reasons to choose a salt and pepper diamond:

  1. 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.

Salt and pepper diamond ring

Sat and pepper center diamond in yellow gold. See it here.

  1. They’re versatile. Salt and pepper diamonds suit a variety of ring styles, from vintage to contemporary. They’re easily adapted to suit minimalist or maximalist styles and look perfect in rustic, rough ring designs as well as in high-end, stylish settings. This versatility makes salt and pepper diamonds a perfect choice for any type of fashion sense.
  2. 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. These stones are much more affordable because they aren’t ‘perfect’ stones.
  3. They’re environmentally friendly. The diamond industry is known for its connections to conflict, unethical practices and enormous impact on the environment. While tons of earth have to be extracted to find a handful of gem quality diamonds, salt and pepper stones are much more 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

Colorless diamonds and salt and pepper diamonds vary in all the ways that matter. While they’re both formed in the same way and out of the same material, they’re different when it comes to quality factors.

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.

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. 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 (it’s 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 black and white inclusions, that give each stone its own unique look.

  • Salt and Pepper Color

The large number of black inclusions in the diamond color it gray and gives it a dark appearance. However, this can vary depending on the number and type of inclusions. The body color of the salt and pepper diamond also impacts its overall look, and can range from colorless to milky and gray.

  • Salt and Pepper Cut

While traditional diamonds are cut to enhance their brilliance, 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 the stone is heavily reduced which is why cutters often choose fancy cuts for the stones. These include step cuts and rose cuts and shapes like hexagons, kites, round, oval, pear, triangles and coffin (yes, that’s a real 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

I mentioned above that these diamonds are highly versatile (like traditional diamonds) and suit a variety of ring settings and styles.

Salt and pepper pear shape engagement ring

Solitaire style ring. See this here.

They pair well with yellow and rose gold settings, as these metal colors bring out the color and patterns of the stone perfectly, giving the ring a vintage and sophisticated touch. White gold settings with salt and pepper diamonds have a cooler, icier look. They’re beautiful and avant-garde, perfect for a contemporary look.

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.

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, so you’ll know that it’s an artisan, one of a kind ring just for you.

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