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The Complete Guide to Salt and Pepper Diamonds

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Complete Guide to Salt and Pepper Diamonds

If you’re shopping for a diamond, you’re likely aware of the most popular shapes and styles available. 

Most consumers immediately narrow their choices down to a white diamond, and then decide on cut, carat, and the type of setting. 

But there’s a type of diamond that may not be top of mind but has gained traction due to its alternative aesthetic — a salt and pepper diamond.

What Are Salt and Pepper Diamonds?

A salt and pepper diamond features inclusions that appear black and white. This mix of colors produces a gray, speckled look that is unique to that particular diamond. 

While almost all diamonds have inclusions, the ones in a salt and pepper diamond are more visible and significantly affect its overall appearance. 

Salt and Pepper Diamond

If you were to ask a jeweler for the perfect diamond, you would likely expect a gleaming, strikingly-clear selection. Technically, that might be a perfect “grade” diamond, but it’s not the one that catches everyone’s eyes. 

There’s been a resurgence of the salt and pepper diamond, a sparkling mix of black and white suspended in a precision-cut gem. 

While traditional diamonds are esteemed for their lack of imperfections and inclusions, the opposite is celebrated with salt and pepper diamonds. 

Adding to the allure, sourcing these diamonds is much more environmentally positive than their picture-perfect counterparts. In the past, these were tossed aside and disposed of for not meeting normal inclusion standards. 

Now, they have a purpose and are sometimes chosen over the usual selections.

Characteristics

Salt and Pepper Diamond Varieties - Rockdiamond

In the depths of these one-of-a-kind diamonds, you’ll find unrepeatable characteristics, patterns, and inclusions. 

With the surface clarity of any other gem, the glassy surface opens into a world of flecks and specks that sparkle and change from every angle. 

Below are the distinctive characteristics of salt and pepper diamonds.

The internal makeup of salt and pepper diamonds is a stark contrast to more “perfect” diamonds, but it has no effect on the variety and options you have when turning your attention to these black and white mysteries. 

The alternative personality of these speckled diamonds can be found in any cut you would find on the rest of the market.

Although sometimes the inclusions tend to show better when emphasized with the right cut, don’t worry about sacrificing your dream diamond shape just because you choose a salt and pepper diamond. 

They come in shapes such as: 

  • round 
  • cushion 
  • marquise 
  • trillion

A Rose Cut is one of the most popular options, as the details of the cut give the diamond every chance to shine and show off its brilliance.

Durability

As to be expected from any quality stone, salt and pepper diamonds rank at a 10 in hardness on the Mohs scale and are thus highly durable.

Salt and Pepper Oval Cut

Although they’re in the same league in that sense, they are slightly more brittle due to the inclusions. The more inclusions, the more susceptible it is to damage. 

This shouldn’t cause a problem as long as it’s set correctly to give it the support and protection needed, but avoid cleaning it with an ultrasonic cleaner.

They can cause damage in the areas with inclusions, and they also have a tendency to the shake the stone loose.

Affordability

While you sacrifice certain aesthetics when choosing a salt and pepper diamond, your wallet will thank you. 

Because flawless and internally flawless diamonds are rare and in much higher demand, opting for the white and black versions means you can choose a higher carat or CTTW (the total weight of all the diamonds on the piece) with the financial breathing room a cheaper stone provides. 

In the past, these diamonds were often discarded for their flawed character. The surplus is now put to good use because of the increase in demand.

Diversity Availability of Colors

With a near-endless number of inclusion patterns, each salt and pepper diamond offers a spectrum of color combinations. The graphite, carbon, and other raw materials that make up each piece can be vastly different even if mined from the same location. 

You will find dark speckles, cloudy grey streaks, and bright white flecks throughout nearly every gem. Some might come with no salt or only a bit of pepper. It might mysteriously cloud the stone or add to its depth. 

This is part of the attraction new consumers on the market find when examining the diverse availability of color combinations. 

Eco-Friendly

Salt and pepper diamonds are some of the most eco-friendly diamonds on the market. Many diamonds that would’ve previously been abandoned have found demand in the market today.

Salt and Pepper Asscher Cut 

There’s a minimal amount of additional resources required to mine them because salt and pepper diamonds have always been a byproduct of the search for flawless ones. This leads to less waste and a healthier environment.

The Four Cs

Diamonds are traditionally graded along the four Cs: 

  • cut 
  • color 
  • clarity 
  • carat

When it comes to clarity, salt and pepper diamonds don’t get a passing grade. The only helpful clarifying factor is the ability to see the changes in depth between inclusions. 

While clarity is important to see through the surface, once you’re looking through it, the lack of clarity shapes the personality of the stone. 

In regard to carat, you can get much more bang for your buck with a salt and pepper diamond. Generally, prices for diamonds of higher clarity increase sharply with the carat, but that doesn’t hold as true for salt and pepper diamonds. 

Color is the most intriguing aspect of these diamonds. With conventional diamonds, the slightest change in tint is enough to clash with other stones. 

An upside to salt and pepper diamonds is the color is not held to such scrutiny. You’ll find mixtures of black, grey, and white inclusions that influence the colors reflecting off each facet. 

When exploring the different cuts, you’ll find each shape gives off a different view of what’s held inside the stone. Brilliant cuts such as round or princess are also a popular choice, as they show off the character and color of the diamond. 

How to Wear Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Salt and Pepper Diamond on Finger

Like any good gem, salt and pepper diamonds can fit nearly every outfit. It may give a contrasting effect to a light-colored band or prongs holding it in place, depending on the coloration. These diamonds also don’t look out of place worn either casually or at formal occasions because of their untraditional appearance.

Another upside is placed next to other gems, the unique beauty of the stones are even more apparent. Gold and white settings are a great match for these stones. 

Light grey bands are also complementary because of their similar hues.

Buying Tips

One upside to buying a salt and pepper diamond is the array of options. Because the visible inclusions are what distinguish it from other diamonds, no salt and pepper diamonds look alike.

When buying one, look for a shape and cut that accentuates the character of the inclusions while not distracting from them. You’re already selecting an alternative look, but this opens the door to additional variations of salt and pepper. 

Take the time to explore different types of inclusions and how they match your personal style. You may want to choose one with a dark grey hue, a hint of black, or speckles all throughout.

Another buying tip is to ensure the inclusions won’t significantly affect the durability of the diamond. Though inclusions are its staple feature, they do impact its ability to withstand daily activities or accidental impact. 

Find the right balance between inclusions that give it the look you desire while also not causing concern it will chip the diamond if you drop it or it makes impact with a hard surface.

Examples of Salt and Pepper Diamonds

1.37ct Salt & Pepper Pear Diamond Engagement Ring

1.37ct Salt & Pepper Pear Diamond Engagement Ring

This salt and pepper diamond from Point No Point Studio features a pear-shaped diamond with a Rose Cut.

The Rose Cut gives it a sharp look that creates a larger surface area to show off its brilliance. It’s semi-translucent with black and white speckles. 

0.8ct Raw Salt and Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring

Raw Salt and Pepper Diamond Rose - BravermanOren

This raw salt and pepper engagement ring from BravermanOren comes in rose, yellow, black or white gold. 

Each option shows the diamond in a different way, with a black or white material complementing the diamond’s salt and pepper, or the rose and yellow accentuating its darker features.

As demonstrated by this ring, salt and pepper diamonds can also have stylish shanks. It’s edged with milgrain to add custom detail to an already-unique piece of jewelry.

2.03ct Darby Salt and Pepper Engagement Ring

Darby Salt and Pepper Engagement Ring - Sofia Kaman

This Darby salt and pepper engagement ring from Sofia Kaman is a round Rose Cut with four pear brilliant cut diamond accents surrounding the center stone. 

The accents have a color/clarity of G-H/SI, so their color and clarity contrast the inclusions of the salt and pepper diamond.

The bright yellow gold also contrasts the darker shade of the center diamond, and it’s held in place by eight tiny prongs.

1.06ct Jade Ring with Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Jade Ring with Salt and Pepper Diamonds - Alexis Russell

With a three-stone setting, this salt and pepper diamond from Alexis Russell features two trillion stones surrounding the center stone. The 14k white gold band complements the three stones.

The distinguishing feature of this ring is all three stones are salt and pepper diamonds. While it’s not unusual to pair salt and pepper with contrasting white diamonds, this design allows you to go all in on this distinctive look.

Conclusion

Salt and Pepper Diamond Infographic

Most diamond shoppers try to avoid diamonds with black and white specks, but that characteristic is what defines a salt and pepper diamond. 

A diamond that used to be discarded during sourcing can now complete your style because of its distinctiveness. This is due to its variety of shapes and colors, affordability, and eco-friendliness.

Explore which salt and pepper diamond has the right amount and color and inclusions but won’t cause durability issues. 

With the right pick, you can have a distinct piece of jewelry that also won’t break the bank.

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler is the founder of TeachJewelry.com.

He earned an Applied Jewelry Professional Diploma from the Gemological Institute of America and now brings you essential information about diamonds, settings, and more.

Devon has consulted with leading jewelry brands, and his work has been cited in Diamond Nexus and other industry publications.

He's also a member of the International Gem Society.

Devon enjoys discussing jewelry with readers, so contact him with any questions at tyler.devon@teachjewelry.com.

Learn More About Devon