Salt and Pepper Diamond – Pros, Cons and Buying Tips

Girl wearing salt pepper diamond engagement ring

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Salt and pepper diamonds are one of the most unique and fascinating types of diamonds but likely not for the reasons you’d think. While other colored diamonds such as red or black diamonds are much rarer and more highly valued, salt and pepper diamonds owe their uniqueness and style to the fact that they are just so… not unique.

What do we mean by that?

Salt and pepper diamonds are colorless diamonds that have many varying inclusions that they can’t pass as “quality colorless” diamonds at all. Where other colored diamonds tend to have a homogenous color, salt and pepper diamonds are a cacophony of lots of black, white, grey, and other small colored inclusions that make them look like they’ve been “peppered”.

Essentially, salt and pepper diamonds are colorless diamonds of such incredibly low quality that they’ve turned into their own unique and desirable color grade that has begun to garner fans in recent years!

Here’s what you need to know about buying a salt and pepper diamond – the perfectly imperfect stone.

What Are Salt and Pepper Diamonds?

Salt and pepper diamond engagement ring

Salt and pepper diamond solitaire ring by Moss N Stone. See it here.

Solitaire setting colorless diamond engagement ring

Compare that to this colorless diamond ring. See it here.

While with all other diamond colors we can mention the exact type of chemical or physical inclusion that’s responsible for their color, with salt and pepper diamonds there isn’t one single inclusion that’s responsible for their unique look. Instead, salt and pepper diamonds look the way they look due to a myriad of different inclusions they can have – the more diverse and numerous these inclusions are, the more “peppery” the diamond looks.

In fact, salt and pepper diamonds can vary a lot from one another too depending on the inclusions they have. They can be nearly black, grey, milky or almost colorless. They can have strong green or yellow hues and they can even have some rare red or orange hues at times.

The difference in these inclusions may or may not impact the price of the salt and pepper stone but they are almost always relatively affordable compared to other diamonds, and they always have a very unique look.

Are Salt and Pepper Diamonds in Style?

Unlike most other colored diamonds, salt and pepper diamonds haven’t always been in style. While colorless, yellow, green, and other diamonds have always been sought after by royalty, celebrities, and other high enders, until recently, salt and pepper diamonds were viewed as inferior quality and among the most undesirable diamonds out there.

The perception of these unique stones has changed in recent years, however, and they’ve become quite stylish. Many people have started viewing these diamonds as a color of their own and have come to appreciate their uniqueness. They are very much in style today and, hopefully, their unique and often gorgeous look will continue to get them the appreciation they deserve.

Moira:  I wanted a non-traditional engagement ring and went with a salt and pepper diamond. I love the beauty of their imperfections which for me is so symbolic.

Best Ring Designs for Salt and Pepper Diamonds

As these diamonds don’t offer the brilliance and luster of colorless diamonds, it’s not very relevant to consider how the ring design is going to affect the stone’s performance. You can set your salt and pepper diamond in any setting be it a halo, a bezel, a solitaire or side stone setting, with the aim of maximizing its beauty and appearance. Here are some stunning designs that demonstrate how versatile these diamonds are:

Kite salt-and-pepper diamond ring rose gold metal

Kite salt and pepper diamond by Minimal VS. Check price here

Rose cut salt and pepper diamond engagement ring with side stones

Rose cut salt and pepper diamond by Aardvark Jewellery. See it here.

Unique salt-and-pepper diamond ring

Fancy cut salt and pepper diamond by Angeline. See it here.

Milky salt-and-pepper diamond engagement ring

Milky salt and pepper diamond by Aurora Designer. See it here.

Salt and pepper diamonds are highly durable, but we would recommend a slightly more protective setting like a halo or a bezel because these stones do tend to be more brittle than other diamonds because of all their inclusions. Don’t take that to mean that they are “too brittle”, however – they are still diamonds so they are still harder than any other gemstone.

Salt and pepper diamonds look stunning in any metal color, including white, yellow and rose gold. In short, because salt and pepper diamonds can vary so much from one another in their color and look, picking the right setting and design is done mostly on a case-by-case basis.

Salt and Pepper Diamond Durability

This is probably the main question people have when it comes to salt and pepper diamonds. Like any other diamond, salt and pepper diamonds also rank 10 on the Mohs scale. It’s hard enough to be used in jewelry and is highly resistant to scratches.

However, the issue is with the toughness of the stone. Salt and pepper diamonds are very brittle because of all their inclusions, which can cause the stone to break or chip if dealt a hard blow. This, of course, depends on the individual diamond and the type and number of inclusions it has.

Overall, if mounting a salt and pepper diamond in an engagement ring, you could opt for a protective setting. Also avoid using ultrasonic cleaners which can cause the diamond to break and avoid using harsh and abrasive cleaners on the stone.

If carefully crafted and reasonably maintained, a salt and pepper diamond ring can last a very long time.

The Color of Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Salt and pepper diamonds are so obscure and different from other colored diamonds that it’s even difficult to put them on the same color intensity scale as brown, green or yellow diamonds.

Where other colored diamonds can be spread between the following 9 color intensity grades – Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Dark, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, Fancy Deep – salt and pepper diamonds are much harder to categorize in such a way.

It’s not outright impossible, of course, we can still compare the body of the diamond and how much its color is affected by the “peppered” inclusions – whether the overall appearance of the stone is more milky or darker grey, etc. 

However, trying to adapt salt and pepper diamonds to this scale is simply pointless – their unique appearance lies precisely in how diverse they look.

So, instead of judging the value of salt and pepper stones on their relative intensity or color, they are mostly judged on the diversity and intensity of their inclusions and the overall look they give each individual diamond.

How Do the 4Cs Apply to Salt and Pepper Diamonds?

Salt and pepper diamond studs

Salt and pepper diamond studs by Saturnalie Jewellery. See it here.

The 4Cs of salt and pepper diamonds are another reason to love them because they are almost the opposite to those of the standard colorless diamonds.

While the color of a colorless diamond needs to be as clear as possible, the countless inclusions of a salt and pepper diamond are what makes it unique and beautiful.

Where the clarity of a colorless diamond is best when there are little to no visible or even invisible to the naked eye inclusions, with salt and pepper diamonds the clarity is all but irrelevant – you want your salt and pepper diamond to have as many inclusions as possible but not too many so as to make it a black diamond.

And while the cut in colorless diamonds is chosen to enhance the brilliance of the diamond and to hide whatever inclusions it might have, in salt and pepper diamonds the cut’s main goal is to showcase and accent the inclusions as much as possible. That’s why there really isn’t one “best” cut for salt and pepper diamonds. Cutters choose whichever cut will be best for each individual stone’s inclusions. As a result, you can expect to find many salt and pepper diamonds in uncommon cuts and shapes such as hexagons, kites, pears, step cuts, rose cuts, coffins (yep, those exist, like this stunning coffin cut diamond ring), in addition to the more standard cuts like round, cushion and radiant cuts.

Salt and Pepper Diamond Value

Salt and pepper diamonds may have been unpopular throughout much of history but they’ve been rising as of late. This, of course, means that their perceived value and price have also increased and most quality salt and pepper diamonds or rings are now often in the 4-digit price range. Nevertheless, they are still more affordable than other colored diamonds a quality colorless diamonds so they do present a good bargain.

On the other hand, given that salt and pepper diamonds aren’t exactly rare, their overall rising price is more market-driven than supply-driven, meaning that their market price is higher than their production price.

Best Alternatives for Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Almost all colored and colorless diamonds have synthetic and treated alternatives nowadays, but salt and pepper diamonds don’t seem to be artificially manufactured. The reason for this is likely that they are already abundant and inexpensive enough so that they don’t need synthetic alternatives.

Since salt and pepper diamonds have such a unique look they don’t really have that many natural gemstone alternatives out there, especially not ones suitable for engagement rings.

One notable gemstone exception you might want to take a look at, however, is the grey moissanite. Moissanite is mostly lab-grown as natural moissanite can only be found in meteorites. And that’s pretty much the case of grey moissanite, like this gray moissanite ring, which can look somewhat similar to salt and pepper diamond rings.

Salt and Pepper Diamond Symbolism

Since salt and pepper diamonds are so new to the popular market and haven’t really been viewed as a viable jewelry option throughout history, they don’t have as much ascribed meanings and symbolism as other colored diamonds or gemstones. In fact, they pretty much have no typical symbolism or supposed beneficial effects on the wearer.

Whether that’s a negative or a positive is up to the wearer, we suppose, but if we were to ascribe some symbolism to these curious diamonds it’d be that they symbolize the rise to prominence of the always ignored and underappreciated underdog.

If you’re looking for salt and pepper diamond rings, click here to browse through a wide range.

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