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The Ultimate Guide to Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Whether it’s a pop culture song or the diamond industry’s decades of advertising dollars swaying you, it would come as no surprise if you think flawless diamonds are the only way to go when shopping for engagement rings. But we’re here to break the news: salt and pepper diamonds are the next big thing.

In fact, while we’re happy to help you find an eye-clean (or flawless) diamond if that’s your true desire, we’re a little bit head over heels for salt and pepper diamonds. We love that each salt and pepper diamond boldly shows its unique characteristics and moody nature, standing out from a sea of crystal clear diamonds. But since they aren’t really the “norm” it can be hard to know how exactly to shop for a salt and pepper diamond, and what to look for. If you’re considering purchasing one of these stunning stones, it’s important to understand their authenticity, pricing, value, symbolism, and how to shop for them. Consider this your ultimate guide.

The Authenticity of Salt and Pepper Diamonds

We should probably start at the top: What is a salt and pepper diamond? There can often be confusion about whether salt and pepper diamonds are real diamonds, but they definitely are. Formed just like any other natural diamond, deep within the Earth, salt and pepper diamonds are known for their black and white inclusions you’ll find scattered throughout, which give them a more opaque look in tones of black and gray.

Like fingerprints, these inclusions mean that no two diamonds are ever exactly alike. The fun part? You can find salt and pepper diamonds in a myriad of different shapes, sizes, and colors. From white with black inclusions to soft grays to champagne hues or deep graphite. There’s something for everyone, and your diamond will never look like anyone else’s.

One of several salt and pepper diamonds. An oval shaped diamond with salt and pepper inclusions.
To be completely clear with you the salt and pepper diamond is not (clear, that is). But that doesn’t negate its striking beauty and unique looks.
A pear salt and pepper diamond is bezel set and rests within a white gold setting
Salt and pepper diamonds are marvelously moody. Pair them with an oval bezel setting for maximalist appeal.

The Price of Salt and Pepper Diamonds

It may seem obvious to assume that because salt and pepper diamonds are heavily included they would be dramatically cheaper than a higher clarity traditional diamond. But that’s not exactly how it works. The price of traditional diamond pricing is determined by multiple factors. This can include cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. However, salt and pepper diamond pricing is more based on demand. As demand for these unique stones goes up — typically when they start to trend — pricing rises too.

Pricing will also be affected by a salt and pepper stone’s potential for more unique inclusions, color, or shape. You know, since there is a much wider and more apparent range than in traditional diamonds. So are salt and pepper diamonds more affordable than a traditional diamond? Typically, yes. However, they’re kind of their own separate category and should only be compared to other similar diamonds.

The Value of Salt and Pepper Diamonds

When purchasing any diamond, one of the biggest questions people have is whether a diamond will hold its value over time. But does this even apply to salt and pepper diamonds?

Well, diamonds do hold some value, sure. But unless you’re buying museum-worthy diamonds or shopping the auction houses (fancy!), you’re likely purchasing a diamond for its meaning, rather than as a serious cash investment. In that light, any diamond (including salt and pepper) will lose retail value the moment you purchase it. This is why buyback pricing is lower than retail. Simply put, the company buying it has to resell it and mark it back up in order to make it profitable.

The same holds true of salt and pepper diamonds. They may not hold as much buyback power as traditional diamonds because the market is more volatile. However, you’re probably purchasing it because you love it, want to wear it, or want to give it to someone you love. Which, darling, are all the right reasons

A heavily included salt and pepper pear cut diamond
The amount of inclusions within a salt and pepper diamond can vary. Some may seem so included they appear closer to a black diamond.
An east west set rose cut salt and pepper diamond.
Play with shape by setting your salt and pepper diamond east west instead of the traditional north west.

The Symbolism of Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Diamonds, in general, have been symbolic of everything from invincibility to everlasting love since humans first began handling them centuries ago. But what do salt and pepper diamonds symbolize? Well, it could be any number of things. Their unique inclusions and coloring can represent the imperfections and individuality of your relationship. Or, they could be a lifelong reminder of the beauty of your uniqueness. Looking for a symbol of resilience and strength? Look no further than salt and peppers! These babies are formed under intense pressure after all.

Tips for Shopping for Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Salt and pepper diamonds have a lot of pros: their affordable price tag, their unique look, some super gorgeous shapes… but they have cons too. One of the biggest downsides of a salt and pepper diamond is that really nice ones can be tough to find. Yes, despite the fact that they’ve been having a moment for several years now. 

Long the fodder of the handmade jewelry marketplace, salt and pepper diamonds are now showing up across the fine jewelry counters of, well, everywhere. But that doesn’t mean each one you see is worth a second glance. 

Here’s a few tips on what to look for so you get the most salt and pepper for your money:

A three stone diamond ring with the stones floating on top of the other. A marquise diamond at the top, emerald cut diamond in the middle, and round brilliant below.
Why not consider a ring design as unique as your diamond. Contact us to get started customizing your ring today.
A half bezel rose cut diamond engagement ring
Prettier than roses, rose cuts are particularly suited for salt and pepper diamonds.

Get your mind out of the brilliance gutter

Salt and pepper diamonds don’t come in your standard diamond shapes and sizes. Most often, you will find them as rose cuts—a flatter diamond that shows off more size for your money (bonus!) but lacks that traditional brilliant sparkle. Bummer, right? Not necessarily.

See, the more included a diamond is, the less light it’s going to reflect anyway. Those inclusions get in the way of light bouncing straight into and out of the stone. Because traditional brilliant cutting techniques are very difficult and expensive, it doesn’t make much sense to waste the time and energy on creating brilliant cuts that aren’t going to be, well, brilliant, right? Plus, all that brilliance would distract from the super cool inclusions that you’re paying for anyway.

Shorty get low

Besides being drop dead gorgeous anyway, rose cut diamonds have another big plus side. Due to the shallow nature of a rose cut, it makes for a super low profile engagement ring setting. Which is great if you’re active or don’t like snagging your favorite sweaters. Salt and pepper diamonds can often be set quite low on the hand and look spectacular in a bezel, which offers extra protection from, well, life, and also adds a touch of shine and glamor to the super-natural look of the stone.

A side view of a low profile engagement ring. Pave diamonds decorate the shank and a princess cut diamond glistens from above.
Salt and peppers are a bit more fragile than other colored diamonds. A low-profile engagement ring the perfect solution to protecting your diamond while looking stylish.
A bezel set Asscher cut engagement ring.
In addition keeping things on the down low, consider bezel settings. Chic and comfortable, all of the sides of your salt and pepper diamond will be safeguarded against any unwanted bumps.

Speaking of protection

Salt and pepper diamonds have a lot of inclusions, obviously, and those inclusions can make a diamond a bit more fragile than other diamonds. Look for a diamond that doesn’t have surface-reaching inclusions, which can create nooks and crannies for dirt to get stuck in, be more difficult to clean (careful with the ultrasonic!), or lead to more chance for diamond breakage from an accidental blow.

Find a great jeweler

They’re not traditional diamonds, so salt and pepper diamonds are a bit hard to find at a traditional jeweler. But find a trusted jeweler to help you source the perfect salt and pepper diamond and they’ll basically be your new BFF. Oh, and don’t expect a diamond grading report, because GIA doesn’t grade salt and pepper stones. These unique diamonds are all about their special look, sultry nature, and symbolism. Not their traditional appeal.

A Marquise solitaire engagement ring with unique chevron band.
Looking for a fantastic jeweler who can help source you your dream salt and pepper darling? We know a guy.

Ready to Shop for Salt and Pepper Diamonds?

Because every salt and pepper diamond is totally unique, you’ll want to get eyes on it before you buy. That’s what our diamond concierge is here to help with. Just email and we’ll curate 5-7 exclusive stones to match what you’re looking for, or book a virtual or offline appointment at our New York salon to view certified lab-grown and natural diamonds in person. You can even design your own custom salt and pepper diamond ring—and get a free sketch!

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