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How to Shop for a Salt and Pepper Diamond

Yes, we’ve been telling you all along how to find an affordable, eye-clean diamond where you can’t see any inclusions, instead of paying top dollar for a high clarity grade. Why? Because we don’t want you dropping your dough for something you can’t even see. And, yes, now here we are telling you that inclusions are the next big thing. Sorry not sorry. Heavily included diamonds even have a fun, kitschy name now: salt and pepper diamonds. But really, they’re not new. They’re just totally now. And 100% wallet friendly. So if you’re looking for something uniquely beautiful that shows off the au natural qualities of a diamond in all its glory, perhaps a salt and pepper diamond is your thing. If so (or if you’re not sure), here’s how to shop for ‘em.

Inclusions have the ability to add major intrigue to your diamond (let’s call it character).

The Long Con

The diamond industry, and pop culture at large, want you to think that a flawless clarity diamond is the only way to go—and worth its price tag. And sure, if you are that person, then more power to you. But if you’re not, or if you find the idea of diamond inclusions actually kind of intriguing (hello, fellow gem geeks, we see you) then you should feel empowered to do you. Your diamond certainly does not have to be flawless, or even anything close to that. 

Beauty Marks

Salt and pepper diamonds are named so for the black and white inclusions you’ll find scattered throughout them. 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 champaign hues or deep graphite. There’s something for everyone, and your diamond will never look like anyone else’s.

Frank Darling custom salt and pepper diamond split shank pear ring.
The subtle champagne color of this custom yellow gold split shank pear is perfection.

The Pitfalls

The biggest downside of a salt and pepper diamond is that really nice ones can be tough to find, 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 strewn across the fine jewelry counters of, well, pretty much everywhere. But that doesn’t mean each one you see is worth a second glance. Because of their inclusions, salt and pepper diamonds can be a bit more fragile than other diamonds. If inclusions reach the surface, they can create nooks and crannies for dirt to get stuck in, be more difficult to clean (careful with the ultrasonic!) and harder to set.

double claw prongs on rose cut diamond solitaire engaegment ring
Since rose cuts have less brilliance than the round diamonds you are used to seeing, they show the details of the stone a lot more clearly. This makes them the perfect option for those seeking that salt and pepper look!

Smell the Roses

Salt and pepper diamonds also 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, because 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.

Shape Shifters

Now, the extra fun part of rose cuts? They come in tons of cool shapes. Sure, you can find a super standard round rose cut. Or even a double rose cut (that has facets on the top and the bottom). But if you’re going salt and pepper, it’ll do you well to think outside of the box shape-wise. 

Captain America (aka the shield): Shield shapes are a very cool option if you’re into super edgy, geometric styles. They’re kind of like a pear shape but without any of the curves. All straight lines and strong corners. Typically with 5 or 7 sides.

Go Fly a Kite: Quite similar to the shield is the kite, which is, well, exactly what it sounds like. A kite outline with four sides and four points. It’s a great way for diamond cutters to use the rough shape of the diamond.

Frank Darling salt and pepper diamond kite
You’ll commonly find shield or kite shaped stones in salt and pepper hues! Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

The In-Betweens: When it comes to rose cut salt and pepper diamonds, you can find variations on almost anything, including pear shapes, cushions, ovals, and squares. But you’ll also find trillions and tapered baguettes, or totally organic shapes that look like beach pebbles (just don’t try to skip them please)! Because of their unique qualities, salt and pepper diamonds will vary much more than a standard diamond cut and can have imperfect proportions that, again, give them a more rustic, romantic flair.

The Hex: Last but not certainly not least is the hexagon, probably one of our all time favorite rose cut diamond shapes. This gorgeous shape can be found in equilateral hexagons or elongated ones that stretch either up and down the finger or across in set East to West. Honestly, this is probably the one we’d recommend choosing if you know you want salt and pepper but aren’t sure you’re ready for anything too “out there” because it gives a really refined look to the diamond that echoes a more traditional style.

Flat Earth

Now, getting back to that whole flat rose cut thing. The 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 glamour to the super-natural look of the stone.

Ready to design your own custom rose cut? Take the design quiz to start building!

You Wanna Shoop?

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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