What are Salt & Pepper Diamonds?
If you’re in the market for a diamond right now and you’re keeping up with trends on Pinterest and Instagram, you’ve probably come across a post or two highlighting some unique diamonds. Salt and Pepper diamonds are just as they sound: diamonds that feature black and white inclusions or imperfections. They’re a far throw from their bright and clear traditional diamond counterparts, but Salt and Pepper popularity is on the rise. They’re all the rage – but what makes these so called “Salt and Pepper” diamonds so special?
Diamonds were formed hundreds of miles below the Earth’s surface nearly one billion years ago. Carbon atoms were subjected to extreme pressure and heat and thus diamonds were born. Over time, they travel up to the Earth’s surface in rare volcanic eruptions, where they were then discovered and mined. The freshly mined diamonds don’t come out of the ground resembling the polished and faceted stones we’re used to seeing. Rough diamonds can be in any shape or size and usually feature inclusions or imperfections.
The rough diamonds must be sorted and are cut to maximize size and minimize inclusions. Not every rough diamond can produce a gem quality diamond, so most rough diamonds are ground into dust for the industrial business, like coating for saw blades or drill bits. On average, for every one carat diamond produced, miners sift through 200-250 tons of ore. The average diamond size coming out of a mine is .10ct, and even then, only 20% of mined diamonds are gem quality. Those saleable diamonds are released into the market slowly to drive demand and keep prices steady.
Traditional diamonds are priced based on the 4 C’s: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. Diamonds that are large, clear, and bright can sometimes run a hefty price. A diamond with a small white or dark inclusion, or imperfection, are typically priced lower than a comparable flawless diamond. Flawless (F) diamonds are the highest on the clarity scale and Imperfect (I, I1, I2, I3) diamonds are lowest. Most diamonds fall in the middle of the scale, at Slightly Included (SI1-SI2) with small imperfections that can’t be seen by the naked eye. Traditional diamonds with large, dark inclusions that interfere with the light refraction are typically seen as less desirable.
The bright and clear diamond industry is extremely popular, but also produces a lot of waste. Salt and Pepper diamonds are different. They aren’t known for their brightness or lack of inclusions; they’re known for them. The more the merrier!
The 4 C’s, especially clarity, don’t really apply to Salt and Pepper diamonds. The dark carbon inclusions (pepper) and white feathers or wisps (salt) are what makes these diamonds unique. While not limited to black and white, Salt and Pepper diamonds can also feature other natural colors, like grey, red, dark green, brown, or yellow. Some Salt and Pepper diamonds can be completely opaque, layered, or clear and interspersed with large dark inclusions.
These alternative diamonds are mysterious and ethereal. Instead of refracting the light outward, it pulls the light inward and pulls you, the spectator, into its complex depths. Salt and Pepper diamonds aren’t treated to remove the inclusions like some traditional diamonds. They’re left raw and wild on the inside, while polished, faceted, and shiny on the outside. They’re a small snippet of nature billions of years in the making – what you see in that Salt and Pepper diamond is a snapshot into the natural elements found deep below the Earth’s surface.
Since there are more included diamonds coming out of mines than gem quality stones, Salt and Pepper diamonds are a much more sustainable option. With the rise in popularity, more rough diamonds are able to be cut into beautiful faceted stones and sold into the market. But since the trend is still “new”, Salt and Pepper diamonds typically have a lower price point than their traditional alternative!
As jewelers, it’s exciting to see new trends emerge and diverge from long-stated traditions. The lean towards the alternative, in both gemstones and jewelry styles, is fun to be a part of! We’ve recently dipped our toes into the Salt and Pepper diamond game and we’re in love with our current options. We recommend seeing these beauties in person to really get the full experience – they're a sight to behold! If you’d like to see them for yourself, stop by and let us know what you think!