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Your Salt and Pepper Diamond Guide: Inclusions are In

Written by Anna Currell
March 30, 2023

When you think of diamonds, the crystal clear, colorless gemstone inside of a classic engagement ring might come to mind. But did you know that diamonds can come in other colors too? In fact, they come in all shades of gray. Salt and pepper diamonds fall somewhere between colorless and completely black, which creates beautiful, interesting, and unexpected stones. Let’s look at what a salt and pepper diamond is, how it’s created, and what interesting qualities and benefits it offers.

What Is a Salt and Pepper Diamond?

A salt and pepper diamond is a naturally occurring diamond with black and white blemishes or inclusions that combine to give the stone a grayish appearance. An inclusion is an imperfection within a diamond; the term is used most often when describing diamond clarity (more about that later). While most people traditionally gravitate toward colorless and high-clarity diamonds, the salt and pepper diamond is making waves right now; the beautiful quality of these speckled, sparkling diamonds is trending all over.  

How does a salt and pepper diamond get its appearance?

Inclusions are formed during the diamond's growth process and are sometimes referred to as carbon spots or flecks. These happen naturally and are a common part of the growth process; that’s why colorless, high-clarity diamonds are so rare. 


The Four Cs of a Salt and Pepper Diamond

A diamond’s quality is determined by four factors: clarity, cut, color, and carat. All four factors play a role in the quality and appearance of salt and pepper diamonds. Let’s take a look at each one:


The clarity of a diamond is determined by the presence or absence of imperfections (usually referred to as blemishes or inclusions) that can affect the transparency of the diamond. However, in salt and pepper diamonds, the inclusions are actually what give the diamond its unique and distinctive appearance. While most diamond valuations prioritize high clarity (with few or no inclusions), in the world of salt and pepper diamonds, inclusions are actually what gives them their value. So it's important to keep in mind what end result you're looking for when you start assessing diamond clarity.

That being said, the clarity of a salt and pepper diamond can still have an impact on its value and appearance. The size and location of the inclusions within the diamond can affect the way that light passes through the stone and can create variations in the diamond's color and sparkle. Some people may prefer salt and pepper diamonds with more evenly distributed inclusions, while others may prefer diamonds with inclusions that create a more interesting and dynamic pattern.


A chart detailing the clarity and color grading system


The cut of a diamond refers to the way that a raw diamond is shaped and processed for use in jewelry. The diamond’s cut influences the way that light interacts with the stone; diamonds with inclusions don’t refract light the same way that blemish-free diamonds do, so salt and pepper diamonds usually sparkle better with cuts that feature flat surfaces. Round, oval, pear, and emerald cuts are popular shapes for salt and pepper diamonds.


Although salt and pepper diamonds are typically white or gray in color, there are endless variations in the shades of gray that they can feature. Some examples include:

  • Icy white
  • Off-white
  • Creamy white
  • Light gray
  • Medium gray
  • Dark gray
  • Charcoal gray

Some salt and pepper diamonds may have hints of other colors, such as brown or yellow, that can further add to their beauty.


Carat weight is a measure of the weight of a diamond. Usually, the higher the carat count, the bigger and more expensive the diamond. However, the impact of carat weight on the appearance of a salt and pepper diamond is not as straightforward as it is for other types of diamonds. Some people may prefer the look of a smaller salt and pepper diamond with a higher density of inclusions over a larger diamond with fewer inclusions. Because the size of the inclusions themselves can affect the appearance of a salt and pepper diamond, some people prefer smaller inclusions that create a subtler effect and others prefer larger inclusions that create a bolder, more dramatic appearance.


The Benefits of a Salt and Pepper Diamond

Now that you know about the qualities of salt and pepper diamonds and how they’re formed, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why they’re a great choice for jewelry:


If you’re on a tight budget, a salt and pepper diamond can be a great solution. Companies excavate salt and pepper diamonds frequently, but they’re less popular for jewelry since ultra-clear and colorless gemstones are the more traditional choice. High-clarity diamonds are a more traditional choice because they’re so rare, and that rarity means they're generally considered to be more valuable. Of course, that high demand also compounds their rarity on the market, which increases their price tags. Salt and pepper diamonds, on the other hand, are more common in nature than inclusion-free high-clarity diamonds. Because they’re less rare and less in-demand, it's easier to find beautiful and valuable pieces at a more affordable price point.


While colorless diamonds have been the norm for engagements for decades, more couples are opting for unconventional rings. In fact, many contemporary couples are opting for other gemstones, like salt and pepper diamonds, that veer away from the traditional institutions and relationships that diamonds have come to symbolize. 

For people who prefer a non-traditional ring, a salt and pepper diamond is a great option. Not only is it different from most diamonds, but every salt and pepper diamond will look entirely different from the next. Inclusion patterns are entirely unique, which means they’ll present differently in every gemstone. 


Since diamonds are mined for specific qualities like high clarity and colorlessness, many included raw diamonds are discarded; only about 20% of the diamonds that are mined end up used in jewelry. Gemstones are non-replenishable resources, and getting rid of them contributes to waste; using salt and pepper diamonds in jewelry helps cut down on that waste.

Once you have your very own salt and pepper diamond, be sure to take good care of it. Have it professionally cleaned every six months, and store it safely when you’re not wearing it. If you’d like to create a special piece of jewelry using your salt and pepper diamond, reach out to a bespoke jewelry concierge who can help you custom design your dream piece.

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