Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Engagement Rings: The Complete Guide

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Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Engagement Rings

Courtesy Michelle Oh Anya / Design by Bailey Mariner

It’s been ingrained in our brains that a sparkling (and sizable) white diamond makes the ultimate engagement ring, but as many modern couples will attest, a white diamond isn’t the be-all and end-all. If you lean toward an alternative aesthetic or you’re simply interested in an engagement ring that’s less expected, a salt-and-pepper diamond is a fantastic choice. While they have existed for centuries alongside their more popular white diamond counterpart, these perfectly imperfect stones have more recently begun to gain traction with brides-to-be.

What Is a Salt-and-Pepper Diamond?

A salt-and-pepper diamond has inclusions that appear black and white. Many will have more inclusions than others, and no two diamonds are alike. Some will be dark and moody; others come light and bright with just a few tiny blemishes.

We spoke with Azra Mehdi, an industry expert and the founder of Au Xchange, to gain insight on these natural beauties and what to know before slipping that once-in-a-lifetime ring onto your finger.

Meet the Expert

Azra Mehdi is a jewelry expert and the founder of Au Xchange Fine Gold Jewelry.

Pros and Cons of a Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Ring

Salt-and-pepper diamonds are still diamonds, which means they’re incredibly rare and valuable. The difference is that they come with a smidge more character than flawless white diamonds and make for distinctive engagement rings that veer slightly left of center without teetering too far into avant-garde territory. The good news is these distinctions make them less expensive. "Salt-and-pepper diamonds are more affordable because they are not considered to be perfect gemstones. They were often discarded during the diamond-sorting process," says Mehdi.

Plus, since salt-and-pepper diamonds take fewer resources to mine than regular diamonds, they're perfect for eco-conscious couples. And because they're rarer than pure white diamonds due to their carbon inclusions, they're usually less expensive, making them a great choice for to-be-weds on a budget.

But there are a few cons to note when looking at salt-and-pepper diamonds. The most important: The traditional 4Cs of diamond evaluations do not apply. "It is generally harder to grade a salt-and-pepper diamond because the high number of black-and-white inclusions makes it look ‘peppered' and difficult to grade. Hence, the 4Cs of cut, color, clarity, and carat do not apply entirely to salt-and-pepper diamonds, although they are still used as guides," Mehdi explains.

What to Look for in a Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Ring

  • What cuts pair best with salt-and-pepper diamonds? Salt-and-pepper diamonds bring out unique inclusions and patterns in the gemstone. "The high number of inclusions reduces the brilliance of the stone. Thus, cutters often choose to highlight these inclusions by choosing fancy cuts like the step-cut or rose-cut for these stones," says Mehdi.
  • What settings look best with salt-and-pepper diamonds? "Geometric shapes like triangles, hexagons, and kites are more prevalent when choosing salt-and-pepper diamonds, although round, oval, and pear shapes are available as well," Mehdi explains.
  • How can I tell if the ring is high quality? “By definition, salt-and-pepper diamonds are deemed 'low quality' diamonds, and they are not nearly as rare as other colored diamonds,” Mehdi says. The value of these diamonds is judged based on their diversity and the illusions they give off. "Remember, these are still diamonds, so they will always carry the level of value that comes with being a diamond," Mehdi notes.
  • How much do these rings cost? "The cost of salt-and-pepper diamond engagement rings varies based on the gemstone size, the amount of gold and any additional diamond accents, and, of course, the designer," explains Mehdi.

How to Care for a Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring

Salt-and-pepper diamonds will show less wear and tear than traditional diamonds, but it is still essential to maintain cleanings. Although the stone won't lose its dullness as fast as other stones, still clean the ring monthly. This will help to remove buildup from the ring and the band. It's also important to remember to take the ring off when you shower or wash your hands. The water won't harm the ring, but over time, it does contribute to the ring tarnishing and the luminosity diminishing. 

Are you ready to say, "yes," to a salt-and-pepper diamond? Read on for the best salt-and-pepper engagement rings for every style and budget.

Anueva Jewelry Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Six-Prong Split-Shank Ring

Ring

Courtesy of Anueva Jewelry

This untreated and ethically sourced, hand-cut diamond is perfect for the boho bride. The gold band is hand-carved in a signature style, making this solitaire ring unique while still maintaining a classic look.

Price at time of publish: $2,600

Après Jewelry Salt-and-Pepper Kite Ring

salt and pepper ring

Courtesy of Après Jewelry

For the alternative bride-to-be who still wants a bit of traditional sparkle, this kite-shaped salt-and-pepper diamond is surrounded by three pavè-set white diamonds on each side. The simple band is available in yellow, white, or rose gold for a customizable look.

NYFineJewelry Vintage Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Ring

Salt and pepper diamond ring in rose gold with diamond clusters

Courtesy of NY Fine Jewelry

This handmade art deco engagement ring features an oval salt-and-pepper center diamond with white diamond clusters on each side. It's prong set on a yellow, white, or rose gold band and can be personalized for a special touch.

Price at time of publish: $1,295 for 14k rose + 5*7mm

byAngeline Fancy-Cut Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Solitaire Ring

Pear shaped salt and pepper engagement ring in white gold

Courtesy of byAngeline 

This 1.625-carat salt-and-pepper diamond is pear-cut and set in solid white gold. The textured band and asymmetrical prongs create a rustic, one-of-a-kind look.

Price at time of publish: $2,995

mossNstone Salt-and-Pepper Raw Diamond Ring

salt and pepper ring

Courtesy of Etsy

This hexagon-cut salt-and-pepper diamond engagement ring is perfectly fit for a bride who loves something different. It's handmade and features a raw diamond and a 14k gold band.

Price at time of publish: $1,596 for A 1.27 ct

Sofia Zakia Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Wandering Star Ring

Sofia Zakia Salt and Pepper Diamond Wandering Star Ring

Courtesy of Sofia Zakia

Described by the designer as a "wearable piece of poetry," this engagement ring was made for the bespoke bride. The round, rose-cut salt-and-pepper center diamond is accompanied by 10 sparkling white diamonds and two gold crescent moons on a rose, white, or yellow gold band.

Price at time of publish: $2,650

Margaret Cross Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Ring

salt and pepper ring

Courtesy of Margaret Cross

Three pavè-set white diamonds shine on each side of this brilliant-cut salt-and-pepper diamond with an intricate prong setting. The flat face and slightly squared edges contrast with the smooth yellow gold band for an unconventional look.

Price at time of publish: $2,500

Jennie Kwon Salt-and-Pepper Balance Ring

salt and pepper ring

Courtesy of Jennie Kwon

Symmetry is the concept behind this modern engagement ring boasting a total of 13 diamonds. Three sparkling white diamonds rest between two rose-cut salt-and-pepper diamonds while one baguette-cut diamond and three 1mm white diamonds adorn each side of the white, yellow, or rose gold band.

Price at time of publish: $2,500 in 14k yellow

Doozie Jewelry Salt-and-Pepper Split Shank Ring

Split shank ring with salt and pepper round center stone

Courtesy of Doozie 

This ring's dot-detailed split shank draws the eye toward the bezel-set salt-and-pepper center diamond. The white gold band's satin matte finish gives off subtle vintage vibes.

Price at time of publish: $2,625

Capucinne Sunrise Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Ring

Half moon salt pepper diamond with ombre style diamond crown

Courtesy of Capucinne

A beautiful blend of salt-and-pepper and white diamonds adorn this sunrise-inspired sparkling engagement ring. It features a 1.2-carat half-moon-shaped center stone with an ombre-style diamond crown. For the band, choose from 14k or 18k white, yellow, or rose gold, or upgrade to platinum.

Price at time of publish: $3,900

MossNstone Geometric Salt and Pepper Diamond Cluster Ring

Geometric Salt and Pepper Diamond Cluster Ring

Courtesy of Etsy

This rustic engagement ring features a customizable rose-cut cushion salt-and-pepper diamond on a simple double band. You can choose the weight of your diamond, the color and finish of the band, and the type of setting for a super-individualized look.

Price at time of publish: $2,740

Alexis Russell The Camellia Ring

The Camellia Ring with a Black Emerald-Cut Diamond

Courtesy of Alexis Russell

If you're a modern bride inspired by vintage style, this ring is for you. The hexagon-shaped salt-and-pepper center diamond is enhanced by a white diamond sunburst at each point. Prong-set in 14k rose gold with a smooth finish, this piece is truly one of a kind.

Digby & Iona Nico Ring

salt and pepper ring

Courtesy of Digby & Iona

Featuring an intricately designed yellow gold band, this ring packs a punch with a 1.25-carat salt-and-pepper center stone. Accompanied by diamond clusters on each side, it's hard not to fall in love with a charming piece like this.

Price at time of publish: $3,670

Sofia Kaman Natural Beauty Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Solitaire Ring

Round salt and pepper diamond in organic gold setting

Courtesy of Sofia Kaman

The salt-and-pepper diamond and textured band add touches of modernity to this understated engagement ring's timeless style. The brilliant-cut diamond is bezel-set in your choice of rose, white, or yellow gold with a matte or shiny finish.

Price at time of publish: $2,090

1st Dibs Rose-Cut Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring

salt and pepper ring

Courtesy of Concierge Diamonds Inc.

The geometric style of this engagement ring makes for a truly modern look. The hexagonal salt-and-pepper center stone rests between two trillion-cut white diamonds while the yellow gold bezel setting adds a bit of old-school flair.

Price at time of publish: $4,000

Capucinne Danielle Galaxy Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Ring Set

Capucinne Danielle Salt and Pepper Diamond Ring Set

Courtesy of Capucinne

This alternative engagement ring features a textured yellow gold shield with a salt-and-pepper center stone surrounded by white and chocolate diamonds. A ring like this is perfect for mixing into your everyday ring stacks.

Price at time of publish: $6,400

1st Dibs Salt and Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring with Halo

Concierge Diamonds Inc. Salt and Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring with Halo

Courtesy of 1stDibs

Set in 18k gold, this captivating salt-and-pepper diamond engagement ring is adorned with a pavé-set band. To top it off, a flurry of shimmering diamonds creates the most stunning halo surrounding the round-cut center stone.

Price at time of publish: $4,980

Michelle Oh Anya Ring

Marquis cut salt and pepper diamond flanked by micro pave brilliant cut white diamonds

Courtesy of Michelle Oh

We're obsessing over the unique horizontal setting of this salt-and-pepper diamond ring. The marquise-cut stone is set in signature yellow gold "talons" and flanked by micro-pavé, brilliant-cut white diamonds on a simple rounded band.

La More Design Large Salt-and-Pepper Diamond Solitaire Ring

La More Design 1.81 Carat Large Salt and Pepper Diamond Solitaire Ring

Courtesy of La More Design

A salt-and-pepper diamond pairs beautifully with a rose gold band. The warm tones of the rose gold highlight the deep gray hues in the diamond.

Price at time of publish: $3,585

Doozie Jewelry Salt-and-Pepper Pear Diamond Trio Ring

Doozie Jewelry Salt + Pepper Pear Diamond Trio Ring

Courtesy of Doozie Jewelry

This trio of rose-cut pear-shaped diamonds sits pretty on an unadorned band within delicate prong settings. An eye-catching twist to a classic three-stone design, this beauty is set in 14k white gold.

Price at time of publish: $7,995

1st Dibs Salt and Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring

Concierge Diamonds Inc. Salt and Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring with White Diamond Side Stones

Courtesy of 1stDibs

It's safe to say that this round-cut salt-and-pepper diamond ring exudes pure magic. Set in 14k yellow gold, two white diamond side stones accompany this center stone on a simple band.

Price at time of publish: $3,500

Why Trust Brides

Contributing writer Laura Lajines is a writer and editor covering all things fashion. Prior to her work with Brides, she served as the senior fashion editor at the Zoe Report and PopSugar. Her work has also been featured in ElleInStyleGlamour, Refinery 29, Well+Good, and Barneys New York.

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