Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
It’s been ingrained in our brains that a sparkling (and sizable) white diamond makes the ultimate engagement ring. But, as many modern brides will attest, a white diamond isn’t the be-all and end-all.
What Is a Salt-and-Pepper Diamond?
A salt-and-pepper diamond is a diamond with inclusions that appear black and white. Some 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, while still others can look almost gray.
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.
Meet the Expert
Azra Mehdi is the founder Au Xchange Fine Gold Jewelry.
Pros and Cons of Salt-and-Pepper Diamonds
Salt-and-pepper diamonds are still diamonds, which means they’re still incredibly rare and valuable. The difference is that they come with a smidge more character than highly sought flawless white diamonds and make for distinctive engagement rings that veer slightly left of center without teetering too far into avant-garde territory.
These diamonds are "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 Azra Mehdi, founder of Au Xchange.
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 less rare 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 to note: 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 Salt-and-Pepper Diamonds
- What cuts pair best with salt-and-pepper diamonds? Mehdi tells BRIDES that 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," she adds.
- 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 to be “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. However, 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.
Also, 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.
If you think a salt-and-pepper diamond is right for your engagement ring, scroll through our edit of 20 options for every style and budget.
Anueva Jewelry 1.28 Carat Rose-Cut Oval Salt and Pepper Diamond Low Profile Evergreen Solitaire Ring in 14k Rose Gold
This untreated and ethically sourced hand-cut oval 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.
Après Jewelry The Salt and Pepper Kite Ring
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.
Sofia Zakia Salt and Pepper Diamond Wandering Star Ring
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.
Jennie Kwon Salt and Pepper Balance Ring
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.
Capucinne Sunrise Salt and Pepper Diamond Ring
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.
MossnStone Salt and Pepper Elongated Hexagon Diamond Ring
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.
Alexis Russell The Camellia Ring with a Black Emerald-Cut Diamond
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 truly one-of-a-kind.
Sofia Kaman Natural Beauty Salt and Pepper Diamond Solitaire Engagement Ring
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.
Concierge Diamonds Rose Cut Salt and Pepper Diamond Engagement Ring With Side Trillions
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.
Variance Salt and Pepper Rough .4CT Carat Diamond Ring
Tiny details make this simple-looking ring stand out. A rough-cut salt-and-pepper diamond is prong-set with a mix of white, rose, and yellow gold claws. The skinny, seamed band is made from 14k white gold and 22k yellow gold for an ultra-unique look.