At Gem Breakfast, we love the unique, the extraordinary, the never-been-done-before designs that push creativity forward. And herein lies our love for the magical, mystical, one-of-a-kind salt & pepper diamond.
Whether you love salt & pepper diamonds, hate them, or haven’t heard of them, you’ll find lots to ponder in our ode to everything salt & pepper. Keep reading to find out:
- How are diamonds formed?
- What are salt & pepper diamonds
- Our salt & pepper diamonds color chart
- Why we love them
- How to choose a salt & pepper diamond
- All your salt & pepper diamond questions answered
How are salt & pepper diamonds formed?
Most diamonds were formed one to three billion years ago, when conditions were perfect for diamond growth. It all went down about 100 miles below the earth’s surface, where the average temperature is 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. When this extreme pressure and intense heat is applied to carbon atoms in the earth’s crust, voila – natural diamonds are formed!
Once the diamonds are formed, they travel up to the earth’s surface in very rare volcanic eruptions - this is where we find them.
When miners find diamonds, they aren’t the shimmering, flawlessly cut stones you see in your jewelry. They’re raw, uncut, unpolished, and most are filled with imperfections, inclusions, or flaws.
What are inclusions? They’re minerals trapped inside the stone, and they might look like feathers, cracks, clouds, coloration, or even chips. Each diamond found reflects the time it was formed, and each inclusion is a timestamp of that stone’s unique life cycle and history.
What are Salt & Pepper diamonds?
You may have heard of the 4 Cs – the scale created to measure the imperfections in a white diamond. Diamonds on the far end of the clarity scale, have visible inclusions or blemishes (rated I). On the other end (VVS), the discoloration and inclusions are so small, they can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Salt & Pepper diamonds are heavily included diamonds – if you were to grade them, they would be on the farthest end of the GIA scale (I2, I3). However, since these inclusions are what makes these diamonds special, the grading system doesn’t really apply.
They’re called ‘Salt & Pepper’ or ‘Galaxy’ diamonds for their cosmic, night sky appearance. ‘Pepper’ refers to the black inclusions, and ‘salt’ refers to the icy white inclusions. You can of course find other colors also, often earthier shades that move beyond pure black and white.
Historically these diamonds were seen as undesirable. The goal was always completely clear, see-through white diamonds. Only recently have people become to appreciate the depth, dimension, and truly unique look of a salt & pepper diamond.
salt & pepper diamond colors
Since all diamonds are made from carbon, the black spots are pieces of carbon that didn’t fully crystallize during the diamond's formation. Salt and pepper diamonds just have more of them! Because Mother Nature is so unpredicable, some diamonds have a light speckling, and others have A LOT! Take the beauty mark diamonds for example, they tend to have a larger than average carbon spot surrounded by smaller inclusions. Others have an equal amount of white and black inclusions giving a more blanket grey hue, and we especially love the ones with mostly white inclusions that look like ice!
Why we love salt & pepper diamonds
DEPTH OVER SHINE
Unlike the common white diamond, a salt & pepper diamond isn’t assessed solely on its shine. Their appeal lies in their depth – they’re more mysterious, enigmatic, and almost cosmic. They evolve the more you look at them, and are distinctive from every angle.
A common white diamond reflects light outward – pushing it’s sparkle and shine towards it’s spectator. A salt & pepper diamond does just the opposite – it pushes less light out, and instead pulls you in to its complex, many-varied depths.
WILD & UNTREATED
Most diamonds contain traces of graphite, hematite, and magnetite in varying quantities. These mineral deposits are the source of any inclusions or blemishes in a diamond.
Traditional white diamonds are often treated to remove these inclusions, to create that ‘perfect’ white appearance. Salt and Pepper diamonds however, are left wild. The ‘birthmarks’ throughout the stone are celebrated as the one-of-a-kind patterns that mark that stone’s unique history and natural composition.
Diamonds take billions of years to form, and these inclusions and deposits showcase that stone’s rare path on this planet – the shifting of rocks, the changing in temperatures, the forming and fusing of natural elements.
It’s fascinating to us, we love seeing the life path in every stone. Each diamond tells a story of the earth – of evolution and transformation. It’s magical to see this variation in every stone.
Salt & Pepper DIamonds are EARTH-FRIENDLY
When sourcing clear white diamonds, mining companies only use a very small percentage of the diamonds they find, discarding the rest as waste or for industrial purposes.
In the past, salt & pepper diamonds would have been among these discarded stones. Now, these alternative diamonds are being celebrated instead of discarded. This means all material is used - no more waste.
This is so important to us – sustainability means reducing waste and using all the precious resources we extract from the earth.
Salt & Pepper Diamonds are ACCESSIBLE
Not only are these diamonds more accessible and affordable for you, the jewel wearer, they’ve opened a whole new world for independent jewelry designers.
In the past, it was very difficult for new designers to break into the jewelry industry. With the incredibly high cost of diamonds, these emerging designers didn’t have the means to produce their designs. With the rise of Salt & Pepper diamonds, these incredibly talented, boundary-pushing artisans can get their creations into the market. And we’re so thankful for that – jewelry designs have never been so varied and unique – these innovative, fearless designers are pushing the industry forwards and opening our minds to the infinite possibilities of creativity.
And for you, the lower cost of diamonds means more diamond for your money.
NO TWO salt & Pepper DIAMONDS ARE ALIKE
Every salt & pepper diamond has a completely unique and one-of-a-kind pattern - you’ll never find two stones the same.
As people, we’re all aligned in our humanness, but distinctive in our own, undeniable way. In the same way, salt & pepper stones are all diamonds, yet every one has its own energy, look, and history.
It’s such a fun experience finding a stone and a ring that truly represents you, in all your perfect imperfection.
Salt & Peppers are TRULY UNIQUE
Not only is every stone unique from each other, s & p stones are uncommon as a whole. They’re a modern deviation from the mass-produced, standardized styles seen in the showcases of most jewelry stores. An evolution of our perception of beauty and style.
It’s a beautiful thing to see creativity rising, conformity disappearing, and more people celebrating innovation and diversity. To move beyond what’s expected and what’s always been done, and find beauty and value in the unexpected.
Salt & Pepper Diamonds are ETHICALLY SOURCED
All Gem Breakfast designers and designs are thoroughly vetted and use conflict-free diamonds. We have very personal relationships with all our suppliers and only work with people of the upmost ethics and quality. This applies to Salt & Pepper diamonds and every other gem we use.
How to choose your salt & pepper diamond
Start with Shape
The best place to start your salt & pepper shopping is shape – do you love pear, kite, round, hexagon, oval, asscher cut, or even a shield shape? Salt & pepper stones come in every shape under the sparkling sun, so start here to narrow down your choices! Browse through our selection of salt & pepper rings to get an idea of which shape speaks loudest to you.
The stone’s shape will dictate the ring’s overall design, so if you’re going custom, this is a great place to start to bring your vision to life.
Curate by Cut
As with traditional white diamonds, the two most popular s & p cuts are brilliant cut and rose cut. What’s the difference? Brilliant diamonds are cut for maximum sparkle – their pointed base and many facets are designed to reflect light back towards the spectator for a blinding sparkle. Rose cut diamonds on the other hand, are cut with fewer facets and a flat base to allow light to move through the stone, resulting in a more transparent, candlelit glow.
Why consider rose cut over the more popular brilliant cut?Thanks to their flat base and customizable facet pattern, rose cut diamonds can be cut into almost any shape – even completely irregular shapes. So, if you’re looking for a super unique stone shape, rose cut may be the answer!
Also, rose cut diamonds look larger than brilliant cuts with the same carat weight. Without the pointed bottom, all the carat weight ends up in the top face of the diamond, resulting in larger looking stone. Who can resist that!
Ponder on gold color
Do you love the rosé hue of rose gold, the sunlit gleam of yellow gold, the icy magic of white gold, or the buttery glimmer of Peach Gold?If you’re set on one hue of gold, this can help narrow down your salt & pepper search – you can look for a stone that shines brightest with your chosen gold! If you’re open minded on gold color, save this step for later.
Read our ‘Ultimate Guide to Gold & Precious Metals’ for more information on each option.
Salt, Pepper, or Both?
Most people tend to fall in three salt & pepper camps – those who love deep, dark starry night peppery stones, those who love ethereal icy white salty diamonds, and those in the middle who love a light grey, dusk-is-falling mix of salt and pepper. Take a browse through our salt & pepper rings and loose salt & pepper diamonds to see which end of the spectrum you gravitate towards.
Once you know your general salt and peppery leanings, you can start narrowing down stones in that category. Every single salt & pepper stone is a unique inimitable galaxy of its own, and once you stare into its depths, you’ll know if that stone is for you. Keep an open mind – you never know what you’ll end up loving!
What if you want an exact replica of a stone you’ve seen that’s sold? We get this question a lot! Unfortunately, (and also fortunately) every salt & pepper diamond has a unique, nature-created pattern of inclusions that will never be identically repeated. We can, however, scour the Earth to find you a stone that matches your star-crossed stone as closely as possible – one that you love just as much, or hopefully more!
A DASH OF SALT & A DOSE OF PEPPER
Right in the middle of the spectrum, these grey toned diamonds can vary massively in terms of their particular night sky constellation pattern. Usually you'll find a mix of salt and pepper inclusions for a multifaceted, light-catching, endlessly mesmerizing galaxy of stars with so much delicious depth.
The darkest salt and peppers range from dark smoky grey to basically black - some can even be mistaken for a solid grey or black diamond. They're predominantly pepper and feel dramatic, glamorous, and oh-so enigmatic. Like an inky black night with glimpses of starlight in an otherwise midnight sky.
No More Grading
If you’re a diamond lover, you’ve probably heard of the 4Cs, the scale created to measure imperfection in white diamonds. Since with salt & pepper diamonds, we’re actually looking for interesting color and inclusions, the traditional grading system #neednotapply. And we love this! It’s easy to get bogged down by grading and forget to simply look at stones and trust your own definition of beauty. You’re now free to choose a diamond purely because you love it!
While cut, color, and clarity are incredibly useful tools for narrowing down diamond selection to your preferred look, you could put 5 stones side by side with identical grades, and each one will look completely different. The grading does not tell all, and ultimately it comes down to what you LOVE – let the stones speak to you!
Custom vs Ready-To-Ship
Since almost every Gem Breakfast ring is a one-of-a-kind creation, you’ll be getting a completely original piece whether you choose custom or already designed. The only choice is whether you find that perfect match online, or have a vision that’s not yet been realized.
If you’re set on Salt & Pepper, start by browsing the salt & pepper section of our site. If you find a ring that stirs up your soul, you may have to look no further. If you’re torn, and you like the setting of one ring, and the stone on another, a custom design may be just the ticket for you!
Whether you already have a design in mind or just a hazy idea of what you might love, chat with usand we’ll work with you to design and create a ring that represents you through and through.
salt & pepper diamond questions & answers
Are salt & pepper diamonds more prone to breaking than a traditional diamond?
A well-cut salt and pepper diamond should be just as durable as a traditional white diamond. Where you can run into problems is with surface-reaching inclusions –these inclusions extend to the outside surface of the diamond and can be found in both salt & pepper diamonds and white diamonds.
Why surface-reaching inclusions can be a problem:If the surface-reaching inclusion is located in a prominent place (somewhere that easily be bumped or hit) on the stone, it can affect the durability. If this kind of inclusion were located somewhere less prominent like on the bottom of the stone which is protected by the setting, it wouldn’t pose the same risk.
Because salt & pepper stones have more inclusions overall (which is why they're sought after), it’s more common to see surface-reaching inclusions. Having said that, if you want to avoid those kind of inclusions, there are still infinite salt & pepper stones to choose from.
Your best bet in finding the most beautiful, durable stone for your design: work with a trusted jeweler who will do all the sourcing and vetting for you. The Made by Gem Breakfast team and all our independent jewelers source only the highest quality stones available and every stone is inspected heavily at extreme magnification to ensure not only stunning fabulosity but strength, durability, and high-quality cut for every single stone we sell.
But aren’t white diamonds considered unbreakable?
No, that’s a common myth - all diamonds can break under damaging circumstances. They have an unbreakable reputation because they’re the hardest gemstone, however that doesn’t make them invincible. Hence why It’s super important to take good care of your diamonds to ensure they last a lifetime (or longer)!
Read our blog on jewelry carefor more!
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR SALT & PEPPER DIAMONDS FROM?
We source the bulk of our salt & pepper stones from Misfit Diamonds! They're an original partner of Gem Breakfast and source all their gemstones through UN approved Kimberly Process channels. Additionally, they handpick every stone to ensure the highest quality. You can browse all their loose salt & pepper stones on our website to see their vast array of inventory. For more on Misfit Diamonds and their founder Ashkan Asgari, read our blog.
Didn't find something you love in stock? We have a whole network of diamond dealers that we can work with to source your perfect stone!
Do salt and pepper diamonds have a GIA report?
The GIA doesn’t have a system for assessing and grading salt & pepper stones and there’s no indication that it’ll happen anytime soon. The GIA takes a long time to come up with their grading scales and salt & pepper stones are still fairly new to the jewelry scene.
For now, the most important factor in choosing a salt & pepper stone is which one you love the most! It’s kind of liberating to throw away the rule book and just listen to your own personal taste.
Are rose cut salt and peppers a thing?
Definitely! Because of their flat base and domed top, rose cuts show off the depth, detail, and one-of-a-kind saltiness (or pepperiness) of a salt and pepper stone amazingly. Unlike the blinding sparkle of a brilliant cut diamond, rose cuts allow light to move through the stone, resulting in a more lustrous, candlelit glow that adds a certain magic to a salt & pepper diamond.
What’s more expensive: sapphires or salt and pepper diamonds?
It all depends on the quality of the stone, but generally the prices are pretty comparable!
Do salt & pepper diamonds hold their value?
Since it’s a relatively new trend, there’s not a lot of data to show how their value holds over time, But, in our view, with the rise of lab created stones, natural gemstones will continue to rise in value as synthetic stones flood the market. As of now, salt & pepper stones are continuing to rise in price along with the demand.