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Diamond Knowledge

How to pick the perfect salt and pepper diamond

A thorough guide to salt and pepper diamond selection

Updated Mach 9, 2023

Picking a peck of peppered diamonds

So you’ve decided on a salt and pepper diamond for your engagement ring: now what? Salt and pepper diamonds are a great way to get the durability and name recognition of a diamond with a unique appeal that can’t be replicated, and we’re absolutely in love with these saucy stones! But, what should you look for when buying a salt and pepper diamond? They don’t follow the 4Cs of traditional diamonds, so choosing one often comes down to personal preference. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect salt and pepper diamond for your engagement ring, here’s what to keep in mind as you start your search.

What to look for in a salt and pepper diamond

Visual appeal

Traditional color and clarity grades are thrown out the window with salt and pepper diamonds, as there’s really no standard or way to measure their myriad of possible color and pattern combinations. Without any specific parameters, how can you decide which salt and pepper diamond is right for you? The choice comes down to visual appeal–which stone looks best to you? Which one has the aesthetic you’re looking for as the center stone of your engagement ring? Or, which one will your partner love the most? It may be easiest to break down these visual characteristics into three categories: color, opacity, and inclusion patterns.


The background color of your salt and pepper diamond can vary from white to black to gray…or it could include all three colors! Color isn’t exactly a “black and white” concept with these tricky stones, and both the background and inclusions of salt and pepper diamonds come in various shades and combinations.

For instance, think about the color white. You probably have a pretty clear image in your head of a clean, neutral white backdrop. But, when it comes to salt and pepper diamonds, a white background can mean icy white, milky white, or even a translucent white! Now apply this same line of thinking to gray and black as well: you may find salt and pepper diamonds with backgrounds that are ash gray, stormy gray, dark gray, silver, black, or even black tinted with a hint of translucence. Some salt and pepper stones are even nearly colorless for more of that traditional diamond look with a patterned appearance.

This multitude of colors applies to both the backdrop of your salt and pepper diamond as well as the inclusions, which come in many of the same colors. There are even stones with subtle hints of other colors, such as streaks of gold inclusions or backgrounds with vague undertones of red, green, yellow, or orange. The backdrop of your stone can impact how vibrant its patterns appear, so think about which color would best achieve the look you’re going for. Do you prefer a lighter stone with dark inclusions? Or, do you love the look of a salt and pepper diamond with a dark backdrop and white speckles?


Opacity refers to how much light a stone absorbs (opaque) or reflects (translucent). Some salt and pepper diamonds offer rich background colors with little opportunity to glimpse into their depths, while others allow light to bounce through them for a smidge of that classic sparkle one might expect from a diamond. The bodies of highly translucent salt and pepper diamonds tend to be more white, giving you a chance to view inclusions at various depths within the diamond for a more dynamic look. Translucency does also impact price, and so you may end up shelling out a bit more cash for a translucent stone than an opaque one. That being said, both opaque and translucent stones can have depth depending on their inclusions, but translucent stones offer a bit more sparkle whereas opaque styles have more of that “glittering” appeal.

Inclusion patterns

Take a look at different inclusion patterns to decide which ones best fit your style, as there are plenty to choose from! Although no two salt and pepper diamonds are exactly the same, some have similarly themed inclusion patterns such as speckles, swirls and splotches of color, silvery veins, marbled mixes, and peppery spots. Each of these patterns offers its own unique aesthetic, with some looking much more chaotic like a modern art piece and others having a refined, almost organized look to their chaos.

Like we mentioned before, inclusions often come in the same colors as the backdrop of salt and pepper diamonds, so you can expect white, gray, and/or black in all of these different patterns. Similarly, some less common varieties even have colored inclusions like gold or red! The density of inclusions also changes the look of the diamond, with some having inclusions throughout the stone that provide depth while others have inclusions that are just below the surface for a close-up look at their intricate patterns. Still undecided? Don't worry: most stones will have a healthy mix of feathers, crystals, and other inclusions that produce a combination of patterns, so you can also get a little bit of everything if you can’t decide on just one!

There are so many variations to choose from, so be sure to think long and hard about what you want from a salt and pepper diamond! It’s also important to remember that some inclusions that are particularly large or surface reaching can impact durability in some cases. As such, be sure to consult with our team to find a stone that can withstand the wear and tear of a center stone for decades to come.

Diamond shape

Salt and pepper stones may be authentic diamonds, but they dazzle the most in shapes that aren’t often chosen for a classic white diamond. Most brilliant cuts are designed to hide inclusions, and that really defeats the purpose of choosing a heavily included salt and pepper diamond! As such, designers often stick to cuts that best accentuate the one-of-a-kind look of these patterned stones. Due to their inclusions, salt and pepper diamonds also “glitter” rather than sparkle, and so they’re often cut into shapes with long or fewer facets for a clearer view of those vivid swirls, spots, and splotches.

You can definitely find salt and pepper stones cut in popular shapes like oval, pear, and emerald, which can still proudly exhibit their non-traditional beauty. But, you’ll also find a unique array of lesser-seen cuts like rose, kite, coffin, and hexagon that have fewer facets and are perfect for an uninterrupted look into the depths of your salt and pepper diamond’s patterns! Our team at CustomMade can walk you through possible shapes for your salt and pepper diamond so you can find the one that best fits your dream engagement ring.

Carat size

Now that you have an idea of what you want your salt and pepper stone to look like, what size diamond should you choose? Most couples will be happy to know that these seasoned stones are reasonably affordable, offering a break from the hefty price tag of traditional diamonds. Prices have increased a bit over the last few years due to recent demand, but you can still find a beautiful 1 carat salt and pepper stone for $1,200 to $3,600. What’s more, these prices don’t grow exponentially as you increase carat size, so sizing up a half or whole carat won’t break the bank as easily as it might with traditional diamonds.

Many of the cuts used on salt and pepper diamonds also carry much of their weight near the top of the stone, so you get a visually larger diamond at a smaller carat size that can help you save a few bucks! A larger stone gives you more opportunities to get up close and personal with those intricate patterns, but a smaller stone can offer more concentrated color and may better suit your hand. That being said, salt and pepper diamonds may not show their full appeal as accent stones since they will appear more opaque, so you won’t be able to see all of those complex designs as easily in a small size. While a smaller salt and pepper diamond as your center stone can still display rich color and plenty of inclusions, accent stones may look more plain gray or black rather than having that salt and pepper appeal.

Overall, you can treat the size of your salt and pepper diamond the way you treat seasonings: do you want just a hint of peppery flavor, or are you looking to smother your finger in that savory aesthetic? The choice is up to you!

Setting style

A salt and pepper diamond looks stunning in any setting, but some styles may fit your needs better than others. Because salt and pepper diamonds already have a lot going on, many couples opt for a classic solitaire to focus on those brilliant patterns and striking colors. A side stone setting can also be a great choice for salt and pepper diamonds, and a few colorless stones on either side of your diamond can amplify its black, white, and gray appeal.

Another popular setting option for salt and pepper diamonds is the bezel setting, which encases the perimeter of your diamond in a ring of metal for a smooth, sleek outline that’s ideal for modern styles and unique diamond shapes. A halo setting can also provide similar appeal with a little extra sparkle by encircling your salt and pepper diamond with smaller twinkling stones that accentuate its one-of-a-kind look.

When it comes to metal colors, white gold and platinum perfectly fit the black and white aesthetic of salt and pepper diamonds. On the other hand, yellow or rose gold can add contrast and bring additional personality to your ring, especially if you’re a fan of warmer colors. Whatever setting you choose, your salt and pepper diamond is sure to turn heads and garner questions and compliments with its one-of-a-kind beauty!

Choosing your ideal salt and pepper diamond

Are you head over heels for dreamy white salt and pepper diamonds with silvery veins? Or, does the sight of a deep black salt and pepper stone with galaxy-like white splotches get your heart racing? Much like your partner, we’re confident there’s a salt and pepper diamond out there that’s perfect for you, and it’s just a matter of finding it! Our team is standing by to help you start designing your ideal salt and pepper diamond engagement ring!

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