April’s birthstone is the crème de la crème of gems—diamonds. And to toast the gem’s official month, we’re highlighting a diamond type that’s quickly gaining ground it the market (and could hardly be trendier!): the salt and pepper diamond.
Salt and pepper diamonds form the same way as their colorless diamond counterparts, under an intense amount of heat and pressure over the course of thousands of years. But the natural, beautiful inclusions in salt and pepper diamonds represent the antithesis of the 4Cs ideal.
And instead of GIA grading, these diamonds are instead given descriptors such as “icy,” “opalescent,” “translucent,” and “galaxy.”
“Every salt and pepper diamond is unique and described by its shape, cut, and character,” says Melissa Tyson, founder of Melissa Tyson Designs and a fan of salt and peppers. “The patterns and the colors within the diamond become the descriptions rather than grading.” Translucent salt and pepper diamonds are the most requested, so they’re the most in-demand.
“If you think of it in terms of a diamond that’s getting closer to a white diamond—that’s basically how the pricing is with the salt and pepper diamonds,” Tyson says, noting that within the past 10-15 years, the rise of indie jewelry designers selling unique ring designs have increased demand for salt and pepper diamonds.
Nontraditional diamonds, led by salt and peppers, have been big in the bridal category, as they’re the penultimate “alternative bridal” stone. The gems come in a range of grey tones that can be close to colorless but can also border on black, and can add edginess to designs without denigrating a piece’s luxury quotient.
Margaret Cross, founder of Modern Mourning Jewelry, has made salt and pepper diamonds a signature in her collection, which memorializes loved ones and pets in designs that feel timeless. “I love finding diamonds with distinct peppering—carbon inclusions formed at the time of its creation, known to some in the jewelry industry as ‘flaws.’ My personal favorite is when there’s a teeny, trapped rainbow inside.” She adds, “I think my customers tend to want a unique stone, and truly no two are alike.”
Though Cross says she can appreciate a clear round stone, she finds salt and pepper inclusions more interesting because, “they tell the story of how the stone was created and serve as a reminder that these were created by the earth and dug out of the ground.”
Lauren Wolf, founder of Lauren Wolf Jewelry and the dynamic Esqueleto fine jewelry boutiques, uses and sells salt and pepper diamonds in her collection and stores, and says, “At the end of the day you’re still purchasing a diamond, naturally created from the earth, dating back to billions of years ago. I think our clients are drawn to an interesting salt and pepper diamond, but they still want these diamonds to have depth and brilliance. For me, the inclusions add an extra element of intrigue, history, and beauty.”
Top: Melissa Tyson Designs gold ring with colorless diamond pave and salt and pepper diamond center stone