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Bespeckled Beauties: Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Three rows of salt and pepper diamonds of various shapes and cuts in a white box


It’s no secret that we here at Automic Gold have a love for salt and pepper diamonds (just take a look at our insta feed 😉.) There’s something so unique and wonderful about these beauties that we’re all simply obsessed. So what exactly makes salt and pepper diamonds so special? 

They’re a stone that doesn’t conform to what is traditionally seen as perfect and are instead praised for their individuality. They’re durable, gorgeous, and affordable. To sum it up, salt and pepper diamonds are perfectly imperfect. 

So let’s do a deep dive into these ethereal gems.

Salt and pepper diamonds, sometimes referred to as “galaxy” diamonds, are diamonds with varying degrees of inclusions. These inclusions are usually black and white, hence the moniker, but can also be colorful. Now, while all diamonds have some level of inclusions, traditional clear or “white” diamonds are valued by how few inclusions they have.


Diamonds are the solid, crystalline form of carbon, formed when the carbon is exposed to extreme heat (at least 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit!) and extreme pressure inside the earth’s mantle (about 90 miles below the earth's surface) and are brought up to a mining level via deep-source volcanic eruptions. The exact heat-pressure conditions that are needed to create stable diamonds are not present all over the world which leads to the rarity of viable diamond deposits. 


Even the most eye-visibly perfect natural diamond has a minuscule amount of inclusions. Salt and pepper diamonds simply have a higher, more visible concentration of them. The black inclusions, or the “pepper”, are usually uncrystallized carbon in the form of graphite, while the white, or “salt” inclusions, are usually flaws in the crystals structure or impurities like nitrogen. These flaws can take on a cloudy, wispy or hazy appearance. Some of the other inclusions may be iron, hematite, pyrite or other minerals that may lend to a more colorful and unique stone.

Inclusions are also an incredibly Important scientific tool. While most scientists believe it takes from 1 to 3.3 billion years for a natural diamond to form, the exact amount of time is still debated. Inclusions can tell us when a diamond may have been formed and the conditions the earth was in at the time.

Five round salt and pepper diamonds of various colors lined up on a dark blue background


During the mining process, up to 250 tons of diamond ore needs to be sifted through in order to produce a single, clear one carat diamond. Only about 20% of all diamonds mined are considered “gem quality” by traditional definition. Before s&p diamonds became popular, diamonds that were less than gem quality would either be used for industrial purposes or were simply disregarded. Salt and pepper diamonds are more sustainable because less mining needs to be done in order to produce them. 

The stunning beauty of salt and pepper diamonds didn't start to become appreciated until about 20 years ago and only recently started to become more mainstream. Because they’re more abundant and not as in-demand, the price for an s&p diamond is significantly less expensive than its “perfect” counterpart, 50-90% less than a clear diamond of similar carat weight. 


Clear diamonds usually have multi-faceted cuts that show off the clarity and brilliance of the stone. Since the main draw of salt and pepper diamonds are the inclusions, most are rose cut. Rose cut stones have anywhere from 3 to 24 facets on top and are flat on the bottom which allows more surface area to be visible, highlighting the beautiful inclusions. Rose cuts are not the only option for an s&p diamond and a skilled gem cutter will choose the right cut that best showcases the uniqueness of each stone. 

A custom white gold engagement ring with a salt and pepper kite shaped diamond center stone and trillion amethyst side stones


S&P diamonds are still diamonds and therefore are a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. These wild yet earthy beauties can only be scratched by another diamond, however inclusions do affect a diamond's durability. The inclusions can create disruptions in the tight crystal structure of the stone and they may crack or shatter where the inclusion lies if they experience a heavy impact. A skilled gem cutter will make sure any inclusions are not too close to the surface of the gem, increasing its durability. 

While still a strong stone, it’s best to avoid situations where your s&p diamond may be struck hard. So remember to take off your jewelry when doing any hard labor or intense workouts. You can clean your jewelry with mild soap and water on a washcloth and if you need a deep clean you can soak your piece and use a soft toothbrush to scrub away grime.

Salt and pepper diamonds are very much like love. It may be imperfect, but it is also interesting, beautiful, unique, and most importantly can last lifetimes if it’s cared for properly. If you want your own stunning, showstopping and spectacularly speckled engagement ring or other jewelry piece contact us for a custom order.

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