Diamond Buying Guide
How to Buy Salt & Pepper Diamonds
Salt and pepper diamonds have officially been on the scene for a while now. They have come a long way from being considered a trendy millennial moon rock to being showcased in fine jewelry design around the world. These stones are now staples in jewelry design from high couture to bridal as fashionable and desirable alternatives to traditional stones. Whether you call them salt and pepper diamonds, galaxy diamonds, rustic diamonds, or alternative diamonds, these renegades are here to stay!
As a relative newcomer, the industry has not created a classification or grading system for these misfit diamonds. Without this structure to decipher their unique qualities into quantifiable information it can be difficult to make informed decisions while purchasing. Shopping for this material online can be daunting even for experienced jewelers and novices alike.
Play scene: find *perfectly-amazing* rustic diamonds online. Buy. Wait with breathless anticipation. Stones finally arrive from overseas and in-person are not at all what you had hoped/seen in the photos...and they’re not at all returnable! Yikes!
Don’t let your excitement bubble burst. We want to show you how we shop for these alternative diamonds at Misfit using the tools we provide on our website. We’ve put together a guide of tricks and tools to utilize while on the hunt. Here is our Salt and Pepper Diamond Buying Guide.
1. Look Closely
Photography is everything. The stones on the left are the same stones photographed on the right. There is a big difference in how these salt and pepper diamonds look. Note how different lighting shifts the overall aesthetic of the stone and highlights or hides its characteristics. The diamonds on the left are laying flat on paper under studio lighting, lit from the face. The diamonds on the right are between tweezers, held in the air which allows them to be back-lit, this shows transparency and illuminates their unique attributes. It’s important to look at diamonds in both scenarios to appreciate their distinct nuances and understand how they will appear when set.
2. Hand Pick
Get a photo of the salt and pepper diamond on the finger. This will help determine scale and showcase how the stone will look when worn. Carat weight specs alone can be misleading when determining size proportions as rose cuts tend to offer larger surface areas compared to traditionally cut stones. This method better depicts the diamond as to what it will look like when it comes off the bench and “into the wild”. Note the change in opacity and the scale of the stone in comparison to the fingers. Consider the following, how does the stone look to your naked eye? Note the facet polish, how does it catch (or snatch up!) the light? It can help to ask the ring size of the fingers in the photograph too.
3. Live Action
Utilize photos and videos to help you identify a rustic diamond’s features. Assess the internal structure and look for surface reaching inclusions and cavities. Do this by watching how the light reflects off of and highlights each facet of the stone as it is moved side-to-side at different angles. It is easier to see these traits in videos because if a pit or inclusion falls on a highlighted facet as the light travels across the stone, it will show as a dark spot within the highlight. If this same stone was just examined in a photo and the light was not reflecting off of the facet that contains the surface mark, that imperfection would not be revealed. A photo cannot capture all facets highlighted at once, this is where the live-action of a video wins for the assist!
4. Light It Up
Lighting is another imperative to consider when evaluating stones, particularly with some of the lighter colored icy diamonds. Simply put, studio lighting just does not show how amazing icy diamond beauties really are. This has to do with full spectrum light waves and the physics of light refraction… (que nerd glasses here.)
So don’t overlook a light colored stone that looks blown out or dull in its studio close-up. Feel comfortable requesting a video of the stone near a (closed) window or outdoors, basking in indirect light. Keep in mind that studio lighting can help do the opposite: making stone look more appealing than they may actually be.
Pits, cavities, and surface reaching inclusions get a bad rap. But don’t be hating! Rather, speak with your jeweler (or if you are a novice jeweler, speak with your setter and experienced makers in your community) about the following questions: about the following: consider these questions: What is the use of this stone? What kind of wear does it need to withstand? What kind of setting will it be in? How does the proposed setting support the shape of the stone and the inherent qualities of a particular stone?
It's important to note the broad range of quality that salt and pepper diamonds come in: not all salt and peppers are made equal! Select carefully: pits, cavities, feathers, and hairlines are inherent features that are extremely common in salt and pepper diamonds. Some vendors sell material for what seems like incredible prices, but shop carefully! With the range in product quality (and pricing) you don’t want to find yourself disappointed with huge surface imperfections and internal instabilities you didn’t anticipate. Paying a little extra for a stone that is free of surface pits and cavities is often worth the price, especially for bridal jewelry, or pieces that are for everyday wear. Paying a little less and embracing some of the surface imperfections is perfect for stones intended as pendants, earrings, or low-mile wear.
Minor surface reaching characteristics like hairlines and pits are often nearly invisible to the naked eye. These aren’t characteristics that are inherently bad, but rather ones to be discussed and considered. A minor pit or cavity does not compromise the structural integrity of the stone, but a large one sure can be visually unpleasant. The same consideration should be given to feathers, are they surface reaching or contained? Feathers often give beautiful rainbow colored light refraction which many customers gravitate towards. These feathers traditionally have been labeled as undesirable and dangerous but to the contrary, there are exceptions to all rules.
While it is true rings generally need a higher quality of diamond free of inclusions and deep pits, depending on the imperfection’s location, you could decide to fully support that diamond within a bezel setting. Or, to set it in a ring that isn’t for everyday wear, more of an occasional ring, which gets less miles than an engagement ring would. Consider the salt and pepper diamond you are selecting thoughtfully for the purpose it needs to fulfill. Choose diamonds that suit the need and lifestyle requirements needed for the design and wearer. Selecting consciously now, will lead to success with the finished piece for generations to come.
What we’re trying to say here is you wouldn’t run a marathon in stilettos, and you (hopefully) wouldn’t rock climb with that 4 carat round brilliant diamond set in a tall Tiffany setting. Remember, diamonds are a luxury item and should be treated with care and diligence regardless of their inherent traits; any diamond can become damaged when subjected to harsh or improper wear.
We Are Here to Help
Salt and pepper diamonds readily inspire all with their distinguished characteristics. Beauty and allure lies in the imperfection of these alternative diamonds. Use this guide to help you shop confidently for your next salt and pepper diamond acquisition. If you need any guidance, we’re here to help!