While there’s no competing with the timeless beauty of a round brilliant diamond solitaire engagement ring (or the oval diamond equivalent—see: actress Kirsten Dunst’s elegant new piece of hardware from fiancé Jesse Plemons), another stone has been creeping into the bridal marketplace. Rough-cut, and wildly flawed, salt-and-pepper diamonds are gaining a following among brides-to-be who want something cool and unusual. And for those hoping to receive an alternative engagement ring this Valentine’s Day? This is the center stone they imagine, even if they don’t yet know it by name.
The appeal of these jolie laide diamonds, which tend to be a silvery gray and speckled with visible white and black inclusions, might be lost on consumers who live and die by the Four Cs, but that’s kind of the point. “Our clients who choose the salt-and-pepper diamonds appreciate the raw flaws in the stone because they reveal its natural origins,” says Betsy Barron, owner of Love & Luxe in San Francisco. “They’re looking for an undercover stone, something one-of-a-kind that also offers the durability and ‘foreverness’ of a traditional diamond.”
A trusted gem supplier first introduced Barron to salt-and-pepper diamonds about 10 years ago; since then, the unique stones have been inching their way into the supply chain, attracting the attention of younger, more experimental designers like Meaghan Hennelly of Goldhenn Jewelry, Aaron Ruff of Digby & Iona, and more.
“I first saw, and started using, salt-and-pepper diamonds about two years ago,” says designer Katie Carder of Katie Carder Fine Jewelry. “I thought they were so unique and beautiful. I love how each one is totally different from the next, with tiny little galaxies trapped inside the diamond. Mother Nature is amazing.”
Aesthetics aside, salt-and-pepper diamonds are also inherently sustainable, a selling point that resonates with eco-conscious millennial consumers. As Barron explains, “The use of irregular speckled and veined diamonds and diamond slices creates a lot less waste of precious resources. As a result, we’re seeing a design wave of definitively unique jewelry and engagement rings that, by nature, cannot be mass-produced.”
Here are a few examples to get you on board—season to taste and enjoy!
One-of-a-kind engagement ring in 14k yellow gold with 1.62 ct. rose-cut, pear-shape salt-and-pepper diamond; and a band in 14k yellow gold with bezel-set sapphires, prices on request; both Katie Carder Fine Jewelry
Pavé Shield ring in 18k white and yellow gold with 1.75 ct. salt-and-pepper diamond and .14 cts. t.w. pavé diamonds, $7,700; Goldhenn Jewelry
Engagement ring in 14k recycled yellow gold with 1 ct. marquise salt-and-pepper diamond center stone and salt-and-pepper pavé diamond accents, $2,150; Digby & Iona
Galaxy ring in 14k gold with 2.35 ct. natural salt-and-pepper rose-cut oval diamond center stone and 1 ct. t.w. natural color rose-cut diamonds, $5,764; Xiao Wang
Engagement ring in 22k gold with 5 ct. prong-set oval salt-and-pepper diamond and eternity band in 22k gold with 7.6 cts. t.w. salt-and-pepper diamonds, prices on request; both Lola Brooks
Jubilation solitaire engagement ring in 18k gold with 1 ct. salt-and-pepper diamond, $5,460; Vicente Agor
(Photo at top courtesy of Digby & Iona)
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