Investing into the Diamond Market today: The Surat Salt and Pepper Diamond Trade
Salt and Pepper diamonds are currently one of the most sought-after gemstones in the market. Known for their uniqueness, affordability and ethical sourcing, these stones are quickly gaining popularity amongst buyers. Sprinkled with black and white inclusions which give them their characteristic ‘salt and pepper’ appearance, these “diamond alternatives” are quite unlike any other gem in the market. These gems have quite the voyage from their extraction to the trading of their polished forms. Let’s delve into the journey of these mystical, speckled gems from the mines to the market:
Salt and Pepper diamond rough; Courtesy: NGM
The Salt and Pepper Allure
Time and time again, we have observed the artistic allure of the salt and pepper form. Be it the irresistible salt and pepper hair or the salt and pepper noise in an image, the beauty in these naturally flawed structures is undeniable. Therefore, it is not a surprise that, many consumers today are not looking for the perfect dazzling white diamond, but are looking for something much more realistically beautiful.
Origins of Salt and Pepper Diamonds
Salt and Pepper diamonds are derived from sources that are scattered all over the globe. Some of the notable sources include Australia, Russia, Asian Subcontinent and Africa. At present, the inflow of gems from Russia has come to a standstill due to the ongoing war, which has affected the supply of these gems and in turn caused a rise in their prices.
The gems that are acquired from these sources are then redistributed through various gemstone traders and wholesale manufacturers all over the world. One such trading hub, which is renowned for its wholesale gem trade is Surat.
Understanding the Diamond Market
To get a first hand experience of the diamond market, it is pertinent to pay a visit in person. And we decided to do just that! Here are a few snippets from our travels to the hub of all diamond trading – Surat.
Wandering through the bustling yet idyllic streets of the Surat market, you’ll spot a myriad of traders, perched on every nook and cranny with a tray, sorting through diamond roughs intently. The center of this diamond trade, where all the action takes place is aptly named ‘Diamond Village’. The volume of diamonds that is traded here on a day-to-day basis is immense!
Due to the sheer scale at which trading takes place, this market supports the livelihood of thousands of diamond traders and manufacturers. They also have an ‘open table’ system where gems are traded every minute. An interesting fact about the traders here is that they are more dependent on the volume of trade rather than high margins. Since the gems are sold at reasonable prices with very less profit margins. Thus, this market is almost ideal for wholesale gemstone traders looking to buy gems at a price that’s easy on the pocket.
Although the rough trading that takes place here is high-scale, their manner of working is quite laid back. Most of the trade here happens in the morning. You can see traders, equipped with loupes, sorting the diamond roughs all through the morning. The rough buyers are particularly active from 9 am to 1 pm, following which they all disperse for lunch. The trade slows down slightly post lunch, where some traders decide to slack off by taking an afternoon nap. You may use this as an excuse to explore the rest of the city, and perhaps indulge in the mouth-watering treats this city has to offer, just like we did!
The following day, we paid a visit to our sister company in Surat. Our Surat center mainly deals with the manufacturing of diamonds, especially Salt and Pepper diamonds. The company began operations in 2013, when black diamonds were in high demand. As of today, we have continued to deal with salt and pepper and black diamonds exclusively. The manufacturing of these gems is carried out with utmost care, with a special emphasis on the quality control.
We carry out all the procedures right from the procurement of the diamond roughs to its pre-forming, cutting and polishing at this center. These gems are then subjected to an elaborate quality check, following which they are exported.
We have included a set of photographs from our visit to give you a glimpse of what goes into making Salt and Pepper diamonds:
Our technicians sort out the diamond-roughs by examining them carefully with magnifying equipment. The diamonds are segregated based on their characteristics and quality (more about quality in the following sub-section)
Segregated Salt and Pepper Diamonds
The sorted gems are measured and put into molds of specific dimensions
With 90% of the world’s diamond cutting and polishing taking place here, the market in Surat is highly renowned. If you’re a wholesaler planning to purchase wholesale gems or just a tourist interested in knowing more about Salt and Pepper diamonds, you may want to pay Surat a visit. We recommend setting aside a week and making prior reservations to grab a good accommodation when planning a visit. You may want to choose a room that overlooks the serene Tapti river to make the best of it while you’re there.
Qualities of Salt and Pepper Diamonds
Most gems are graded according to the 4Cs- Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. With Salt and Pepper diamonds, however, these 4Cs are not technically applicable. However, for description purposes let’s categorize their features into the 4Cs:
Traditional diamonds are cut in a certain way to enhance their brilliance and shimmer. Since salt and pepper diamonds have inclusions in them, they are cut in flatter forms as they do not let the light beams bounce within them. Some of the popular cuts include rose cuts, hexagonal and oval.
Salt and pepper diamonds can be colorless, smoky gray or completely black. The tinge of the gem depends on the inclusions present in it. Gems with more white/ ‘salt’ inclusions are known as icy white salt and pepper diamonds. This can either be icy white with inclusions or icy white opaque, depending on the number of inclusions. The stones with more black/ ‘pepper’ inclusions are dark grey with inclusions or dark grey opaque. The gems in between these two hues are known as icy grey, with inclusions or opaque. Other base colors include milky white, cream, silver, tones of grey and black.
As salt and pepper diamonds get their characteristic look from their inclusions, their clarity is not graded based on the number of inclusions. Depending on the type and amount of inclusions, these gems can either be opaque or translucent. Gems with higher translucency may cost more.
Unlike traditional diamonds, salt and pepper diamonds are available in a range of Carat sizes. Their price is not influenced by the Carat size, which makes bigger stones more affordable compared to colorless diamonds.
From our Collection: Black diamonds, ranging upto 100 Carats
Economics and dynamics of the diamond market now
The diamond market, in the past few years, has seen a steady rise in the prices of these precious gems. Although the demand for them has been sky-rocketing, the customers are still skeptical to stock them up due to their high figures. Fortunately, the latest Rapaport Price List, released in August 2022, has reported a decline in the prices of these sparkling gems by 5-10%, which has the gem traders and diamond enthusiasts breathing a sigh of relief.
To know more, you can read our blog posts on Salt and Pepper diamonds