Ethereal Alternatives to Pearls and Opals in Fine Jewellery

9th February, Cherry-Mae Whitehead-Howse

We’ve all seen them, those opulent rings full of iridescent, creamy stones. They make you think of angels and mermaids… or maybe just fancy women in the 1950’s. They’re beautiful and delicate: we’re talking about pearls and opals of course!

But modern-day luxury jewellers don’t seem to be making anything with these sweet gems in them. Are they out of fashion, or just hard to get hold of? 

The reality is that a lot of jewellers just don't like working with them! It's a harsh truth for such beautiful objects, but news has got out: pearls and opals don't last.

Why Don't Pearls and Opals Last?

If you know anything about jewellery or gemstones, you’ll have heard of the MOHS scale. Every gem and stone that's been used in jewellery (and some everyday objects) will have a scoring. It tells us how hard an object is, this lets us know if it will be likely to scratch, break, or generally just degrade over time. 

Diamond is our top-dog with a score of ten, and right down there at the bottom is talc with a score of one. That’s right, the powdery substance your Nan has in her bathroom. Not exactly glamorous, and definitely not suitable for fine jewellery! So where do pearls and opals sit on this scale? 

Well, it's not good news. Pearls have a scoring of 2.5, which makes them about as hard as your fingernail. Opals score a little better, with a middle of the road score of between 5 - 6.5. This sounds like a big step up right? Unfortunately not - a scoring in this range is classed as poor to fair. It’s lower on the scale than household dust.

When your jewellery can’t hold its ground against something that a feather duster tackles easily, it’s probably time to look at better options. 

At Jessica Flinn, a large part of our design ethos is dedicated to ensuring that your jewellery will last. We look at the thickness of our bands, the shape and placement of the claws, and the security of your stones! If it won’t stand the test of time, we aren't interested!

So, as lovely as they are, we do not use pearls and opals in our jewellery! This doesn't mean you can’t still get that ethereal, angel-core aesthetic. We’ve got the vision, and we’ve got you covered. 

So, what can we do?

Our solution is (drumroll please) salt and pepper diamonds.

Predictable? Maybe! But these aren't the stormy, gothic salt and pepper diamonds we know and love. Did you know that salt and peppers aren't always dark? And that they come in a rainbow of romantic colours? To help you visualise these heavenly hues, we have created ten different designs for your celestial consideration!

1. Celeste

Our aptly named Celeste is number one. With her crown of diamonds she’s already halfway to ethereal royalty. We’ve paired her with an outstanding salt and pepper kite - this 0.99ct stone has everything you want if you're looking for opal alternatives. 

With the gentle orange inclusions common in goldfish salt and peppers, and her almost opaque iridescence, this celeste deserves her halo.  

2. Elspeth

She’s one of our most loved designs, and no wonder! With all the flare of a vintage engagement ring, we can go one step further to giving her all the antique glamour of a pearl. We like a contemporary twist though, so we have paired this Elspeth with a marquise salt and pepper. 

The silky white inclusions flowing through the stone give her the pearlescent charm anyone with a taste for the elegance of Victorian rings will love. With the added knowledge that you can safely wear this pearl every day!

3. Millie

It can be hard to imagine a pearl equivalent in any other shape than a round, and our Millie is the perfect delicate beauty to showcase this stunning white salt and pepper diamond. With just a touch of orange and some fantastic dainty inclusions, this is a pearl alternative any oyster would be proud of.

4. ophelia

For many of us it's the iridescence that draws us to opals; that gentle, cloud-like opacity. Not so much sparkle, but a whole lot of shimmer! Well, this sophisticated 0.89ct elongated hexagon salt and pepper diamond has this in spades. She’ll take your breath away in cool platinum; the perfect icy angel to grace any hand!

5. Carmen

Both pearl and opal rings come in many shades. Pearls especially have their own subtle rainbow, and can be anything from pure white, to a delicate pink, all the way to a deep chocolate brown. These white salt and pepper diamonds have the range to match any of those elegant shades, like this creamy 1.01ct oval salt and pepper diamond, which we have paired with the showstopper Carmen. 

The diamond set band combined with the calm beauty of this stone would make this salt and pepper engagement ring the envy of even cupid.

6. Diana

Inspired by the fabulous sapphire engagement ring of Princess Di, we have Diana! But this darling is being given an additional vintage twist with this beautifully elegant orange salt and pepper diamond. The warmth from this ethereal 1.2ct peach salt and pepper, paired with her classic diamond halo, turns this Diana into sunbeam that a fire opal would be proud of.

7. Natalia

One of the best things about using something that has the same effect as a pearl, but is far more versatile, is how many extra choices you get! Pearls are usually round, but with a salt and pepper diamond you have the freedom to choose anything you want! 

Here we have paired this divine hexagon cut salt and pepper in a buttery yellow gold Natalia, with two round brilliant cut accent diamonds. With its gossamer thin inclusions, this salt and pepper is simply divine.

8. Mabel

Mabel is one of our delightfully vintage inspired engagement rings; a starburst cluster ring which is just crying out for some pearl-personality. This 5mm 0.90ct round brilliant cut salt and pepper diamond is perfect for a dainty ring like Mabel. Pair with yellow gold for that classic victorian engagement ring look, or platinum for a touch of art-deco. 

9. Arden

Arden is our heavyweight champion of art-deco, she’s glam and she’s gothic. But it’s about time for a little makeover. Pairing her with this 0.70ct elongated hexagon salt and pepper takes the vibe from Dracula to divine. 

10. Raine

If you love a simple, floral moment, Raine is ready and waiting. She’s our lotus inspired solitaire, and what better pairing than a stone with all the delicacy of a lily. This stunning pearlescent 0.68ct pear salt and pepper diamond is all we could ask for when looking at pearl alternatives.   

If you’d like to get in touch with our team about recreating any of these designs, get in touch and one of our lovely Sales and Design Team members will be more than happy to help!