Rough, Raw, and Rustic Diamonds

We’re all familiar with the shine and sparkle of a faceted and polished diamond, but it’s a long road on a diamond’s journey to look like that. Raw diamonds that come out of the ground look very different, and are often even confused for other minerals like quartz and corundum.

Rough diamonds have become increasingly popular as a choice for unique and personalized jewelry. Raw diamond engagement rings are a stunning, distinctive option for a ring that feels like a one-of-a-kind beauty. But what’s the difference between rough and raw diamonds? And how do you go about choosing one for a raw diamond ring?

Identifying Rough and Raw Diamonds

Diamond rough is formed miles beneath the surface of the Earth over many years. With extreme heat and pressure, carbon atoms fuse together and then quickly cool, forming crystals. These crystals are known as rough diamonds, or raw diamonds. The terms are really interchangeable, and you may see one or both being used to describe diamond crystal.

In this raw form, rough diamonds usually look like lumps of pale, colored glass. Although colorless or near colorless diamonds are a standard for cut, faceted, and polished diamonds, rough diamonds often carry some hints of color. This color usually happens when trace elements of other minerals are present in small quantities at the time of formation.

In rough and raw diamonds, this feature is often one of the most appealing. The tiny surface inclusions, streaks of color, or cloudy patches immediately recall the life of the diamond growing process and spur a direct connection to nature.

Diamonds are known for their strength and hardness, and rough diamonds are no different. This is the clearest way to identify a rough diamond. Most often, rough diamond is tested against corundum, the mineral species which makes up ruby and sapphire. Only diamond is harder, so if the stone is able to scratch corundum, it must certainly be a diamond.

two loose pear shaped rough salt & pepper diamonds

The Variety of Rough Diamonds

Natural rough diamonds are found in a variety of colors and shapes. Since natural diamonds exist in colored and colorless varieties, rough diamonds are known to exist in a range of colors, from pink to grey, blue to black. The most prevalent raw diamond shape is an octahedron. To imagine this shape, think of two four-sided pyramids fixed together at the base. The result is a wondrous, eight-sided stone that has more defined points to its composition.

Another irregular shape is the rough sphere. These are commonly referred to as raw diamond balls, or “ballas.” The surface of a rough diamond ball can have some variance featuring a soft matte look or a glass-like surface that exhibits some sparkle.

Raw diamond cubes are shaped exactly as they sound from the name - a fully formed cube. The surface can have a similar variety of appearances like that of the raw diamond ball. Cubes can look glassy, slightly matte, or even a bit grainy, like they have a texture.

Raw diamond maccle look like thick, flat triangles. When diamonds grow in a double crystal, they naturally form a triangular-shaped crystal. Due to their more flattened natural state and typically smaller surface area, raw diamond maccle will have more sparkle than other rough diamond shapes.

There is a special note to make about rustic diamonds. A rustic diamond takes a raw diamond and shapes it and polishes it while maintaining its raw and organic feel. It has not been put through the same extensive process as diamonds that have been cut, faceted, and polished to maximize their 4C. This process is simply to get them closer to resembling a gemstone without losing their natural, from-the-earth feel.

For rustic diamonds, it is important to consider the internal structure of the diamond. While rustic diamonds are not as strong as investment grade diamonds (due to their internal inclusions), your jeweler should take note to avoid ones with obvious quality concerns that could lead to chips or breaks as it is worn.

What to Consider With Rough Diamond Engagement Rings

Rough diamonds available through jewelers and trustworthy online retailers can generally be trusted for their gem quality and procurement practices. These diamonds are still subject to the Kimberley Process protocols, so you should be able to verify that rough diamonds are ethically mined and sourced and conflict free, just as polished diamonds are.

When it comes to raw diamond engagement ring settings and designs, there are certain considerations that must be addressed. Because these stones retain so much of their original appearance, their shape is non-uniform in nature. So for raw diamonds, each ring setting is often designed to suit an individual diamond.

Prong settings provide a wonderful way of displaying rough diamonds. The attributes of clarity and cut are not a consideration, so designing around unique color striations or cloudy bursts, as well as showing off the entire crystal, become the main goal. Bezel settings can provide more of a uniform look to the diamond since the stone is wrapped in the metal, helping to add a sense of symmetry to the raw diamond.

Most cut rustic diamonds are fairly straightforward to set. In our experience, the challenging ones to set feature a quite unusual shape or the edges are too smooth. And when it comes to the sphere-shaped raw diamond, one must incorporate creative solutions. They’re almost impossible to secure in place for a long period of time, so traditional settings won’t be feasible.

While rough diamonds of gem quality are quite rare, they remain more affordable in comparison to their cut, faceted, and polished counterpart, and can be found in a variety of colors. To transform a raw diamond into a polished diamond, less than 50% of the original rough diamond is retained. It’s a process that can take up to eight hours for a skilled lapidary to perform; hence part of the increased cost of a polished vs. a raw or rough diamond.

What has often been regarded as flaws for gem quality colorless diamonds in the market is elevated as unique, special, and incredibly beautiful in rough diamonds. Just by looking at a small selection of these diamonds it becomes abundantly clear that no two are ever alike.

Once in a while we find rustic diamonds that are so beautiful and unique, we’re stopped in our tracks. We feel this is the best quality about them. Investment grade diamonds are absolutely beautiful, but there’s nothing quite as unique as a rustic diamond. So if you have a specific look in mind for your rustic diamond, start your search early. There’s an abundance of these stones, but to find one that truly strikes you as stunning may take some time.

For those seeking something that they can be absolutely certain is one-of-a-kind upon first glance, you can’t go wrong with a rustic diamond engagement ring. It’s this reason why we love designing unique pieces for these special stones and enhancing their elegance and connection to nature. Some of our unforgettable masterpieces have been the result of a uniquely stunning raw diamond center stone, and we always look forward to creating the next one.

Have questions? We're happy to help.