Diamonds are the typical stone of choice for engagement rings because their extreme hardness has come to symbolize (one hopes) the durability of marriage. Although no other stone is as hard, there are other precious stones that can come close to, if not match, their beauty while still being a durable choice. Some, myself included, find certain stones can be even more beautiful and intriguing than diamonds. Increasingly, colored stone engagement rings are being chosen by those looking for a more unique alternative to diamonds. Below is a guide for those wishing to flaunt tradition:
Colored Stone Engagement Rings
Before the 20th century (and DeBeer’s advertising campaigns), blue sapphires were actually more highly prized than diamonds. Sapphire engagement rings were commonly given in the British Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth received a Kashmir sapphire and diamond engagement ring set in platinum. Princess Diana chose an 18-carat oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds upon her engagement to Prince Charles. When Prince William used the same ring to propose to Kate Middleton, once again women all over the globe clamored for a miniature replica.
($3,465 from Ritani)
Although blue is the most widely known and popular color, sapphires actually naturally come in almost every color. Pink and yellow sapphires are equally as beguiling, with a brilliance rarely matched in colored stones. The best quality ones are quite bright in color and clear, with little or no inclusions. Although yellow sapphires engagement rings are still uncommon, those in hues of pink have recently become somewhat popular, and I wonder if this mini-trend will continue as consumers increasingly look for diamond alternatives.
($3,600 from Astley Clarke)
If you want to pick out the exact stone for your engagement ring, James Allen has a large selection of pink, yellow, as well as blue sapphires to choose from, with close-up 360° pictures of each. Once you find the perfect stone, you can then pick from hundreds of ring settings and they will set the stone for free.
Yellow sapphires can approximate the look of a fancy yellow diamond for a tiny fraction of the cost.
($870 from James Allen)
Pink sapphires are more expensive, but still a great value.
($1,450 from James Allen)
Rubies are another good alternative to diamonds. (Rubies and sapphires are both a 9 on the Moh’s scale of hardness, while diamonds are a 10, the highest). Unlike sapphires, rubies are usually naturally included, especially in larger sizes, but this should not keep you from buying one, simply stay away from the poorer quality ones that may appear cloudy. The best quality ones are called “pigeon blood red” which, as it sounds, is a rich blood red, but they can range in color from somewhat pink to bluish red. As in all precious stones try to avoid stones that are too dark in color as these are lower in value and tend to look dull.
This ring features an emerald-cut ruby framed by two emerald-cut diamonds.
($14,210 from James Allen)
($2,500 from Ritani)
Emeralds are very rare and high quality ones can actually be more expensive than diamonds. They are more appropriate as accent stones for rings that will be worn everyday, such as engagement rings, for two reasons. First, they are considerably softer than rubies and sapphires (an 8 on the Moh’s scale). Second, they tend to be brittle, with inclusions, even in the highest quality stones. If hit with a great enough impact an emerald can fracture along these inclusion lines. These inclusions are not considered a fault, though. Rather, they are a sign that an emerald is natural. The French have a beautiful term for these inclusions, “jardin” meaning garden, and indeed many of them resemble moss or tree branches. If an emerald lacks these inclusion, and is completely clear it is almost always lab-created, especially if it a larger stone.
Emeralds are best suited as accent stones as with this ring below.
($1,500 from James Allen. Price does not include center diamond)
If you do decide to purchase an emerald engagement ring, make sure that the stones are properly protected by the setting. They are much less likely to break if they are flush set into the metal, for example in a bezel or halo setting, than if they stick out from the ring in a prong setting.
($2,200 from YLANG23)
The best emeralds are a vibrant, rich, deep green. Again make sure, they are not too dark, but clarity (unlike with diamonds) is not paramount. It is all about the color and liveliness of the stone.
I would advise against choosing almost any other colored stone than sapphires, rubies, or emeralds for engagement rings unless you expect it to be exceptionally well taken care off. They are just too soft and not durable for long term, everyday wear for most people with active lifestyles.
While beautiful, be especially careful to stay away from pearls, lapis, turquoise, opal, and coral, as they are the softest stones and only appropriate for occasional wear on the hands. But any of them can be worn in earrings or pendants everyday, simply because on the neck or ears they are unlikely to come in contact with anything that would damage them.