Engagement Ring Gemstones

Diamonds and All Their Alternatives

As far as an engagement ring goes, most people envision a white or yellow precious metal with a colorless sparkling diamond centerpiece. And although the diamond is an endearing and classic choice that carries a lot of symbolism with it, there are alternative options that many modern couples are opening up to.

When you are pondering the appropriate stone for your engagement ring, the first thing to consider is whether you want colored gemstones or colorless gems. Colorless gems are more traditional, but if you are specifically attracted to the idea of a colored stone in your ring, remember that if the symbolism of the diamond is essential to you, there is always the option of a colored diamond. Colored diamonds also have the added benefit of being more affordable than the more popular colorless diamonds.

Diamonds And All Their Alternatives

In ancient times an engagement ring was seen as a sign that a bride-to-be had received her dowry. During medieval times engagement rings were so important to society that women were not allowed to wear rings for any other purposes.

Sometime after the medieval period, there was a tradition where a man would wear one ring, and the woman would wear another during their engagement. Once they marry, the man’s ring will be given to the woman, and she will wear both during the marriage.

For the longest time, engagement rings were too expensive for common folk to afford. They were reserved for the wealthy upper-classes. During the 1950s, thanks to the economic boom, more people could afford engagement rings. By the 1970s, it was becoming commonplace for betrothals to be indicated by engagement rings regardless of socioeconomic class.

Lastly, the financial investment in an engagement ring, especially when diamonds are involved, can be daunting and is often a source of hesitation for some couples. The state that the economy is in right now makes it difficult to justify such an expense.

However, we must remember that the investment in an engagement ring is a serious show of commitment. In the end, it is the kind of thing that you should be doing only once, and therefore the investment itself symbolizes love for eternity.

White Gems For Engagement Rings

Why Are Diamonds The First Choice Gemstones for Engagement Rings?

What is the Symbolism?

With all of the semi-precious and precious stones out there, why did we settle for the diamond in an engagement ring? One of the main and most important reasons is the position on the hardness scale that sets the diamond apart from other gems.

A diamond measures 10/10 on the Mohs hardness scale. This gave way to the symbolism of diamond rings relating to eternal love and enduring strength. As they say, “diamonds are forever”. The hardness scale rating of a diamond certainly makes it much harder to damage.

A ring that is worn daily can last extremely well with very little care. As long as the diamonds are not touching or scraping against other diamonds, they are extremely unlikely to scratch. And diamonds are also relatively easy to clean because they cannot be scratched with cleaning equipment.

Furthermore, diamonds are easily paired with any precious metal. Rose gold is a new romantic fascination for many couples. The more traditional pairing of a diamond halo or center diamond with two side stones on yellow gold is a great option for a traditionalist, but the same setting goes great in a white gold ring. Diamonds are an ever-popular and timeless choice, but it is by no means the only choice.

Alternative White Gems For Engagement Rings

Many modern couples still seek the colorless brilliance of a diamond but might be hesitant about the price. If this you, do not fear, there are several alternative white or colorless stones to choose from. Many people do not realize that diamonds are not the only clear gems available for their ring.

Stones that have a colorless option include, but are not limited to, white sapphire, spinel, iolite, zircon, apatite, topaz, moissanite, and morganite. These vary significantly in price, and it is important to make sure that you use a reputable jeweler who will use a good quality gem for your special ring, but all of these are excellent substitutes for traditional diamonds.

Beware of little differences, though. White sapphires are known to have less luster than a diamond, and while in olden days, moissanite was often mistaken as a diamond and used in many a unsuspecting engagement ring, it has much more luster than a colorless diamond. This makes it easy to distinguish between a ring with a genuine diamond and one with a white sapphire or moissanite.

Alternative Gemstones For Engagement Rings

Precious and Semi-Precious Gems

When looking for an alternative gemstone engagement ring, your most important consideration should still be the hardness scale. The reason for this is because an engagement ring is worn daily by most people. Daily wear of a ring is an open invitation for damage. Even household dust holds a hardness scale of 7 to 7.5 due to the amount of quartz dust that can be found in it.

The general consensus is that an engagement ring should measure at least seven on the scale. Anything softer should only be worn occasionally and should have bezel settings or something similarly protective.

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What is Considered a Precious Gemstone?

Alternative gemstone engagement rings are rising in popularity with each passing year. When choosing a gemstone engagement ring, something to remember is that there are only four stones that are considered precious stones. These are the diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. While there are standard colors for these stones, you should not find yourself chained to the popular colors. More precious stones that do not adhere to traditional colors are being purchased for the purpose of engagement rings than ever before.

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Ruby Engagement Ring

A ruby is the only corundum stone that comes in red; any other color corundum stones are considered sapphires. Rubies measure a nine on the scale and are extremely durable stones, making them ideal for engagement rings.

A ruby engagement ring is an eye-catching and elegant alternative to diamonds. The ruby is known for its luxurious deep red color and is most often set in lighter metals like white gold, but can be a bold statement if set in yellow gold as well.

The sapphire and ruby are both corundum stones, and when the corundum is red, it is categorized as a ruby; when it has a blue color or any other color on the spectrum, it is categorized as a sapphire. Pink corundum stones are contested, and while most will categorize the pink stones like sapphires, some jewelers might prefer to call them rubies. Bear this in mind when purchasing an engagement ring.

18K white gold emerald cut ruby and trapezoid diamond ring by Blue Nile

Sapphire Engagement Ring

A sapphire engagement ring is often considered a popular choice for royalty. The most obvious example is the well-known Princess Diana sapphire ring, but there are other examples from European royalty as well. While blue sapphire is the most popular, there are sapphires of all colors (except red). Sapphire also happens to be the September birthstone.

As with rubies, they measure a nine on the scale, so a sapphire engagement ring can be worn daily, and the stone is durable enough to resist damage in most cases. Some sapphires can even have an asterism effect which gives it the elusion of a star inside of the stone.

While a blue sapphire makes a great stone to be set in white gold, we should not forget about softer colors like the more romantic pink sapphire. If images of a pink stone on a rose gold ring excite you, then you are clearly someone who appreciates the versatility of this colored gemstone.

18K white gold sapphire and diamond ring by Blue Nile

Emerald Engagement Ring

If you love green, then an emerald engagement ring might be just the thing for you. Emeralds come in a variety of brilliant green shades, and since they measure an eight on the hardness scale, they are suitable for daily wear.

An emerald, although hardy, requires some special care. Emerald jewelry should never be cleaned in a steam or ultrasonic machine. If you have an emerald ring that you wear often, it is important to remember that it requires some special care. While emeralds can be set in white gold and other light metals, it is most striking in a yellow gold setting.

Widely referred to as the Stone of Kings, an emerald ring makes a fantastic alternative to a diamond engagement ring.

14K yellow gold baguette emerald and diamond pavé stacking ring by Blue Nile

What About Semi-Precious Stones?

All other gemstones are considered semi-precious, but this does not always mean more affordable. Some semi-precious stones can exceed their precious cousins in price. What often attracts people to these kinds of gemstone engagement rings are their brilliant colors, but they are also available in colorless options.

If you are looking for an affordable option for a larger stone, then one of these stones might be exactly what you are looking for. In the end, you need to match your engagement ring to your personal style and should not be constricted by what is popular.

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Pearl Engagement Ring

For the longest time, pearls have been viewed as old-fashioned, but this does not distract from their timeless elegance and their place in the world of fine jewelry. In recent years, however, more couples have been exploring the pearl as a fixture in an engagement ring.

Pearls are the only gems that are not stones; in fact, they are made by living creatures and consist of calcium carbonate, which probably adds to their mystery. Unfortunately, however, pearls measure only around 2.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which makes them extremely soft.

A pearl engagement ring should be worn occasionally and should be set in a protective setting. Most people also do not realize that the milky white it is known for is not the only natural color that pearls come in. Blue pearls are rising in popularity, for example.

14K yellow gold freshwater cultured pearl swirl ring by James Allen

Opal Engagement Ring

Another unique and often overlooked option is an opal ring. These are also quite soft and require a protective setting, and are generally considered to be very different from other gemstones. They are known and revered for their magnificent play of color.

14K rose gold emerald cut opal ring with diamond halo by Blue Nile

Other gemstone engagement rings

There are so many gemstones out there that we could not list and discuss them all here. We have chosen some popular and lesser-known options and will now list them according to their place on the Mohs scale.

Gemstones Measuring Under seven on the Mohs Scale

While the softest gem on our list is the pearl, pearls were discussed earlier in this article, and they are not considered to be a stone as such.

The next softest seems to be lapis lazuli which only measures in at 5 to 5.5 on the hardness scale. This stone is a dark matte blue usually but comes in a variety of shades. Due to its softness, it is not a common choice for everyday wear, but with the right care, it can still make a magnificent gemstone engagement ring.

The other opaque stone on this list is the turquoise which can measure between 5 and 7 on the hardness scale. Most turquoise jewelry does not quite reach the seven mark, which is why it was included here. Although also an uncommon choice for an engagement ring, turquoise is rising in popularity.

Moonstones measure on a six, while the lesser-known sunstones measure between 6 and 7. In modern times they are becoming more popular and make a truly unique and gorgeous ring. Moonstones are often white, pink, or shades of yellow, brown, or gray, while sunstones are commonly peachy-pink.

Labradorite measures from 6 to 6.5 and come in a range of grey, brown, and blue hues. They make quite a striking centerpiece of jewelry. A peridot measures slightly harder at 6.5 to 7. They come in a variety of brilliant green and yellow colors.

If you prefer bolder statements, you can go with something like a silky black onyx which measures between 6 and 7, or a daring garnet which measures between 6.5 to 7.5 on the scale. Garnets are popular in red but come in many shades of other colors.

Gemstones Commonly seven or Harder on the Mohs Scale

Amethyst measures at a seven and come in various shades of purple, from a light color to a deep purple. It should be noted that what is referred to as ‘green amethyst’ is not actually amethyst but is actually a stone called Prasiolite; this color is achieved when amethyst is exposed to high heat.

Tourmaline is a brilliant stone that comes in a variety of colors and can even include a chatoyancy (cat eye) effect. With tourmaline and some other stones on the list, the color can have a significant impact on the price.

If you prefer a yellow stone, then a citrine ring can be the perfect option for you. It is considered a durable option and measures at seven on the Mohs scale. If pink is your color of choice, then a unique style of gemstone engagement ring for you might be a rose quartz ring, which also measures at 7. Traditionally rose quartz was sold uncut, but recently the stone has been cut like gemstones and used in fine jewelry settings.

Some people might enjoy a bright green stone. While a green diamond is one option, and an emerald is a popular choice, a more affordable alternative can be tsavorite. It is a hardy stone that measures between 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale.

Spinel starts us off on the harder side of the Mohs scale by starting at 7.5 and going up to an 8. Spinel comes in various different colors and is a popular, affordable option for fine jewelry. The zircon stone that measures at 7.5 most often occurs in reddish-brown, gray, green, or the heat-treated blue variety.

For those who are looking for luck and good fortune in their lives or those who have a love for the sea, an aquamarine that comes in shades of blue to blue-green is a great option. They are pretty hard, measuring at 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs hardness scale.

If you still prefer a colorless stone, then a morganite ring is a great choice. The price for a morganite ring can vary wildly, but is it a popular modern option for an engagement ring and measures at 7.5 to 8. A morganite stone is most widely available in a soft, romantic pink color.

The topaz, both yellow and blue topaz being birthstones, is also a relatively popular choice for an engagement ring, but it is important to consider the color of the stone that you choose. It is a hard stone that measures at 8.

If you like to draw attention the, one of the best stones for you might be the alexandrite. A hard stone, measuring at 8.5, it is great for an engagement ring. What makes it such a great option for the more adventurous bride is the fact that it changes color depending on the light. One stone can go from a dark blue-green color to a deep purple.

Finally, if you love the sparkle of diamonds but do not want to spend so much money, then moissanite is exactly what you are looking for. They have all the glamour and strength of a diamond, measuring at 9.5, without the extreme price. Although these stones are most commonly clear, they are available in green or yellow.

Final Considerations For Gemstone Engagement Rings

Chances are that if you are on the hunt for information on engagement rings that you have already considered a diamond. While diamonds are the hardest and most expensive gems, they are in high demand and extremely popular for engagement rings and other high-end jewelry.

Diamonds are timeless and will last your entire lifetime if they are cared for properly. But that does not mean that a diamond is the perfect gemstone for your ring. If the idea of a diamond, either colored or colorless, does not appeal to you, then there should be nothing stopping you from stepping outside of the diamond circle and looking into another gemstone for your ring.

In the end, the ring should be perfect for the person whose ring finger it will live on. Whatever your color preference or expectations, there is a gemstone out there that is perfect for you. Do not feel pressured into buying a diamond ring if that is not what you are looking for. Find the gemstone that best showcases your personal style.

The best advice that we can give when selecting the person gemstone for your ring is to remember that hardness will impact how often the ring can be worn, the kind of care it will need, and how long the ring will last. Furthermore, make sure that your ring features ethically sourced stones.


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