There's a reason diamonds are considered such a classic choice when it comes to engagement rings. One of the strongest naturally occurring substances on earth and able to withstand almost anything, diamonds symbolize the kind of forever love and commitment that come with marriage. But for all of their durability and beauty, diamonds aren't the best choice for everyone. If you're looking for a less expensive or more unique engagement ring, you might want to consider a diamond alternative instead.
After all, there's certainly no rule that says you have to have a diamond as your center stone in your engagement ring. There are plenty of other gemstones out there that make for gorgeous rings that are ideal for everyday wear and will stand out in a crowd. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Eva Longoria, and Halle Berry are just a few who have opted for other colorful stones, and the British royal family is known for doing the same: just take a glimpse at Kate Middleton's stunning sapphire engagement ring.
If you're trying to decide whether or not to go the non-diamond route, here are a few important things to keep in mind, with input from jewelry experts and designers Jillian Sassone and Collen Montague.
Meet the Expert
- Jillian Sassone is a jewelry designer and the founder of jewelry line Marrow, which reimagines fine and bridal jewelry through design and material.
- Colleen Montague is the owner of Moissy Fine Jewellery, located in Canada and the U.S., and was recently featured on the cover of Canadian Jeweller Magazine.
What to Consider Before Buying a Diamond Alternative
When opting for a diamond alternative, the most important thing to keep in mind is that some gemstones are not really fit for everyday wear. Montague strongly recommends keeping your lifestyle in mind when choosing a stone. "Some gemstones are more delicate and will need to be worn with more care to ensure they are not damaged," she says. "Choose a gemstone that will have the durability that fits your day-to-day activities." Be sure to discuss this with a jeweler, or do your own independent research to see how strong your stone of choice is.
You should also keep color in mind. Diamonds are clear and colorless, which means they go with everything. Many diamond alternatives, however, are colorful and bold, meaning they might not be quite as versatile. "Make sure it's a color that you absolutely love and that you won't grow tired of," Sassone warns.
Pros of Diamond Alternatives
The biggest pro of a diamond alternative is that, generally, other gemstones are more affordable. Diamonds are expensive and their price tag is what turns a lot of potential buyers off. Sassone points out that when you're looking for an alternative stone, you can spend less and get something bigger. "Of course, that depends on the quality and species of the stone that ultimately speaks to you," she adds.
Another advantage of a non-diamond is that you're automatically making your ring stand out more. "It means you will have something unique and different from the traditional-looking engagement ring," Montague says.
Lastly, a diamond alternative can just feel a bit more fun. "You can add a pop of color to your jewelry, which can really wow everyone that sees your beautiful piece," Montague says.
Cons of Diamond Alternatives
Probably the biggest con of a non-diamond is that, while other gemstones can be very strong, none are as strong as a diamond. Some other options you may love just might not be durable enough to withstand everyday wear and tear. For example, Sassone notes that stones like opals and pearls are very soft and are tough to wear all the time. "These stones need more care than what is practical for a ring that you’ll never want to take off," she says.
Some people may not love a non-traditional option, so if you're looking for something more classic, your best bet is to opt for something like moissanite.
Below, learn more about some of the most popular diamond alternatives for engagement rings.
In the last few years, moissanite has become one of the most popular diamond alternatives, and it's not hard to see why. Not only does moissanite strongly resemble a diamond, but they come in at a fraction of the price of the latter, and they are almost as durable. "Moissanite gemstones are the second hardest gemstone used in jewelry making today," Montague shares. "They are super durable for the most active bride-to-be."
Because of their clear color, they are incredibly versatile. They also have an amazing sparkle that is really hard to get with even the most high-quality diamond. As Montague points out, they're also lab-created, making them a more ethical and sustainable option than many diamonds.
Light blue aquamarine stones are an elegant and fresh choice that can also make your engagement ring your "something blue" (and an excellent family heirloom). Part of the beryl family, aquamarine is part of the same species as emeralds and morganites. "They have a hardness rating of 7.5-8, so diamonds and sapphires would scratch them," Sassone notes. "You would want to store them separately from your other jewels, and the stone may need to be polished over the years.
Still, aquamarine is a fairly durable option that will certainly become a treasured favorite.
With their gorgeous green hue, emeralds are a classic choice that will really add something to your jewelry collection. Montague points out that they come in a variety of shapes that can easily be customized to fit into your dream ring.
Like aquamarine, emeralds come in at about 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, so it will require a bit more attention and care when being worn or stored. "When shopping for an emerald, the most appealing stones will be a beautiful green, with a highly transparent appearance," Montague notes. Ultimately, the best emerald color to seek out is neither too deep nor too light—look for one that's a medium intensity and highly transparent.
Inquiring about the level of oil applied to your emerald is also crucial, as the look of stones with high levels of oil treatments will likely change over time.
A feminine pink stone that almost resembles the ultra-luxe pink diamond, morganite is a trendy non-diamond option right now. The light color makes the stone versatile and easy to wear, and there are so many different options for it.
Sassone notes that morganite is in the same family as aquamarine, and so the two are extremely similar. They both have about the same 7.5 hardness, meaning morganite is suitable for everyday wear but still needs to be treated more delicately than a diamond.
Rubies are an excellent diamond alternative because they manage to be classic but bold at the same time. As Montague points out, they are the gemstone of love and come in a range of shades from deep pink to red, making a beautiful contrast when paired with white and yellow metals.
Rubies are durable and suitable for everyday wear, which is certainly an advantage. However, they aren't quite as inexpensive as some other options. "Rubies are priced higher per carat than any other colored gem," Montague says. She recommends looking for the more desirable deep red rubies when shopping and making sure the gem is eye clean.
Sapphires are another elegant and classic option that come in a range of different shades. These colored gemstones are one of the hardest diamond alternative stones and are ideal for everyday wear. "You can live your life wearing a sapphire," Sassone says. "There is less upkeep with these stones."
When purchasing a sapphire, Sassone recommends working with a trusted resource since the colored stone market isn't as regulated as the diamond market. "We're looking for good crystal, which is the stone's ability to pass light at the molecular level," she explains. "Irradiation can greatly diminish a sapphire's sparkle factor, so you want to look at how much sparkle the stone has."
Heart treatment, on the other hand, is common among sapphires, and entirely acceptable; pure heat treatment, without any added chemicals or substances, can improve the color and clarity of many sapphires.
The deep violet hue of amethyst makes this the perfect stone for the unconventional bride-to-be. Considerably less expensive than a diamond, you can get a large amethyst for a budget-friendly price point.
As beautiful as the color is, though, an important thing to keep in mind with amethyst is that it's not as strong as some other colored gemstones. It's a 7 on the Mohs scale, which is why Montague doesn't recommend it for everyday wear. It's more delicate and could get damaged more easily. But if you're willing to take care of it and be extra cautious, amethyst can still be your choice.
"If your style is a more vintage feel, or you want an heirloom look, opal gemstones can achieve this for you," Montague says. These beautiful milky white stones have an interesting iridescence to them, and they are pretty versatile.
However, opals are not one of the strongest stones out there. "Opals are super soft and porous," Montague says. "With prolonged wear, you will likely experience chips and scratches, and the stone may change color over time." With that being said, opals are not a good choice for everyday wear—in addition to being soft and porous, they also may not react well to sudden temperature changes or prolonged periods of time spent in direct sunlight.