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Sometimes diamonds aren’t a girl’s (or your budget’s) best friend. The good news is: non-diamond engagement rings are trending big-time these days, so you have many elegant options.
Our comprehensive guide to popular alternative engagement ring stones, includes their color, meaning and durability based on the Mohs scale. The Mohs scale classifies the hardness of minerals and runs from 1 to 10 — the higher the rating, the harder it is to scratch or crack the stone.
- Alternative Precious Gemstones
- 10 Semi-Precious Gemstones To Consider
- Where To Buy Alternative Engagement Rings
- How Traditional Are Diamond Engagement Rings? (Video)
- Still Set On A Diamond Ring?
Besides diamonds, there are three other precious gemstones: sapphires, emeralds and rubies. All three make excellent alternatives to diamond engagement rings. Using one of these gems as the center or accent stone creates a unique look and can be more affordable.
Besides diamonds, sapphires are the most common precious gemstone used in engagement rings. Sapphires make a gorgeous diamond replacement at roughly 1/3 of the price. At 9 on the Mohs scale, sapphires are the third hardest mineral.
Colors: Blue sapphires are the most common for an engagement ring. They range from a deep royal blue to a lighter teal color, but the deeper blue color is typically more valuable. More unusual sapphires also come in white, pink, and yellow to orange.
Meaning: Sapphires represent truth, purity and faithfulness. The durability of sapphires also represents the strength of your relationship and marriage.
Like the sapphire, the ruby is a 9 on the Mohs scale. With their durability and rich, blood-red tone, rubies can make an engagement ring stand out from the crowd.
Colors: The most elegant rubies are a deep and vibrant red that’s even-colored throughout the gemstone with enough transparency to see through the stone and reflect light. Rubies can also have tones of orange or purple.
Meaning: Rubies represent passion, love and commitment, as well as the fire of strong emotions.
For centuries, many cultures have used emeralds to craft jewelry. Although not quite as hard as the other precious gemstones at 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, emeralds make a unique addition to engagement rings of all kinds.
Colors: The most valued emeralds are a deep green with vibrant and even color across the gemstone, but they come in different hues of green based on where they come from around the world. Emeralds can also have tinges of yellow and blue.
Meaning: The emerald traditionally has symbolized faithfulness and love and was even used as an offering to Venus, the ancient Roman goddess of love.
The following semi-precious gemstones also make excellent choices for nontraditional engagement rings — and typically cost less than precious gems.
Amethyst gems are a type of quartz that appear in gorgeous shades of purple, ranging from light lavender to a deep purple hue. Some popular variations include the light “Rose de France” and the “Siberian,” which is dark purple with tints of red.
They have a hardness of 7, which makes them ideal alternatives to diamonds. Some cultures believe that the Amethyst keeps the wearer clear-headed and quick-witted. The ancient Greeks associated amethysts with Bacchus, the god of wine, and believed that the gemstone could prevent drunkenness.
The light blue to blue-green shades of aquamarine gems bring a calming, ocean-like quality to engagement rings. These gems look amazing as a round cut center stone but are beautiful in all shapes. They’re also particularly striking when complemented by small white diamonds.
Like emeralds, aquamarines belong to the beryl gem family. They’re even more durable than emeralds, with a hardness of 7.5 to 8.
Citrine has become a popular choice for engagement rings in the last few years. Colors can range from light, lemony yellow to golden yellow and even a champagne brown hue. “Madeira” citrines are the most expensive, coming in a more rare orange color with red flashes. A quartz variety like amethyst, citrine is durable at 7 on the Mohs scale.
Birthstone: November (as well as Topaz)
Like tourmaline, garnet is a family of gemstones that include many different species. The most common (and popular) garnets are deep red — with more of a brownish orange hue than rubies. Rhodolite garnets also make fantastic engagement ring stones, showing a ruby-like purplish red color.
You can also find garnets in white, brown, orange, yellow, green and purple, but these are less common. Garnets range from a 6.5 to 7.5 hardness.
Morganite is the pink to orange-pink variety of beryl, the mineral family that includes emeralds and aquamarines. Its pale pink shades make it a romantic, feminine choice for engagement rings, and it’s become a very popular option within the last few years.
Morganite’s color range includes pink, rose, peach and salmon, but the pink and rose tints are more in style these days. This gem ranges from 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale.
Opals are in a league of their own. They display a unique optical phenomenon known as “play of color.” Every opal is unique. Each shows different, vibrant multi-colored flashes that move across the surface of the stone and can form unusual patterns.
With a low hardness of 5.5 to 6.5, opals are susceptible to scratching and can crack with extreme, sudden temperature changes. Because of their fragility, opals require special storage and cleaning. They also need protective settings, with metal covering the edges of the stone.
Peridots are one of the few gemstones that only appear in one color — a stunning, olive-green. While peridots can sometimes be mistaken for emeralds, they tend to be brighter in color, but they’re not as hard at 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale.
Peridots symbolize a token of love, making them a romantic engagement ring stone. It’s even said that Napoleon gifted his first wife Josephine with a peridot to show his admiration for her.
Tanzanite makes any engagement ring particularly special. This spectacular purplish blue gemstone was discovered in Northern Tanzania in the 1960s (and named by Tiffany & Co.).
It’s extraordinarily rare compared to diamonds, and experts estimate that there’s only a 30-year supply left in the world. Tanzanite is an excellent alternative to the sapphire but isn’t as hard, ranging from 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale.
The most popular topaz gems are light to medium hues of blue, but you can find shades of pastel pinks, greens, violet and colorless. Topaz gems vary in their mineral content, but they average an 8 on the Mohs scale.
Topaz symbolizes love and fidelity, and some cultures believe it to bestow strength and intelligence to the person wearing it.
Tourmalines come in a wide variety of colors, and their surfaces look like glass when hit by light. Some varieties also change color under different types of light, and some show a cat’s eye effect known as chatoyancy. Like amethysts, they have a hardness of 7.
Some of the most popular varieties include “Verdelite” green gems (among the most affordable), “Rubellite” raspberry-red to deep-red stones, “Indicolite” blue gems with light to dark tones and “Paraíba” neon blue tourmalines, which are rare and expensive.
Birthstone: October (as well as Opal)
Several high-quality online jewelry stores have a wide selection of nontraditional engagement rings and alternative gemstone rings that are sure to wow your soon-to-be finance. Here are some of our recommendations.
Gemvara has some of the best diamond ring alternatives. This company has dozens of settings available where you can customize the center gemstone you want. They carry more than 20 different colored gemstones, including harder-to-find stones like Alexandrite, Fire Opals, Green Amethysts and more.
Gemvara’s website allows you to search by nearly any criteria you can think of, including stone type and shape, side stones, metals, price and much more. Once you choose a gemstone, you’ll see a close-up picture of how the setting will look with your choice.
Angara is another excellent website to find engagement rings without diamonds. They carry nearly 30 different colored gemstones, including a select handful of Gemological Institute of America (GIA)-certified gemstones.
With many ring styles, you can choose the quality of the stone, carat weight and metal type. Unlike Gemvara, however, you don’t have the customization option to pair the gemstone with the setting of your choice. They do have more setting selections and hundreds of ring choices.
James Allen, a widely recommended online jeweler, specializes in design-your-own engagement rings. On their site, you can select your stone (red ruby, green emerald or blue, yellow or pink sapphire) and the setting you desire. Customization options also include gem shape, metal, carat, price and other features.
If you’re looking for other stone choices, James Allen also has more than 50 pre-designed gemstone engagement rings ready for purchase. Some of your stone choices include blue topaz, amethyst, tourmaline and several others.
Blue Nile has an excellent gemstone engagement ring collection. They feature more than a dozen different gemstones and many types of settings, including halo rings, three-stone rings and genuinely unique styles to fit anyone’s taste.
Their website also makes it easy to find just what you’re looking for. You can search by price, gemstone, color metal, and more. Gemstone rings range anywhere from $390 to $60,000 or more.
Brilliant Earth mainly focuses on diamond engagement rings, but they do carry eight colored gemstones, which you can pair with roughly 10 setting choices. Once you decide on a stone type and setting, you can choose the shape and metal.
Although Brilliant Earth doesn’t have as much of a selection, their engagement ring designs are spectacular (check out their Morganites). You can expect to pay, on average, $2,000 for a gorgeous engagement ring.
Check out College Humor’s take on the real history behind the U.S. tradition of diamond engagement rings. Warning: contains profanity, may not be appropriate for some viewers.
If you’re not sure about going the untraditional route, be sure to check out our comprehensive reviews of the best diamond engagement rings to find online, where we review many of the companies we feature here. You can get more details about their practices, reputations and more.
Is your budget holding you back from real diamond rings? You can save money by purchasing a lab-created diamond vs an earth-mined diamond. Man-made diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, with the same vibrant luster and diamond properties. See our guide on lab-created diamonds to learn more.
Why are you considering a nontraditional engagement ring?