Choosing the Right Engagement Ring Stone: A Complete Guide

Female jeweler assisting couple in choosing engagement rings

An engagement ring is more than just a piece of jewelry; it's a symbol of love, commitment, and the unique bond shared between two individuals. Just as every relationship is distinct, so is the ring that represents it. While diamonds have long been the traditional choice for many, there's a burgeoning trend towards embracing alternative gemstones.

These alternatives not only offer a fresh aesthetic but also allow couples to express their individuality and break away from convention. As modern love stories evolve, so does the desire for rings that reflect the diverse and non-traditional paths couples tread.

Gemstones: A Brief History

The idea of an engagement ring that isn't made of a diamond may seem modern, but Verragio jewelry founder Barry Verragio says it's actually centuries old. Napoleon Bonaparte presented his future empress Josphine with a sapphire and diamond engagement ring in 1796, according to Verragio. "Before we understood the potential with diamonds, people gravitated towards gemstones because their color was evident before the stone was cut and polished," says Brantner.

Valerie Madison, owner and creative director of Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry, advises modern couples to follow the lead of celebrities like Megan Fox, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry by purchasing unique engagement rings set with alternative gemstones. She encourages, "Don't pass up this chance for self-expression." When you find the correct gemstone, it's like looking at a miniature version of yourself. Adding color to your presentation is a fun and effective approach to emphasize your individuality.

Shopping Tips

Verragio suggests that the 4Cs (color, clarity, cut, and carat) are just as important when evaluating other popular gemstones for engagement rings as they are when comparing diamonds. He continues, "Color plays a major role in the appearance of the gemstone, especially when considering the saturation and intensity of it." In addition to beauty, "durability is also very important when it comes to gemstones withstanding daily tasks."

How to Care for Gemstones

According to Brantner, adequate care is essential for alternative gemstones because they are more prone to scratches and chips than diamonds. "Take [your ring] off before getting into bed, showering, working out, or washing the dishes," she advises. Gold and gemstones are particularly vulnerable to the chemicals found in swimming pools and hot tubs, so it's best to avoid wearing them in the water.

However, once you master the necessary maintenance, gemstone engagement rings are one of the most chic and meaningful ways to declare your love for another person. Below are some of the most well-liked options for engagement ring gemstones, along with some advice from the pros if you're thinking about going outside the norm.

The Different Stone Types

1. Fancy Color Diamonds

Diamond rings

Colored diamonds, with their attractive colors and amazing strength, are quickly replacing colorless diamonds as the traditional choice for engagement rings. Brantner explains that fancy color diamonds are desirable because they have all the toughness and rarity of a diamond but also have a unique appearance. The Gemological Institute of America assigns one of six classes to fancy diamonds based on their intensity: Fancy Light, Fancy Yellow, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid. 

Fancy color diamonds can be found in almost any color, but red, green, and purple are some of the rarest. Yellow diamonds are one of the more frequent fancy color tints, and despite their popularity as engagement ring stones, they may occasionally be had for less than a colorless diamond. According to Brantner, if you want to stand out from the crowd with your engagement ring, going with a more unusual color stone is your best bet. She explains that "the brilliance, fire, and scintillation of fancy color diamonds are unrivaled by those of any other colored gemstone." To have a ring that sparkles with rainbows of color is to have one of these.

2. Sapphires

Sapphire ring with blue and white diamonds

According to Brantner, sapphires are the second-most durable colored gemstones after diamonds. Since not all brides choose diamonds, sapphire engagement rings have become increasingly popular. "Sapphires have long been one of the most desired gemstones for any piece of jewelry," says Brantner, adding that blue sapphires are the most prevalent color and are frequently worn by royalty. However, sapphires' widespread availability in colors ranging from green to pink to yellow to purple is what really boosts their popularity. For those who don't want to spend as much, there are also colorless sapphires that make beautiful alternatives to diamonds in engagement rings. The diamond is available in almost every hue except red. 

According to Madison, a ruby is a sapphire that has become red from the mineral corundum. The difference in coloration between the rocks is superficial. This is wonderful news for those looking to purchase an heirloom ring, as it indicates that rubies are just as durable and long-lasting as sapphires. 

3. Emeralds

Emerald engagement ring

Because of their attractive green color and special luminous characteristics, emeralds are frequently used in jewelry. "Emeralds are eye-catching and vibrant, with each one showing its own unique pattern of inclusions," explains Brantner. Because they sometimes seem like garden greenery, these imperfections are often called "jardin." Different shades of green, from yellowish to forest to bluish, look stunning when set in various metals. When properly cared for, "fine quality emeralds have a special glow about them and can be the centerpiece of a stunning ring," says Brantner.

The catch is that emeralds are softer than diamonds, so you'll need to handle them carefully and keep them out of direct sunlight and chemical solutions if you want them to last as long as possible without chipping. The price tag is something else to think about. Because of their scarcity, high-quality emeralds often fetch a greater price than other gemstones. One positive aspect of considering an emerald for a perfect engagement ring is that, due to its lesser density, a one-carat diamond will appear smaller than a one-carat emerald.

4. Morganites

Rose Gold And Morganite Ring

Morganite engagement rings are a popular option for fun, non-traditional brides who don't want diamonds but yet want a lot of sparkle. "A few years back, morganite had a big moment due to its soft feminine color, ranging from peachy-pink to purplish-pink," Brantner says. Even while morganites have had a resurgence in popularity recently, they remain a classic and affordable option for every bride. 

Because of their low cost and the fact that some of them are quite pale, morganites provide beautiful alternatives to diamonds in engagement rings. The way light reflects off their surface gives them a stunning iridescence that has made them famous. Verragio recommends a rose gold setting to bring out the rosy tones in the stone and give the ring an antique look. Due to their lesser Mohs hardness ranking compared to diamonds, more care must be taken to prevent damage to morganites. 

5. Aquamarines

ring made of gold and aquamarine on a woman's hand

Verragio claims that aquamarine, with its stunning blue color and associations with vitality and bravery, is one of the most popular semiprecious stones. He continues, "Those who like nautical themes and the feeling of gazing across the azure seas are particularly fond of this sea blue gemstone." A cool blue alternative to traditional diamonds, aquamarine's unique pastel blue tints are flattering on a wide range of skin tones.

The affordable price of an aquamarine engagement ring is another attractive feature. Aquamarines are an economical alternative to diamonds due to their lower price. However, you should know that aquamarines have a lower refractive index than diamonds, so they won't sparkle quite as brightly. In addition, they are not as durable as stones higher on the Mohs scale and require regular maintenance to extend their useful life. 

6. Moissanites

Ring with gemstones moissanite

Madison claims that moissanites are a great alternative to diamonds for those who appreciate their beauty but are concerned about the cost or consequences of diamond mining. "Moissanites are popular for engagement rings largely due to their lower price point when compared to diamonds," she says. If money is an issue, you can still receive the ring of your dreams without settling for less-than-ideal cut, color, or clarity. Since moissanite gemstones are created in a lab, they are both less expensive and less harmful to the environment than mined diamonds.

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To conclude, Moissanites are a fantastic value because of their fire and durability. They are nearly as tough as diamonds. In fact, when illuminated, moissanites produce a more striking image than diamonds because their patterns are more complex.

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