Gemstone Rings: Engagement Ready?
Whether you’re the type to turn up the color, you’re looking for some sweet savings, or you just don’t dig diamonds — hey, it happens — there are plenty of alternative gemstones waiting for their shot at engagement ring stardom. But before you go down the rabbit hole of options, you should know not all gemstones are created equal, and some just aren’t suited for everyday wear. That said, some totally are, darling. Here’s our go-to guide to gemstone engagement rings. Save it. Share it. You know the drill.
First Things First, the Cons
Many colored gemstones are treated to improve their color and/or clarity. Some of these treatments are widely accepted in the gem industry, like heat treatment, which is typically stable and won’t fade with time. Other treatments, like fracture filling (filling a stone’s internal fractures and inclusions with another substance such as oil or resin), or coating (another substance applied to the outside of the stone), can require special care like staying away from chemicals and heat so as to not affect the life of the treatment or durability of the stone.
How do you know? Any reputable gemstone seller will disclose any treatments. You can also find many stones (especially precious stones like sapphire, ruby, and emerald) with lab certifications similar to diamonds. If you’re ever questioning the status or authenticity, get a second opinion, or just stay away. At Frank Darling, we meticulously source all of our colored gemstones to make sure you’ve got all the deets you need to make a super happy purchase.
Now Onto the Fun Stuff
When it comes to buying colored stones, it might be stating the obvi, but color is queen. Whereas diamonds come with considerations for brilliance, clarity, and carat…colored gems keep it a little simpler. Those other things are still worth noting, but color is the reigning champ here, not the standard 4 Cs. Keep an open mind when it comes to shapes and dimensions for your colored gemstones as well, as they’re cut to retain that rich color rather than for brilliance (sparkle) like diamonds. That means you’ll find fancy shapes, deeper cuts, and differently sized facets.
Clear and Present
Moissanite is the star of the diamond alternative show, in all it’s clear, sparkly glory. A diamond simulant, moissanite is actually making quite a name for itself as, well, itself. Why? Bling, bling, baby. That’s right, moissanite is actually more sparkly than diamond. Mind you, it’s a different kind of sparkle — one that’s more rainbow flash than bright white brilliance — but still.
Good to know: Moissanite is a 9.25 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it a close runner up to diamond in terms of durability, and thus perfect for any engagement ring. It’s also created in a lab, which offers plenty of options for getting a custom stone shape or size, and it offers more carat for your cash.
You already know we’re going to talk about sapphire engagement rings here, because sapphire is probably the most common gemstone you’ll find when it comes to engagement rings. Corundum, the fancy name for both sapphire and ruby (yes, they’re actually the same kind of stone, just different colors), measures a 9 on the Mohs scale, making it super durable. It also comes in like a gazillion colors. But deep blue is the most classic.
You can find gorgeous paler colors as well — like the greenish or purplish blues of Montana sapphires (hello, we love homegrown), pink, yellow, white, and more. What to watch out for: colorless zones, big inclusions, and a dull darkness that detracts from sapphire’s inherent brilliance.
Not to be left dancing alone are the stunning aquamarine, blue topaz (in all its various shades), and the purplish-blue tanzanite. The crispiest of the crowd, aquamarine is just like it sounds, in soft shades that sparkle, with minimal clarity concern. A 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale, it’s ok for everyday wear (though, this is about as low as you wanna go). It’s also more affordable than sapphire by a long shot. Topaz is an 8 on Mohs, but often heat treated which can lead to brittleness. Tanzanite is known for its rich color, but it’s on the softer side (6-7 on the Mohs scale) and requires a bit more care when worn so as not to scratch or damage the stone.
Similar to sapphires, rubies are at the top of the pop charts because they’re one of only three precious gems (sapphire, ruby, emerald — everything else is considered semi-precious) and are a 9 on the Mohs scale. Rubies are red corundum, sapphires are every other color. Coveted for centuries, rubies today can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re looking for something super high clarity with rich color. The more purplish, orangish, etc., the less valuable the stone. And most of the market will have a somewhat opaque appearance, as rubies aren’t known for being super clear.
Don’t get it twisted: Rubellite is not ruby. It’s actually a type of tourmaline, though has historically been confused for ruby. It’s much more affordable, typically a deep pinky-red, and is only a 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale, requiring more care for everyday wear. Spinel is another ruby standin, in fact, the famous 14th century Black Prince’s Ruby in the British Imperial Crown is actually a red spinel, and comes in a variety of shades including rich reds. It’s a little harder, measuring 8 on Mohs, and usually a little more transparent. If you like deep, dark hues, look to garnet, known for its maroon color (though it comes in a wide variety of others). Just know it’s on the softer side.
Green with Envy
There’s no shortage of celebs rocking emerald engagement rings, and you can too, just be aware of what you’re buying. Emeralds — due to their often heavily included nature — are one of the stones most commonly treated to improve their clarity and durability. These treatments can mean a little more care on your end, so make sure you’ve got all the deets before you dive in. The more transparent the stone and deeper the color, the more dollars you’ll drop for this precious gem. But you can also find lab created options that’ll save you a little cash.
If you want something a bit brighter, explore green tourmaline and peridot, the limey August birthstone that glows with an almost kryptonite-like hue. They’re softer (6.5-7 on Mohs scale of hardness), but still ok if you’re up for being careful. We all love jade too, but frankly it’s too soft for everyday wear in a ring (we’re toughest on our hands), so keep it to pendants and earrings if you’re interested.
One of the most trend-setting engagement gems of the last decade (along with its matchy-matchy metal, rose gold) is the blushing morganite. Found in a wide variety of shapes and shades from first blush, to perfect peach, to nearly lavender, morganite is a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it fit for almost any finger. Bonus? Morganite is usually eye-clean, with no visible inclusions.
Good to know: Morganite is almost always heat treated to improve its pink hues, thus making it more desirable. But the treatment is stable so there’s no cause for concern there. While you can find some super saturated stones, morganite does tend to play in the lighter range, and that’s where you’ll find more availability and choice. There’s also pink sapphire to consider if you’re looking for deeper pinks, though morganite will help you keep some money in the bank in comparison.
Going for Gold
For something that looks so so good in an on-trend yellow gold engagement ring, explore the golden glow of citrine, A type of quartz, which is a 7 on the Mohs scale, and is most often heat-treated (it’s usually amethyst that turns golden when heated to very high temps). There’s also the deep, honeyed hues of topaz to consider, which is a little harder at an 8 on the Mohs scale. And I know we’re talking about alternatives here, but we can’t not mention yellow and champagne diamonds because they’re basically our favorites. They come in a huge variety of shades from the palest honey to deep golden-brown to toasty-ness like its extra crispy.
Paint it Black
Go to the dark side with black tourmaline, black spinel, or onyx — which can be found in true black or in banded layers of color. Onyx, due to its crystalline properties, will typically be found in smooth, wide table or cabochon cuts. You can also find engraved pieces, cameos, what have you. It’s a cool stone if you want something super vintage-y and unique. It’s a 7 on the Mohs scale, and quite opaque if you want that deep, saturated color.
Black diamonds are also totally a thing. They get their color from mineral inclusions such as graphite, pyrite or hematite that extend throughout the stone. This also gives them an opaque, metallic sheen. If it’s not opaque, and more transparent (where you can see the separation between inclusions) then you’re looking at a salt and pepper diamond instead. Both are cool. You do you.
The Grape Escape
For the super obvious choice in purple engagement ring gems, you’ve got amethyst. It’s quartz, it’s affordable, it’s a 7 on the Mohs scale, and you can totally do a ring with one, just be a little more careful with it. The richer the color, the more pricey, but you’re not going to break the bank at all. Another stone on the come up is alexandrite — but this super rare, color-changing variety of the mineral chrysoberyl is definitely where you can spend some dollars. An 8.5 on the Mohs scale, alexandrite is actually well suited for everyday wear…if you can find one. They change from greenish-bluish in daylight to reddish-purplish in incandescent light. And might be too cool for their own good.
If you’re looking for a diamond alternative but more of a neutral-lover (or just a major Arianator), there’s the powerful trio of pearl, opal, and moonstone to soothe your soul. Pearls, which come in soft shades of white, off-white, champagne, pink, gray, black, you name it, are only a 2.5-3 on the Mohs scale. This means danger, folks. They are not ideal for everyday wear, require a lot of care and upkeep, and in all likelihood will need to be replaced over time. This is why you most often find them in necklaces and earrings, which don’t take such hard wear.
Similarly, opal and moonstone, for all their lustrous, shimmery glory, aren’t great for everyday wear either. Though a little harder — opal is a 5-6.5 Mohs, while moonstone is a 6-6.5 — they still require careful wear and can be a bit more delicate due to their layered crystal structures. Opal will give you rainbow flash, while moonstone will be more shimmery blue-white. Both can be romantic, subtle choices if you don’t want all-out color.
Pot o’ Gold
At the end of the rainbow, it’s time to choose. What color will you fall head over heels for? When it comes to alternative gemstone engagement rings, you really can’t go wrong. Want to start designing your own colorful creation? Try our style quiz and get a free sketch to kick off your custom engagement ring process. Or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to work directly with our gem experts on finding the perfect gemstone just for you.