ALTERNATIVE ENGAGEMENT RINGS
Non-Traditional Engagement Ring Options
The classic diamond engagement ring as we know it has only been around for a little over 100 years. Developed and marketed by the diamond industry it became the must-have accessory for all of the newly engaged. But the times they are a-changing! Diamonds aren’t for everyone and nor should anyone be ever made to feel that diamonds must be for everyone. More and more people in Toronto and around the world are looking to non-diamond gemstone alternatives for their non-traditional engagement rings.
There are so many beautiful gemstones to choose from but some are more suitable to be set in an engagement ring than others. The most important thing to keep in mind is the durability of the stone. It needs to be tough enough to stand up to everyday wear. This is one of the reasons why diamonds have been such a popular choice for engagement rings. Diamonds are exponentially harder than any other gemstone. That being said, there are plenty of other tough, beautiful gemstones to choose from. I’ve made this handy-dandy chart for quick reference and then go into more detail on each gemstone below.
First, let’s explore this ‘Best’ category of gemstone. The gemstones in the ‘Best’ category are the next most durable after diamond. One way to measure a gemstone’s durability is with the Moh’s Scale of hardness. The scale is from 1 to 10 with 1 being very soft and 10 being very hard. An example of a stone that measures in at 1 is talc. The only stone that measures in at 10 is diamond.
Lab Created or Synthetic Diamond
I debated whether or not to include synthetic diamond in this article since, after all, we are talking about ‘non diamond’ engagement ring options. Synthetic diamonds are chemically identical to diamonds that are found in nature so they are, in fact, diamonds. But I decided to include them anyway since they are not what we would think of as a traditional diamond.
A synthetic or lab created diamond is a great choice for an engagement ring. As noted above it’s chemically identical to a natural diamond so that means it is an extremely tough and durable stone with a Moh’s hardness of 10.
Moissanite is a newer alternative to diamond. Although the natural mineral has been known for over a century it is only recently that it has been successfully reproduced in a lab. Measuring in at 9.5 on the Moh’s Scale, Moissanite is a great choice for your custom engagement ring. It’s a beautiful, double refractive stone meaning that it actually has more ‘fire’ or reflective properties than diamond.
Recently the company that creates Moissanite, Charles & Colvard, has developed three different lines or categories of gemstone. The only difference between each line is the colour. All other aspects such as clarity and cut are identical in each line. Forever Classic is, as the name suggests, the classic line and has a bit of a yellow undertone. The Forever Brilliant line is whiter than the Classic line and is roughly equivalent in colour to a G/H graded diamond. Finally the Forever One line was just released last year and is the whitest of all their lines. It’s hard for the difference to come across in a picture but perhaps you can get the general idea from the images below. If possible, the best way to get an idea of the difference in colour is to get in touch with me and come and see the stones in person!
Any of the “Better” category of gemstones can also be used in your non-diamond custom engagement ring without any worries. They are all durable, hard gemstones that will stand up to wear and tear. All of these gemstones have a Moh’s hardness of 9.
Natural and Synthetic Sapphire
As with lab created diamond, lab created or synthetic sapphire is also chemically identical to natural sapphire. Whereas natural sapphire is available in a multitude of colours, the colours available in synthetic sapphire are much more limited. Here are some of the most common colours of synthetic sapphire:
Synthetic sapphires are very saturated in colour while there’s a greater tonal range available in natural sapphire. Below I’ve made a short description of the most common colours available in natural sapphire:
White Sapphire: A true white but with less ‘fire’ than a diamond
Yellow Sapphire: Ranges from pale yellow to bright, sunny yellow
Orange Sapphire: Typically a saturated tangerine colour, lighter orange is less common
Padparadscha Sapphire: A padparadscha sapphire is a very particular colour, either 60% orange and 40% pink or 60% pink and 40% orange
Pink Sapphire: Typically a deep, vibrant pink – pale pink is less common
Purple Sapphire: A ‘classic’ purple, lighter and brighter than an amethyst purple
Blue Sapphire: Ranges from light blue to navy blue with the classic blue being described as ‘ceylon’
Green Sapphire: Typically an earthy green, not a bright kelly green like emerald or tsavorite garnet
Synthetic or Natural Ruby
Ruby and sapphire are actually the same mineral, corundum. The classic colour of a ruby is described as ‘pigeon’s blood red’ – I know – gross. If a ruby is too pink or purple it’s called a pink or purple sapphire instead. The colour of synthetic ruby is that classic red while natural ruby ranges more in colour from purple-red to pink-red and all shades of red in between. Below are examples of synthetic ruby:
Chrysoberyl and Alexandrite
A less known stone, chrysoberyl is another tough gemstone that is more than suitable for a non-diamond engagement ring and able to stand up to wear and tear. Natural chysoberyl is a bright yellow or green-yellow stone. Alexandrite is the colour change version of chrysoberyl. It changes in colour from red/purple in indoor light to green/teal blue in outdoor light. Alexandrite is quite rare and is often more expensive than diamonds of equivalent size. Luckily alexandrite is also available as a synthetic stone with the same colour change properties but not the same price tag as its natural counter part. It’s hard to capture the colour change properties of alexandrite in an image but the picture below will give you a general idea:
And Finally the “Good” cateogry of gemstones. These are the ‘proceed with caution’ stones. With a Moh’s hardness of 8 they are technically suitable for engagement rings but there are other considerations to take into account beyond their hardness as outlined below.
You will notice, of course, that I haven’t included natural emerald here. This is because natural emerald, although hard, tends to be brittle which compromises its durability. You could select a natural emerald for your engagement ring as long as you are aware of and willing to accept the risks. You would hopefully be one of those people who aren’t hard on their jewellery and you’d need to be aware when you’re wearing your ring of keeping it as safe as possible. Because synthetic emerald isn’t as brittle as natural emerald it is actually a better choice for an engagement ring. Below is a picture of a typical colour for a synthetic emerald.
Natural topaz is available in a variety of colours. It’s often colour treated to create more desirable or saturated colour but the treatment is stable. Because of the affordability of natural topaz there really isn’t a market for synthetic topaz. Although hard, topaz has something called perfect cleavage (yes, that is a technical term) which makes it vulnerable to breakage. Due to the crystal structure of topaz if it is hit in just the right spot the stone could ‘cleave’ or break off. Here are some common colours of topaz:
Some Final Thoughts
Perhaps the stone you were hoping to use isn’t in the Good, Better, Best list. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it, it just means that you will need to take the time and do some research on the stone of your choice so you know the risks involved before selecting it for your engagement ring. Unfortunately, you will need to prepare yourself for the possibility that the stone may break so you may also want to keep that in mind when budgeting how much you’d like to spend. Below are some further lists of gemstones that I would classify as ‘Proceed with Caution’ and ‘Absolutely Do Not Use’:
Proceed with Caution:
Aquamarine, Emerald, Garnet (any kind), Morganite, Tourmaline, Spinel, Zircon
Absolutely Do Not Use:
Cubic Zirconia, Onyx, Opal, Pearl, Peridot, Quartz (any kind), Tanzanite
It’s impossible to predict how a stone will wear. Some people can wear an emerald ring every day for a lifetime without any problems. Others can break the stone within the first few weeks of wear. At the end of the day nothing is indestructible, not even diamond. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that an engagement ring is almost like a car. It will last longer and look better if you bring it in for regular servicing every once in a while to make sure everything is ok:)