Fashion has reached its end point. There is nothing new anymore. It is all simply a recycling of styles and trends. Society has explored all looks and aesthetics. This means that we have the freedom to choose whatever we want to wear and in whatever way we please. Believe it or not the jewellery styles that are becoming more and more popular today (i.e. minimal and stackable) were actually massively popular in the 1980s. And the use of stones other than diamonds for engagement rings is also coming back into style. Surprise, surprise, diamonds were not always used for engagement rings. The use of the precious stone as a staple for one’s engagement was mainstreamed only about 70 years ago. Before that, it was quite common to use jewels like emeralds, rubies, and sapphires as a centrepiece for an engagement ring.
The trend of using alternative stones for one’s engagement ring is quickly coming back into fashion. There are multiple factors for this growing trend, such as the persistent rising prices of diamonds, the want of staying away from unethical mining and diamond trades, and the desire for individualism in the modern world.
No matter the reason the choice of stone for your engagement ring is completely your own. There is no real need to follow “tradition”. It is all about what makes you happy. However, there are many gemstones out there that are simply not sustainable choices for a piece of jewellery that you will be wearing every single day. Please, no more opal engagement rings. With this blog I will explain what stones make for good engagement ring centrepieces and which ones don’t, and why.
THE # 1 RULE
The one main factor that should be in the back of your mind when choosing the stone that’s right for you is HARDNESS. The hardness of a stone is so unbelievably important. It has an effect on nearly everything, especially care and maintenance. And we find that, when looking for an alternative stone engagement ring, a lot of people don’t think about the long-term care that they will need to put into their ring. An engagement ring is meant to be worn literally all the time. Which means that the gemstone on your finger is going to be put through a lot of wear and tear. You need a stone that is strong enough to take it. This means that softer stones like opals, emeralds, and quarts will break, dry out, and fade easily over time.
Generally, for an engagement ring you will want a stone that is at least an 8 and up on the mohs scale of hardness. This includes stones that reside in the corundum and topaz family, and of course diamonds. Most semi-precious stones are a solid 7 on the mohs scale of hardness, and while that sounds fairly strong, it is in fact not strong enough for the abuse of the wear and tear of everyday use. Trust me.
Below are two lists. The first being a list of stones you absolutely do not want to use for your engagement ring and the second is a list of stones we have picked to be more suitable alternative stones that will last for as long as your love does and beyond.
POPULAR BUT POOR
There are a number of stones currently being promoted as choice pieces for engagement rings that are simply unsustainable choices, and we just have to talk about it. Here are just a few that are absolute no-nos in our books, in order of absolute worst choices to not as bad, but still bad.
Pearls are without a doubt the absolute worst choice for an engagement ring. At a mere 2.5-4.5 pearls are one of the softest, most vulnerable stones out there. In fact, pearls have the shortest lifespan of all the minerals in the entire world. Come 50 years down the road that crisp clean colour will yellow and brown, that smooth vibrant surface will become brittle, and that soft and elegant shine will completely dissipate. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love a good pearl. They are chic and sophisticated like no other. However, they are by no means meant for everyday wear. You are much better off using the timeless gem as an accent for your bridal attire, instead of the centrepiece for your engagement ring.
Opals are huge right now on the alternative stone band wagon. They are everywhere, and we can’t stand it. Opals are only a 5.5-6.5 level of hardness, and while that might sound like a fairly hard material, in actuality a 5.5-6.5. is the same level of hardness as a sheet of glass. Sure, it may feel solid enough, but bump it hard enough in just the right way and that thing will absolutely shatter. Opals aren’t just soft; they are also very porous and desperately need moisture. Those beautiful multi-coloured flecks you see are actually water molecules set deep in the gem. This means that opals can dry up and lose both their shine and colour very easily when not taken care of, diligently. For this reason, opals are known for being the stone that requires the highest maintenance, and thus a terrible choice for an engagement ring.
Emeralds are a surprisingly tricky stone. Historically they were one of the go-to gems for engagement rings. They are also a good 7.5-8 in hardness. So why wouldn’t an emerald be a good choice for an engagement ring? Well, that’s because naturally occurring emeralds are filled with a ton of inclusions. It is very normal to have an emerald with inclusions, in fact that’s how most professionals are able to tell if an emerald is real or not. The problem with a stone at this level of hardness having that many inclusions is that they make the precious jewel very susceptible to breakage. Because emeralds have a weaker structural integrity, inclusions make the stone more brittle than if it were flawless. Now, if the emerald was flawless or at least near flawless then it would make for a fabulous alternative engagement stone. However, near flawless emeralds are unbelievably expensive, thus making them a poor choice for everyday wear.
Moonstones are another very popular stone for alternative engagement rings, primarily because of how cheap they are and because they are white in colour, sort of. Wanting a cheaper stone for affordably reasons is a perfectly valid concern when picking an alternative stone for your engagement. However, it is extremely important to remember that you get what you pay for. Moonstones are a measly 6-6.5 on the mohs scale of hardness. This means that while unique and affordable moonstones will not last very long when being worn every day.
The term quartz is the name of a family of stones, not necessarily a single stone. There are actually a number of different kinds of quartz, including amethysts, citrines, agate, jasper, pink quartz, and much more. All of which are no good for engagement rings. Generally speaking, most quartz stones are a level 7 on the mohs scale of hardness, meaning all the gems in this stone family just don’t quite make the cut. While not the softest, they are still not strong enough for every day, long-lasting wear. You want your engagement ring to last for as long as you do if not longer, turn it into an heirloom, something that memorializes your life and your love. And level 7 hardness gemstones will not do that for you.
Garnet is a stone that has been slowly growing in popularity over the past year or so. This is because of the massive colour range the stone comes in: red, green, purple, green, yellow, pink, there are even colour changing garnets. It is a massively diverse and versatile stone that is affordable and not too cheap, plus they rarely have many inclusions if any. So naturally you would consider it for an alternative engagement stone. But, unfortunately at a hardness level of 6.5-7.5 garnets are just too risky to use for everyday wear. Garnets will not be able survive the bumping and scratching that occurs when you wear the piece every day. Over time it’s beauty will be drowned out by the scratches and chips.
Tourmaline is a stone revered for its uniqueness. And while we love diverse styles and aesthetics tourmaline should not be the stone you use to convey that for your engagement ring. Tourmaline is a relatively soft stone, as it sits at 7-7.5 on the mohs scale of hardness. It really is hard to say no to such an enchanting gem, but the fact is that it’s just not strong enough to wear all day every day. The clarity of it will make it easy for scratches and chips to show and the unique colour will be the last thing you notice after a while. Use tourmaline as a pop of colour with your outfit every now and then, but not as your symbol of everlasting love.
- CORUNDUM (Sapphire/ruby)
Occupying our number one spot on this list is without a single doubt any stone belonging to the corundum family, including rubies and sapphires. Corundums sit at a solid 9 on the mohs scale of hardness, making them just 1 level below diamonds. This means that sapphires and rubies are strong enough to easily withstand the roughness of everyday use. And since sapphires in particular come in a massive range of colours, you can get a durable precious stone in whatever colour you want for less than the cost of a diamond. What more can you ask for?
- SALT + PEPPER DIAMONDS
What even is a salt and pepper diamond? It is a diamond with an exurbanite number of inclusions in it, making it seem like the gemstone was lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper.
I am sure you’re wondering, “salt and pepper diamonds are still diamonds, aren’t they? So why isn’t it ranked number 1 on this list?”. Well, there are 2 answers to that questions. The first being that salt and pepper diamonds don’t shine. Being drowned in inclusions dramatically reduces the shine of a stone that is world renowned for its brilliant rainbow reflective shine. Diamonds need clarity to take in light and produce the refraction necessary for a brilliant shine. And with a ton of inclusions inside getting in the way the diamond just won’t shine like it should. Now, some people are fine with that because it is an aesthetic. Salt and pepper diamonds have a very distinct look that a lot of people love, including members of our staff, and that’s great.
The second reason for why salt and pepper diamonds are ranked number 2 on our staff picks list, is because salt and pepper diamonds are NOT as strong as clear diamonds. Contrary to popular belief and what is typically advertised, salt and pepper diamonds are not a level 10 hardness. They are more along the lines of a 9-9.5. I’m sure that doesn’t seem like much, but in the end result it is still a stone that is weaker than a traditional diamond. The molecular structure of a diamond is what makes it as strong as it is. Basically, the particles that make up a diamond are so tightly knit together that there is no space in between the particles, hence a level 10 hardness. However, when a diamond is as heavily included as a salt and pepper diamond, those particles that make up the diamond begin to space out, thereby reducing the structural integrity of the jewel.
Despite these two factors (shine, and strength) salt and pepper diamonds are a wonderful and modern stone to use for your engagement ring. They are cheaper diamonds with a unique aesthetic. Just bear in mind that there won’t be much of a shine to the gem and it’s a tad bit weaker than a traditional clear diamond, and you’re set.
Morganite has become increasingly popular in the past year or so and for good reason. With a 7.5-8 level of hardness morganite is a decent contender for an everyday wear gemstone. It also comes in a stunning spectrum of pale peaches and pinks. The paleness of the stone is what’s really made it so popular. Since engagement rings have been traditionally clear in colour for years, most people aim for a more subtle colour for alternative stone engagement rings. This is because it’s not that big of a change from using diamonds and they can match their already established aesthetic better. It is a great idea to have a versatile gemstone like this, so that your wardrobe can remain diverse and colourful, if that’s what you’re into.
- CHRYSOBERYL (Alexandrite)
All topaz stones, no matter what colour or variant, will make for a good engagement ring centre . They are an 8 on the mohs scale of hardness, so they can, for the most part, take the beating of every day wear. But what really makes topaz so great is that is comes in all sorts of colours: blue, yellow, pink, red, green, purple. Topaz has all the colours of the rainbow. Even though the pricing of topaz varies depending on the colour they are considerably less expensive than diamonds. The only downfall, for some, is that topaz is not considered a precious stone, but rather a semi-precious stone. This means they are very common. But, hey, they’re bright and vivid in all colours and a great value.
Aquamarine is a stone that we recommend with an air of caution. They are only a 7.5-8 level of hardness on the mohs scale of hardness, so there is a higher risk of damaging the jewel more so than others. However, with the right care aquamarines can last for ages. And what we love most about the gem is its paleness. As mentioned before, using a pale stone can give a subtle pop of colour as well as allow you to mix and match your clothes the way you like (especially if you set the cool tone stone in a warm tone yellow gold setting). The faint blue gives the gemstone an air of mystery and mysticism that so many people crave in a piece of jewellery they will be wearing every single day. Keep things exciting with a whimsical stone like aquamarine.
Moissanite is not really a popular stone, in fact it’s relatively unknown. But it is actually used as an alternative diamond stone all the time. Moissanites have a hardness of 9.25, making it the second hardest material used in jewellery. While it is naturally occurring, moissanites are actually extremely rare. This means that when people are talking about moissanite they are most likely referring to a synthetic moissanite. Like diamonds, moissanites are clear colourless stones, although moissanite typically has more “fire” (ie. colour in the refraction) than diamonds. Synthetic moissanites are also dramatically cheaper than diamonds making for a more affordable symbol of your love. All in all, moissanite can easily be a go-to diamond alternative stone. However, when shopping around for one, unless you specifically order a genuine moissanite jewel, it will be a synthetic stone, not a real one.
It’s really easy to fall prey to growing fads and fashion trends. On the surface level they seem unique, colourful, and enriching. However, we need to stop and think about the reality of these trends. Think about the ramifications of using materials that vary in structure and reliably. What does “quality” really mean? And why are things more “traditional” than others? Once you’ve asked these big questions and you’ve done your research into stone that best suits you, I promise you will the happiest you’ve ever been.