There’s something silly happening on the internet.
That’s not a rare occurrence. But this time, it’s something I take personally: there’s been an avalanche of random websites publishing articles about alternative engagement rings and giving truly idiotic, completely uninformed advice.
I love the alternative engagement ring trend, but when it’s practiced without understanding of the relevant gemological facts, it’s going to end in tears. And in a world with SO MANY beautiful rings that would work well as an alternative engagement ring, there’s no reason to give bad advice.
Today we’re going to talk a little bit about which gemstones make good alternative engagement rings and look at a few gorgeous and currently available possibilities.
Tradition isn’t the only reason diamonds are the most frequently chosen engagement gem: it’s also because they’re the strongest. There aren’t actually all that many gemstones that can hold up to everyday wear.
There are a few stones that genuinely work well, like sapphires and rubies, and a lot more that are an okay bet if you’re prepared to baby your ring and not wear it every day, but there are some – like pearls and opals – that are seriously high risk engagement stones. As in, you shouldn’t pick one of those unless you’re prepared to replace your engagement ring periodically.
Personally, I had been wearing my own engagement ring for about 4 days when I slammed it in a drawer. It hurt my finger, but because my ring was platinum with diamonds, it remained unscathed. If it had been an emerald, I probably would have been picking green shards out of my socks.
I understand completely the impulse to pick an alternative engagement gemstone based on what calls to you, rather than what is practical, but if you do, you could be setting yourself up for heartbreak. The more fragile the stone, the more likely that it will chip, break, or fall out and need to be replaced.
I got to talking – by which I mean Twitter ranting – about the recent avalanche in bad alternative engagement gemstone advice with the fabulous Nikky of Fellows Auction House (that’s where these stunners are from!). Nikki and I both agreed that it’s a shame that popular websites are giving people such bad advice about alternative engagement rings when there’s a whole world out there of fantastic rings that would work well as alternative engagement rings.
Auction houses – especially one like Fellows – which has a dazzling reputation for jewelry sales – can be a great place to find charismatic rings that you’ll be able to admire on your finger for years to come.
Let’s look at some, shall we? These beauties are all headed to auction at Fellows on May 11th.
Lot 2: A ruby and diamond ring.
Let’s be honest, this is a super sexy ring. The sensuous curves, the deep hue of the ruby, the sheen of the gold. We’re looking at a first class alternative engagement ring right here.
Even better: ruby is a great stone for everyday wear. The ruby and its corundum cousin, the sapphire, are just one step below diamonds on the Mohs scale of hardness.
The Mohs scale of hardness is one of the ways that different minerals’ properties are measured. It’s a great quick reference chart for how likely a gemstone is to survive everyday wear.
Lot 23: An early 20th century 18ct gold diamond and ruby dress ring.
Here’s another ruby and diamond knockout – a very different one. This one’s a little trickier as an engagement ring because it has a whole lot of little prongs to check on (those are the metal bits that hold the stones in place, and they are the #1 thing you should pay attention to as your engagement ring gets older). But this ring is so badass, it would be entirely worth it.
I would wear this ring on any of my fingers at any time, for any reason.
Lot 42: An 18k gold sapphire and diamond cluster ring.
Speaking of sapphires…how about this little number? The sapphire engagement ring has been enjoying a resurgence as a popular alternative engagement ever since a woman named Kate started wearing one that had belonged to her mother-in-law.
Lot 30: A sapphire and diamond dress ring.
The best thing about sapphires is that they come in so many colors! This one is a vibrant orange, and it would look like a captive sun on your ring finger.
Lot 29: A sapphire and diamond cluster ring.
Lot 42 above was a perfect Kate-style classic, while this beauty here – Lot 29 – feels like a funky modern update of the classic sapphire and diamond cluster. It’s more unusual, but equally compelling.
Lot 99: A diamond and emerald dress ring.
This one is so beautiful that I can hardly stand to look at it. Its big juicy center stone is a sturdy diamond, while its bright accent emeralds bring some color. Diamond strong + emerald bright is a good combination.
The little emeralds are more likely to fall out and need to be replaced than accent diamonds would be, but that’s much less heartbreaking than the possible loss of the a center stone.
Many glamorous women throughout history have opted for emerald engagement rings, and it’s easy to understand why. But the truth is that emeralds are a high risk choice for an alternative engagement ring. They’re around a 7.5/8 on the Mohs scale, but because of the nature of the stone, emeralds are much more prone to cracking and chipping than something like a sapphire or a ruby.
There are things you can do to mitigate the danger – like choosing a bezel setting and always taking off your ring when you’re working with your hands – but you shouldn’t choose an emerald engagement ring unless you and accept that there’s a reasonable chance you’ll need to replace your pretty green stone someday.
Lot 298 / Lot 319 / Lot 38 / Lot 292 / Lot 327 / Lot 385
Here are some more emerald rings from the upcoming Fellows auction, in case you’re mesmerized by dreamy green and you’d rather accept the risk than miss out on the beauty of an emerald! It’s no wonder that so many people decide emeralds are worth the risk as an alternative engagement ring.
Just remember there are probably going to be repairs in your emerald engagement ring’s future. It’s not easy being green.
Lot 50: A late Victorian gold, ruby and diamond ring.
This beauty is from the late Victorian era. I love the vibrant effect of vivid rubies and bright diamonds side by side in a yellow gold band. Such a regal, passionate ring.
As you already know, both rubies and diamonds are great for everyday wear. With this ring’s low profile, it would fit seamlessly into any on-the-go lifestyle. This little beauty would be a great alternative engagement ring.
“Low profile” means that the gemstones are nearly flush with the band. If they stuck up out of the band, taking up more vertical space, that would be “high profile.” Low profile rings are less likely to get caught on things, which means less lifetime stress on the setting.
Lot 37: A ruby and diamond ring.
Here’s another ruby for good measure. This one is the Marilyn to the previous ring’s Audrey. A total, over-the-top bombshell.
There’s a lot more to love in the upcoming Fellows May 11th auction, so get on over to the main catalogue and see what else you can find!
This sponsored post is brought to you by Fellows. All images via Fellows.
Emma Sivewright says
This is good article thanks for sharing.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Do you have a favorite ring from this post?
Thank you for posting such a great information
Ariana Smith says
Nice rings. I love all of them!
Aren’t they beautiful? I love them too!
Anna coblin says
Good one! Thank you for sharing such an amazing post I found it really very useful and interesting.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I think alternate engagement rings are so beautiful and fun.
Great article, as always! However I cringe every time I hear someone talk about the strength of diamonds and conflate durability against abrasion with durability against knocks. Diamonds have perfect cleavage so they’re just as likely as other stones with similar cleavage (that have a lower Mohs rating) to crack or chip if you bang them against something. Hit a diamond with enough force along a cleavage line and even a little knock can chip it! It’s the durability against abrasion that makes diamonds (and other high Moh rated stones) suitable for daily wear not it’s properties against knocks.
If you’re an inveterate banger-of-jewelry-against-things you’re better off with a sapphire (no cleavage) or a diamond in a more protective setting like bezels etc.
How about an aquamarine? Is it a good choice?
Aquamarine’s not a bad bet! It’s about a 7.5/8 on the MoH’s scale. A diamond is a 10 and sapphire/ruby is a 9, so aqua is really pretty strong.
I’ve been wearing my marquise cut emerald with diamond halo engagement ring since 1994 and it still looks amazing. I take it off (along with my other rings) to do dishes, to shower and for gardening/yard work. I’ve had it resized and had to replace a prong or two but other than that I’ve had no problems.
It sounds gorgeous!! I’m glad it’s holding up well for you.
Isreal Morales says
As a jeweler this has never crossed my mind. I think this is a fantastic idea! When it comes to using gems specifically as an alternative for engagement rings customers should embraced the idea and not feel ashamed. Thanks for sharing, I think we now have a use for some gems laying around.
I’m so glad!
Diamond Jewellery Designs In Hyderabad says
Wow!! Its amazing rings. I will choose my first choice is yellow rings.
I just fell in love with the 18k gold sapphire and diamond cluster ring! It reminds of the heart of the ocean from the Titanic movie almost 2 decades ago. It’s so nice to know that sapphires can be good alternatives for engagement rings. I better let my boyfriend read this. ^_^
Totally!! And yes, sapphires are amazing engagement rings. That dreamy deep blue goes with anything. Boyfriend, take note!
PS: I definitely made all of my friends go see Titanic with me for my 6th grade birthday party. That movie will always have a special place in my heart.
I love morganite and rose gold, feedback on this choice?
Morganite is beautiful! As far as engagement ring suitability goes, I’d say morganite is sort of in the middle: it’s not as durable as a diamond, ruby, or sapphire but it’s still much better than a pearl or an opal.
If you’re concerned about your engagement ring definitely being strong enough to last a lifetime, you might want to look into pink sapphires as an alternative to morganite.
Here’s a great article with more detailed information about morganite as an engagment stone, and some things to consider if you do go for it: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/morganite-good-gemstone-engagement-ring-julie-peel
Mabry Hall says
I had an almost six carat emerald ring that I wore daily. It shattered one day when I was at the Farmer’s Market–I still don’t know what I caught it on. (A vicious tomato??) it had been a once-in-a-lifetime chance purchase so there was no question of replacing it. I’d been told to treat it as if it were fragile, but I didn’t listen. Do not get an emerald for everyday wear.
Oh I’m so sorry, Mabry!! That sounds heartbreaking. I completely understand the allure of emeralds, but it’s true that they have a higher than average chance of tragedy.
RON YATES says
Completely agree with you here Becky. But we are seeing a growing trend, especially with slightly younger folks, shopping for these “alternative” gemstones for their center stones. And I advise them not too, give them the reasons why, but many times they just don’t seem to care.
For example, a recent shopper asked for an amethyst for their engagement ring. When told that it will chip, scratch and show abrasions in short order if worn daily, they didn’t care. They said they would be willing to replace it with another. So much for sentimentality…
Also, check out gemvara*dot*com. They sell lot’s of engagement rings with soft stones. Their customers seem to choose stones by color, not so much for durability.
Thanks for the great post.
It’s a really interesting trend – I think some of it is that younger shoppers trust their own judgement over information that experts try to tell them, and they’re believing these popular websites that don’t do any research when they say that anything can be an engagement ring. It’s such a shame. B
But I guess all professionals can do is try to warn people, and then sell them a new stone in 3-5 years when they come back.
25 ears ago I was given a beautiful three stone amathyst engagement ring, we could not afford anything ‘harder stone’ and I not only have worn it for nearly ever day being aware and careful it has not chipped nor been scratched to the point that it has needed replacing. I have been a high school teacher, worked with charities and the homeless, I am not always gentle with my hands but whenever I knew it was going to be a bit of a rough day did t,eave it home.
I have since been treated to a diamond ring replacement, but it’s not as sentimental as my original., but now I wear the diamond on my rough days and my amathyst the rest of the time.
Your amethyst ring sounds beautiful, Fiona! I’m so glad it’s held up well over the years. I always love hearing about my readers’ special pieces.
I particularly like the ruby and Diamond low profile ring. I recently got a gypsy set diamond ring, and I just love how sleek it is. Lots of sparkle and no prongs to snag on everything, which is especially handy during sweater/mitten season. However, I probably should consider platinum next time, because I already scratched the gold setting at work. 🙁
I love that one too, Lydia!! I’m sorry about the scratch on your gypsy set ring – it sounds like a beauty. Maybe it could be polished out?
Jaenice Palmer says
Hi there! I’ve been reading this blog for a while–I apologize for not saying something sooner, since I’ve been more or less lurking about and swooning over all of the pictures of these gorgeous baubles. (I could have kicked myself; decent people don’t behave like that, or so I was taught at my mother’s knee.) I saw this post on engagement rings, however, and I thought, “Yes! Someone who gets it!”
You see, I’ve been keeping tabs on the alternative engagement ring craze myself, and a lot of the suggestions are downright ludicrous–opals, turquoise, pearls, and I don’t know what all. The most practical suggestions I saw: Agate, topaz, rose quartz, and garnet. The least practical: Apatite (!!!). If I didn’t know better, I’d say these “advisers” either haven’t done their homework or are trying to drive newly engaged women around the bend with the number of cracked and ruined stones that need replacing. Were I engaged (I’m not), I wouldn’t want to replace a stone every other week–that’s a rich man’s game, and I have a life outside of engagement rings, no matter how pretty they are.
So I’m glad for the timing of this post. It’s common sense, after all, to ask for something that will stand up to wear and tear in this busy age. Example: Mom likes rubies and diamonds and bezel settings. She likes Asscher cuts and platinum. She doesn’t care for opals or turquoise, preferring instead something sturdier with more oomph. Then again, she’s a woman of a certain age, and she deserves something that won’t betray her during the first few minutes of the scrum at a sale. (You have my full support, Mom, and I love you.)
Thanks again for another lovely post!
Hi there, Jaenice!! Please don’t apologize – I’m delighted to have you here as a reader, whether you comment every week or only once every few years. Participation is always appreciated but never mandatory.
That said, it’s lovely to hear from you! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, and it’s always good to know there other people out there still valuing information and common sense when it comes to jewelry choices.
Thanks so much for reading!
Jaenice Palmer says
Aw, shucks! (blush, blush, blush, blush)
It’s funny, but a few years ago, I was one of those people who thought a pearl engagement ring was the cat’s pajamas. It took me a while before I came to the realization that a) I’d grow tired of it and b) it wouldn’t be practical for everyday wear. After a few more wacky ideas and several false starts, I’ve come back around to the pro-diamond school of thought (Mom, as noted, gets dibs on rubies). It never occurred to me, however, to think of a fancy colored sapphire as an option for an engagement ring. Now that is a good idea!
I’ve seen at least two engaged friends, on the other hand, with opal rings–my social reaction is “That’s pretty”, but my internal, unfiltered response is “Whaa? How can you think of such a thing when you know you could break it into tiny pieces at any moment?” The first of these wants to replace hers with a diamond (I call that sensible!); I haven’t heard a peep from the second about another choice of ring. It is a major temptation to take the second girl aside and point out that she does have veto power over the options presented to her by the adoring man of her life, but then again, many women don’t seem to know they have a choice.
Thanks again for the post and for your kind reply!
Jaenice Palmer says
Edit: I have since spoken to the second of my opal-wearing friends–it would appear she too favors rubies. Who’d-a thunk!
Rubies really are quite glorious. I don’t blame her!
Jaenice Palmer says
It’s true, they are! I was at one point thinking of a ruby for my (eventual) ring, but Mom made loud noises about it–she still has dibs on rubies for an engagement piece. I’m not about to grudge her that honor, so rubies it is for her.
Ahahaha, well we must not defy a dibs from mom. Maybe a sapphire?
Jaenice Palmer says
I didn’t like to mention it before, but I decided on yellow diamonds in a bezel setting for my first choice–it got so I was dissatisfied enough with most of the choices on offer that I decided to design my own (cigar band) ring, especially after seeing some similar pieces from Wendy Brandes. The key difference: I chose an octagon cut center stone flanked by half moon cut stones. Then, keen to demonstrate sophistication via complexity (put on your mad scientist goggles!), I decided the side stones should lie horizontal instead of vertical, in a nod to “deconstructed” silhouettes in high fashion. This is to be topped off by way of a textured band to add tactile and visual interest. (I’d draw you a picture, but this is a comment, not a diagram!)
That said, my second choice would for certain be a fancy colored sapphire, or sapphires–however it works out in the end. With this one I’m still toying with cuts and settings, although I’ll always choose gold for the band(s), either rose or yellow, depending on what looks best with the stones. (Not always practical, I grant you, but “cool” metals don’t suit me.) When I was younger, I probably would have opted for a Victorian or Edwardian design; nowadays, I wince at the thought of being pinned down as period-specific. These days the influence is either architectural or sculptural with a dash of Art Deco thrown in, which of course suits the person I am now.
Nicole Corsini says
Amen, sister! This is a great common-sense article.
Thanks, Nicole! You should have seen my face when I read those articles recommending pearl and opal engagement rings. Such foolishness.