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Every engagement ring, from classic solitaires to gleaming halos, is unique, just like the relationship it represents. While many brides choose traditional colorless diamonds as the centerpieces of their rings, more and more modern couples are branching out and opting for alternative gems. In fact, after learning about the most popular engagement ring gemstones, you may find yourself drawn to a nontraditional rock as well.
Although the concept of a non-diamond engagement ring may appear trendy, Barry Verragio, founder of the Verragio jewelry brand, explains that it is hundreds of years old. "The history of these unique engagement rings dates back to 1796, when Napoleon Bonaparte gave a sapphire and diamond engagement ring to his future empress, Joséphine," Verragio says. "Before we realized the potential of diamonds, people gravitated toward gemstones because their color was visible before the stone was cut and polished," Brantner adds.
When comparing popular engagement ring gemstones, Verragio advises that, as with diamonds, the 4Cs (color, clarity, cut, and carat) are critical. "Color plays a significant role in the appearance of the gemstone, particularly when considering saturation and intensity," he explains. "When it comes to gemstones withstanding daily tasks, durability is also very important."
Brantner goes on to say that because almost all alternative gemstones are more prone to scratches and chips than diamonds, proper care is essential. "Remove [your ring] before sleeping, showering, working out, or doing the dishes," she advises. "It is also not advised to wear jewelry while swimming, particularly because gold and gemstones can be damaged by exposure to chemicals in pools and hot tubs."
However, once you've mastered the technique, gemstone engagement rings are one of the best ways to express your personality and celebrate your love. Check out some of the most popular engagement ring gemstones below, complete with expert tips and recommendations, if you're thinking about a nontraditional stone.
While colorless diamonds are often associated with engagement rings, colored diamonds are becoming more popular due to their beautiful hues and impressive strength. "Fancy color diamonds appeal to those who want the durability and rarity of a diamond with a unique twist," says Brantner. The Gemological Institute of America grades colored diamonds into six categories: Fancy Light, Fancy Yellow, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid.
While fancy color diamonds can be almost any color, the rarer hues include red, green, and purple. While yellow diamonds are a popular engagement ring choice, they are also one of the more common fancy color hues and can sometimes cost less than a colorless diamond. Whatever color you choose, Brantner believes that if you can afford it, this could be the best option for a nontraditional engagement ring look. "Fancy color diamonds have levels of brilliance, fire, and scintillation that other colored gemstones simply do not have," she says. "They are, without a doubt, the best way to have overall color and rainbow flashes gleaming from your ring."
According to Brantner, sapphires are the most durable color gemstone available, coming in second only to diamonds. As a result, sapphire engagement rings are a popular choice for brides who do not want a traditional rock. "Sapphires have long been one of the most desired gemstones for any piece of jewelry," Brantner says, adding that blue is the most common color (and often worn by royals). What makes sapphires so popular is that they are available in virtually every color, from green to pink to yellow to purple. There are even colorless sapphires, which are excellent diamond substitutes for brides who prefer the traditional engagement ring look. There is only one color that the gem does not come in: red.
When corundum, the mineral sapphires are made of, turns red, it is called a ruby, according to Madison. The rock is essentially the same, with the exception of the color. "This means rubies have the same hardness and durability as sapphires, making them an excellent choice for an heirloom ring."
Emeralds are a popular choice for all types of jewelry because of their beautiful green hue and unique luminescent quality. "Emeralds are eye-catching and vibrant, each with its own distinctive pattern of inclusions," says Brantner. "These inclusions are affectionately referred to as 'jardin' because they can resemble garden foliage." Colors range from yellow-green to forest green to bluish green, and all pair beautifully with various metals and settings. "Fine quality emeralds have a special glow about them and can be the centerpiece to a stunning ring with proper care," Brantner adds.
The catch is that because emeralds are softer than diamonds, they must be treated gently and avoided harsh chemicals and light to ensure they live long and chip-free lives. The cost is another factor to consider. Because high-quality emeralds are rare—rarer even than diamonds—they tend to be more expensive. Because these gems have a lower density, a one-carat diamond will appear smaller than a one-carat emerald, so keep that in mind if you're thinking about an emerald engagement ring.
Morganite engagement rings, known for their pretty pink hues, are a popular choice for playful brides who don't want diamonds but still want plenty of shine. "Morganite had a big moment a few years ago due to its soft feminine color, ranging from peachy-pink to purplish-pink," Brantner says. While there has been a recent surge in morganite interest, this is a timeless and cost-effective option for any bride-to-be.
Morganites are much less expensive than diamonds, but because the gems can be quite pale, they make an excellent diamond engagement ring substitute. They're also known for their lovely glittering effect caused by the way light reflects off the surface. Verragio recommends a rose gold setting to really highlight the blush tones and give your ring a vintage feel. It's important to note that because morganites are harder than diamonds on the Mohs scale, you must take extra precautions to keep them safe.
Aquamarine, a beautiful blue stone that represents health and courage, is one of the most popular semi-precious stones, according to Verragio. "This sea blue gemstone is particularly popular with those who enjoy nautical themes and the sensation of gazing across azure seas," he says. "Aquamarine's signature pastel blue shades provide a cool blue alternative to traditional diamonds, complementing nearly every skin tone."
Aside from its stunning color, the cost of an aquamarine engagement ring is also appealing. Aquamarines are much less expensive than diamonds, making them an economical choice. However, you should keep in mind that aquamarines have a lower refractive index than diamonds, which means they won't have the same fiery sparkle. Furthermore, because they rank lower on the Mohs hardness scale, ongoing care and upkeep are essential for the stone's longevity.
If you like the look of a diamond but aren't keen on the cost or environmental implications of mining, Madison believes moissanites are one of the best alternatives. "Moissanites are popular for engagement rings because they are less expensive than diamonds," she explains. This means that if money is an issue, you don't have to sacrifice color, clarity, or size to get your dream ring. Moissanite engagement rings are not only less expensive, but because the gems are lab-grown, they are also a more environmentally friendly option.
Moissanites are also very durable—almost as strong as diamonds—and have a lot of fiery brilliance. In fact, because moissanites have more intricate patterns than diamonds, they reflect more rainbow-like colors when struck by light, creating a stunning effect.
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