The Big World of Non-Diamond Engagement Rings

As recent as the early 1900s, diamonds were considered as just one option amongst many for an engagement ring. It was a mass marketing campaign by the famed De Beers company in the mid-1900s, featuring the tagline “A Diamond Is Forever” that skyrocketed the diamond to its place as the leader for an engagement ring gemstone.

But over the last few decades, women and couples have been returning to consider the plethora of other gemstones that have often been worn as engagement rings. These non-diamond engagement rings are a beautiful way to symbolize your love and express special meanings. To help you decide, we’ve pulled together a primer with inspiration on where to start and the top considerations to know about choosing your non-diamond engagement ring.

Gemstones Popular Throughout Time

All throughout history, non-diamond engagement rings have been incredibly popular and widely seen in most cultures. In the Victorian era, sapphires were frequently seen in engagement rings. Moving into the Art Nouveau era, a focus on nature increased the use of moonstone, citrine, opal, pearl, and amethyst.

Sapphires, especially royal blue hues, and rubies have been favored among European royalty for generations. Possibly one of the most famous engagement rings in the world features a Ceylon blue sapphire. First chosen and worn by Princess Diana upon her engagement in 1981, this stunning ring is now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge. Another royal, Sarah Ferguson, received a ruby engagement ring, the style of which her daughter Princess Eugenie later replicated in her own engagement ring with a padparadscha sapphire center stone.

Emeralds have also long been considered a beautiful non-diamond choice for an engagement ring. One of the most famous emerald engagement rings was worn by Jacqueline Kennedy. It featured side by side diamond and emerald stones surrounded by organic leaf-shaped sweeps of diamonds.

Over the past few decades, many of these gemstones have experienced a resurgence as modern couples explore different ways to express meaning and love with their engagement rings. And many celebrities have chosen the same route, from Jessica Simpson with her ruby engagement ring, to Gwyneth Paltrow’s sapphire engagement ring, to Emma Stone’s rumored pearl engagement ring - non-diamond engagement rings carry a mass appeal.

Find Your Gemstone Inspiration

The great variety that gemstones offer means that you can create a lot of very specific meaning for your engagement ring. Every gemstone brings with it a ton of symbolism built from years and years of the gem’s own history.

Birthstones are a fantastic way to honor and symbolize a special relationship. It could be either member of the couple’s birthstone, or the birthstone of the month in which you met, or maybe even the birthstone for the month in which you’ll get married. Traditional and modern birthstone charts are easy to follow and sometimes offer multiple choices for each month.

Family heirlooms & antiques may be another source of inspiration. Did you grow up loving your grandmother’s sapphire necklace or her pearl earrings? Perhaps a ring design from the Victorian period that you once saw in an antique shop has a special place in your heart? Those affinities are a wonderful place to start for inspiring your own non-diamond engagement ring.

Since non-diamond gemstones offer an incredible variety of colors, choosing a center stone for your engagement ring that is your favorite color is a perfect way to go. A beautiful symbol of your relationship can also bring a smile to your face every time you look at your hand and see a cheerful yellow sapphire or a calming blue aquamarine.

Gemstone meanings can also provide a very special significance to your ring. For example, it could feel very romantic to choose an amethyst, the stone of St. Valentine and symbol of faithful love. Or you could look at the future you hope to have together with a ruby, symbolizing passion and good fortune. With so many options, your ring could feature layer upon layer of meaning.

Gemstones vs. Diamonds

When choosing an engagement ring, it’s often the choice to have a larger center stone as the focal point. In this sense, gemstones and diamonds are standout choices to make. But there are certain distinctions between the two that can help inform your choice beyond your preferences.

When considering your non-diamond engagement ring options versus a diamond engagement ring, cost will be the most apparent difference. Generally, every precious or semi-precious gemstone will cost less per carat than a diamond. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as rough and rustic diamonds or salt and pepper diamonds, but for most other instances, a gemstone will cost less than a similar sized diamond.

Durability is another important difference that is a top concern for an engagement ring. As a piece of jewelry likely to be worn everyday and expected to last a lifetime, the strength of the center stone is critical to understand. All gemstones are measured for their strength according to the Mohs Hardness Scale. Diamonds sit at the top as the hardest with a measurement of 10.

Sapphires and rubies follow close behind diamonds with a rating of 9. From there, emeralds and aquamarines rate at a 7.5-8 in hardness, and another popular choice for non-diamond engagement rings, a pearl, rates at 2.5-4.5. As the number gets lower on the scale, the stone is referred to as being softer. That means it can be more prone to scratches, chips, and breaking.

Inclusions are also an area to understand particularly as they concern the popular choices of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Inclusions provide a benefit to these stones in the sense that they often enhance the color and give them their unique look. However, larger inclusions or pockets of inclusions can pose a threat to the integrity of the stone over time. Durability and inclusions are some considerations; learn more about the pros and cons of using non-diamond gemstones in your engagement ring.

None of this information should sway you from your dream stone for your engagement ring. It is best to be prepared and knowledgeable of the extra care a choice of a gemstone may require. But as with all jewelry pieces, proper care and professional servicing can ensure they will last a lifetime.

Choosing and designing your non-diamond engagement ring can be a journey of incredible meaning and significance. These are some of our favorite rings to design as they carry such specific, special and shared meaning for the couple. It’s truly a beautiful way to symbolize the start of your lifetime spent together.

Have questions? We're happy to help.