These days, any stone can be an Engagement ring stone. Don’t get us wrong – we LOVE the fact that couples are embracing variety and individuality! However… there are some truths in practicality that should be known about stone options that may help direct the conscientious consumer to make the best choice. When choosing a stone for a sentimental heirloom piece that will be worn for a hundred years or more, especially true when talking about an Engagement ring, it’s important that wearability and durability be considered alongside beauty and aesthetic preferences.
So, How do you choose the best alternative Engagement Ring?
In this post, we’ll discuss our three favorite choices for your beautiful future Alternative Engagement Ring: Moissanite, Sapphire and Spinel.
The most important rule: Hardness WINS
There’s a scale called the MOHS scale that exists as a way to categorize minerals based on their hardness. This scale goes from 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest mineral on Earth – a Diamond. This factor is of utmost importance! Believe it or not, your (or her) ring will be worn day in and day out, and put through all of her daily activities. Just like anything else that is active out in the world, a ring and all its stones will experience wear and tear over time. Rings-- moreso than any other type of jewelry -- get knocked, abraded, and slowly altered over time by each and every thing they touch and encounter throughout their lives. This affects not only the metal setting that houses your stone(s), but sometimes the stone itself. Metalwork can most often be repaired, but stones are a little trickier. When a stone gets damaged, it’s usually one of the following two situations: cracked or chipped from a hard knock or touching other stones or surface abrasion that dulls a stone’s sparkle and shine. Although even Diamonds can crack or chip, surface abrasion is very uncommon – almost impossible – on a Diamond. It requires a material harder than itself to scratch or abrade a Diamond, so it would require other diamonds touching it’s surface in order to be scratched. This typically only happens when jewelry rolls around loosely amongst itself in a purse, during travel, or a jewelry box. This hardness (along with sparkle) is the prime reason that a Diamond has always been king in the Engagement ring and jewelry industry. What you need to know is: all other stones fall lower on the MOHS scale, and they all vary.
Fun Fact: Did you know that DUST has a mohs hardness of 7-7.5? That's because this seemingly innocent material contains tiny particles of quartz. Dust (and dirt) is everywhere, quietly abrading everything from the finish on your furniture to car paint -- and, YES, even your engagement ring. Because the world around us is abrasive, it's best to choose a stone of at least 7.5, but preferably 8 or higher.
When it comes to hardness (and the most bang for your buck), the next best option for an engagement ring is a Moissanite, coming in at a hardness of 9.25. This means it’s nearly as scratch resistant as a Diamond. Moissanite, however, is not a naturally occurring mineral, but rather a man-made one. Moissanite has all of the sparkle, fire, and brilliance of a diamond – and THEN some. Moissanite is sometimes criticized because it is brighter and sparklier than a Diamond, making them somewhat able to spot as an alternative. Most people, however, will not be able to tell the difference, unless they have an industry-trained eye. It’s color and sparkle won’t dull or change over time, as it’s just as stable as a Diamond. Moissanite is a beautiful, traditional-looking option that is thousands of dollars cheaper than like-sized earth-mined Diamonds. Moissanite also does not carry with it the ethical and environmental concerns of a traditional earth-mined diamond. If you’re not concerned about the origin or natural scarcity of your stone, a Moissanite is a beautiful and economical option for an engagement ring. Moissanite is available as a traditional white stone, and also in a selection of colors – from yellowish to brownish. Additional colors can be achieved by applying a permanent chemical coating to the bottom of the stone, allowing for a wide range of color choices. This coating should not flake or fade, and it is durable up to 1020 degrees Fahrenheit. So, unless your stone experiences a fire, it’s unlikely that your color should ever change.
*NOTE: It’s important to tell your jeweler that your stone is a Moissanite upon having any type of repairs completed. A Moissanite is such a good ‘fake’ that it can sometimes be overlooked when the focus of a repair doesn’t concern the stone. Moissanites cannot be handled and treated exactly like a Diamond, so it’s important that this information is disclosed before any work is done to your jewelry.
Check out our super sparkly Moissanite Engagement Rings.
Sapphire / Ruby (Corundum)
Always a strong choice, Sapphire and Ruby are both beautiful and durable, coming in at a 9 out of 10 on the MOS hardness scale. These two stones are, in fact, the same mineral: Corundum. The variety in naming simply has to do with color. When red, the stone is called a Ruby. When any other color, a Sapphire. This is the closest in hardness you can get to a Diamond, and a Corundum will resist abrasion better than all other non-diamond options.
Although the most popular Sapphire color is the vivid blue that we all know, this stones come in every color in the rainbow – from violet to yellow, and everything in between. Even its most popular blue shades vary, ranging from lighter Cornflower shades to earthy blue-greens. Sapphires are also found colorless, and are called White Sapphires.
A historically popular stone choice, the Sapphire as an engagement ring option has been popularized by the fact that Princess Kate Middleton wears an 18-Carat blue Sapphire that was once Princess Diana’s. A stone in this color is also a popular choice, because in addition to adding variety into your daily life, a blue Sapphire can add that ‘something blue’ to your wedding day. Sapphires also carry lore and superstition that some people find attractive. Ancients believed Sapphires held medicinal and protective powers. In Medieval times, they symbolized wisdom and honesty, and were utilized as the stone of royalty. Today, wearers can depend on its durability and rich color.
Most Sapphire is regularly heat treated to improve color and clarity, a factor that may or may not be important to you. The cut of a Sapphire is not as important as the cut of a Diamond, either, since it’s harder to see inclusions within a Sapphire with the naked eye. However, Sapphire does not sparkle like a Diamond. Nor does it sparkle as well as a Diamond when dirty. Diamonds refract so much light that they often still look very brilliant when not perfectly clean. A Sapphire will appear duller, faster. You may find that you’re cleaning your ring more often if your center stone is a Sapphire or Ruby. Sapphires and Rubies are available as natural stones, and also as Lab Grown stones. There are also synthetic varieties out there, but beware, as these are NOT the same as a lab grown – and are a softer material that is not chemically identical. Lab varieties will be more perfect, less included, and less expensive than naturally mined stones.
Expect to find Sapphire at a range of price points, depending on its origin, color saturation, and clarity. In most cases, Sapphire will be less expensive than Diamond, however exceptions do exist for very fine and/or large specimen. Brilliant blues often demand the highest price. A Sapphire is, in our opinion, a beautiful, unique, and excellent choice for an engagement ring.
Check out our stunning selection of Sapphire Engagement Rings.
Spinel ranks slightly lower than Sapphire on the MOHS scale, coming in at an 8/10. This hardness is considered good for everyday wear, although it’s inferior to a Diamond, Sapphire, Ruby, or Moissanite.
Spinel is a natural gem that is in its own mineral group (not just a color variation of another gem group). It comes in a range of colors, including blue, pink, red, clear, black, violet, and gray. Yellow and green exist, but are extremely rare (and can be Lab-Grown). Because of the color variety, Spinel is often hard to distinguish from Sapphire, and is often mistaken. In fact, the center of the British Crown Jewels is often supposed to be a Ruby – but in fact – it is a Red Spinel. Spinel is harvested mostly from pebbles gathered from streams, called ‘alluvial deposits’, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Thus, it’s ‘mining’ is not as environmentally devastating as many other types of natural stones’ mining can be.
Unlike Sapphires, Spinel is typically not treated to enhance color or clarity. This is a very popular characteristic for couples looking for a natural, untouched Diamond alternative. It’s a less common option, providing a level of exclusivity and mystery as well. Although Spinel can be very saturated in color, it is most commonly found in colors that are less saturated than Sapphires. Spinel has a beautiful neutralized range of colors. Some Spinel even shifts hue when exposed to different light sources. For example: a blue Spinel might cast a tint of violet when moved from incandescent to natural sunlight. In terms of clarity, it is important to know that Spinel is a type 2 gemstone. This means that, similar to an Emerald, you should expect most Spinels to have some natural inclusions or internal marks. Think of these elements as the ‘birthmark’ of your stone – making it one of a kind. Many specimen are still eye clean, despite this fact, and it should be fairly easy to select a stone that doesn’t have obvious inclusions that detract from the overall beauty of the stone.
Spinel is often less expensive than Sapphire, and the most valuable colors are pink, blue, and red. The most vividly colored specimen will command a much higher price than the more common lower-saturated hues. Some of our favorite colors are deep bluish or purplish grays.
Alexandrite / Chrysoberyl
Chrysoberyl is a category of gemstone that's not very well known. It is typically a green to yellow colored stone that has a warmth to it. Although it sounds similar to Beryl, it's actually an entirely different type of stone. It's a bit rare and not as commonly dealt with, so can be difficult to find.
Alexandrite is technically a type of Chrysoberyl that has special coloration and a rare, unique chameleon quality -- changing from green to red depending on light source. Coming in at an 8.5 on the mohs scale, this mineral is an excellent choice for an engagement ring. It's a lesser known stone, and can be very difficult to find, particularly in larger sizes. Alexandrite commands a very high price because of its uniqueness and rarity, so it may not necessarily be a less expensive option when compared to a traditional diamond, however it's definitely more unique. When looking for an Alexandrite, the most important thing to look for is the quality of color and amount and quality of color change.
Chrysoberyl and Alexandrite both belong to the Type II gemstone category, meaning they will all have some inclusions. Those who are interested in this stone should look for eye-clean gems as opposed to 'perfect' ones.
Have lingering questions or concerns about choosing the right stone? Want help finding that special one of a kind stone? Sign up for a private ZOOM appointment with Katie and Danielle to ask away and get more information! Consultations are free and highly informative!
At MAKE MADE, we specialize in all types of engagement rings and stones. We'd love to help design your custom, one of a kind ring that is as special as your special someone! We've also got a wonderful (and always growing) selection of ready made or made to order engagement rings.
Check out all of our amazing alternative engagement rings here!
*Other things to keep in mind when going alternative are that methods of cleaning and maintaining your ring might vary depending on the stone you choose. Many non-diamond stones must be removed for standard prong or metal repair work that might be needed during the lifetime of the ring. Heavily abraded or damanged stones (typically after years of wear) may dull and appear scratched. To restore their beauty, they may need to be recut or repolished. Other times, severe damange may warrant replacing. For you, this simply means that your alternative stone could result in more costly and/or frequent maintenance over time, so it's something to be aware of.
Committed to a Diamond alternative?
Check out this post about Choosing a protective setting for your non-diamond Engagement Ring!