Diamonds aren’t the only gemstones that are forever, and the jewelry world has caught on quick.
Though diamonds have been the traditional choice of engagement stone since De Beers’ game-changing diamond-marketing coup in the early 1900s, colored gemstones are on-trend in the modern jewelry world in a major way. Royals such as Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) and Princess Eugenie (daughter of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York), have embraced this bright and beautiful trend with stunning colored engagement stones. Celebrities such as Halle Berry, Elizabeth Hurley and Victoria Beckham also rock colorful sparklers.
For those tired of tradition and excited to explore the world of color, gemstones make an excellent alternative to diamonds for a number of reasons. The first benefit is vividly apparent — color! Durable gemstones come in every shade of the rainbow, so finding one in any bride-to-be’s favorite hue is easy. In addition, choosing a meaningful birthstone as an engagement ring gem can offer personal significance as well as beauty.
In contrast, colored diamonds are extremely rare and expensive, which makes colored gems a more cost-effective option as well. Approximately one in 10,000 natural diamonds are colored; those that do exhibit coloration — called ‘fancy diamonds’ — are, in general, far more expensive than a non-colored diamond of equal size and quality. When it comes to value-for-price, those in the market for a colored gemstone can usually get a bigger, better rock for the money spent.
When shopping for a gemstone, the stone’s hardness, durability and wearability is crucial: It is imperative to select a stone that can withstand the wear-and-tear of everyday life. Since most will be wearing their engagement ring on a daily basis, we recommend choosing a gem that rates a minimum of ‘7’ on the Mohs hardness scale. This will ensure that the ring will, with proper maintenance, withstand daily wear to protect against scratching, cracking, chipping or breakage. Normal factors such as dust, extreme temperatures, household chemicals, heat, humidity and light can all contribute to weakening, wear and breakage.
Interestingly, even diamonds aren’t resistant to such factors: Although diamonds are indeed the hardest stone, they can still be cracked or broken. The ‘10’ rating on the Mohs hardness scale simply means that diamonds cannot be scratched by anything other than other diamonds. Bottom line: choosing a hard, durable gem is always important but especially so with engagement rings, since they will (generally) be worn every day.
For your engagement ring consideration, here are seven of the most beautiful, popular and durable gems. This list is by no means exhaustive, but we selected seven gorgeous gemstones each rating no less than a ‘7’ on the Mohs hardness scale for long-wearing durability and scratch resistance. Our seven standout stones are as follows:
Moissanite: (Hardness: 9.5) Moissanite is one of the hardest and rarest minerals on earth and is often mistaken for diamonds. It was originally discovered in the late 1800’s by a Parisian Nobel Prize-winning scientist named Henri Moissan, who originally mistook it for diamonds but later found that the crystals were silicon carbide (as opposed to diamonds, which are comprised of pure carbon). Moissanite can be clear, green or yellow and offer a diamond-like sparkle with a significantly lower price tag. Since natural moissanite is so rare, most moissanite on the market today is laboratory-produced.
Ruby: (Hardness: 9) Large, high-quality rubies are, for the most part, more rare — and often more precious than — (most) diamonds. For ladies who love red, ruby is the gemstone jackpot. A ruby is essentially the red variation of a sapphire and one of only four precious stones. Fans of ruby include Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire Facebook entrepreneur, who proposed to his wife with a spectacular 5-carat ruby engagement ring. Rubies are extremely durable and, since they contain no cleavage, are less prone to breakage, chipping and cracking as well as damage from heat, light and chemicals.
Rubies are very expensive due to their rarity, toughness and luster. However, they do make excellent investments for the same qualities. A ruby’s price is largely a function of its color and country of origin (Burmese rubies tend to fetch the highest prices). Since red has long been associated with passion and romance, rubies can make for a fiery and enduring engagement stone.
Sapphire: (Hardness: 9) Sapphire has long represented royalty, loyalty, purity and wisdom. As another of the world’s four precious stones, they come in almost every color (including clear). Sapphire, moissanite and ruby are the hardest gems after diamonds. A striking variation of sapphire called ‘star sapphires’ display a unique phenomenon known as asterism, a six-rayed star pattern which shows up under different lighting. The star sapphire offers a unique gemstone choice for ladies who prefer the unconventional and beautiful. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, wears a 12-carat oval blue sapphire that once belonged to the late Princess Diana.
Topaz: (Hardness: 8) Though blue is the most popular color of topaz, it also comes in a variety of vivid colors including clear, green, pink, purple, white, orange, yellow and even brown. Though not as hard as diamonds, white topaz offers a lovely sparkle that can make a lovely alternative — however, since topaz is susceptible to scratching and other daily damages over time, routine maintenance is crucial.
Morganite: (Hardness: 7.5-8) As one of the most in-demand engagement gemstones on the market today, morganite is a romantic and feminine engagement stone choice. Its color ranges from shades of pastel pink to orange-pink to pink-violet. Because of its soft, romantic color, morganite is known as a gemstone of the heart and is associated with love and nurturing. It also displays a color phenomenon called dichroism, which means the stone reflects different colors according to the angle at which it is viewed. As an engagement gemstone, morganite makes a beautifully romantic and unique choice.
Emerald: (Hardness: 7.5-8) Emeralds can make a stunning engagement ring centerpiece for bride-to-be’s who are gaga for green. It is one of four of the world’s precious stones and has been revered for centuries by royals such as Cleopatra, Jackie Kennedy and Queen Victoria for its rich, striking signature shade. Emeralds are produced in varying shades and intensities of green, with the most prized coloration being a vividly, saturated evenly-toned bluish- to pure green. Since emeralds can be susceptible to cracking and chipping due to natural inclusions within the gemstone, it is important to take proper care and maintenance of this precious stone.
Purple Amethyst: (Hardness: 7) This is the jackpot gemstone for ladies who love purple. As purple has long been regarded as a color of royalty and nobility, amethysts have had a long tradition of being worn by kings and clergy (not to mention a certain famed Minnesota Artist!) Amethysts come in colors ranging from deep purple to a pale, almost pink lilac. Amethyst — recognized as the birthstone of February — is durable enough for daily wear. Still, it does require special care to prevent damage from acids and chemical solutions present in everyday household cleaners. As with any gemstone, proper maintenance is key to maintaining your ring’s brilliance.
Move over, diamonds. There are a whole lot of new gemstones in town, and their reign over the engagement ring industry shows no signs of slowing!