Diamond Alternatives to Consider
Last updated in January 2017
Diamonds aren’t a good investment. Their supply is intentionally limited to keep their prices inflated. They are marketed in a way to lead grooms and brides to buy engagement rings with certain stones at certain prices. Thinking about bucking tradition? There are many other gem options—often at far better prices—beyond the round diamond solitaire of Barbie’s dreams. In recent years, there has been an uptick of sales of non-diamond stones; a recent survey by Gemfields reported that 31 percent of U.S. consumers ages 21 to 64 had bought ruby, sapphire, or emerald jewelry in the past two years. (Millennials liked colorful stones even better; 41 percent said they bought these rocks.)
Here are some non-traditional stone choices that’ll give you lots of dazzle, often (but not always) for less money. Using GemSelect.com, we roughly compared prices and quality of gems to that of an oval one-carat diamond, 8 mm x 5.5 mm, color H or above with small inclusion and a very good cut, which would run you about $3,000. Keep in mind that other stones are evaluated and sized differently, but these examples are based on gems that would both appear larger and cost less.
On the Mohs scale, which measures gemstone hardness, sapphires rate a 9 (diamonds are a 10), making the often deep-blue stones sturdy enough for daily wear. Sapphires, a member of the mineral corundum family, also come in fancy hues like purples, pinks, and paler blues.
Sample price: $2,030
On the Mohs scale, deep red rubies measure a 9 and are considered slightly less hard than sapphires or diamonds. Like their corundum cousins sapphires, they are durable enough for daily wear.
Sample price: $2,675
Ideally rich green in color, emeralds are beryl gemstones that owe their hills-of-Ireland hue to deposits of chromium and vanadium. Inclusions are a natural part of emeralds, and they make the stones softer and less durable than diamonds, sapphires, and rubies—meaning they’re less suitable for the daily wear-and-tear of an engagement ring.
Sample price: $1,520
Originally discovered in scant amounts of silicon carbide materials left over from a meteorite, Moissanite is a colorless stone that’s nearly as hard as a diamond (9.25 on the Mohs scale) and possesses greater brilliance than a diamond. Critics say they create too much brilliance—they can create rainbow flashes in light—and while some people like this effect, others find it too disco ball-like. Moissanite is extremely rare in nature, but labs have produced it since the 1990s, and these synthetics cost 90 percent less than what you’d pay for a similarly cut and size diamond.
Sample price: $350
Though lab-grown, or synthetic, diamonds might sound cheesy, they’re actually chemically and structurally identical to “real” diamonds. Only a skilled jeweler with high-tech equipment could suss out whether a gem is lab-grown or mined, and one of the high-tech sparklers will cost 20 to 30 percent less than a mined clear diamond. Your savings could be even greater—up to 80 percent less than the equivalent mined stone—for a fancy-colored diamond. Click here for more info on this up-and-coming option.
Sample price: $2,200
Due to their hardness and preciousness, sapphires and rubies are among the most popular gems for alternative engagement rings, along with the softer-yet-still-lovely emerald. But there are multiple other stones to consider for big purchases, from purple-yellow ametrine to the sapphire or ruby-like spinel, many of them a better deal than diamonds. It’s important to ask about hardness if you’re ISO a solitaire stone that will see heavy daily wear in a ring. Then, too, you’ll also want to consider a cut gem’s looks; many stones are cheaper than diamonds, but none match their sparkle.