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 alternative stones.

Here are some nontraditional stone choices that’ll give you lots of dazzle, often (but not always) for less money. Using, we roughly compared prices and quality of gems to that of an oval one-carat mined diamond, color H, with small inclusions and a very good cut, which would run you about $3,000. Keep in mind that stones are evaluated and sized differently; 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: $2,200


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: $2,800


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 (most measure 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale)—meaning they’re less suitable for the daily wear-and-tear of an engagement ring. Sample price: $1,700


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 similar cut and size of diamond. Sample price: $350

Lab-grown Diamonds

As we discuss here, though many consumers still associate lab-grown diamonds with lousy fakes, they’re actually chemically and structurally identical to mined diamonds—even jewelers can’t tell the two types apart. For stones weighing between one and two carats, manufactured stones of similar size and quality usually cost 75 percent less than mined ones. Your savings could be even greater—up to 90 percent less than the equivalent mined stone—for a fancy-colored diamond. Sample price: $1,000

Other Choices

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, with 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.

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