If you prefer a ring with a vibrant hue more than one with a classic white diamond, you might be the perfect candidate for an alternative-stone engagement ring. While diamonds have been the go-to stone for hundreds of years, a myriad of other stones are beginning to get the attention they deserve. According to jewelers, there are a number of reasons for this, but one of the main ones is price. Because alternative stones tend to be less expensive than diamonds, couples can purchased a larger stone at a lower price. Considering an alternative-stone engagement ring instead of one with a diamond? Here are some things jewelers say you should know before you buy.
Pick the color carefully.
Jewelry designer Matthew Trent urges couples to spend a fair amount of time considering the color of their alternative-stone engagement ring. It's important to choose a hue because you love it, not because it's trendy. "As a jeweler, it's my job to make sure clients will be happy with the color of the stone and love the ring no matter what," he says. "When talking about bridal jewelry, whether it's a wedding band or engagement ring, I always ask people to consider the color and to choose a stone that they will be happy with forever." Remember, this is a ring that you'll likely wear for decades—so it's crucial that you love the look.
They're treated differently.
Many gemstones are treated either by heat or irradiation, which is completely acceptable, but Trent explains that this fact should be disclosed to the buyer. "There are natural or untreated options for most gemstones available in the market today," he explains. "I like to explain that non-treated is like tripping over a stone and then polishing it, while treated will look cleaner." If you're looking for more information about the different treatments available for alternative stones, he recommends visiting The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) or Gemological Institute of America (GIA) websites. "Many natural gemstones will be accompanied by a certificate from a widely accepted laboratory stating no treatment and in some cases country of origin," he adds.
If you are considering treating your stone, it's worth noting that any amount of treatment will diminish its value. "Remember that an unheated stone that looks awesome is worth more than a heated one that looks the same," adds Dan Moran, jewelry and owner of Concierge Diamonds in Los Angeles.
They're more susceptible to wear and tear.
There's a reason diamonds have long been the go-to for center stones, Moran explains. And, no, it's not just because of a marketing scheme in the 1930s. Their durability and hardness are the main reason why they've remained so popular. "If you're wearing a diamond on your hand, chances are slim that you'll do any damage to it as you go about your day-to-day business, but other stones are softer and therefore vulnerable to chipping, cracking, and breaking," he explains. "This is true for both the synthetic and natural versions of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds—in fact, some stones are so soft that I won't work with them!" Softer stones include opals and moonstones, as well as apatite.
According to Moran, they don't make ideal wedding bands, either. "If you're looking for a stone that's durable and will withstand the test of time, consider a black diamond, a salt and pepper diamond, Alexandrite (which can be as expensive as diamonds but is a super cool stone that changes colors from purple to blue!), or sapphires," he adds.
Remember that not all rubies are red and not all sapphires are blue.
"Yes, the most popular versions of these stones are the colors that you most commonly associate with them, but there are types of crystals that can be any shade of color, just like a diamond," Trent says. "For example, you can have yellow sapphires and blue emeralds, which opens up the door for a wide array of options." Did you know that natural rubies were more likely to be an opaque, pinkish color than red?
You can emulate famous icons with your ring.
Whether it be Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, or Grace Kelly, alternative-stone engagement rings give you more freedom to design a ring based of that of your favorite icons. Josh Levkoff, of Josh Levkoff Jewelry, experienced a surge in customers requesting a sapphire engagement ring after Duchess Kate received hers from Prince William. "We were custom-designing so many pieces with sapphire, as they were very in at the time!"