Why You Should Consider Alternative Engagement Rings

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they’re certainly not your wallet’s best friend.

By Gwen Farrell3 min read
shutterstock 135662993 (1)

When we think of engagement rings, we automatically think ‘diamond.’ In 2021, the average cost of an engagement ring was $5,500. Yikes! If you and your honey are both in school, saving for your big day or honeymoon, or saving money in general, that isn’t the best news. 

But you don’t have to have a diamond to have an engagement ring that’s both a stunner and a conversation starter. There are many options out there that will fit well within a modest budget and still be a showstopper. Not to mention, there are many popular stones that aren’t diamonds that will still hold up beautifully over time and may be more ethically sourced, bringing you (and your bank account) peace of mind. It’s for these reasons and many more why you should consider alternative engagement rings. 

Let’s Talk Settings and Cuts

For a while there, halo cushion cut stones had a chokehold on the engagement ring industry, or that might just be me. I felt like every ring I saw, from the high-end luxury brands to the low end, all over my social media feeds, only featured this style. But in reality, there are so many more ring settings and stone cuts to shop, and a limitless number of possibilities to choose from if you’re designing your own ring or looking for something a bit different.

First, there’s the timeless and classic. Round, radiant, princess, brilliant, oval cut, emerald cut, or pear-shaped are vintage and elegant. These cuts are still around for good reason. They’ve held up since the tradition of engagement rings began, and are a lasting and ageless kind of cut for your ring.

Then there’s a more modern, individualistic feel. East-west emerald cut stones, in addition to hexagonal or octagonal, trilliant, royal, kite, christian, scissor, and step cuts, may be less common, but are just as eye-catching and unique.

Image Source: Jack Weir and Sons

While the cut of a stone or stones is important, its setting can be just as big a factor in the price. Classic settings, like pavé, cathedral, bar, channel, halo, and solitaire, are easily recognizable and will give your ring a vintage feel, no matter the type of stone or cut. More alternative or unique settings include designs like tension, bezel, flush, cluster, shank, and illusion.

Image Source: Grahams Jewellers

When it comes to making your ring truly unique, it’s all in the details. You can add small but meaningful touches like extra or different-colored stones, baguettes, or even accent a plain, simple ring with a more intricate wedding band. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it, and you or your soon-to-be fiancé can truly put your personality on display with any combination of bands, stones, settings, and styles.

Let’s Talk Stones

If you’re balling on a budget, as they say, you might think a diamond or even a lab-grown diamond is your one and only go-to. Lab-grown diamonds typically cost 40% less than traditionally mined diamonds of the same clarity and cut, but their value does depreciate over time. Not only that, but you might be writing off tons of other gorgeous alternative stones and gems that will showcase your personality and make your ring as a whole all the more unique.

Quick geology lesson for you: Gemstones are measured on a scale of hardness and are assigned numerical values from 1 to 10. The Mohs scale, as it is known, measures a gemstone’s scratch resistance in addition to hardness. On the Mohs scale, a diamond has a score of 10, making it extremely durable and resistant to wear and tear over time. In contrast, a popular gem like a pearl has a low rating on the Mohs scale (2.4 to 4.5), making it softer and more susceptible to potential damage over time. Stones like pearls and opals are beautiful and classic, but need to be cared for carefully to maintain their luster. Any gem with a rating of 6 and over on the scale is considered appropriate for jewelry use.

The most popular stones currently dominating the alternative engagement ring business (and for good reason) are morganite and moissanite. With scores of 7.5 and 9.25 respectively, these stones are durable, cost-effective, and most importantly, sparkly and stunning. Morganite has a unique pink to blush tint and is in the same gem family as stones like aquamarine and emerald. Though the settings and cuts will obviously vary by cost depending on where you go, an 8mm morganite round stone costs $800, compared to an 8mm round diamond, which runs about $6,639. 

In color, a moissanite stone is more comparable to a diamond. Moissanite was discovered in the crater of a meteor site in 1893 and even has a higher refractive index than diamonds, giving it a gorgeous sparkle that doesn’t deteriorate over time. Moissanite stones are conflict-free and heat-resistant. A 1-carat moissanite stone will run about $1,405, while a diamond of the same cut and weight costs about $5,180.

Other less-common gemstones include alexandrite, which has a rating of 8.5 and changes color from green to purple to red, depending on the lighting. You might also see stones like agate, rose quartz, tourmaline, chrysoprase, and tanzanite becoming more popular. All these stones have a hardness over 6.5 and vary in color from pink to green to purple to cloudy, milky gray, or blush. With a mix of stones and a wide variety of settings and cuts, you’re guaranteed to find the right fit for you – pun intended.

Make Your Wishlist

Two years ago, the man of my dreams got down on his knee and asked me to be his forever. Not only was I totally surprised by the proposal, but the ring as well! He’d been shopping around secretly for a few weeks, and in the end he gave me an absolutely stunning emerald-cut moissanite solitaire stone in a rose gold setting. In those two years, I’ve worked in retail and in two different offices, moved into a house, and had a baby, and the ring is still as sparkly and captivating as the day he put it on. 

Shopping for an engagement ring should be fun, first and foremost. You can be budget conscious while still looking for a beautiful, long-lasting ring. Save the rings you like on Instagram or make a Pinterest board. That way, your boyfriend will have a whole mood board to pull the perfect idea from. If you’re concerned about price, look at Etsy, where there are thousands of affordable options. Or, accept a ring from a family member and add or take away stones or details to make it your own. You could even buy a stone and have it set in another ring if that’s your preference. The options are limitless.

Closing Thoughts

Every girl deserves the ring of her dreams, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. And, you don’t have to buy a diamond to have a sparkling stunner. Happy shopping!

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