Alternative Engagement Rings: Five Reasons to Opt Out of the Diamond Market

Alternative Engagement Rings: Five Reasons to Opt Out of the Diamond Market

So you may have noticed that we started a bridal section on Etsy where we are in the process of listing our gemstone rings as an alternative to the traditional diamond engagement rings (though of course you can buy them as a standard custom order as well).  We thought our styles were unconventional and allowing for so many different design options that we should start carving out our own unique niche in this market.

If you’ve been following the news on the various royalties getting married and engaged, you would have noticed that sapphire(in particular the padparadscha) and also aquamarine, have become quite hot lately.  Some of my own clients have enjoyed designing rings for birthstones, meaningful months or just their loved one’s favorite colors (on occasion I also get the bride to be as the client, and she designs the ring that her significant other than purchases). 

Here’s Princess Eugenie’s Padparadscha Engagement ring (left) Kate Middleton’s (right)

Halle Berry with a Colombian Emerald 

Eva Langoria with a Ruby

So what are some special reasons for owning an alternative engagement ring?  We have five for you!

  1. No blood diamonds. Colored gems are much more rarely used as an alternative currency than diamonds are.  While all gemstones, including diamonds, are easily smuggled due to their size, diamonds are considerably less identifiable as unique objects (they are all white and they are all diamonds), while at the same time easier to sell than colored gems.  So while “blood diamonds” have gotten a lot of attention in the media, colored stones are not generally treated with the same concern.  (See note below)


  1. They are collector’s items. From a collector’s perspective, you can own an engagement ring that is totally one of a kind and can thus be quite valuable compared to diamonds (which have a terrible resale value, especially when they come out of engagement rings – for obvious reasons). They can be worn by kids and grand kids and not look like they are wearing someone else’s engagement ring.


  1. Color to suit the occasion. As mentioned above, you can design a colored gemstone engagement ring around a birthstone combination (his and hers for instance, or his and his, hers and hers), around a meaningful color (the color of the ocean where you first met or where you plan to propose) or just a color that goes with most of your clothes.


  1. Interesting cuts. While it’s true that you can buy diamonds in almost every cut, when it comes to very special shapes, like the hexagons that are so in style right now, you’d have to be Croesus to buy a clean white diamond specially cut as a hexagon. Most of those cuts – kites, hex’s fan shapes, are sold in the diamond market only as sidestones or they are cut from lower quality material.


  1. Price. This brings me to the last point. While you can of course own a very very expensive colored stone, it’s also possible to get a lot more gem for your money if you avoid diamonds. A one carat standard diamond will set you back by give or take $6000.  A sapphire will cost $1000-1500.  A Paraiba may cost $3000 (or more), a ruby if certified Burmese unheated will cost the same.  And colored gem prices are determined by rarity among other things, whereas diamonds, with the exception of natural colored diamonds, are anything but rare.  In fact, as you probably know, their prices are artificially inflated. 

Here are some design inspirations for you as you consider your diamond alternative engagement project. 


Gatsby Engagement Ring 

Rose gold Tourbillon ring

3 Stone Hexagon Ring

Oval Sunflower Engagement Ring

Edwardian Engagement Ring

A note on “blood diamonds:”  Note that the Kimberly process does not speak to how workers are treated in the diamond business, it only provides a system of warranties that are intended to ensure that the diamonds were not used to fund wars (or mined in a war zone).  This is another blog entry!

Link to Kimberly process: