A diamond may be "forever", but that doesn't mean it's for everyone. Here are six affordable alternatives to diamond engagement rings and why you might want to consider them.

While diamonds have been synonymous with engagement rings for over a hundred years, recently, more couples are looking for alternatives to diamond engagement rings to save money. The average diamond ring costs nearly $6,000, according to a 2014 study by wedding site The Knot. That leaves many people are prioritizing their finances over tradition. And rising awareness of the dangers and inhumane conditions associated with the diamond industry has made other gemstones more attractive.

The cost of diamonds

We probably don’t have to tell you that diamonds are expensive. What you might not know, however, is that diamonds are not as rare or as inherently valuable as the diamond industry makes us believe. If you’ve ever tried to sell a diamond, you’ll quickly find that you’ll be incredible lucky to get 50 percent of what you paid for it—and sometimes much, much less.

As we’ve written before, you can save a fortune on diamonds by buying through reputable online diamond jewelers instead of a retail jeweler. But you’re still buying something very expensive that will instantly depreciate.

Diamonds not only cost a lot, but they come with added risk and expense. As one of your most expensive possessions (and an eminently portable one), it will be at risk for theft, loss, or damage. Many people opt to get an insurance rider added to their home or rental policy specifically for their engagement ring. To get it insured, you’ll have to present your purchase receipts and pay for a ring appraisal from a certified gemologist.

While our culture still considers diamonds the go-to stone for engagement rings, more and more people are open to non-traditional rings. From other gemstones to man-made rocks, there are budget-friendly options that are still beautiful and can be used to create a meaningful ring:

Cubic zirconia and moissanite

Sometimes referred to as synthetic diamonds, these stones are created by manufacturers in factories or laboratories. Costing a fraction of a diamond’s price tag, many cubic zirconia and moissanite rings are identical to the “real thing” and can be a price-conscious option.

A knot ring

Rings designed in the shape of a knot are increasing in popularity. The relatively simple designs mimic the symbol for infinity, signifying eternal love. In silver or gold, these rings can be a good choice for those with minimalist tastes.


The Claddagh is an Irish ring, popular for its romantic history and symbolism. The ring features two hands, a heart and a crown, representing friendship, love, and loyalty. While engaged, the woman typically wears the ring with the point of the heart facing outwards, then turns the ring, so the end is facing her once she’s married. Especially for those with Irish heritage, this is an option that gives a nod to history.

A meaningful gemstone

Diamonds are just as common as other stones, like rubies or sapphires. These jewels have significance associated with them too, so the ring can have special meaning for a couple. For instance, opals are said to signify love, passion, and spontaneity, while rubies represent friendship, fire, and happiness. The gems can be placed in any ring setting, creating a unique ring that will stand out in the sea of diamond engagement rings. With just 13 percent of brides choosing non-diamond jewels, there is far less demand for these rings, and that’s reflected in the price.

Family rings

While passing on heirloom engagement rings is something typically associated with royalty, such as when Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton using his mother’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring, this practice can also be used by normal people as well. Your relatives may have a ring stashed away that has been in the family for generations. While this can save you significant cash, it also will be a more meaningful and unique than a fresh-cut ring from the mall. If the size or setting isn’t to your taste, you can have it re-set in a new ring or have the stone broken down into pieces to create a different style.

Costume jewelry

While choosing a costume ring is a decision that should be made with your partner’s input, many couples are finding that this is a great option for them. A lovely ring—often mistaken for a diamond—can be purchased for as little as $20-$40 from shops like Amazon, BaubleBar, or BlingJewelry. For people who have a habit of losing things or a fear of a stone going missing, this can be a fun option for low-cost style. If the ring gets lost or if you get bored of the design, you can buy a new one without stressing about the price.


While diamonds have been the traditional choice for engagement rings for over a century, no rule says you have to have a diamond. Whether you prefer other gemstones because of their beauty, are trying to keep costs down, or have ethical concerns about the diamond industry, there are meaningful alternatives on the market to suit your needs. Choose a ring that fits your budget, lifestyle, and personality, and you’ll have a unique piece of jewelry that will give you joy for years to come.

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About the author

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Kat Tretina is a freelance writer in the Orlando area. With a passion for personal finance, she aims to help people achieve financial freedom.