While diamonds have been synonymous with engagement rings for over a hundred years, a rock isn’t the only option out there. In fact, many couples are now looking for alternatives to diamond engagement rings to not only save money (the average diamond ring costs nearly $6,000, according to wedding site The Knot), but to have something more original.
On top of that, there’s growing awareness of the dangers and inhumane conditions often associated with the diamond industry — which, in turn, has made other gemstones more attractive.
With so many people prioritizing their finances, ethics, and personal tastes over tradition, it’s no surprise that gemstones and other engagement ring options are becoming more and more popular.
Let’s look at some reasons why you may want to consider a non-diamond engagement ring, and what your best options are.
Why You Should Consider a Non-Diamond Engagement Ring
While many people will still want to go straight for the classic diamond ring, there are several benefits to choosing a non-diamond engagement ring:
The Cost of a Diamond Engagement Ring Can Be Ridiculously High
With recent inflation, it’s no secret that folks are becoming more budget-conscious. And 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 lucky to get 50% of what you paid for it — and sometimes much, much less.
You can save a fortune on diamonds by buying through reputable online diamond jewelers instead of a retail jeweler. But even so, you’re still buying something very pricey that will instantly depreciate.
Read more: Where’s the Best Place to Buy Diamonds?
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 insure it, you’ll have to present your purchase receipts and pay for a ring appraisal from a certified gemologist.
There Are Ethical Reasons for Choosing a Non-Diamond Engagement Ring
You may have heard about conflict diamonds, or “blood” diamonds. These are diamonds that are mined under cruel conditions, most notably in poor African countries. Think: substandard working conditions, poor safety measures, and possibly even child labor. The mines may be run by warlords who use the profits to fund bloodshed.
There’s also the environmental impact of mining diamond rings. Diamond mining is known to cause soil erosion, loss of habitat for wildlife, and deforestation.
While there are ethical alternatives (such as Canadian-mined or lab-grown diamonds), some consumers may prefer to just stay away from the industry altogether.
Non-Diamond Rings Can Show Off Your Originality
Your engagement ring is a reflection of your personality and relationship — so why not choose something that value uniqueness over tradition? There’s nothing set in stone (pun intended) that states you have to turn to a diamond engagement ring.
Many online jewelry retailers will allow you to customize your ring so that it suits your unique style. You can also combine different gemstones and colors to make your ring stand out.
There Are Beautiful Gemstone Options
If you’re concerned about your engagement ring not looking flash enough, we have to stress that there are many beautiful options out there in the non-diamond ring space.
Gemstone engagement rings (sapphire, emerald, morganite, etc.) look stunning and provide a unique pop of color. You can also find sapphires in a variety of eye-catching shades (they’re not just blue!) for a ring that stands out.
Diamond Engagement Rings are the Result of Marketing
Let’s get real: diamond engagement rings are simply the byproduct of creative marketing over the years.
Sure, the tradition of getting a diamond for an engagement can be traced back hundreds of years (specifically, to an Austrian archduke in the 1400s), but it was jeweler De Beers who convinced us all that “A diamond is forever.”
Since then, jewelry companies have tried to equate how much money you spend on your ring to how much you love someone. As we all know, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t have to go into debt when there are so many affordable non-diamond alternatives.
9 Non-Diamond Engagement Ring Ideas
Gemstones have become popular options for those seeking non-diamond engagement rings, and having a vibrant gemstone as your center stone will give the ring a unique look.
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 option that will stand out in the sea of diamond engagement rings.
With just 10% of couples choosing non-diamond jewels according to a 2021 survey by The Knot, there is far less demand for these stones, and that’s reflected in the price.
2. Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite
Sometimes referred to as synthetic diamonds, these stones are created by manufacturers in factories or laboratories. (While moissanite is a naturally occuring mineral, it’s very rare, and so is typically human-made for jewelery.)
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. Since they mimic the appearance of a real diamond, the untrained eye often can’t even spot the difference.
Note that these are not the same as lab-grown diamonds (see below), according to jewelers. Lab-grown gems have the same chemical composition of mined diamonds, which cubic zirconia and moissanite does not.
3. Lab-Grown Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds are created in a laboratory using high-tech equipment. They are still considered a diamond, but don’t come with the same ethical impact as traditional diamond rings. And since these diamonds are often made by using renewable energy in zero-emission foundries, they’re much more environmentally friendly than diamonds that are mined.
Not only are lab-grown diamonds a more affordable option, but you also don’t have to worry about inadvertantly purchasing a conflict diamond for your special occasion.
Read more: Lab-Grown vs. Natural Diamonds
4. Knot Rings
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.
5. Claddagh Rings
The Claddagh, a traditional Irish ring, is 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.
6. 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 be used by us commoners 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.
7. Engraved Bands
An engraved band allows you to add meaning to your ring without spending a fortune on a diamond engagement ring.
A romantic engravement — perhaps the day you met, or a phrase that holds sepcial meaning — could add more of a personal touch than a traditional diamond setting.
8. Costume Jewelry
While choosing a costume ring is a decision that should definitely 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 to $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 you get bored of the design, you can buy a new one without stressing about the price.
Have you thought about getting matching tattoos? Since a tattoo is more difficult to remove than an engagement ring, you could argue that inked artwork will symbolize a stronger lifetime commitment than an engagement ring.
You could express your creativity as a couple with a customized matching tattoo that means something special to both of you.
Where to Buy a Non-Diamond Engagement Ring
If you still want a ring (and not, say, a tattoo), we have a few suggestions for where to go for high-quality, non-diamond engagement rings:
James Allen is an online diamond retailer known for its conflict-free diamonds, however, they also sell many non-diamond options.
At James Allen, you can design and customize your engagement ring as you wish: start with a ring setting and then add the perfect center stone (or vice versa). Their gemstone color options include blue sapphire, yellow sapphire, pink sapphire, green emerald, and red ruby.
Here are some examples of non-diamond and gemstone offerings from James Allen:
- 0.31 Carat Pear Natural Ruby 2mm Knife Edge Solitaire Engagement Ring.
- 14K White Gold Imperial Sapphire and Diamond Ring.
- 18K Yellow Gold East-West Oval Peridot and Diamond Ring (7.0×5.0mm).
Blue Nile is an online jewelry retailer that prides itself on more choices, straightforward information, and legendary customer service. You can customize your engagement ring to match your budget and your style.
Here are a few examples of non-diamond and gemstone rings that you can purchase from Blue Nile:
- Classic Pear Shaped Sapphire Engagement Ring in 18k White Gold.
- Split Semi Halo Diamond Engagement Ring with Emerald-Cut Emerald in 14k Yellow Gold.
- Petite Split Shank Solitaire Engagement Ring with Cushion Morganite in 14k Rose Gold.
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 or alternative ring options because of their beauty, because you’re trying to keep costs down, or because you have ethical concerns about the diamond industry, there are meaningful alternatives on the market to suit your needs.
The most important thing is to choose a ring that fits your budget, lifestyle, and personality, so you’ll have a unique piece of jewelry that will give you joy for years to come.
Featured image: TorriPhoto/Shutterstock.com