An engagement ring is the most important piece of jewelry a woman can own. Make sure you choose one that reflects her personality and style. Whether that means a traditional white diamond or a one-of-a-kind color gemstone, this is your definitive overview of the many options for engagement ring gems.

Traditional Diamond Engagement Rings

Diamond engagement rings first became popular in the early 1900s with diamond company DeBeer’s iconic “A diamond is forever” campaign, and ever since then, this gem has been the standard symbol of love and commitment. It can be dressed up or down, and the traditional clear variety goes with every look. If your significant other’s style is especially classic, vintage, elegant or minimal, a diamond ring is ideal. But whatever her style, if the gem is in your budget, you really can’t go wrong.

A gold diamond ring
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Diamond Alternatives

Lab-Grown Diamond Engagement Rings

Lab-grown diamond rings are a fantastic alternative to mined diamonds as they are a more affordable option. They are chemically, physically and optically identical to the traditional variety, but are obviously much easier to obtain. Therefore, you get the equally glamorous look for a less expensive price - a smart choice that you won’t have to think twice about. 

A lab-grown diamond solitaire ring with a gold band
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Moissanite Engagement Rings

Moissanite engagement rings are another popular mined diamond substitute. Like lab-grown diamonds, Moissanite is more affordable, and it also has the closest hardness score to diamond, meaning that the gems will hold up to everyday wear almost exactly as well as a diamond. 

A quality that is unique to moissanite and makes for an especially dazzling engagement ring is the wide spectrum of color that appears in its sparkle. This multicolor play with light is called “fire,” and while diamonds possess some fire, moissanite takes it to an entirely different level. 

An assortment of gold and silver moissanite rings
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Colorful Alternative Engagement Rings

Now, forget everything you think you know about what an engagement ring should look like. 

Contrary to what you might think, color gemstone engagement rings are not just a recent trend. They can be a timeless and subtle statement that feels more uniquely you. People throughout history have sported rings in a variety of gemstones besides diamond and have looked great while doing it.

Sapphire Engagement Rings

Sapphire is one of the most durable stones next to diamond, and it can be found in a variety of colors to suit any taste. The gem is a favorite of the royal family (think Princess Diana’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring that was later given to Kate Middleton) as well as many celebrities and historical figures. It tends to not be one of the most affordable stones, but the quality of a sapphire engagement ring is very much worth the price. 

A variety of red and blue sapphire rings in silver and gold
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Emerald Engagement Rings

Emerald is another of the most beloved diamond alternatives for engagement rings. Halle Berry and Princess Mary of Denmark are just two examples of the many women over time who have embraced the charms of an emerald engagement ring

Finding a beautiful emerald ring of your own doesn’t have to be as costly as Princess Mary’s. You have the option of buying a natural one, or the more economical lab-grown one, depending on your budget.  

One of the reasons for emerald’s popularity is that it’s tough enough to withstand frequent wear. However, it is softer than diamond, sapphire and ruby. Use some caution while cleaning the gem, and store it separately from other harder stones like diamond and moissanite.

A gold emerald ring
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Pearl Engagement Rings

Pearl engagement rings have recently experienced a surge in popularity. With radiant looks from the likes of Emma Stone and Michelle Williams, it’s no wonder why people have begun to recognize the gem’s appeal. 

Their soft, luminous white goes with every outfit, and they can take on vintage charm or modern sophistication with ease. Pearls also tend to be much less expensive than diamonds, but this comes with the fact that pearls are a lot more delicate. As long as you are willing to maintain it, the gem is still a lovely choice for an engagement ring.

A gold pearl ring with a halo of white gems
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Some more alternative engagement ring stones include:

  • Ruby: The color of this stone, the “King of Gems,” represents love and passion, but its price point can be high. The price of a ruby engagement ring, however, is matched by its durability.
  • Morganite: The blush pink hue of a morganite engagement ring is romantic and perfect for women with a feminine style. It also has a hardness level suitable for everyday wear.
  • Opal: For the woman who is artistic, free-spirited or can’t decide on a color, every opal engagement ring has its own unique pattern. But use caution when wearing and cleaning, as opal is softer than many other stones. 
  • Birthstones: For an especially meaningful sentiment, give her a birthstone engagement ring. Many of the birthstones hold up well against daily wear, and your significant other will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
A trio of morganite rings with silver and rose gold bands
Featuring: Morganite Rings by JTV

Alternative Engagement Ring Cuts

Regardless of the gemstone you choose, you can customize even further with unique shapes and cuts. To perfectly match your significant other’s style or show off the best qualities of the gem, there is a variety of common and more eclectic cuts.

Standard Cuts

Standard cuts are what you often see in engagement rings. These gemstone shapes include:

  • Round
  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Oval

Fancy Cuts

Fancy cuts encompass all kinds of other whimsical shapes, such as: 

  • Pear
  • Heart
  • Marquise (an elongated oval with a point at each end)
  • Baguette (long and rectangular, like the French bread)
A pear-shaped ring with a silver band
Featuring: Rings by JTV

The only limits are your imagination and your budget. But do keep in mind that the more of the gem must be discarded in the cutting process, the more expensive it will be.

Frequently Asked Questions About Engagement Rings

When did people start giving engagement rings?

The general practice of giving engagement rings has been traced back to ancient Rome. The first recorded instance of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 from Archduke Maximillian of Austria to Mary Burgund. However, the practice did not become popular until the early 1900s, upon diamond company DeBeers’ “A diamond is forever” campaign.

What are popular alternatives to diamond engagement rings?

While an engagement ring can be essentially whatever you want it to be, some of the most popular alternative choices include moissanite, sapphire, ruby, emerald, pearl, morganite and opal.

What is 'fire' in gemstones?

Fire refers to the colored, sometimes rainbow sparkle of a gem. Brilliance is the term used to describe the colorless sparkle. 

Erin McIntyre

Like many other people, Erin already has her entire wedding planned out in her mind. She personally would choose a morganite engagement ring.

Read more about Erin on her author page 

Erin McIntyre