As a bespoke jeweller specialising in contemporary engagement rings, we have been seeing a trend away from the traditional diamond as an engagement ring centre stone. Diamond is still a classic and beautiful choice, but we are seeing that couples are casting their net wider in search of personal self expression, beauty and value that coloured gemstones provide. Not all gems are suitable for every day wear and tear, such as an engagement or a wedding ring, due to their lesser durability. Here we look at 8 alternatives to diamond in contemporary engagement rings, and their pros and cons.

Diamond engagement ring trend

Diamonds are durable and beautiful engagement ring centre stone. Popularised in the 1940s by the famous De Beers advertising campaigns 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend' and 'Diamonds are forever', diamonds have until recently been the go-to as an engagement ring centre stone. However, coloured gems such as emeralds, rubies and sapphires were the preferred choice for engagement rings since the dawn of time, and diamonds are a relatively recent addition, with diamond engagement rings coming into vogue from the early 20th century.

The return of coloured gems in engagement rings

There has been a rising trend of alternatives to the more traditional diamond in engagement rings over recent years. The unrivalled expression of individuality that a coloured gemstone engagement ring provides along with the unexpected wow factor and the ubiquity and high cost of diamonds have ensured that more and more couples are choosing to step away from the tradition. While a diamond engagement ring will always be the classic choice, there is a plethora of exciting and more affordable gemstones that can provide greater impact at a lower cost. Not all coloured gemstones are a suitable choice for engagement rings though, with durability and hardness being important aspects in choosing the right stone. Here are our top 7 coloured gemstone alternatives to ditch the traditional diamond, for a truly individual, stand-out engagement ring.

1. Parti Sapphire 9 Mohs

Parti sapphires, including beautiful gemstones from Australia, are loved by couples looking for a unique coloured gem for their engagement ring. Featuring bands or areas of colour such as blue, green, teal and yellow, these beautiful gems recall the colours of the Australian landscape: gum, wattle and deep blue sky. Partisapphires in oval, octagon, round, pear and emerald cuts are all fabulous engagement ring gemstone choices, either paired with diamonds or on their own, such as solitaire ring designs. Side or accent diamonds, such as kite shaped, trillion, pear cut, baguette or round can look spectacular in engagement rings, accentuating parti sapphire's unique beauty. A durable gem with a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, ideal for everyday pieces such as engagement rings, parti sapphire is here to stay. As each parti sapphire is unique, you can be assured that an engagement ring with this stone would also be a truly unique one. Parti sapphires are yet to be synthesized, so you can be assured that this unique gem is sure to be the real deal.

Cushion cut Australian Parti Sapphire, 1.21ct, Sydney jeweller Lizunova, Chifley Square

A beautiful cushion cut Australian parti sapphire with classic yellow-blue-green colour mix Australian partis are famous for. 

2. Salt and pepper diamond

Possessing all the qualities of a white diamond, but with unrivalled personality, salt and pepper diamonds have become a popular choice for engagement rings. Each stone is completely unique due to its distinctive markings, or internal inclusions, some of which look like a whole galaxy inside a stone. Measuring 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, salt and pepper diamonds are durable and suitable for everyday wear, eg in engagement rings. They also come in a variety of cuts and shapes and are a fraction of the price of white diamonds.

3. Grey Spinel 8 Mohs

Grey spinel is the ultimate stone for those who have an eye for the refined and mysterious. This stunning gem comes in an assortment of tones from a silvery lavender to a deeper, warmer shade of charcoal. These warm and cool tones mean there is a grey spinel to match a variety of skin tones. A rose gold setting is perfect for picking up the warm tones of the stone. White gold enhances the cool tones found in the more violet spinels, creating a sleek sophisticated feel. Black or white diamonds set in the band of the ring would accentuate or contrast with the stone. Despite being rarer than sapphire, spinel is more affordable. Like sapphire, spinel is a hardwearing stone, with a rating of 8 on the Mohs scale, which makes it a great choice of gem to be worn every day.

4. Blue and Fancy Colour Sapphire 9 Mohs

Customarily, blue sapphire represents nobility, wisdom, honesty and faithfulness. It has been incorporated into the traditional dress of royalty and the clergy for centuries. Sapphires are strong and durable, with a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, and diverse, occurring in a dazzling array of colours from white to deepest, almost black, and blue. Due to their strength, sapphires have been considered a very practical choice for engagement rings. The stunning blue sapphire in Princess Diana's (now Kate Middleton's) engagement ring sparked a spike in blue sapphire engagement ring popularity. Pink sapphires can be a vibrant or subdued tone, a feminine flair that can be complemented by diamond accents in the ring design. Shades of gold, from champagne and peach to pale yellows, to deep, vibrant oranges, look exquisite set into rose or yellow gold, which picks out the warm tones, or white gold, to accentuate the cooler shades.

Blue sapphire, bespoke Sydney jeweller Lizunova, Chifley Square

This Australian blue sapphire has unique natural 'silk' markings within the stone. Image: Lizunova Fine Jewels

5. Morganite 7.5-8 Mohs

Morganite is part of the beryl family, which also includes emerald and aquamarine. Being 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale makes Morganite a great choice for a ring worn every day like an engagement ring would be. Morganite comes in a variety of pink-tone pastels, from peach to salmon to blush pink. A rose gold setting would pick out and intensify the softer peach tones. This feminine colour brings a subtle warm tone to a ring, which makes it perfect for anyone who wants subtlety over a statement colour. Much like a nude pair of heels, these soft pinks match the colours found in a sophisticated fashion-savvy wardrobe and go with everything. Due to the delicate colour palette, a larger stone would not look overbearing when worn as an engagement ring. Dubbed ‘the love stone’, morganite is said to have the metaphysical properties of attracting and maintaining love, making it a beautiful choice for a ring symbolising love and commitment.

6. Aquamarine 7.5-8 Mohs

Cool and calm, this beautiful stone is leading the pack when it comes to engagement ring takeovers. Much like morganite, the subtle colour of aquamarine is very attractive for those who prefer delicacy over a drastic difference to the popular diamond. The pale ocean tones range from a greenish blue to a deeper more vibrant blue hue. These tones can be accentuated with different metals and due to the cool tone, suit most skin tones. If your partner is an ocean lover, surfer, or sailor, this gem would directly link back to their connection with the water. The name aquamarine is Latin, aqua meaning water and marine meaning sea. An aquamarine engagement ring is a wonderful way to start off wedding planning, by ticking something blue off the list straight away.

7. Champagne Diamond 10 Mohs

What better way to celebrate than with champagne! Start your beautiful married life off with an elegant style choice using a champagne diamond as your statement stone. The wonderful thing about champagne diamonds is the hardness is not compromised by the colour. A more affordable alternative to the traditional white diamond, champagne diamonds come in the same variety of cuts and shapes that white diamonds do, allowing you to create a truly individual ring. The warm hues range from a subtle antique off-white, through to a darker cognac. For contrast, pair the stone with white diamond accents to accentuate the warm tones. A setting of rose gold helps to create a feminine feel.

8. Pink and red spinel 8 Mohs

Dazzling, fiery hot and electric. Did we just describe your love journey with your partner? Red and pink spinel is the perfect stone for an exciting, lively engagement ring. In some cases, the pink tone can be described as almost neon. This gem gets its vibrant colour from chromium, the same chemical that gives ruby its red colour. One of the most famous examples is the so-called Black Prince's Ruby, set in the Imperial State Crown of England and displayed in the Tower of London. Thought to be a ruby for centuries, the gem was analyzed in recent years and found to be, in fact, a red spinel. Edward, Prince of Wales, the Black Prince, received the stone in 1367 as payment for his aid to put down a revolt against the King of Spain. The Black Prince's Ruby outlasted them all, surviving fires attempted theft, and World War II bombing raids. With all this history, it seems as though spinel may be a good luck charm.

Baguette pink spinel, bespoke Sydney jeweller Lizunova, Chifley Square

This baguette cut pink spinel would suit an engagement ring design with clean Art Deco lines. Image: Lizunova Fine Jewels

The ferocity of this colour allows room for additional statement colours for an even more, fun and vibrant look. Paired with a black gemstone, such as black spinel, black diamond or onyx, this stone reaches a new level of feminine style. Pink spinel suits a setting in any gold colour, with the rose or yellow gold accentuating its warm hues. The best quality pink spinels are sourced from Tanzania, Africa. Vivid, clear and sparkling red spinels are a wonderful alternative to the often milky and included ruby. With a Mohs scale rating of 8, this stone is durable enough to be worn every day. Paired with a well-considered setting, a spinel ring would be a wonderful piece to be appreciated by generations to come.

There are so many wonderful options for your bespoke engagement ring, from diamonds to coloured gemstones, that it can be tricky to know who to trust and how to make the right choices for your engagement ring, this most significant of jewels. We are happy to talk through the many different options of diamonds, gems and settings, to ensure you get the best value for money and the best design you will cherish for the rest of your life. To arrange a complimentary design consultation, drop us a line.

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