Tradition used to dictate that an engagement ring needs to be a diamond (check out our MythBusters blog about that here). These days the options for engagement ring stones are endless. Here we break down three of the best options out there.
- Diamonds are a classic option for an engagement ring and a very popular choice.
- They rate 10 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale which makes them very durable and appropriate for everyday wear.
- While the round brilliant cut is the most popular cut, diamonds come in a variety of shapes including squares, ovals and even hearts.
- You can make your ring more unique by choosing a coloured diamond as they come in a range of shades. At the more affordable end are champagne diamonds ranging through to the highly prized/priced pink and blue diamonds. There’s even rare colours of purple, red and green though extremely expensive!
- An alternative to mined diamonds, which is gaining popularity, are lab grown diamonds. These diamonds have the exact same chemical/crystal/molecular structure as a natural diamond but are created in labs instead of in the mine. This option is popular for people wanting a diamond at a lesser price as lab grown diamonds do not cost as much as mined ones.
- Second to diamonds, sapphires are a popular choice for engagement rings.
- On the Moh’s hardness scale sapphires rate nine which puts them second to only diamonds in their durability. However, sapphires are less likely to chip than diamonds as they have better resistance to cleavage.
- Sapphires come in a rainbow of colors with blue and teal being the most popular choices. You can find sapphires in purple, green, yellow, colourless and orange but red sapphires are better known as rubies!
- They provide a unique look for engagement rings as no two sapphires will look the same (to the naked eye).
- Sapphires are native to Australia and provide an excellent option to people looking to support local and also who value transparency in the mining process as it is much easier to track on your own soil.
- There have been many diamond alternatives used across the centuries but the best option is moissanite!
- It rates 9.25 on the Mon’s hardness scale making it more durable than sapphires but less than diamonds. An excellent everyday wear stone.
- While natural moissanite does exist it is very rare and the moissanite on the market is lab grown.
- It is a popular stone because it shows just as much, actually more, fire (rainbow sparkles) as a diamond!
- As it is a lab grown stone it provides an excellent option for the smaller budgets or those looking for a bigger ‘diamond’ look without paying as much. It also suits people who are looking to avoid buying a mined stone for ethical reasons.
While the choice of which stone to use in your ring is a very personal one there are so many options available to you that you’ll certainly find a stone which gives you the look you want, in your budget and respecting any ethical concerns you may have. If you would like to have a chat with Teagan about what stone would work best for your ring you can book an appointment with her here.
It’s Myth Buster time!
In the jewellery industry there are a lot of common misconceptions about engagement rings . Let us break down three of them for you.
Does Gold Only Come in Yellow?
- 24k pure gold does only come in yellow. However, mixing various alloys with the gold can create different coloured golds.
- Rose gold is a combination of gold and copper. The cooper gives it its pink tone.
- White gold was first patented in 1915 and was a combination of gold, palladium and zinc. Prior to this silver was the most common white metal used in jewellery while platinum had also gained popularity since the end of the 19th century.
- Gold can come in many different colours including green! Jewellers have used colour gold to decorate their designs for centuries.
Do Engagement Rings have to be Diamonds?
- Forms of engagement or betrothal rings have been around since the Roman period. They were often plain bands but sometimes included gemstones.
- The first recorded diamond engagement ring was give to Mary of Burgundy by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian upon their betrothal in 1477.
- While it took a bit of time for diamonds to gain the popularity they have today they did eventually become the stone of choice for engagement rings. This may be due to their durability and perceived rarity.
- Sapphires have also been a popular choice, as seen by Princess Diana’s engagement ring, and these days are closing the gap with diamonds are the preferred gemstone for engagement rings.
Are Diamonds Indestructible?
- Diamonds rate 10 on the Mohs Hardness scale making them the hardest of all gemstones.
- However, they have four cleavage directions, which are the “weakest direction in the molecular arrangement of the crystal”. (GIA, How to Protect A Diamond From Chipping. 2016)
- These cleavage planes mean that a diamond (while exceptionally hard) will not withstand force applied on a specific point and can cleave, chip or fracture if this happens.
- Sapphire and Ruby (Corundum) actually have one less cleavage direction making it less likely to chip!
GIA – How To Protect a Diamond
Lang Antiques – The Fascinating History of Platinum Jewellery
Sometimes it seems we speak a whole different language in the jewellery and gemmology world so we’ve decided to break down some of our more commonly used terms!
Alloy: A combination of metals fused together.
Basket Setting: A stone setting used in rings and other fine jewellery which has two horizontal bars joining the four claws.
Bezel Setting: A fine band of gold or other metal that encircles the stone to keep it secure and attached to the shank.
Brilliant Cut: A diamond cut featuring 58 facets. It can also be used for different stones and shapes.
CAD/Render: An abbreviation for Computer Aided Design which is used to design and engineer a piece of jewellery for casting. The render is a computer illustration of the final design.
Carat: Weight (mass) of a gemstone.
Claw/Prong: A section of the setting which holds/secures the stone by wrapping over a portion of the top of the stone. Often resembles a lion’s claw but can come in a variety of shapes.
Emerald Cut: A rectangular cut with cut corners and step cut facets.
Eye Clean: Inclusion which are not visible to the naked eye but may be seen under 10x magnification or stronger.
Gemmologist: A trained person who specialises in identifying, grading and appraising gemstones.
Grading: A gemstones official report on colour, cut, clarity, polish and sometimes origin.
Hardness: A measure of a gemstone’s resistance to scratching and abrasions. Measured on Mohs Hardness Scale.
Inclusion: A visible internal flaw in a gemstone which can include veils, clouds, other crystals and foreign objects.
Karat: Measurement of gold purity in the metal ranging from 9k to (pure) 24k.
Lab Grown: A gemstone (including diamonds and sapphires) which has the same chemical composition as a natural stone but grown in a laboratory rather than in the earth.
Oval Cut: A gemstone cut in the shape of an oval. Facet styles can include; brilliant, mixed and Portuguese.
Pear Cut: A gemstone cut in the shape of a pear/tear drop.
Prong Setting: A stone setting used in rings and other fine jewellery which has four or six claws which cradle/secure the stone and attach the shank. See Claw/Prong.
Salt and Pepper Diamond: A naturally grown diamond featuring several visible inclusions which give it a peppery appearance.
Setter: A trained person who specialises in securing stones into their setting eg basket, prong or bezel.
Shank: The circular band of the ring which wraps around your finger. Styles can include round, half round and square.
Solitaire: A ring stone setting featuring a single stone.
Tulip Setting: A decorative stone setting used for rings which resembles a tulip flower.
Engagement rings have existed in many forms since as early as the Roman era. In that time betrothal rings were just bands made of iron or gold. Later the started to set precious stones into the band as a sign of wealth but they weren’t specifically designed for the purpose of an engagement ring. Even signet rings, which were very popular during this time, sometimes performed the function of a betrothal ring.
As the times changed and fashions came and went gem set rings, in a display of wealth, started to become more and more popular and were commonly given as a part of the betrothal/marriage contract. They also used gems protect them from certain ailments or negatives spirits with each stone being used for a different purpose.
These days engagement rings are so often diamond but this wasn’t always the case and the first diamond betrothal/engagement ring wasn’t given until the 15th Century. Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian gave his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, a diamond ring in 1477 and this is the first recorded diamond engagement ring. However, it did not start a craze which had everyone following but instead was a slow burn that took centuries for diamond rings to gain the status they have now.
During the centuries up until the late 19th/early 20th century several different gemstones were a popular choice for engagement rings. Queen Victoria herself had a snake head design ring with rubies, diamond and an emerald set into it. Then came the discovery of diamonds in South Africa and the game changed.
De Beers pioneered one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever and the demand for diamonds as engagement rings started to soar in western countries. From the start of the 20th century diamonds continued to become the predominant choice of stone to propose with. In 1948 the marketing slogan of “A Diamond Is Forever” was launched by De Beers and diamonds become the first choice when it came to selecting a ring for your forever love. In a display of the power and success of this slogan it is still used by the company today!
While diamonds have dominated the engagement ring scene for most of modern times the actual history of the use of them for engagement rings is relatively new. These days many different stones have regained popularity. Sapphires in particular are extremely popular at the moment and their durability and unique colours makes them an excellent option for a one of a kind engagement ring.
Lang Antiques – Rings Ancient to Neoclassical
Wedding bands incorporate the history of betrothal and poesy rings which were their earliest forms. The Romans began wearing betrothal rings in the 4th Century as an acknowledgement of the contract of betrothal between two people. They were made from various metals with an iron ring often worn at home while a more lavish gold band was worn outside of the home in a display of wealth. These rings were worn on the fourth finger of the left hand as they believed there was a vein in this finger connected directly to the heart.
While these bands were used to denote a betrothal, and would eventually evolve into engagement rings, the attraction of a plain gold band to signify love continued throughout history to modern day. Posey rings were given out of love and friendship and were engraved with poems/phrases, such as “you have my heart” in French or Latin. These rings were popular from the 16th to the 20th century.
Bands of some form have been connected to engagement and marriage since the roman period. They signify a contract but also love, friendship and fidelity just like modern wedding bands do. During the 19th century bands begun being worn either side of an engagement ring and were known as keeper rings, used to keep the engagement ring from sliding off. This is one of the first times bands were worn along with an engagement ring.
Modern wedding bands still hold the sentimental significance of their previous incarnations but also serve a decorative function. Bands these days can vary in style and size with design ranging from a plain gold band through to diamond bands designed to fit around an engagement ring to complement/enhance its design.
Lang Antiques – Rings Ancient to Neoclassical
Solitaire is the French word for alone which is why it is the perfect description for a ring set with a single stone! Solitaires are one of the most classic and popular designs for engagement rings. Traditionally diamonds have been the most common choice for solitaire rings but in more recent time sapphires have become an increasingly more popular choice. With their enormous variety of colours and cuts a sapphire can prove to be a truly unique solitaire ring.
The history of the solitaire ring dates back to the Roman era but their popularity exploded in the 17th century when it became the setting of choice for larger stones. During this time coloured stones were set in gold while diamonds were set in silver to enhance their appearance (white gold and platinum were not yet available). The simplicity of the style has always helped show off the beauty of the stone. Settings have varied over the last 400 years with bezel and collect settings being popular in the 17th and 18th century while the claw setting we recognise as a solitaire setting today begun to be used in the Victorian era.
After the turn of the 20th Century white precious metals became the most popular metal used in jewellery with advancements in the ability to work with Platinum and the invention of white gold. Art Deco period solitaires were commonly diamonds set in white metal occasionally with a decorative engraved, filigree or pierce work crown beneath the stone. This period of jewellery was strong on aesthetics and decided the classic solitaire needed some fancying up!
Solitaires have remained the most popular style of engagement ring throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Popular stones include the classic round brilliant cut diamond, oval sapphires and even salt and pepper diamonds. Set in a variety of gold colours with four or six claws these rings will always have a timeless elegance. Their simplicity offers the option to get more creative with wedding bands and eternity rings which can have more embellishment or intricacy to create a more personalised look.
Langs Antiques – Rings Ancient to Neoclassical
Gem Society – Victorian Period Jewelry 1837-1860