From classic solitaires to glittering halos, every engagement ring—like the relationship it represents—is special. And while many brides select traditional colorless diamonds as their rings’ centerpieces, more and more modern couples are branching out and choosing alternative gems. In fact, after learning about the most popular engagement ring gemstones, you might find yourself gravitating toward a nontraditional rock as well.
According to Lorraine Brantner, a gemologist at James Allen, it’s that nontraditional aspect that usually draws couples to different gemstones in the first place. “We say that diamonds are like snowflakes in which no two are exactly alike under magnification, however, a colored gemstone says, ‘I am different!’ from a distance,” she explains.
The History of Gemstones
Even though the concept of a non-diamond engagement ring might seem trendy, Barry Verragio, the founder of the Verragio jewelry brand, explains it’s actually hundreds of years old. “The history of these unique engagement rings goes back to when Napoleon Bonaparte gave his future empress, Joséphine, a sapphire and diamond engagement ring in 1796,” Verragio says. “Before we understood the potential with diamonds, people gravitated towards gemstones because their color was evident before the stone was cut and polished,” adds Brantner.
With celebrities like Megan Fox, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry choosing alternative gemstone engagement rings, Valerie Madison, the owner and creative director of Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry, encourages modern couples to do the same. “Don’t overlook this opportunity for self-expression,” she urges. “When you come across the right gem, it’s like you’re looking at yourself but in gemstone form…Color is an easy and exciting way to reinforce your style and voice.”
As you’re comparing popular engagement ring gemstones, Verragio says that similar to diamonds, the 4Cs (color, clarity, cut, and carat) are crucial to making your ring selection. “Color plays a major role in the gemstone’s appearance, especially when considering the saturation and intensity of it,” he explains. “Durability is also very important when it comes to gemstones withstanding daily tasks.”
How to Care for Gemstones
Brantner adds that since almost all alternative gemstones are more susceptible to scratches and chips than diamonds, proper care is important. “Remove [your ring] before sleeping, showering, exercising, and doing the dishes,” she says. “It is also not recommended to wear your jewelry while swimming, especially since gold and gemstones can be damaged by exposure to chemicals in pools and hot tubs.”
Once you’ve gotten the care down, though, gemstone engagement rings are one of the best ways to showcase your style and celebrate your love. If you’re considering a nontraditional stone, check out some of the most popular engagement ring gemstones below, complete with expert tips and recommendations.
As you’re looking through different engagement ring options, Madison says selecting a gemstone that speaks to you is what matters most. “Seek out a center stone that matches your personality and makes you feel excited every time you see it,” she suggests. “If great care is put into the gemstones you select, these, too, can be heirloom-worthy and will be admired for a lifetime.”