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Selecting Your Engagement Ring Gemstone – Part 1

selecting your engagement ring gemstone



You’re engaged! For most couples, this is one of the most exciting times they will ever share together.  Everyone wants a great start to their marriage, including the wedding of their dreams, a romantic honeymoon, and last but not least, an engagement ring that will forever remind them of their love for each other.

It can also be a stressful time, with so many important matters to consider.  For example, there are a hundred different decisions to make when planning for a wedding, such as the color theme, who to invite, the dress, the photographer, and the overall budget.  While we can’t help with everything, we would like to offer some thoughts and advice in selecting your engagement ring, some of which may also apply to other aspects of your wedding planning.

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you are already engaged but have not yet selected an engagement ring, or perhaps you have not yet popped the question but are looking at alternatives to diamond.  Virtually every type of gemstone has been featured as the center stone in engagement rings at one time or another. You may have already read that colored gemstones are the current trend for engagement rings. There are a number of reasons for this trend, which we will discuss in more detail later in this article.

This is part one of a two-part article.  Part two focuses on specific colored gemstones that are currently popular for engagement rings.

Montana Sapphire

Montana sapphires have become a popular gemstone For engagement rings

A DIAMOND IS FOREVER (but so are most other gemstones)

Diamonds are the traditional choice for engagement rings, but do you know how this tradition started.  Would you be surprised to know that this tradition is based on a marketing campaign started in 1947 by De Beers.  Most people have heard the slogan, “A diamond is forever”. This slogan was created by the advertising firm “N.W. Ayer”.  De Beers first met with N.W. Ayer in 1938 to discuss marketing campaigns designed to convince the public that diamonds are the “only” choice when it comes to showing true love.  Prior to this date, less than 15% of brides received diamond engagement rings, and the diamonds were generally less than half a carat. De Beers and N.W. Ayer both recognized that they were “dealing with a problem in mass psychology”.  N.W. Ayer not only developed the “a diamond is forever” campaign, but it also convinced the public that size matters, and suddenly brides wanted diamond engagement rings of one carat or larger. De Beers realized that this sudden demand for diamonds would eventually cause an increase in the supply of diamonds on the secondary market as heirs sold diamond rings inherited from their parents.  De Beers, therefore, enhanced its advertising campaign by convincing the public that diamond engagement rings represent family heirlooms that should be handed down from generation to generation. This campaign resulted in a virtual constant demand for new diamonds and enshrined “a diamond is forever” as one of the greatest advertising slogans in history.



Since the 1940s, most engagement rings have featured diamonds as the center stone.  However, the last few years have seen a shift back to colored gemstones. Part of this is attributed to celebrities wearing engagement rings featuring colored gemstones such as sapphires, emeralds or rubies.  Part of this shift is also due to a shift in financial priorities by engaged couples.

Pink Sapphire Enagagement Ring

Pink Sapphire Engagement Ring Worn by Nicole Richie.

In planning the wedding, the number one priority should be the budget.  The average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2017 exceeded $25,000, while the average cost of an engagement ring exceeded $6,300.  In a recent survey, 46% of respondents paid more for the engagement ring than they did for their first car. These expenses can cause newlyweds to go into debt just as they are getting started.  It is well documented that many engaged couples have re-evaluated their priorities, deciding that a new home, furniture, or starting a family are more important than an expensive engagement ring.  Colored gemstones are generally less expensive than diamonds, and are available in larger sizes. Many young couples are opting for colored gemstones due to cost. Other couples who historically would have purchased a ring featuring a lab-created CZ for budget reasons, are finding that they can afford a ring with a natural colored stone.

Another reason for the trend to colored gemstones is that some brides find diamonds boring.  Survey after survey reveal that brides are challenging the notion that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.  Many brides want color, but most untreated diamonds are colorless. Brides are realizing that engagement rings can feature color and still be beautiful, elegant, eye-catching, and most of all, an expression of the couple’s lifelong bond.  

engagement ring

This engagement ring says “I Love You”, featuring a bright, clean, well-cut diamond. It would also look terrific with a blue sapphire or bright green gemstone.


Colored gemstones are currently featured in almost 20% of all engagement rings, so don’t feel constrained that diamond rings are the only option.  Gemstones are available in virtually every color. Once you have decided on a budget, it’s time to select the color you want to wear. You may have a favorite color or may want to match your engagement ring to the color theme of your wedding.  You may also select a color based on its meaning (i.e. blue for peace and unity, red for love, green for good luck and fertility, yellow for joy and happiness).

Color is where diamonds fall flat.  What saves diamonds from the pile of “boring gemstones” is their high “dispersion” and “refractive index”, amongst the highest of all gemstones.  This causes the “sparkle” that diamonds are known for. For this reason, diamonds are thought of as a very “clean” and pure gem, a perfect representation of a new marriage.  Other gemstones don’t have the same refractive index but make up for this with bright colors, larger sizes, and generally lower price per carat. For example, a two-carat round brilliant cut Montana sapphire will cost less than a one-carat diamond similarly faceted, and still have a high enough refractive index for “sparkle”.  

After determining your budget and color you like, the next step is to select the type of gemstone.  The most popular colors currently are blue, pink, green and yellow. As I said before, gemstones are available in virtually all colors, but not all gemstones are created equal.  Some gemstones are not suitable for everyday wear. For example, some gemstones may be too soft, too brittle, or otherwise not durable enough for engagement rings. Some jewelers address this

issue by promoting only diamonds since diamonds are the hardest gemstone available, but what does “hardness” really mean.  Hardness measures how difficult or easy the gemstone is to scratch. Since it is the hardest gemstone, no other gemstone can scratch a diamond except another diamond.   However, hardness does not necessarily equate to durability. Diamonds have perfect cleavage and are susceptible to chipping. Diamonds also exhibit a “grain” similar to wood, which is utilized by cutters when faceting the stone.  A bride with an active lifestyle, such as engaging in sports, may be surprised to notice small chips in her diamond engagement ring after a period of time. At the other end of the spectrum, nephrite jade is much softer than diamond and can be scratched by many other gemstones, but is so dense with interlocking crystal fibers that we find it virtually indestructible to knocks or dings.

The most popular gemstones for engagement rings are currently diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, morganite, opals, pearls, and some garnets.  Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are the traditional colored stones for engagement rings, while morganite, opals, pearls, and garnets are recent additions.  All are beautiful gemstones and look great in engagement rings. In choosing the gemstone, recognize that you will be wearing the ring for the rest of your life, and will eventually want to pass it down to the next generation (again, most gemstones are forever!).  Consider whether the gemstone you want represents a current fad or fashion trend that will go out of style with time. Ideally, you want to select a gem that will be just as desirable years from now. We recommend selecting a gemstone with a proven track record, or a gemstone that is rare and attractive and is expected to hold its value for decades.  We believe that the traditional choices of diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds (with the proper care), as well as green, pink and yellow garnets, spinel, and certain tourmalines fit within this category. Also, the shape of the gemstone is as important as the type and color. The current trend is toward geometric shapes, such as rectangles, triangles, and pears.  The popularity of these shapes is replacing the traditional rounds and ovals. If you are considering any of these shapes, please be aware that some of these geometric shapes are more subject to wear than others. We are also not sure whether the popularity of these geometric shapes will stand the test of time. Therefore, we recommend either traditional shapes or shapes that exhibit the gem’s brightness. Remember, a bright well-cut gemstone will always look good in an engagement ring, no matter the shape.

blue sapphire engagement ring

Blue sapphire engagement ring worn by Kate Middleton. Sapphires stand the test of time.


The recent trend has been strongly toward the use of pink gemstones in engagement rings, especially morganite.  Part of this trend is based on pink being one of the colors of choice for a wedding theme, and partly on recent marketing campaigns by gem dealers.  In fact, pink may be displacing blue as the color of choice. For this reason, we have decided to comment on this recent development.

Pink Mahenge Garnet

Since their discovery a few years ago, pink to purple Mahenge garnets have become popular gemstones For engagement rings

There are several different gemstones available in pink, such as sapphires, garnets, tourmaline, and spinel.  Jewelers have also recently promoted morganite, and you can find literally hundreds of morganite engagement rings on the internet.  All are discussed in more detail below. Recent demand for pink gemstones has caused an increase in the price of some types of gemstones, while the price of others has remained constant.  We cannot tell at this time whether this is a temporary or long-term trend. Therefore, we cannot predict whether these prices will be sustained in the long run. For this reason, if you wish to purchase a pink gemstone, we recommend selecting a bright stone that exhibits a vivid color.  Such stones should maintain their desirability irrespective of market trends, and will also look the best in engagement rings.

We will be providing a brief guide to each of the most popular colored gemstones used in engagement rings today.  However, we next want to consider the final step in selecting an engagement ring – the design of the ring itself.



The final, but not least important, step in choosing an engagement ring is the design.  One only has to search the internet or their local jewelry store to be exposed to thousands of different designs.  There are so many choices that it can be overwhelming.

We continue to stress that you will be wearing this ring every day for the rest of your life, so try to avoid designs that are “trendy”, or designs that may go out of style.  Otherwise, you may find yourself wanting to replace the ring in a few years. Check out internet sites, choose some designs you like, and then take these designs to several jewelers.  Each jeweler is different, so we encourage visiting several. We are still surprised that one-third of all couples visit only one jeweler when purchasing an engagement ring.

Experienced jewelers can help you with your selection.  Don’t hesitate to discuss your budget with the jeweler. Jewelers have access to hundreds of standard rings, such as stock settings from Stuller, that fit within every budget

As an alternative to a stock setting, you may want to consider a customized ring.  It may not be as expensive as you think. A customized engagement ring matched with a colored gemstone can be the daily reminder of your love and commitment to each other.  Please refer to our prior blog article regarding customized jewelry.

We hope this article helps you in your selection of an engagement ring.  Please feel free to email us at if you have any questions.



Colorless – diamond, moissanite

Red – ruby, spinel, rubellite tourmaline,

Blue – sapphire (including Montana), spinel, aquamarine

Pink – sapphire, spinel, morganite, tourmaline, garnet

Green – sapphire, spinel, tsavorite garnet, emerald, tourmaline

Yellow – Mali garnet, sapphire, spinel

Teal – Montana sapphire


Part 2: Brief Guide to Popular Colored Gems for Engagement Rings

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