Alternative Engagement Ring Gemstones

Diamond Alternatives – A Real Picture And Guide.

Not everyone wants to pay for mined diamonds. Their high cost and poor investment value are just two reasons you might want to opt for an alternative. To understand why we say this, read our article on “Why you should not be buying a diamond ring”. We have an in depth discussion on the perils of white diamond mining and marketing.

Top to bottom, Green Sapphires; Teal and mermaid sapphires; Salt and Pepper Diamonds

Top to bottom, Green Sapphires; Teal and mermaid sapphires; Salt and Pepper Diamonds

As we remove them from the equation, it is only fitting to suggest a suitable alternative to them. Colored gemstones for engagement rings was the norm before an intensive marketing strategy for diamonds threw them over. In all honesty, picking the perfect colored gemstone today is a lost art and the internet and market is flooded with unverified information regarding them.

Let us begin at the basics. When we look at engagement rings, there are 3 standards that have to be met, apart from the standard 4C’s of Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat.

– Hardness:

We need a hard stone for everyday wear, NOT the hardest stone in the world! An engagement ring is meant to foreshadow a marriage, not murder! 

While diamonds have the hardness of about 10 Moh, it has been proven clinically that an engagement ring can have a hardness of anything above 7Moh to prevent it from being scratched and worn out by the most common culprit – household dust.

– Clarity:

The GIA very specifically puts clarity as, “A gemstone’s clarity grade indicates the relative absence of inclusions (materials trapped inside the gem), fractures, and blemishes (surface imperfections) that affect its appearance and structural integrity.”

Clarity is an inherent quality, that cannot be altered by man mechanically. Some of the inclusions in some stones like sapphires can be heat treated. The choice of an opaque, transparent or translucent stone is very subjective. However, it should be remembered that the more the stone is included, the weaker the matrix of the stone is and it is more susceptible to fracture.

– Optical Performance:

Almost the single most important factor while choosing an engagement ring is how it looks! The brilliance of diamonds is what exactly made it so favourable in this regard. However other optical properties like pleochroism, asterism and more is what keeps the excitement alive about coloured stones.

When it comes to coloured stones, the single most important element is well, COLOUR of course! In all honesty, colour is an extremely subjective matter. However, efforts have been made to classify it and it is important to understand these terms to really understand what is trending in terms of wholesale coloured gemstones.


The hue describes the dominant colour on the scale. It maybe one colour or a combination of a few like those present in a bicolour parti sapphire.


2. Tone:

The tone describes the degree of lightness or darkness of a colour. Traditionally, a medium toned gemstone is considered valuable.


Saturation is the intensity of the colour. In conventional terms, the more the saturated the stone is, the more intense is its colour and hence its increased value.


However, it would be completely unfair to purchase a coloured gemstone based on just these physical values. While one maybe drawn to a more saturated, medium tones hue, another may prefer a lighter, more pastel shade! As wholesalers of coloured gemstones, it is therefore essential to hold a collection of colours that have a range and can appeal to a variety of customers.

Most articles on diamond alternatives or “coloured gemstones” will give a generic idea on rubies, sapphires and emeralds as the best way to go if you an alternative bride. Let’s face the reality; the best quality sapphires, diamonds and rubies are often costlier than diamonds and are honestly the stuff of dreams. Additionally, they are trickier to spot, as the markets are flooded with duplicates and heavily treated stones that claim to be “The one and only original one!”.

Everyone who deals in gemstones today knows that “Kashmir Cornflower Blue Sapphires” or “ Pigeon Blood Red Burmese Rubies” are mostly just nomenclatures today. These legendary mines are almost empty as of now.  Therefore today, we will discuss honest and real options that are:

  1. Cost effective
  2. Available naturally in good quantity and quality.
  3. Uniquely coloured and textured.

Alternative Engagement Ring GemstonesNGM’s top 5 choices for alternative engagement ring gemstones;L-R Spinel, White Sapphire, Mermaid Sapphire, Salt and Pepper Diamonds, Pink Sapphires.

1.Teal Sapphires and Mermaid Sapphires

The incredible combination of a deep oceanic blue and a vivacious earthy green, fulfils the very critical criteria of hardness (9-9.5 Moh), eye-clean clarity and brilliant optical performance of bicolour and pleochroism. Teal and mermaid sapphires have the added advantage of being majorly ethically mined and rarely treated. To understand why teal sapphires have gained the upper ground in terms of popularity in the last decade, read, the in-depth analysis on trends in teal sapphires.

Mermaid sapphires are teal sapphires that have the perfect ratio of blue and green, without a hint of yellow and grey (which are present in some measure in teal sapphires). They are the perfect specimen of teal sapphires and make for excellent engagement ring gemstones. 

Fancy cut teal and mermaid sapphiresFancy cut teal and mermaid sapphires

2. Pink Sapphires

Pink sapphires have been the sweetheart of every celebrity or royal who had wished to stand apart from the crowd of diamonds and blue sapphires. Traditionally, extremely popular in Asian and South-East Asian countries due to the mystical beliefs associated with them, pink sapphires have found a strong footing across the world, primarily for their youthful colour and rarity. Being sapphires, they are quite hard and will not wear out easily on everyday wear. A good quality natural pink sapphire generally falls in the VS (Very Slightly included) or VVS (Very Very Slightly Included) grade on the GIA clarity grade scale. In terms of appearance, be it hot pink or bubble-gum pink or light pastel pink, these stones are very difficult to ignore!

Pink Sapphire RoundsPink Sapphire rounds.

3.Salt and Pepper Diamonds:

In all fairness, salt and pepper are really diamonds. However, for the longest time, diamonds with inclusions were either valued very low in the ladder or simply discarded. Only recently, this wasteful method has been channelled into something worthwhile. The black and white inclusions give the diamond a peculiar appearance, making each stone distinctly unique from the next. They can either be lightly speckled, almost cloudy or heavily included; perfect to cater to a variety of tastes. Additionally, since there had been no demand for them until recently, salt and pepper diamonds do not have the unethical issues associated with them as do diamonds. A diamond, after all, they are a 10 on the Moh scale and the hardest thing on earth! However, in all honesty, one must remember that inclusions do compromise the strength of the stone.

Salt and Pepper diamonds with a variety of inclusions

Salt and Pepper diamonds with a variety of inclusions


Historic Underdogs, modern day marvels – Spinel has been mistaken for the big three for centuries and have only recently been applauded for their stunning colours that spark from an inherent clarity. Spinels are all natural and do not require any treatment, plus that have a 7.5 to 8 on the MOh scale, making them suitable for daily wear. Many expensive gemstone ateliers across the world today deal exclusively in spinels, owing to their excellent quality, affordability and high investment value in the future.

SpinelFancy and standard cut spinel

5.White Sapphires:

Perhaps the most conventional or unconventional gemstones in this list, the white sapphire has been the direct competitive for white diamonds for a very long time. With just a point off the hardness scale when compared to diamonds, white sapphires is a good white diamond alternative in terms of durability. While they are striking in their own right, it must be remembered that they do not possess the brilliance of diamonds and are more subtle and elegant. 

White sapphires do not posses the fire and brilliance of diamonds but they are definitely more affordable and certifiable.Calibrated white sapphires


The shackles of expectations and standards around conventional gemstones are steadily breaking and it is wonderful to see how much more open the gemstone community as well as consumers are becoming towards alternative gemstones. This is the perfect time to invest in other gemstones as engagement rings can be something other than diamonds for sure!


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