“Let me see the ring!” If you’ve begun sharing the news of your engagement, you’re extremely familiar with this excited demand. But who says the masses have to ooh and ahh over a diamond on your hand? A ring of any color, shape, style and stone will do, and these days, more brides are branching out to find other gems that truly capture their hearts.
While the wedding ring is a traditional symbol of the joining of two people choosing to declare their eternal love for one another, “it doesn’t have to look traditional, ” says Leah Long, manager at Ware Jewelers on the Eastern Shore. “A nontraditional ring lets the wearer express her individuality, ” Long explains.
She knows a thing or two about helping women find their perfect match — jewelry-wise, that is. “It could be a different colored stone or metal choice, or even band style. You can often find a larger colored stone for less than the price of a diamond.”
So, what are some popular alternatives? “Blue sapphire is probably the most sought after non-diamond choice, ” Long says. She herself wears a sapphire and diamond wedding ring. Rubies also rank high on the list, followed by the pink-tinted Morganite. Pearls and opals, while less common, make stunning rings, as well.
Just like when you consider the four C’s when shopping for diamonds (cut, color, clarity and carat), shoppers should carefully consider their ring choice. “The biggest thing to consider is what the wearer does and how they wear their jewelry, ” Long shares. “A sapphire can withstand more wear than an opal can because opals are soft and can easily break.” Emerald, topaz, moissanite and the popular ruby rank high on the Mohs scale (gem durability, see below) and will hold up to decades of wear. On the flip side, with low scores, pearls and other gorgeous stones such as onyx, lapis lazuli and turquoise could require regular repairs or replacement.
Another tip for finding the perfect ring in your budget: Don’t limit your selection to designated “wedding” or “engagement” rings. For starters, many of these look similar, which means determining your favorite may be harder. Plus, the wedding industry is a booming business, meaning anything marked as such probably sees a significant price markup. Instead, go to the store and just browse until you find what you like.
If none of the options you see jump out to you, consider commissioning a custom ring. You can control everything from the center stone to the metal color to the details of the band. Select your center stone first — whether a vibrant topaz or a diamond-like moissanite — and work from there for a truly one-of-a-kind jewel. “People often freak out when they hear the word ‘custom, ’” Long shares. “But it can be affordable!”
A relative scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most durable) of minerals and gemstones. For the longest lasting rings, choose stones from the top categories (preferably 7 or higher).
Diamond > 10
Ruby, sapphire > 9
Topaz > 8
Amethyst, citrine, Tiger’s Eye > 7
Moonstone, amazonite > 6
Gemstones with low scores mean they could damage easily; however, they are still beautiful for collectors or special occasions.
Opal > 5
Fluorite > 4
Pearls > 3
Alabaster, selenite > 2
Talc > 1