Top 10 Best Gemstones for Engagement Rings Other Than Diamond

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend – but they’re not the only gemstone you should consider if you’re about to pop the question. The best stones for engagement rings are ones that offer a personal meaning. Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are some of the most popular alternatives to diamond rings, but they’re not the only gemstones you should consider.

Shopping for a vintage or antique ring means you get access to the best stones for engagement rings at a more budget-friendly price point. You’ll also be choosing a more sustainable way of buying an engagement ring.

We’re sharing the 10 best stones for engagement rings and the reasons you might consider them as an alternative to a traditional diamond ring

1. Sapphire

A sapphire engagement ring can be the ‘something blue’ for your special day. Sapphires are considered one of the ‘big four’ gemstones and make an ideal alternative to a traditional diamond ring as the September birthstone. The Greeks and Egyptians considered sapphires as symbolic of faithfulness and truth.

Sapphires were originally mined in Ceylon, modern-day Sri Lanka, from as early as 500 BC. Some of the rarest sapphires come from Kashmir and have a velvet colour, with a clarity that reminds you of silk. Burma is also famous for its sapphires, which typically are darker in colour with a cleaner clarity. Natural sapphires also have been produced in Australia, Cambodia, Madagascar, Thailand, and Tanzania.

It’s a common misconception that all sapphires are blue. Sapphires can be formed in any colour, though red sapphires are known as rubies. Most jewellers refer to non-blue sapphires as being ‘fancy sapphires’. Pink sapphires are considered rare compared to their blue counterparts. 

Sapphires vs. Diamonds

Sapphires are a more affordable alternative to diamonds, a fact that shocks most couples when they’re shopping for engagement rings. You’ll typically pay significantly less for a sapphire that’s a similar size to a comparable diamond. You can expect to pay more for a larger sapphire, especially if it’s set alongside diamonds or other gemstones.

Vintage Sapphire Engagement Ring

The most affordable and sustainable way to buy a sapphire engagement ring is by shopping for an antique or vintage style. Vintage sapphires were hand-cut and set, making them more durable than synthetic sapphires, which can become brittle over time. These lab-grown sapphires are mass-produced, lacking the unique personality you get from a one-of-a-kind natural gemstone. 

Vintage sapphire engagement rings are royally approved and have a rich history of royal brides. One of the most famous engagement rings in the world is the sapphire engagement ring worn by Princess Diana and Catherine, Princess of Wales.

Are you considering buying a sapphire? Read our in-depth sapphire engagement ring buyer’s guide here.

2. Ruby

Rubies are widely known as the “king of precious stones” with an intense red hue and timeless elegance that’s long been associated with power and passion throughout history. This red stone was believed to symbolise protection and wealth in ancient times with several cultures linking it to commitment and love.

The word ‘ruby’ comes from the Latin ‘ruber’. While we often think of red rubies as being one of the best stones for engagement rings, you’ll also find the stone with pink, purple, and orange tints. The finest rubies are found in Burma, but the gemstone is also mined in Australia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

Today, most of us know rubies as being the July birthstone and as a traditional gift to mark a 15th or 40th wedding anniversary.

Rubies vs. Diamonds

Rubies measure a 9 on the Mohs scale, making them a tough and durable stone for everyday wear. What makes rubies different from diamonds is that very few gemstones grow large enough to become wearable jewellery gems. Most rubies come with a higher price tag than their diamond counterpart.

Purchasing a vintage or antique engagement ring is the ideal way to buy a ruby without paying an eyewatering price tag. The price of vintage rubies will depend on their quality. Rubies are tested under the same ‘4 Cs’ as diamonds: colour, carat, clarity, and cut. Most rubies are cut in a round, emerald, pearl, or oval shape.

The warm hues of a ruby make it one of the best stones for engagement rings as an alternative to diamonds.

Vintage Ruby Engagement Ring

Natural gemstones of a large size, including rubies, can be amongst the most expensive in the world. If you’ve fallen in love with the idea of a ruby ring, shopping for a vintage style can make it more affordable and sustainable. Ruby engagement rings were popular throughout the Edwardian, Georgian, and Art Deco eras, giving you plenty of styles and settings to choose from.  

3. Aquamarine

The aquamarine gemstone is synonymous with the splendour of the sea. This blue gemstone takes its name from the Italian word for seawater and represents hope and happiness. Throughout ancient civilization, aquamarine stones were worn by those at sea to ensure safe passage across open waters. Today, most of us associate aquamarines as being the March birthstone.

The colour is one of the most important things to consider when buying an aquamarine engagement ring. The shade of blue can vary from greenish hues to blue undertones and pastel tints. Aquamarines with a dark blue or slightly greenish blue hue will fetch the highest price tag.

Aquamarine vs. Diamonds

Aquamarine is one of the best gemstones for engagement rings as a stone with plenty of personality. While it gives you the same look as a diamond, the blue hue helps it stand out against traditional styles.

The natural blue and green hues of aquamarine come from its metallic ions and ferrous iron. This gemstone is typically mined in Pakistan, Mozambique, Zambia, Madagascar, and Nigeria. The most famous aquamarines with the clearest blue colouring are mined in Brazil.

It’s worth noting that an aquamarine is less durable than a diamond, coming in at a 7.5 to 8 on the Moh’s scale. Aquamarines with natural inclusions are more vulnerable to damage, especially from sharp blows. Most jewellers recommend avoiding wearing aquamarine rings in the sunlight for prolonged times as exposure to the sun can fade the stone’s colour.

Vintage Aquamarine Engagement Rings

Although aquamarine rings date back as far as 500 BC, they’re popular today as a 19th wedding anniversary gift. The stone symbolises commitment, making it an ideal choice for an engagement ring.

The early 20th century is when the aquamarine rings we know today first became popular. Aquamarines were one of the most used gemstones during the Art Deco era due to their simple elegance and clean lines. You’ll typically see vintage aquamarine engagement rings set with diamonds or sapphires.

4. Emerald

Emerald is one of the best gemstones for engagement rings and a popular alternative to diamonds. The gemstone has long been a symbol of love and truth. The ancient Greeks and Romans associated the stone with the goddesses Aphrodite and Venus respectively. Across the sea, the Egyptians believed emeralds were the source of eternal life.

Today, most of us associate rubies as being a romantic stone of love and passion, but for most of history, it was the emerald gemstone that had this association. The gemstone’s green colour is symbolic of spring, new beginnings, and vitality. It’s the perfect gemstone to mark the next chapter of your life together, making it a popular choice for engagement rings.

Emeralds are also the May birthstone and are associated with 12th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

Emerald vs. Diamond

Emeralds sit between a 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale, making them slightly less resilient than a sapphire or ruby gemstone. However, most emeralds have lasted for generations. Vintage and antique emerald rings tend to have the best cut and setting, adding to their durability.

Emeralds are considered 20 times rarer than diamonds, leading to their higher price tag. Purchasing an antique or vintage emerald will usually give you access to more diverse styles at an accessible price point for most couples.

Vintage Emerald Engagement Rings

Emerald engagement rings jumped onto the jewellery scene in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as part of the Egyptian revival movement. Most of the antique engagement rings we see today are from the Art Deco era and are influenced by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.

One of the most popular styles of vintage emerald rings is the channel set, where the emerald is usually set alongside smaller gemstones. You’ll also see emeralds set in large cocktail rings.

5. Garnet

Garnet is one of the best stones for engagement rings if you want something eye-catching and unique. The name is derived from the Latin word for ‘grain’ due to the stone’s similarity to pomegranate seeds. It’s the January birthstone and has long been associated with commitment, friendship, protection, trust, and love.

Throughout history, garnet has been worn to ensure safe travel. Wearing a garnet stone was believed to bring health, peace, and prosperity to the wearer. It’s how the stone earned the nickname of the ‘gem of faith’.

Garnet vs. Diamond

Garnet gemstones fall between 6.5 and 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. You’ll want to pay close attention to the setting and cut of the garnet stone if you’re choosing it as an engagement ring. While these rings need a little extra TLC, they are still suitable for everyday wear with the proper care and attention.

What makes garnet an ideal alternative to a diamond is its range of colours. Pyrope is the most common garnet stone and has a bright red hue. Almandine is the other popular garnet stone with a more subtle red hue. You’ll also see some garnet gemstones on the market with a purple hue, which is considered rarer.

Today, most garnet stones are mined in Alaska and Idaho, including star garnets, which have a six-ray star carved into the stone. If you love the look of a ruby ring but have a smaller budget, consider an Almandine garnet engagement ring instead.

Vintage Garnet Engagement Rings

Garnet engagement rings first became popular during the Victorian era when the stone began to flood the jewellery market and became a go-to choice for pendants. Most garnet gemstones were set against enamel or gold.

Victorians associated the garnet gemstone with its pomegranate namesake with most jewellery mimicking the appearance of the fruit with red gemstone clusters forming part of larger pieces.

The Art Deco era is another period where we see a large number of garnet rings. Its history and visual architecture made it popular with jewellery designers who wanted to romanticise their pieces.

6. Topaz

Topaz is a gemstone found in an array of colours, from icy blues to fiery oranges and honey yellows. It’s widely created in a range of cool and warm tones as a lustrous gem you’ll want to consider when buying an engagement ring. Topaz has one of the most extensive colour selections of any gemstone with colourless topaz stones also being popular.

What makes Topaz stones so stunning is their pleochroic properties, meaning they can show different colours in certain lights. Topaz is usually associated with 4th and 23rd wedding anniversaries. The blue topaz is an alternative December birthstone, while the golden topaz is the November birthstone.

Topaz vs. Diamond

The topaz gemstone is considered a relatively hard stone. While it’s softer than corundum, it’s harder than quartz, making it ideal for everyday jewellery. It sits at an 8 on the Mohs hardness scale and comes in a variety of colours. Topaz is one of the best diamond alternatives due to its array of colours.

Red is the most sought-after colour for topaz stones with less than 0.5% of the gemstone having this hue. The red topaz is usually referred to as the ‘Imperial Topaz’ and fetches a large price tag due to its rarity.

One of the most affordable topaz stones is the blue variant, especially if you’re looking for a larger engagement ring. You’ll notice a smaller price difference as you go up in carat size compared to other colours.

Vintage Topaz Engagement Rings

Topaz engagement rings first became popular across Europe in the 18th century before becoming more widespread during the Victorian Era.

Today, most of the jewellery you’ll find in your local jewellery stores is made using topaz following the discovery of large topaz deposits in Brazil during the mid-19th century. Its accessibility makes topaz one of the best stones for engagement rings if you’re on a budget.

7. Zircon

Zircon is a colourful gemstone that shouldn’t be confused with cubic zirconia, the stone often used to imitate diamonds. The colourless zircon gemstone has a brilliance known as fire with properties closely associated with diamonds. However, this gemstone deserves to be considered on its own.

It comes in an array of colours, from reds to blue and pastel hues. Blue is one of the most popular Zircon colours with jewellers and customers. Most gemologists put zircons into three categories – low, intermediate, and high – depending on their properties and the damage done to their crystal structure by radiation.

High zircons have their full crystal structure with little to no damage. These stones are considered the optimal zircon and the ones most often used by jewellers. Intermediate zircons have some structural damage caused by radioactive elements but may still be desirable depending on their visual appearance.

Zircon vs. Diamond

While most people have heard of a zircon gemstone, they’ve never actually seen one. However, the colourless zircon was one of the most popular diamond alternatives during the early 20th century, but jewellers have moved to more convincing simulant stones in the years since.

It’s unfair for zircon stones to be most known as a diamond lookalike as they have their own history and story. During the Middle Ages, zircon stones were believed to help protect against evil spirits, promote sleep, and attract wisdom, fortune, and honour.

Vintage Zircon Engagement Rings

The best zircon engagement rings are antique and vintage styles. Blue zircon rings became popular during the Victorian era, dating from the 1880s onwards.

George Kunz, a gemmologist famous for working at Tiffany’s as a gem buyer, is largely credited with helping to popularise zircon stones and make them mainstream. Kunz proposed naming the zircon stone ‘starlite for its fiery nature, but the name didn’t become a trend.

8. Peridot

Peridot is a gemstone famous for coming from deep within the earth’s mantle. This yellow-green stone is an extreme gem found in lava and meteorites. The ancient Egyptians mined the gemstone from Zabargad, an island on the Red Sea. Most of the large peridots in the world today come from this island. The Egyptians referred to peridot as the “gem of the sun” due to its yellowish-green hues.

Many historians believe that Cleopatra’s famous emeralds were peridot as many people during the medieval period also confused the two stones. Today, this green gemstone is the August birthstone.

Peridot vs. Diamond

Peridot is not as durable as a diamond. It sits on a 6.5 to 7 rating on the Mohs hardness scale, meaning they are more comparable to a quartz gemstone in terms of hardness.

The most sought-after peridot gemstones are those with a grass-green hue free of brown tint. You’ll usually only find these clear gemstones in larger carat sizes. Most smaller peridot stones have brown undertones or yellowish-green hues that result in a lower price tag.

Fine peridot gemstones can be mined from all over the world. However, the famous Zabargad island in the Red Sea is no longer being commercially mined. Peridot gemstones from this island will come at a premium price due to their historical significance. Alternatively, you’ll find peridot stones from Pakistan and Myanmar.

Vintage Peridot Engagement Rings

Peridot became one of the most popular gemstones from the mid-1880s to the end of the Art Deco era. Most of the vintage Peridot engagement rings we see today come from the end of the Victorian era or the Edwardian era as the Peridot gemstone was King Edward VII’s favourite, leading to a rise in popularity of the stone during his reign. 

9. Tanzanite

Tanzanite is famous for being a gemstone found in only one place – at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. This lush blue stone is actually mined with a naturally reddish-brown hue that becomes a stable blue or violet colour when it’s heat treated. Tanzanite is the December birthstone and is used to commemorate 24th wedding anniversaries.

This gemstone has strong pleochroism properties, meaning that every Tanzanite gemstone is a little different, displaying a mixture of blue and violet hues depending on the light. Most tanzanite stones are either blue or have a light to medium purple colour. There are very few tanzanite stones on the market with an intensely saturated blue-violet colour. These gemstones are usually only found above 5 carats in size.

Vintage Tanzanite Engagement Rings

Tanzanite engagement rings don’t have the history of other gemstones on the list, but they’re still worth considering. The gemstone became popular after Tiffany & Co. began to use stone in 1968.

Tanzanite became popular almost overnight and remains one of the most sought-after coloured stones today. Most of the vintage Tanzanite engagement rings you’ll find today mimic the appearance of the original Tiffany styles.

10. Opal

Opal stones are a class in their own right. They’re unique as every opal is different with a unique personality. While opals look visually stunning, they require a little extra care as a more delicate stone. Opal is the October birthstone and has long been associated with truth, purity, and hope.

The opal stone sits between 5.5 and 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, meaning it is susceptible to scratching. Most opals will have a protective setting or be. placed alongside other stones to improve their durability.

Vintage Opal Engagement Rings

Opal rings first became popular in the late 19th century due to Queen Victoria. She began to wear opals following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, leading to the popularisation of opals as a symbol of new beginnings and hope. Most of the vintage opal engagement rings on the market today come from the Victorian era and offer a unique piece of history.

Explore the Best Stones for Engagement Rings

We stock antique and vintage engagement rings at Ellibelle Jewellery, including the best diamond alternatives. Each ring is hand-selected to ensure its quality and professionally verified to give you added peace of mind. Explore our latest arrivals here.