The Best and Worst Gemstones for Alternative Engagement Rings

Ruby as an engagement ring alternative
AdziasJewelryAtelier / Etsy

Gemstone engagement rings have been rising in popularity the last few years. With growing concerns over conflict diamonds as well as the rising costs of owning a diamond, many are leaning toward alternative engagement rings as an ethical, more budget-friendly option.

Other gems are not only more affordable, they are also uniquely beautiful. Who can forget Kate Middleton's gorgeous heirloom sapphire engagement ring?  Even if you're absolutely convinced, don't rush to buy that colored...MORE stone just yet. Before you purchase your gemstone engagement ring, there are a few things you should know.

  • 01 of 08

    The Three Best Gemstone Choices

    Every gemstone has a different hardness factor. Basically, the hardness of any stone will tell us how resistant that stone is to being scratched.

    We rank this hardness on a scale of 1 to 10 known as the Mohs Scale. One of the reasons the term "diamonds are forever" exists is because diamonds are considerably more durable than any other gemstone and rank 10 on the Mohs Scale.  

    This isn't to say that a diamond can't be broken or chipped, but more that if you rub a nail against the...MORE surface of a diamond, it won't leave a scratch.  

    The following gemstones rank close enough to a diamond to be considered durable enough for everyday wear. 

  • 02 of 08


    Mohs Scale:  9.0

    Natural ruby is a timeless choice for an engagement ring because it is one of the three precious stones on the market that will look just as beautiful as the day you bought it for many years to come. 

  • 03 of 08


    Mohs Scale: 9.0 

    Sapphire has been one of the most popular stones for engagement rings for centuries, even before diamonds became the gem of choice.  This is likely due to the stone's incredible scratch resistance and beautiful navy and cornflower coloring.  

  • 04 of 08


    Mohs Scale: 7.5 - 8 

    Aquamarine will show scratches on its surface over time if proper care isn't taken. It may even chip if you're not careful.  However, this stone is extremely popular because of its unique light aqua coloring.

    Some of the lighter varieties of aquamarine can be confused with diamonds.   Aquamarine is not quite as hard as blue topaz, but unlike blue topaz, these gems are usually all natural and are much more expensive. 

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    The Three Worst Gemstone Choices

    When choosing a ring that you will be wearing every day, it's important to take the Mohs Scale into consideration. There are also other factors  to consider, like how prone the stone is to being chipped. 

    If you have your heart set on one of the following stones that is ranked poorly, choose a very protective setting. Take extra care while wearing your ring, and make sure your stone isn't scratched or submerged in any liquids for an extended period of time.

  • 06 of 08


    Pearls for engagement rings
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    Mohs Scale: 2.5 - 4.5

    Even though pearl is one of the softest gems available, many people are still drawn to the idea of using a pearl or pearls in their engagement ring.  One small imperfection in the nacre or outside layer of the pearl can cause the entire coating to detach and become damaged.  

    Pearls are also often glued into place which makes them very susceptible to falling out and becoming lost. 

  • 07 of 08


    Using emeralds in engagement rings
    Jan Sochor / Getty Images

    Mohs Scale: 7.5 - 8

    Even though emeralds are pretty resistant to scratching, they are not recommended for engagement rings because all the inclusions and cavities within the gemstone make the stone extremely susceptible to cracking and chipping.  

    Some jewelers are reluctant to set expensive emeralds without having the customer sign a waiver due to the risk involved.  

  • 08 of 08


    Using opals in engagement rings
    Ton Zwartjens / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Mohs Scale: 5.5 - 6.5

    Opal is one of the most beautiful and magical gemstones, though it has long been known by some to be bad luck.  Part of this superstition has to do with how soft these stones are.  

    Surface scratches can often be overlooked and hidden due to the opaque nature of the stone, but the tendency for chipping makes this stone a poor choice.