January: Garnet February: Amethyst – March: Aquamarine – April: Diamond – May: Emerald – June: Pearl or Alexandrite – July: Ruby – August: Peridot – September: Sapphire – October: Tourmaline or Opal – November: Topaz or Citrine – December: Tanzanite or Zircon or Turquoise
On the whole, coloured gemstones and simulated diamonds are far less expensive than diamonds. Choosing an alternative to a diamond can significantly lessen the cost of your engagement ring (or give the option of a much larger stone)! There are some exceptions, for example, large rubies (above 2 or 3 carats in weight) are very rare and can easily rival the cost of good quality diamonds.
Choosing a coloured or synthetic gemstone can be a socially responsible choice as you bypass the ethical concerns linked to diamond production.
In some unstable central African and West African countries, revolutionary groups have taken control of diamond mines and are using the proceeds from diamond sales to finance their fighting. The diamonds sold through this process are known as conflict diamonds or blood diamonds.
The Kimberley Process was established in 2002 by the United Nations in response to public concern about conflict or blood diamonds. It provides an international certification process that uses strict requirements to control the production of rough diamonds and prevent illicit stones from entering the legitimate diamond trade.
However, it is recognized that there are limitations to this process and it is still often difficult to guarantee the origin of a diamond. In modern day, lab grown diamonds and alternatives have been made available because of technological advances.
If opting for a coloured gemstone for your engagement ring, you can choose a precious gemstone (ruby, sapphire or emerald) or any one of a multitude of beautiful semi-precious gemstones. I discuss some of the more popular gemstones in the following section.
TIP: THE MOHS SCALE
Consider the durability of the gemstone that you choose. Certain gems are too brittle or soft for everyday wear, and may be better reserved for occasional rings. The Mohs scale is used to measure the hardness of gemstones. The scale runs from one to ten, with ten (the rating of diamonds) being the hardest.
Ruby Engagement Rings
Mohs Hardness: 9
Ruby engagement rings are beautiful and dramatic. Rubies are a variety of the mineral corundum. All other coloured varieties of corundum (blue, white, green, pink etc.) are classed as sapphires. Rubies are extremely hard and make a good choice for an engagement ring. If you decide on a ruby ring, you will be choosing from a range of reds and deep pinks, with the deepest, blood red, being the priciest. When looking at ruby rings, aside from colour, your main concern should be the transparency of the stone.
Sapphire Engagement Rings
Mohs Hardness: 9
Sapphire engagement rings are a popular alternative to diamond rings. Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with the 18-carat oval sapphire ring that belonged to his mother, Princess Diana. While you usually see blue sapphire engagement rings, you may be surprised at the different colours that sapphires are available in.
Rather than a blue sapphire ring, you could choose a white sapphire engagement ring, a yellow sapphire ring or even a pink sapphire ring. Look for colour and clarity when choosing a sapphire.
Emerald Engagement Rings
Mohs Hardness: 7.5 – 8
Unlike sapphire rings, emerald rings come in one colour – deep, glorious green. The name of this variety of beryl comes from the Greek word smaragdus, meaning green gem. Colour and clarity are the most important considerations when choosing your perfect emerald ring.
Not as hard as sapphires or rubies, emeralds also tend to have many inclusions (imperfections) so are more prone to breakage when impacted. However, good emeralds are still tough enough to stand up to daily wear and so an emerald ring can be a good choice for an engagement ring.
Opal Engagement Rings
Mohs Hardness: 5.5 – 6.5
Opal engagement rings are a personal favourite of mine. The name opal derives from the Greek opallos, which means to see a change (of color). Opals come in various background colours from milky white to black and display sparkling flashes of yellow, orange, green, red and blue. Their multicoloured sparkle gives them a unique look. Opal rings are not for everyone, due to the fragility of the gemstone. However, if you are willing to provide a little extra care you can still consider an opal ring for an engagement ring.
Pearl Engagement Rings
Mohs Hardness: 3 – 4
Unlike other gemstones, pearls are not a mineral. Rather, they are formed within certain shelled mollusks, usually the pearl oyster or the freshwater mussel. Pearls are composed of translucent layers of mother of pearl that provide this gemstone with its exquisite and unique lustre.
Similar to opal rings, pearl rings should not be considered as engagement rings unless you are prepared to be very careful with them. Pearls are soft enough to be scratched with a knife or a coin and so a pearl ring is likely to become damaged if worn daily.