In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented Mary of Burgundy with a ring set with a diamond, along with a written proposal of marriage, which won her heart and hand above all other suitors. This, we believe, is the first recorded instance in which a diamond ring has been gifted in celebration of an engagement, and today the act of presenting a diamond ring to the one you hope to marry is a much-loved tradition all over the world. At Preston’s, that tradition is our speciality.
Diamonds are not only incredibly beautiful, particularly when cut to maximise their natural fire within, but they are incredibly practical. Up until quite recently, diamond was the hardest natural material known to man, and so they are perfect for withstanding the bumps and scrapes of everyday wear, with a hardness on the Mohs scale of 10.
However, for those who dare to be different, or those looking to make a bold statement with their engagement ring, there are alternative gem stones rapidly growing in popularity. In no particular order, we’ve listed our top ten favourite alternative stones for engagement rings.
Morganite was discovered in 1910 in Pala, California and was named after JP Morgan, an American financier and passionate gemstone collector. It belongs in the Beryl family, along with aquamarine and emerald, and in the past decade its popularity has increased tenfold. With its delicate hues of translucent pink, peach and sometimes pale purple, the stone is often found as a focal-point solitaire of varying cuts and accented with smaller white diamonds.
Morganite has a score of 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which means that although it makes for a more unusual and pretty stone for an engagement ring, extra care needs to be taken, as it may be prone to scratching or chipping with excessive wear.
Tanzanite is part of the Zoisite mineral family, along with the likes of thulite and anyolite, but is by far the most valuable. A recent discovery, Tanzanite was first seen in the jewellery industry in 1967, and was named by the New York jeweller Tiffany & Co, after the country it was discovered in. Tanzanite can only be found in Tanzania and Kenya, and is over 1,000 times rarer than diamond. So rare in fact, it has been dubbed as the ‘one generation stone’ as it is rumoured that mining will cease completely within the next twenty years.
Tanzanite is trichroic, meaning it shows three different colours at any one time dependant on the light and angle at the which the wearer is admiring it. Its colours range from a deep sapphire blue, to an intense violet blue, through to delicate shades of lilac. The vast majority of Tanzanite seen in the jewellery industry today has been permanently treated to achieve these varying shades of translucent indigo, as naturally the stone occurs with bands of yellow and brown running through it; inclusions that are deemed undesirable.
Tanzanite is enjoying a long period of popularity due to its unique beauty and rarity. It has a rating of 6 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale, and so those who choose this stone as their engagement ring should take extra precautions with its care. The design of the engagement ring should ideally be surrounded or flanked by diamonds for some hard-wearing protection, and the ring should be taken off for hands-on daily activities to avoid it becoming scratched and damaged.
The sapphire is the number one choice for coloured gemstones in engagement rings. Part of the corundum family, it scores a 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it one of the most durable coloured stones for everyday wear.
One of the world’s most famous engagement rings, and arguably the world’s most famed sapphire, is that of the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton. Originally belonging to the Duke’s mother, Princess Diana, the 12 carat Ceylon Sapphire cluster caused a great deal of controversy in 1981 as the ring was not custom made, was not unique, and was available to anyone in Garrard’s window. Diana’s choice was crudely labelled the ‘commoners ring’ by the media, however ironically, went on to become the world’s most popular engagement ring style for the next decade.
Sapphires are renowned for their striking shade of blue, which range from a deep black-blue to a delicate pale shade, however sapphires can be found in a vast selection of colours, including yellow, green and pink, to name but a few. The rarest sapphire is the Padparadshca, an alluring shade of apricot, famed recently for being at the centre of Princess Eugenie of York’s engagement ring.
The emerald is a member of the Beryl family, and has been one of the most valuable gems on earth for thousands of years. Scoring 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, extra care should be taken when worn daily. Up to 90% of the world’s emeralds are mined in Columbia, and the top quality stones are extremely rare. A fine quality emerald is found to be the colour of a spring meadow, and should be transparent and pure in colour. Emeralds are often included, however these inclusions are accepted if the colour and transparency is good.
Emerald engagement rings were favoured by such celebrities as Halle Berry, Victoria Beckham and Grace Kelly. They are usually found flanked by diamonds for extra protection and are often set into yellow gold to compliment the rich green hue.
Ruby is the gemstone of passion. A member of the corundum family, there’s no mistaking it with its sapphire cousins, as ruby is the only red stone in the family. It ranges in shade from a pink raspberry red to a deep, intense blood-red, and it’s the blood-red variety, particularly those with good clarity and transparency, that are the most sought-after and valuable. Scoring a 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, Rubies are robust enough to withstand daily wear and so make the ideal stone for an engagement ring, and can be worn as a classic solitaire or, as is more favoured, accented with diamonds.
Legend has it that rubies will bring the wearer good health, wealth and wisdom, as well as successful relationships, and so is the ideal gemstone to gift a loved one.
6. Tsavorite Garnet
Rich in regal green, Tsavorite is the rarest of the world’s garnets, and one of the most valuable. Named after Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, the two billion year old stone has only been mined since the late 1960s. They range in colour from a yellowish pale green to a deep rich green. The purest green tsavorites are only found in Tsavo, the finest of which are visually comparable to the finest of emeralds.
The stone measures 7.5 on the Mohs scale, and so therefore extra precautions should be taken if worn daily, as the surface may be prone to scratching with heavy wear. Tsavorite remains however, a durable stone which is very rarely treated or glass-filled, and rarely displays natural inclusions.
Alexandrite is quickly becoming one of the most searched for coloured gemstones on the internet, however, finding genuine alexandrite on the high street is near on impossible. Part of the Chrysoberyl family, Alexandrite measures 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it not only a distinctively different stone of choice for an engagement ring, but also a practical one. Providing the stone has not been treated to fill a fracture, they can be cleaned in an ultrasonic machine and with steam, the same way a diamond would be.
Alexandrite was first discovered in 1834 in the emerald mines along the Tokovaya River, and was named after the Russian tsar, Alexander II. The stone displays one of the most extraordinary colour changes in the gem world, with the rarest and most valuable changing from a pure green in natural sunlight, to a raspberry red in incandescent light.
Predominantly found in Brazil, Sri Lanka and the states, Tourmaline can be found in all manner of vivid colours, from raspberry red, watermelon two-tone and electrifying neon blue. The stone was first discovered in Saxony, Germany, in a tin mine in the 1400s, in the form of Schorl, a black tourmaline which accounts for more than 95% of the world’s tourmaline. Iron-rich tourmalines are black, blue and deep brown, whereas lithium-rich tourmalines can be found in practically any colour. They are rarely found colourless. Some forms of the stone are two-tone, predominantly pink and green, known as watermelon tourmaline, and green fading to blue. In some cases, tourmaline can change colour when viewed from different angles.
Scoring 7 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale, Tourmaline should be set with a surround of diamond protection if worn as an engagement ring, and extra care should be taken with cleaning and everyday wear, as the stone can be prone to scratching, and under extreme conditions, can fracture.
In 1989, a new tourmaline was discovered that took the gem world by storm. Found in the Brazilian state of Paraiba, the incredibly rare stone displayed hues of electrifying blue that had never been seen in the industry before. Gemmologists believe that Paraiba tourmaline crystals form under very unusual conditions, with large amounts of copper which cause the stone to appear as though it is lit from within, and display hues of vivid neon blues, greens, and in some cases, violets.
Part of the Beryl family, along with the likes of Emerald and Morganite, Aquamarine is the stone of myths and legends. Its name comes from the Latin ‘Aqua Marina’ meaning sea water and for hundreds of years has been known as the treasure of mermaids. Its associations with the sea are plentiful, with the ancient Romans carrying it for protection against dangers at sea whilst travelling by boat, and sailors would wear it around their necks to provide energy and cure laziness.
Aquamarine, as its name suggests, is the blue variety of Beryl, displaying hues of delicate blue, and in other cases green-blue. It is mined in the likes of Brazil, Zambia, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, where a particularly deep blue variety can be found. Scoring 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs scale, it is a durable stone of choice for jewellery, however some extra care should be taken if being worn daily as an engagement ring, as the surface may scratch with excessive wear. Aquamarine is usually found to have an excellent clarity, and is often found in a brilliant cut, making it an alluring alternative for an engagement ring.
10. Fancy Colour Diamonds
Diamond is one of the hardness natural materials known to man, and sits proudly at number 10 on the Mohs scale. When purchasing a diamond it’s important to ask about the four Cs, (Cut, Colour, Clarity, Carat) to ensure the stone you are purchasing is the best quality for your budget. The vast majority of diamonds purchased for engagement rings are brilliant white, or white, and so other than the fire of different colours displayed in natural light, the stone itself will show no colour. Nevertheless, diamonds can be found in a vast array of different colours, known as ‘fancy colours’ and these are incredibly rare.
From pink to blue, yellow, green, brown and beyond, thanks to the presence of various elements such as boron and hydrogen, the diamond’s genetic makeup is altered.
The most popular and accessible colour for fancy diamonds in the jewellery industry is brown, and is often marketed with romantic names such as chocolate, cappuccino and cognac. Brown diamonds are closely followed by yellow diamonds, and one may see these described as canary yellow. Other naturally occurring colours, such as blue, pink and green are extremely rare and valuable.