Sunday, June 19, 2016

3 Colored Stones You Should Consider for Your Engagement Ring Today

Confession time:
My heart doesn't get fluttery or skip a beat when I see a diamond.

I know what you're going to say: "But Gen, you're a gemologist; you talk about diamonds all the time, what's this crazy talk!". As a gemologist, I can certainly distinguish between a good and bad quality diamond; I love working with them for clients who adore them; I even geek out every once in  while either on this blog or with friends because I'm fascinated by all the science behind the beauty.  But should the day come that I am offered a special ring from a special someone,  I can't say that my heart yearns for a diamond...
A still of Marilyn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Photo courtesy of
For a long time I felt like a bit of a freak.  What kind of girl doesn't like diamonds?  Aren't they a girl's best friend according to Marilyn and De Beers?  I felt rather relieved a few years back,  when a growing interest in colored stones for engagement rings came onto the scene. Finally I wasn't alone!
But then I began to see lists emerge of cool alternatives to diamonds and I realized that the people writing these articles just didn't get it. While I'm a fervent advocate of wearing only what you love, I do see the folly in using certain gemstones for this kind of ring. An engagement ring is in most cases, a piece of jewelry that will be worn lovingly everyday, and through pretty much every daily activity (and yes, pretty much everyone has confided that they do everything from working out, to gardening, to washing dishes whilst wearing their jewelry).

A typical example of a pearl engagement ring. Photo courtesy of

For instance, while people are recommending opals and pearls as interesting alternatives, all they're doing is setting their clients up for many trips to the repair shop. This is partly due to the nature of these gemstones; they're both soft, porous materials that are susceptible to crazing and damage when exposed to heat, soaps etc. But also, the methods used to set these gemstones (which take into consideration their particular properties) are not the most robust, making them poor choices for everyday wear.
A typical example of what can happen to inlays of opal. Photo courtesy of

So in response to these not-so-thoughtful lists, here is an unashamedly practical list of gemstones that will actually stand the test of time, and more importantly, of life :-)

Rubies and sapphires are long-standing pillars in the world of colored gemstones and it's easy to see why: They have an exceptional spectrum of color, which is bolstered by their very high lustre; this gives them not only the variety in color, but also the depth that is not usually seen in glassier-looking materials (i.e vitreous tourmaline). They're also durable; Corundum sits at 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, meaning that it is highly scratch-resistant (to a lesser degree than diamond). Additionally, it has no cleavage planes; this means that unlike diamond, which is prone to cleavage if accidentally knocked, ruby and sapphire will not. And while people in the industry are freaking out about the ever-increasing prices in the classic ruby reds and sapphire blues, sapphires of different colors are still very reasonably priced.  For instance, fine green sapphire can be purchased at approx 600$/ct (Gem Guide May/June 2016 edition).
Ruby engagement ring designs. Photo courtesy of 
Beautiful sapphire engagement from Pinterest account Ken & Dana design
A lovely green sapphire and diamond engagement ring. Photo courtesy of

Spinel has long stood in the shadows of the above-mentioned gemstones. It comes from similar deposits as corundum and for a long time had been mistaken for the latter. With many specimens coming in the same hues as sapphire and ruby, it's easy to understand how the mistake could be made prior to gemology. But what I find cool about spinel, is that they sometimes have hues that are slightly deviant from the colors you would typically see in corundum. For those looking for unique tones of color, you'll find it in spinel.  They also do not have cleavage planes, and are at level 8 on the Mohs scale (which is still quite scratch-resistant). And for those who enjoy inclusions inside stones, spinels are typically home to trains of octohedral minerals; These inclusions look like mini-versions of what spinels looks like in rough form.  Cool huh?

Beautiful Mahenge spinel and diamond ring. Photo courtesy of  


Teal or greyish-blue spinel engagement ring. Photo courtesy of Pinterest account Pinelli Belle
Trains of octohedron crystals inside a pink spinel. Photo courtesy of

Chrysoberyl is not usually a stone that makes these lists and I can't really understand why; it has so much to offer! As an oxide (like the other two families listed), Chrysoberyl is incredibly durable; in terms of scratch resistance, it sits in between corundum and spinel at 8.5, which also contributes to the high lustre it can display. While yellow Chrysoberyl is not the typical canary-yellow hue that people see in diamond, it is more golden (which to me, has always translated as a warmer tone). Chrysoberyl is also the family in which you'll find Alexandrite. As discussed in another entry, Alexandrite is a color-change gemstone. For those looking for the stone with an unexpected feature, this one is it. If color and durability wasn't enough, Chrysoberyl is also known for it's cat's eye variety. Its ability to reflect the inclusions inside to look like a cat's eye is something that will truly make any ring stand out.
Exquisite yellow Chrysoberyl. Photo courtesy of
Alexandrite and diamond ring Pinterest account Omi Gems

A very fine example of Cat's Eye Chrysoberyl. Photo courtesy of

I've always said it: The jewelry one wears ought to be reflection of one's personality. It is not only a question of style or of loving an item. It becomes us, so to speak. Shouldn't your engagement ring feel the same way?

If you have a cool engagement ring (diamond, colored stone, or no stone at all), send us a pic! We'd love for you to share your story with us!


  1. are chrysoberyl and spinel also cheaper than ruby and sapphire because theyre less well known?

    1. Hi! Thanks for your question :-)In the case of Chrysoberyl, I can certainly say that the yellow variety is much less expensive than rubies and sapphires (roughly 300-400$a carat), but they can be considerably more expensive when dealing in alexandrite or cat's eye. This is due to the rarity of the deposits and the exceptional nature of their optical properties (color change and chatonyancy). Spinal is actually gaining a great deal of popularity these days in response to the increasing prices of rubies especially. This has also led to an increase in price. Red and pink varieties tend to sit around 2000-4000$USD per carat in sizeable specimens whereas the lavender and naturally blue tend to stay in the 600-800$USD/carat range. For more specific pricing, feel free to reach out to us via personal message!

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