Unique Engagement Ring Ideas: 8 Alternatives to Diamonds

When it comes to engagement rings, it turns out white diamonds aren't every girl's best friend. From sapphires to black diamonds to rubies, shop for an unusual ring that fits your style


When Mr. Big wanted to make sure that Carrie wouldn’t forget her vows in Sex and the City 2, he chose a large black diamond engagement ring  with chunky facets—and launched a major bridal jewelry trend. “For someone who wants non-traditional sparkle, black diamonds can be a perfect fit,” says Christina Gambale, co-owner of Greenwich Jewelers in New York City. “Some women also choose white diamond center gems, but opt for black in the pave or surrounding gems, or choose a wedding band made of black diamonds for just a bit of edge.”


What do Penelope Cruz, Elizabeth Hurley and The Duchess of Cambridge have in common? Each woman has worn a sapphire stunner on her ring finger. “Sapphires have always been a favorite when it comes to engagement rings,” reveals Gambale. “They’re one of the most durable gemstones and come in many colors, from the traditional deep blue to periwinkle, yellow, purple and pink.”


The trend in organic, earthy-luxe jewelry has had a big impact on the engagement ring market, says Gambale. “Many of our customers love the look of raw diamonds, which come in an array of colors and shapes, including ‘slices.’ Choosing this type of diamond makes your engagement ring unique while enjoying the tradition of having a diamond.”


Like the look of large, almost cocktail-sized stones? Consider a white topaz center stone, suggests Gambale. “It’s a popular choice for customers who want a bigger look for less than the price of a diamond.” 


Jessica Simpson’s rock is a deep red ruby with pear-shaped diamond side stones. And she’s in good company: Mark Zuckerberg’s new wife, Priscilla Chan, wears one too. Before you take the plunge, try to see different kinds of rubies in person since their appearance varies widely; some are heat-treated to have a clearer finish and deeper color, while other rubies are admired for their imperfections.


Oliver Martinez made news with the gorgeous emerald engagement ring he designed for fiancée Halle Berry. If you’re considering going the same route, it’s smart to protect the stone by setting it in a bezel, as Martinez did. “Emeralds are not as durable as a ruby, diamond, or sapphire, and a bezel setting wraps all the way around the gem and holds it securely in place,” explains Gambale.


“We're finding that women are looking for something to make their engagement ring unique, and stacking rings are a great option,” says Gambale. “Some women are opting for diamond eternity bands instead of a traditional engagement ring, and they create stacks of rings with each anniversary, while others start out mixing diamond and colored stone bands in different styles.”


“Moissanites are man-made synthetic gemstones, so they may not be the best choice for everyone,” notes Gambale. “But they can be a great alternative to a diamond for someone who wants the brilliance and fire that a diamond has.” Expect to pay more for one than you would for a cubic zirconia, which will usually be less sparkly and durable than a moissanite.

Find your dream engagement ring with our slide show of 125 gorgeous looks.

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