Non-DeBeers Engagement Ring Options
December 8, 2008 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone help with non-DeBeers engagement ring options? (Specifically lab-created diamonds, non-DeBeers mined diamonds, and purple sapphires)

So my amazing, but anti-DeBeers boyfriend and I are thinking about getting engaged. (Yay!) This is all very exciting, except we’re not sure what to do for a ring. We have been looking at a few non-DeBeers options and I’d love to hear some input from you all.

One thing we have been looking into is a lab-created white diamond. These are real diamonds, not synthetic or simulated stones. The problem is they are only available from a few places. We are wondering about what sizes these come in, how available they are (waiting lists?), cost comparison to natural stones, and quality. I would love to hear from someone who has actually bought one.

We are also interested in non-DeBeers mined diamonds. We have been able to find a few places that offer Canadian diamonds. Some of these mines are owned by DeBeers as well though. Where can we find diamonds that are not DeBeers?

I would also love a purple sapphire as a center stone. Another color just wouldn't do and it has already been proven that I am not a graceful enough person to wear stones as soft as amethyst. We have looked here so far but haven't been able to find much else. I am concerned about quality and getting the perfect purple color (more pink than an amethyst but more purple than a pink sapphire). Any more sources or advice would be helpful.

We have really looked into all the options (no ring, heirloom, estate, other colored stones, etc.) and would really appreciate if the conversation could focus on these three. Thank you so much for your help!
posted by NHlove to Shopping (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: From here:
Igloo Diamonds

Or you can do what my Brother in Law did: He bought the engagement ring from an antique store, so it was recycling and ethical (well, as in not directly supporting DeBeers). If you don't like the settings, you can see about getting the diamond or stones removed and set into a ring you like.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:35 PM on December 8, 2008

This got my curiosity going, so I googled "purple sapphire" since I'd never seen one. That prompted a google suggestion for "purple sapphire engagement ring." If you don't like any of the ones that pop up from that search, I imagine your best bet would be a local non-chain jewelry store that does custom rings. A place like that should know where to get the quality of sapphire you're looking for (or where/how to get non-deBeers diamonds). I hope this isn't a total non-answer, I just wanted to suggest it since you didn't mention going to any brick and mortar jewelry stores.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:38 PM on December 8, 2008

Tiffany sells Canadian diamonds, but that is a bit more expensive. Go check out a couple of local jewelers, they'll have plenty of other things besides diamonds. I have no idea where you are, but I got my pink sapphire engagement ring from Walters and Hogsett in Boulder. The only downside to *not* having a diamond engagement ring are the assholes that tell you, "well, he can get you a real diamond now that he's been promoted/new job/etc". Of course, now I know not to invite those people. Man, I really derailed on that one.
Or! You could go to the Arkansas diamond mines and try to find your own!
posted by idiotfactory at 7:48 PM on December 8, 2008

My engagement ring came from Dawes Design and I love it. We had the same discussion about a ring... no ring, old ring, new ring... I was trying to be aware of the environmental/political implications of my choice.

Ultimately I decided that yes, I wanted a ring. We had been living together for several years and I wanted to signal to the outside world that we were making it official. For real. No questions. And I liked that, but be forewarned that no choice you make will be the "right" choice. People can be unbelievably rude about these things.

Anyway, I saw a number of lovely vintage rings but they tended to be very ornate with a lot of prongs and filigree work. I'm something of a minimalist and I work with my hands, so they just didn't really suit my day-to-day lifestyle.

I found my ring at the Clay Pot in Brooklyn. I liked that it was made responsibly by hand and I just liked the way it looked on my hand. Jennifer Dawes was also very easy to get a hold of and was more than happy to discuss custom work. She even has my ring with a lavender sapphire instead of a diamond.

Congrats on your engagement!
posted by Thin Lizzy at 7:56 PM on December 8, 2008

Argyle diamonds might be of interest to you. However, you might want to look into "enhanced" diamonds. These are imperfect natural diamonds that have been subjected to a variety of processes to make them coloured. My own engagement/wedding ring has six yellow enhanced diamonds studded around the platinum band - it's a very robust setting (I am a clutz), it's unusual and I like it because it doesn't play by the usual engagement ring rules. IIRC, enhanced diamonds come in all sorts of colours - I've seen red, blue, yellow and green. Purple might be an option.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:58 PM on December 8, 2008

There's only one DeBeers Canadian diamond mine: Snap Lake.

BHP has Ekati and Rio Tinto has Diavik.

You should be able to find out which mine/company the retailer gets its diamonds from.
posted by ODiV at 8:22 PM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: An option to consider is to seek an independent jeweler to assist you in seeking out an appropriate stone and creating a customized setting for you. My wife and I did this and by my estimates saved a fair amount of money in the bargain (and got rings that are particularly meaningful to us). Potential jewelers' knowledge of and access to alternative gemstones is something you could assess easily in the early phases of investigation (i.e. on the telephone): but this is getting to be such a well-known issue I'd suspect it would be something many savvy independent jewelers would want on their resume. Working with a jeweler was a very fun and positive part of our engagement. Congrats and good luck.
posted by nanojath at 8:26 PM on December 8, 2008

If you like the look of a diamond, I strongly recommend looking into Moissanite. It's a natural gemstone and I think Moissanite is much prettier than white diamonds; I looked at them heavily before settling on a beautiful sapphire ring. Moissanite shines more brightly than diamonds and looks quite stunning, and will not be mistaken for CZ, which can look quite obviously un-diamondlike.

Having a higher refractive index than diamond, moissanite is the most brilliant of colorless jewels. Due to Its optical properties, moissanite has 10% more brilliance (light return from inside the jewel), 19% more luster (light reflecting from the surface of the jewel), and 150% more fire (white light refraction) than diamonds.[citation needed] Moissanite also has a lower specific gravity than diamonds, it is 13% lighter than diamonds by volume. These optical and physical properties translate to a physically larger gem of equivalent carat weight and clarity. While a 1 carat round brilliant cut diamond is typically 6.5 mm wide when cut to ideal proportions, a one carat moissanite should come out to be about 6.7 mm in diameter. Moissanite clarity is comparable to that of a VS diamond and its color can vary around I-J-K in the diamond grading scale.

Also, you won't be wearing a "fake," if that's something that might bother you; this is a genuine gemstone.
I know you said you looked at other colored stones, but just in case this slipped past your radar another option for a violet gemstone is Tanzanite, which may provide you with what you want in terms of color with more consistency than the sea of polychromatic sapphires.

If you'd prefer a deep purple sapphire, you will probably need to scour gemstone sites until you find a sapphire of the right hue (it will take some work) and then order the gemstone and have it set by a jeweler in the mounting of your choice. Alternatively, you could call local jewelers until you find one that deals in gemstones; this probably won't be easy, though, and you'll probably have the most success with small, independently owned stores.

I got my ring from ebay, but I specifically wanted an old antique ring, which you say it out. Depending on your style, there are lots of jewelers who custom make rings to your specifications with gemstones. This ebay seller has some purple sapphires for sale and also does custom work. He has a website here with more on it; a lot of his pieces are made from vintage molds, although the jewelry is new.
posted by Polychrome at 8:34 PM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: There's only one DeBeers Canadian diamond mine: Snap Lake.

BHP has Ekati and Rio Tinto has Diavik.

You should be able to find out which mine/company the retailer gets its diamonds from.
posted by ODiV at 12:22 PM on December 9 [+] [!]

Actually there is another, Victor mine in Northern Ontario. Though you are buying DeBeers, keep in mind that the diamonds in Canada are mined with local (Canadian) workers and were built using Canadian suppliers, a lot of the money goes back into the local economies.
posted by defcom1 at 8:45 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you choose to go the vintage ring route, don't be put off by the ornate old-fashioned settings. My husband gave me his grandmother's ring, which was ornate and out of date. We took the diamond out of the old setting and put it into a much simpler, modern setting. It looks beautiful and I've gotten lots of compliments on it.
posted by bananafish at 8:48 PM on December 8, 2008

Actually there is another, Victor mine in Northern Ontario.

Whoops, sorry. Stupidly assumed that the mines were restricted to here since that's where they started and I hadn't heard about any new ones. Thanks for the correction.
posted by ODiV at 9:13 PM on December 8, 2008

You might want to save you money on the jewel and get a fancier band, platinum, custom made etc. Moissanite is a great diamond alternative.

It's nearly as hard as diamond at 9.25 vs. 10 mohs and it could even be considered better than diamond in a couple areas.

"Due to Its optical properties, moissanite has 10% more brilliance (light return from inside the jewel), 19% more luster (light reflecting from the surface of the jewel), and 150% more fire (white light refraction) than diamonds."
posted by robofunk at 11:13 PM on December 8, 2008

Kimberley Diamonds from Australia. The most beautiful pink diamonds, totally ethical, and non-De Beers. Yeah!
posted by Kerasia at 1:06 AM on December 9, 2008

Thirding estate jewelry. Not supporting DeBeers, and it's often considerably less expensive than new. Also, you can find some truly original pieces if you're willing to spend the time. Congrats!
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:26 AM on December 9, 2008

Best answer: I think the challenge with purple sapphires is that purple is in the eye of the beholder. That means you may need to need to see a lot of them in person to pick the color that matches the one in your mind's eye. For this I would suggest something like a wholesale gem dealer with a showroom (so many to choose from in New York or LA) or a gem show like Intergem. Your profile doesn't say where you are, but there's an Intergem show in Chantilly, VA the weekend of the 19th - let me know if you'd like to be smuggled into the wholesale room.

I don't own a created diamond but I've seen a ton of them at gem shows and they are stunning. I'm thinking that if you're not hung up on it not being pried from the earth, it would be a great way to go.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:26 AM on December 9, 2008

If you happen to be in the Seattle area, this jewelry store did a fabulous job with my (non-diamond) engagement ring. The jewelers were very helpful in finding the stone (in my case, a dark red ruby) and in designing and creating the ring. Presumably, they or folks like them would have information on various stone options.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:35 AM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for everything so far! I'm in New Hampshire, but the Boston area is accessible from where I am. If you have any suggestions please let me know.
posted by NHlove at 5:47 AM on December 9, 2008

Best answer: To find a reputable local jeweler, check out the American Gem Society. They actually police their members to maintain a high standard of ethics, and not many jewelers make it in.

I'm also in the market for a sapphire engagement ring (superb choice!), and all of the AGS jewelers we've visited have been wonderful. My favorite even took us into their workshop behind the storefront and showed us where and how they do everything. Every jeweler has offered to obtain sapphires for me to look at, and once I choose, they're more then willing to alter the setting I like to work with that stone.
posted by WowLookStars at 6:05 AM on December 9, 2008


B) I bought my Fiancee an engagement ring from The Natural Sapphire Company. Very good experience dealing with them.

They "loaned" me 4 (5?) stones (via 2 day express) that I wanted to see in person that were around 1 carat. They were nice, but, seeing 1 carat, I wanted to go a bit bigger. So I sent those back and they sent me another loaner stone. I tried to negotiate a bit off the price, but they just ate the shipping and I called it a day.

So if you see a few things you like there, you can look them over, and have a jeweler look them over if you'd like, and then if you don't, you're out the shipping costs ($20?) at most. We had my wife's green sapphire set in gold for about $400. It's a pretty simple setting but it wasn't the cheapest.
posted by zpousman at 6:08 AM on December 9, 2008

when we got my wedding band at a chain jeweler, we sold them the diamond that was already set in the ring and bought a sapphire from them and had it set in the ring.
posted by phritosan at 7:36 AM on December 9, 2008

Tanzanite is sublime. Unfortunately, it is only 6.5 on the Mohs scale. I would not wear it daily in a ring!

Gem shows are a great idea; I'd sure never turn down an invitation to the wholesale room! Go for it, even with the travel involved!
posted by jgirl at 7:53 AM on December 9, 2008

You might want to look into lab-created sapphires, too - it might be easier to find just the right color/shape/price combination.
posted by oblique red at 9:18 AM on December 9, 2008

My engagement and wedding rings are from Canadia diamonds. I'm assuming by your username you're in NH, but if I'm wrong and you're in the Milwaukee/Chicago area, I can point you to a good jewelry store.
posted by desjardins at 10:31 AM on December 9, 2008

Best answer: Though I am a little late finding this post, I wanted to offer any assistance I could. I am the CEO of D.NEA (from your "places" link). We offer lab-created diamonds in white, blue and yellow and can currently grow yellows up to two carats, blues up to 1.25cts and whites (colorless) up to one carat. The whites are the hardest to grow and in the highest demand, so we do not have many available, but depends on the size you would be looking for. Over the next few weeks and months we should have quite a few more available.

Though the price varies by specific color, clarity, etc., the yellows are around $3-$4k for a one carat, blues are around $8-$12k and white prices are pretty comparable to mined whites, around $5-7k.

For quality, lab diamonds are chemically, physically, optically and molecularly identical to a mined diamond so at a technical level, the quality is the same. All of our certified diamonds are cut in Antwerp, Belgium.
posted by EEFranklin at 7:37 AM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

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