Moissanite or other pretty rocks
October 24, 2010 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Thoughts on moissanite engagement rings? Do you know someone who has gotten one and loved it or been disappointed? Other suggestion for non-diamond rings? Where to buy one in the DC/Richmond area?

So I'm in the market for an engagement ring, but I don't really know how to go about getting a non-diamond ring. Here's my situation:

My girlfriend would like an elegant, traditional ring, but is okay with a non-diamond as long as it's something special. I'd strongly prefer to keep this on the down-low so it's a surprise to her.

I'm not too worried about a setting, but for the stone, I've considered:

white sapphires - sounds good, but don't really know much about this option other than what I read in this askme thread.

aquamarines - her birthstone, she likes blue a lot, but it seems it might be a little plain for an engagement ring. Also seems to be less variety to choose from.

antique/previously owned/whatever euphemism for used - Personally I don't have any objection to a used diamond, but I'm not sure how she'd feel. Also, I don't really know anything about jewelry, and I'm not sure where to look, what would be a good deal, etc.

Lastly, moissanite - they sound really cool to me, almost as hard as diamonds, more brilliant in some aspects, and much, much cheaper. I can afford about $1000-1500 and I think I could easily find a nice setting and 1-carat or more equivalent for that price.

However, I don't really know what people think about moissanite except what I read on the website of moissanite retailers. There was an an this askme about moissanite, but that was 5 years ago and I thought maybe more people had opinions about it now.

So, anyone out there have strong feelings about moissanite, does it have a reputation as the new cubic zirconia or a 21st century diamond? Also, would you recommend an online retailer or a brick-and-mortar jeweler?

Any opinions or insights are welcome, thanks!
posted by bluejayk to Shopping (30 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think moissanite is beautiful. In the unlikely event that I get engaged, I'd prefer it over anything else.

This one is lovely.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:43 PM on October 24, 2010

It's the new cubic zirconia. But that doesn't mean it isn't pretty.

Are you looking at non-diamonds merely to get something cheaper? Or are you trying to be creative/original? Or do you have a thing against diamonds? I feel like knowing this would help us give you better advice.

Also, are you sure you can't propose to your girlfriend with a dime-store ring for the surprise and then go pick out a ring together? If you're picking a non-traditional or secondhand stone, you may want to pick it out with her. Remember, she's the one who has to wear it for the next 50 years. (I, personally, would prefer to be involved in the picking out ... and I was, in advance ... and the proposal itself was still a surprise.)

Also, fwiw, my birthstone is also aquamarine and I think it's an anemic, ugly stone without a lot to recommend it. I think there's a reason you don't see it in much jewelry that isn't birthstone jewelry.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:47 PM on October 24, 2010

Canadian diamonds?

PS: I love that ring. Swoon.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:55 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she wants a traditional ring, and you are trying to avoid blood diamonds (is that it?), then definitely look for some estate rings, or perhaps an estate diamond (here estate = used) and have it re-set. Actually, it'd be really nice if you could find a nice diamond and have her collaborate on the design of the actual ring--if that isn't getting too far away from traditional for her.

Don't be worried about certain rings or jewels being "used" because everything will be used unless it was just mined. Vintage, estate, antique--these are some of the terms you could use.

Also, the moissanite does seem pretty, but might she be uncomfortable showing off her ring with a gem that doesn't sound familiar to people? "Is that a diamond?" "No, it's moissanite." "What's moissanite?" etc.

Also: congratulations!
posted by bluedaisy at 2:55 PM on October 24, 2010

If you're going the non-diamond route because of ethics and the high cost of non-blood diamonds, there are some beautiful antique engagement rings here. Some are replicas and some are vintage.

Also my mom's engagement ring is aquamarine and it always looks dirty unless she's JUST cleaned it.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:02 PM on October 24, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, to clarify, I'm not comfortable with the ethics of diamond mining. I'd buy a certified conflict free diamond or an estate diamond if the price were right. But I don't think I'm willing to go above $1500, it just seems like a foolish amount of money that could be spent on other things we'll need in life.
posted by bluejayk at 3:05 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

A friend has a moissanite ring and it's absolutely stunning. More sparkly than a diamond, in my opinion.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2010

It's hard to find really good aquamarines without paying over the odds these days (or finding vintage jewelry and pulling the stones out for resetting). Do not, however, overlook the possibility of finding a beautiful aquamarine in an old ring (I'd look for something pre-1960) if you have the energy and time to hunt one down.

If it was me, I would rather have aquamarine or white sapphires than moissanite, just because I would get bored explaining what moissanite is to people. But your fiancee is probably less of a crank than I am.

posted by Sidhedevil at 3:19 PM on October 24, 2010

Have a look at pricescope for gem-related questions; they have a lot of discussion of coloured stones and diamond-simulants like moissanite.

If cost is your issue, consider multiple smaller stones, e.g. a triple. You get the same table area with much less rock underneath (it still looks big) for much less money. I got an awesome 1.75ct sapphire and two excellent 0.40ct diamonds for much less than a 1ct diamond would have cost me in anywhere near the same quality (cut/colour/etc).

Don't do aquamarine, it's not hard enough.
posted by polyglot at 3:24 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love my .5 carat Moissanite solitaire. It's very pretty. (Admittedly I haven't been able to wear the ring recently because I've gotten really fat and I'm too optimistic to get it resized. But it's lovely and classic.)

I'd recommend a nice Moissanite to anyone.
posted by Neofelis at 3:32 PM on October 24, 2010

My fiance and I had similar reservations about using a mined diamond due to ethical issues in sourcing. Moissanite was also one of our first choices, but we felt like it was a little pricy for what you were actually getting, and I hear that a yellow tinge to the stone and fuzzy light refraction presents a continuing problem due to the nature of the mineral. We felt comfortable buying a used/estate diamond, though. I also happen to prefer a bit of vintage-y detail to my jewelry, so we ended up buying an estate ring. It's gorgeous--circa 1930s, simple and elegant, with a nearly half-carat diamond in the center, and we found it for significantly less than your stated price range.

An antique ring with an authentic diamond may cost a bit more, but the plus side is that many vintage and antique styles utilize settings that really make a smaller stone pop--my stone looks nearly twice its size due to the way it's set. Another benefit of going this route is finding something completely unique that no other girl will be wearing; I've never seen another ring exactly like mine, and it makes it feel extra special (besides the obvious, love-related reasons for its specialness).

Some of this depends on whether she wants something that is just traditionally pale in color, or if she wants something that will really sparkle. Aquamarine and white sapphire tend not to glitter or throw colorful sparks the way diamonds and moissanite do; they have a "flatter" appearance in comparative terms, which could be just fine, depending on what she likes.

Good luck, and congratulations!
posted by anonnymoose at 3:39 PM on October 24, 2010

(I'm sorry, I meant to say that an antique ring with an authentic diamond may cost a bit more than a ring with an alternative stone. Just wanted to clarify!)
posted by anonnymoose at 3:41 PM on October 24, 2010

My engagement ring has a nice lab-created blue sapphire. I love it - none of the ethical implications of diamonds, plus it's different. Sapphires represent loyalty and I read once they used to be given to significant others because of that.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:47 PM on October 24, 2010

My engagement ring is a white sapphire and it's lovely. It's a full carat stone with two quarter carats on either side set in a white gold filigree. It's an antique, the hubs found it at an estate sale, I don't think they had any idea of it's worth. He paid less than $100 for it.

Frankly, I like that my engagement ring looks like a million bucks but was cheap. Some women may want something expensive, but I would rather just look expensive. Plus, we were married in September, so that makes the sapphire more meaningful.

I would not want a diamond for a bunch of reasons, one of them being conflict. I also lose things, and just don't want the responsibility of losing (or paying to insure) a four figure item.

Also, and I think most women are with me on this one, I would rather have a mined gem than a lab made one.

I am not super into white gemstones, but I like that it goes with everything.

Oh, and check eBay. They have amazing prices on jewelry- just take it to a jeweler to have it appraised.
posted by Leta at 3:52 PM on October 24, 2010

If your goal in buying a Canadian or estate-sale diamond is to boycott blood diamonds, reconsider your approach. When you buy a Canadian diamond, you increase the market price of Canadian diamonds, causing the less scrupulous to shift their consumption from Canadian diamonds to relatively-cheaper blood diamonds.

Even suppose you inherit a diamond yourself -- selling it, rather than keeping it, would reduce the market price for local diamonds; that in turn would lure people away from conflict diamonds.

As long as some buyers view blood diamonds and other diamonds as perfect substitutes for one another, you'll sort of have to abstain from all diamonds -- so choose something that most people view as a less direct substitute (like moissanite -- good call!).
posted by foursentences at 4:09 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Beyond what stone, you need to think about what type of setting she'd like. Modern? Art deco? Traditional, like a 6-prong Tiffany solitaire? White metal? Yellow metal? Narrow band? Thick band? One stone? Three? An eternity band? A half-eternity band? Or maybe something that doesn't even look like a traditional engagement ring?

If you really have no idea, I second the suggestion to propose with something cute as a stand-in and then go shopping together. She will wear this ring every day for the rest of her life, so it needs to be something she LOVES, not something she feels she's settling for, or something she's wearing to please you because she's too polite at this stage in your relationship to exchange.

I chose my own ring at Gemvara. You can swap stones and metals for all their ring designs, and they have rings in every price range from $250 up to around, I think, $100k. If nothing else, it might help to visualize how much you get for $N, what looks might be right for her, and how big something is when we say "it's a half carat."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:17 PM on October 24, 2010

I've got a 1.73 carat equivalent moissanite engagement ring and I love it. I've never had to explain to anyone what it is because people just don't ask. I have mine set in a band with pave (conflict free) diamonds and it looks gorgeous. It was my decision to go with an alternate stone and I think that's how it ought to be. Why not propose with a 'dummy ring' and discuss the rest with her? I guarantee that she has an image in her head of what the ideal ring is/looks like.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:21 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love my moissanite engagement ring and wedding band set. We went with moissanite because it was such a better value and we knew we could use the money more elsewhere.
I've noticed that my ring is amazingly sparkly in situations where there are multiple light sources - anywhere from a convention hall with lots of lights to the elevator at work with multiple recessed lights.
I was also hesitant to spend a lot of money on a ring because I don't really wear much jewelry (still don't - just my rings) and I was paranoid that I would lose it.
Mr. Coffeemate recommends going to a JC Penney store - they have both diamonds and moissanite stones that you can look at side-by-side. We talked to the salesperson there and it really helped us make our decision. My rings eventually came from Charles & Colvard online.
posted by Coffeemate at 5:17 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've got a Tanzanite. I also didn't want a diamond for ethical reasons. (Plus, I <3 purple!!!) It's a lot bigger than any diamond we would have gotten for that price, and I get compliments on it all the time. (And some strange looks from morons when I try to explain to them that, yes, it still counts as an engagement ring even though it's not a diamond, there aren't any laws about that.) And, two women I know have since gotten engaged with colored stone rings. I like to think I'm a trend-setter. My husband also proposed with a toy ring, and then later took me shopping for a real one. (The one minor issue we had was getting a band made to fit with it. An 'over the counter' band didn't work with it, so we had to find a local jeweler who took my engagement ring and then made a band to match around it.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:48 PM on October 24, 2010

My fiancee got me a moissanite ring and I adore it. We discussed it beforehand and I really wanted a non-diamond and the concept that it kind of came from space made moissanite even cooler. Mine came from JCPenney as well and was on sale a great deal.

As to if people know it's not a diamond, the answer is yes they know, but only because I tell every single person. It's way more sparkly and to me, way prettier than a diamond. After I got it, both my mom and my fiancee's mom want to get themselves moissanite rings because they think it's cool.

Plus, your girl can always tell people it's a "space rock". I know they really aren't from meteorites anymore and are actually grown in a lab, but it's far more fun to tell folks it's from space.
posted by teleri025 at 5:52 PM on October 24, 2010

My husband and I did a lot of research into moissanite and other alternative stones. When I finally saw a moissanite in person (at a mall store, Helzberg, I think because they have a large Moissonite selection), I actually found it to be too sparkly and I disliked the greenish tint. I ended up buying a pale blue sapphire and I love it!

I also think aquamarines are beautiful - I have two friends with aquamarine rings and they're both gorgeous. One has a small-ish stone set with two white stones next to it (not sure what they are), and the other has a huge stone surrounded with diamonds - love them both. So...definitely look into them, they are not plain if you put them in a beautiful setting. Also, since I have one, I'm partial to sapphires.

In terms of jewelry stores in the Richmond/D.C. area, I'm going to highly, highly recommend I. Gorman in DC. They are family owned, super nice and were not at all snobby about the fact that we weren't buying a diamond ring (lots of other DC jewelry stores totally blew us off when they realized we weren't spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a ring).
posted by echo0720 at 6:06 PM on October 24, 2010

A friend of mine got a ring with a star corundum (sapphire, I think). Not sparkly, but very pretty, and it's cool to watch the star shift around inside the stone as it moves.
posted by emeiji at 7:04 PM on October 24, 2010

I didn't want a diamond, and I didn't want anything sparkly either. My engagement ring is this pearl ring. It is so, so beautiful and classy. My fiancé picked it out ALL ON HIS OWN. I'm so proud of him. :)
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:53 PM on October 24, 2010

My ring is a flower with a blue sapphire (my birthstone) and six white sapphires. We originally planned to do ethically sourced diamonds, but went with the white sapphire because of the cost, and because we couldn't tell the difference when the jeweler showed them to us. I like it better anyway because it's a little different. People comment all the time on my ring and the gorgeous diamonds. I find I have trouble keeping it clean for very long, but I don't know how much of this the setting, the fact that I never remember to take it off when doing something messy, the fact that I rarely take it to be cleaned, or factor X. Having no diamond jewelry to compare it to, I don't know if that's a characteristic of white sapphire. They sure do sparkle pretty when they are clean.
Also, we didn't do the traditional proposal at all, and the ring was a custom design that we worked on together (that is to say, he worked on with a jeweler and I was called in for approval at various stages). It's fun to have something unique, and since I wear it every day, I'm glad I got to voice my opinion. The fact that we went with sapphires really kept the cost down, even though it was a completely custom ring. Don't know if it would be in your price range though.
posted by purpletangerine at 8:02 PM on October 24, 2010

We picked out an antique ring together for my engagement ring, and I'm super happy with it. (He knew way ahead of time that I'd want to be in on the ring choosing, FWIW.)

Going to antique stores together was really fun. It wasn't as overwhelming as I expected. I had searched online a little bit so I kinda new what I liked and didn't like. I knew I was going for some kind of solitaire look with white gold. The one we got has both white and yellow, with a little diamond set "illusion style." I never expected to like yellow gold, but it's much subtler than the stuff I see now. I love the fact that my ring has a 70-something year mysterious history! (The shop didn't know anything about the ring but I was able to figure out from some research that it was late 30s/early 40s.) And I'm pretty much guaranteed to never see another one like it!

Oh and including sizing and cleaning, he spent $350. Not bad!
posted by radioamy at 8:02 PM on October 24, 2010

Just wanted to add that I know several people who have colored stones for their engagement rings. They are in fact more traditional than a diamond.
posted by purpletangerine at 8:03 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh and a word about diamonds...there are a lot of really cool stones out there, but nothing sparkles like a diamond. I used to be anti-diamond even before I knew about all the ethical issues, just because it's so traditional. But really, there's a reason. It's an amazing stone!

FWIW, I don't know any details about the stones in my ring (4 C's or whatever), and honestly I don't care. It's small enough that you couldn't see any flaws with the naked eye anyways. And I think the whole 'quality' thing is more related to making sure you're getting what you pay for. And since we didn't pay a ton, I'm not concerned about having it appraised or evaluated. It's pretty, so who cares?
posted by radioamy at 8:05 PM on October 24, 2010

I am quite uncomfortable with the diamond trade, and on top it, it's clear to me that the whole "tradition" of diamond engagement rings is just a myth cooked up by DeBeers. So, I totally hear you.

However, double triple quadruple check that your girlfriend is really for sure okay with a non-diamond ring. If she is saying she's okay with a diamond because that's what she thinks she should say, you could have a low-level disappointment that will shadow your engagement.

Tell yourself whatever you need to tell yourself and go bite the bullet. Then get her the ring she actually wants. She will be wearing it every day, and she will be explaining what the stone on it is. Ask her best friend, I guarantee they have already talked about it.
posted by copperbleu at 12:04 AM on October 25, 2010

I got a three stone moissanite engagement ring and I think it's great. My husband was able to get much bigger stones than what he'd be able to afford if they were real diamonds; I'd rather have visible moissanite than a tiny chip of a diamond.

It's really got a great sparkle; moissanite is supposed to refract light better than diamonds. Most people who were checking out my ring didn't even ask "Is it a diamond?" They just assumed the stones were diamonds and I didn't bother to correct them. The "ooh let me see your ring" phase only lasts a month or so anyways. Those who did find out it was moissanite didn't seem to care; they still thought the ring was pretty.

My only complaint is that one of the side stones got cracked somehow (I banged my ring a lot when I was adjusting to wearing it) so it looks a little cloudy if you examine it closely. But the stone only costs $80 to replace, and the other two stones are in great shape so I think this was a fluke.

I got the ring here. The stones on my ring are clear and have no tint. I would not recommend buying any moissanite from mall jewelry stores as it is kind of the unwanted stepchild in the jewelry industry and the pushy salespeople will try to move you back to the expensive diamond cases. They also spout all sorts of misinformation about moissanite to make it seem inferior, so do your own research.
posted by castlebravo at 7:26 AM on October 25, 2010

seconding pricescope from personal experience i can tell you that they have a very good "colored stones" forum...

really if you have any specific questions i would look there...
posted by knockoutking at 7:51 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

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