Sapphires are a girl's best friend
September 25, 2012 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Diamond vs. gemstone engagement rings. What are we not considering?

My partner and I are considering getting a gemstone (namely, a sapphire) engagement ring instead of a diamond-only engagement ring. We don’t have a specific ring in mind, just the idea of getting one with a sapphire as the focal point instead of just white diamonds. How are gemstone engagement rings usually viewed? My partner doesn’t want to “cheap out” on me, but I think that is idiotic. Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

What should I/we be considering when we decide? What are the benefits to getting a gemstone ring vs. a “normal” diamond engagement ring that I’m not thinking of? Is there any reason NOT to consider a sapphire engagement ring? The only possible issue I can come up with is that the blue stone may not match with everything I’m wearing, but does that really matter? Is the only reason why people don't propose with things other than diamonds very often just because of how diamonds are marketed? Seriously?

I also don’t want to be seen as though I’m trying to copy the royal family. In my googling of “sapphire engagement ring” I found that Kate Middleton was proposed to with a sapphire ring (that had apparently been Princess Diana’s?), and that has cause a resurgence in popularity of sapphire engagement rings.

FWIW, I care about the symbolism of the proposal, I wish to have a ring, my partner wishes to propose to me with one, and we put stock in the concept of marriage. It has meaning to us to be beyond just a legal document and some jewelry.
There won’t be much point in saying stuff like:
1. skip the ring and have him propose with something other than a ring (ex. A friend of my was proposed to with a kayak)
2. skip the whole proposal/engagement thing and just save for the wedding
3.skip the wedding and save the money we would have spent
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Grab Bag (77 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I had a sapphire engagement ring - until i lost it :( - and frankly it didn't seem like anyone noticed unless I specifically pointed it out. My mother-in-law did make a bit of a snide comment ("Don't worry, he can get you a bigger stone for your 20th anniversary") but if anyone asks I mostly just tell people that I don't personally like the look of large diamonds and don't accept the marketing that surrounds and inflates the price of diamonds, and everyone seems to accept that

Note that I am in a pretty status-free culture, so you should consider other engaged women in your group of friends/coworkers - do they put a lot of weight on enegagement rings?
posted by muddgirl at 9:44 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

who cares! seriously, do you care what people think about this? stop doing that, it will make you happier and more likely to be satisfied with the outcome :)


the blue stone may not match with everything I’m wearing

My mother has a beautiful engagement ring - a deep green emerald surrounded by tiny diamonds. It goes perfectly with her eyes and colouring, and therefore it never seems to matter what she wears.

Hope this helps, and congratulations :)
posted by greenish at 9:45 AM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

How are gemstone engagement rings usually viewed? My partner doesn’t want to “cheap out” on me, but I think that is idiotic. Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

They're fine, and nobody of any consequence would make a judgement based on the stone.

Is the only reason why people don't propose with things other than diamonds very often just because of how diamonds are marketed? Seriously?

Many people object to the artificial inflation of diamond prices as well as the general methods of extraction.
posted by jquinby at 9:46 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Note that I am in a pretty status-free culture, so you should consider other engaged women in your group of friends/coworkers - do they put a lot of weight on enegagement rings?

To clarify, I meant that you should look at the other women you know who have gotten engaged and ask yourself if there was any sort of significant weight put on their engagement rings as part of their social status.
posted by muddgirl at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2012

I have an emerald engagement ring and don't give a fig if it matches what I'm wearing.

If you are are hard on your hands, you might consider the relative softness/hardness of the stone - I know I have scratched my emerald, as I know I am hard on my everyday jewelry (but I don't care), whereas, I probably wouldn't have scratched a diamond. I don't know the relative hardness of sapphires....
posted by sarajane at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am currently wearing a sapphire and diamond engagement ring that I love.

My rule for my fiance was "no diamonds" (I'd done too much googling about DeBeers), but I softened when he asked me about antique diamonds, and the fact that the sapphire is central here (flanked by two smaller diamonds) is nice also.

Blue is not the greatest colour for me (doesn't match my natural colouring, and I don't wear it much), but the yellow gold that it is set in works perfectly.

I guess the things to keep in mind are that:
1.) (new) Diamonds are overpriced.
2.) A non-traditional stone will be cheaper (mainly because of 1)
3.) You can feel a little more superior by not buying into the DeBeers BS.
4.) Who the hell cares what other people think about your ring? Spend the extra money on an open bar at the reception or a better honeymoon.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your friends and family can't recognize a gorgeous peach gold ring with a sapphire solitaire as the equal of any diamond engagement ring, I think it says more about them than you.
posted by wnissen at 9:50 AM on September 25, 2012

I have a new-ish sapphire engagement ring! My fiancee actually proposed to me with a necklace made of interlocking rings, because the proposal's timing was a surprise, and she knew I wanted her to propose with some sort of token, but that I wanted us to pick out rings together.

This is my ring. I love it so much. It's a sapphire in the center, and moissanite (lab-created stones) on the sides, because I'm not a fan of diamonds for various reasons. We had it custom made, along with a matching necklace for my fiancee - here's the Ask thread where we asked about getting jewelery made.

Everyone says that it's lovely, that it fits my style very well. No one has made a rude comment, and if they did I would think it reflected badly on them. We chose this ring because it fits my / our tastes, not because it was less expensive than a diamond. (And we chose moissanite for the side stones because we dislike diamonds, not because it's cheaper - it barely makes a difference at this size).

The only downside is that diamond is harder than sapphires, so eventually this ring may show a bit of wear. But, it's worth it to me to have a stone that I love - and sapphires are still very hard.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:50 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a sapphire engagement ring that also serves as my wedding ring, and no one has ever said anything negative about it. To hell with what everyone else thinks -- the people who matter in this scenario are you and your partner!
posted by Janta at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is the only reason why people don't propose with things other than diamonds very often just because of how diamonds are marketed? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. It's entirely marketing.

You may perhaps come across some brief nonsense about the hardness of diamonds and how that will keep them from getting harmed over a lifetime of wear, but while diamonds are a 10 on the hardness scale, sapphires are a 9, and are used in industrial applications because of their durability. And it doesn't take into account the fact that the other materials your rings are made of - including the likely gemstone-free wedding band - will have less hardness than a sapphire anyway.

As for matching, do you think everything looks nice with a blue sky? Or near the ocean? Do you think jeans go with everything? Then you can comfortably consider sapphire blue a neutral. For what it's worth, even Miss Manners will tell you that wedding rings are exempt from any such rules as matching metals or coordinating with your outfit; if the symbol is important to you, then that is paramount, not its appearance.

When I see a non-diamond engagement ring, I think "how wonderful, this couple actually has put thought into this symbol."
posted by Mizu at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2012 [15 favorites]

My wife has gotten tons of compliments on her blue topaz ring. People don't have a visceral reaction to a non-diamond ring.

On preview, what Mizu said about actually putting thought into it, too.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:53 AM on September 25, 2012

I had a custom-made ruby engagement ring (like muddgirl "until I lost it") and I never got anything but compliments on its unique design (designed by these fine folks). If that appeals to you at all, the price difference in the stone may allow you to go a little crazy with a really spectacular setting.
posted by drlith at 9:54 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I bought my first wife a sapphire & diamond engagement ring, and it was really very beautiful (more or less like this, but just two diamonds). The sapphire was emerald cut, very dark, and much larger a stone than I would have been able to afford if we were looking at diamonds. This was a decade or so ago--well before Kate Middleton--and it was often noticed as being very elegant and different than the norm. It worked well with her coloring, and I ultimately bought some sapphire and diamond earrings to match.

I think the caveats are that you need to learn about a different stone than "normal." There isn't the same market for gemstone rings, and I don't believe they have an equivalent rating system like with diamonds (like VVS1J or whatever). Some (all?) sapphires are treated to increase the color (I believe you heat them to darken the color). Whether that's a good thing is for you to determine.

Also, of course, sapphires are not as hard as diamonds. My ex once broke a plate while washing the dishes and caused a pit in the sapphire. I believe you can get that fixed with a drop of molten glass to fill the pit, but we never did.

My wife's wedding ring is very unusual--but it's very us.

There is no prize in life for stepping into line with those who have no imagination or personal style.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:54 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Would white sapphire be of interest to you, as a diamond-colored alternative? I was recently looking at engagement rings, and it seemed like a lot of independent artists offered the same rings with a choice of white sapphire or diamond.
posted by teditrix at 9:56 AM on September 25, 2012

I purchased a sapphire engagement ring for my fiancee (at her request). I have had to explain to numerous people that "no, she didn't want a diamond" with the implication frequently being that "She couldn't possibly mean that." I have endured the occasional "joking" comment that I couldn't possibly have spent "enough" on the ring because it's not a diamond. My fiancee has also endured commentary like "Oh, of course you'd go with something unique" (very much in the condescending, "bless your heart" kind of tone.)

Thus, anecdatally, there is definitely a stigma out there surrounding non-diamond engagement rings.

She has never even considered that her ring doesn't "go with everything", and she just wears it.

I too worried about the whole "Princess Di/Kate" thing before purchasing, but the ring I got doesn't even remotely resemble Kate's, which I think helps.

The important thing to me is that she loves her ring, she wears it, and it makes her happy.
I couldn't care less what anyone else thinks.
posted by namewithoutwords at 9:58 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a ruby engagement ring. I love the red color, the overall design of the ring, and the fact that it was inexpensive (lab created stone) so I don't have to constantly worry about losing it somehow. We didn't have much money when we were getting married, so the idea of pushing for a more expensive diamond when it wouldn't have made me any happier didn't make sense to me. Additionally, I wasn't thrilled with the De Beers/artificial markup/blood diamond situation and figured I could just opt out of the whole issue. Nobody has ever expressed anything to me about a ruby being inferior somehow.
posted by PussKillian at 9:59 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is seriously no other reason that people use diamond rings other than the stranglehold that De Beers has on the diamond market. In the late 30's, the man in charge of De Beers was horrified because the diamond market had taken a nosedive, so he hired the ad agency that came up with "A Diamond is Forever." Now we "say it with diamonds" and all that bullshit while De Beers artificially inflates diamond prices. De Beers didn't invent the engagement ring, but they invented the diamond engagement ring. Diamonds are not all that uncommon, and manufactured diamonds are pretty much indistinguishable from the real thing--at least to the human eye. De Beers uses a method that involves UV fluorescence in order to detect that your diamond is "fake" because gemologists can't always tell just by looking.

Get the ring you want. Sapphire, emerald, diamond--it's your ring, and I think that the opinions of others shouldn't be taken into consideration while you make your decision.

(I am personally against conflict diamonds, so if you decide you really want a diamond, I suggest you try to find one certified as "conflict free" or "ethical." Diamonds, from a geological standpoint, are not at all rare--Russia just disclosed a bajillion dollar diamond deposit whose existence had previously been classified, for instance.)
posted by xyzzy at 9:59 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

My engagement ring is a titanium band, no stone, and is now my wedding ring since I did not want an additional one. A few people asked why I didn't get a diamond, but those who knew me knew that I wouldn't have wanted one anyway. Most of my friends think my ring is awesome. (Of course it's awesome: my husband made it!)

I suggest you have a sentence ready to respond with if anyone who would speak with less-than-excitement about your ring. "[squeee] Isn't it perfect?? [partner] knew exactly what I wanted!" type of thing.
posted by teragram at 10:01 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess I just want to "nth" the suggestions for a gemstone based ring. I, too, have a sapphire engagement ring, trillium cut, and it is awesome. He (mefite The Potate) knew that I was not a normal jewelry wearer, and so he did not propose with a ring. We picked it out later, together. I have never gotten anything but compliments on it. Most days I just wear my wedding band, and I enjoy the practicality of not having anything that could snag or catch.
posted by lizjohn at 10:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as for the royal family thing, it's just a fad. Five years from now Kate will continue to inspire a new fad every season. Whereas, considering the text of this question, and how delicately, yet emphatically, you have phrased yourself, I am certain that no matter what ring you end up with, you will be seen by the people who know you as a considerate person who has put plenty of thought into your choices. The only people who might think you are copying are people who don't know that you would be concerned about such a thing, and thus are not worth worrying over.
posted by Mizu at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Many people do not recognize gemstone rings as engagement rings. I wear a light pink gemstone (morganite) traditional style engagement ring and a traditional wedding band and I still have to explain to people that I'm married.

Sapphire is a great choice for an engagement ring because it's pretty durable. You probably already know this but it comes in many colors other than blue - I think white, champagne, peach, or light yellow would make a great choice for an engagement ring because they are more of a neutral than deep blue. That would bother me, but if it doesn't bother you then great!

Here is a very popular etsy seller who I think makes beautiful sapphire rings.
The only hesitation I have about her work is that it looks like many of her stones have windows (where the center of the stone looks empty of facets, almost like glass). But that might not bother you, or you may be able to specifically request a higher quality stone (or send one in.)
posted by ohsnapdragon at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

skip the ring and have him propose with something other than a ring (ex. A friend of my was proposed to with a kayak)

That is the best proposal ever.

I don't really see the point of diamonds, and if I were to be proposed to, I would certainly not expect a ring with a gem in - I see a lot of acquaintances posting pictures of their rings on Twitter, and few of them even have stones in (one of them was engraved with a map reference, which was lovely.). There is no intrinsic value to a diamond - it's just a pretty piece of carbon that someone at some point decided was a luxury item. It's pretty arbitrary and I think anyone who takes the view that a non-diamond ring means your fiance/e is cheap is not in a good position to judge anyone's character. Some couples get married with a £50 ring from Argos and it doesn't mean that their partner loves them any less - but it sounds like you know this.

I'd be more than happy with something in my favourite colour, because it takes more thought than just picking one of the diamond rings in the shop between ££ and £££, and because colours make me happy. But then, I am someone who felt cheated as a child when they found out their birthstone was a diamond, because I liked nice shiny emeralds. It would be pretty cool to wear something that is tough enough to break glass in an emergency, but one would hope husbands would protect one from such emergencies.
posted by mippy at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2012

I have a palladium wedding band set with black diamonds, no engagement ring at all. I had it custom designed and made for me and I love it.

I've never had a negative comment about it, even though I do know plenty of women who put a lot of stock into their own diamond engagement rings (including one who told me proudly how she made her now-husband spend however-many-months salary on it). I think there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, the ring really suits me and my style. Everyone can see that, and I've even had more than one out of the blue comment about how great it is and how much it suits me from people I only just met. Secondly, I'm always really positive about. When I talk about being married I wave the ring and say "I got such an awesome ring out of it", if anyone takes any notice of it I pretty much immediately jump in gushing about how much I love it, etc. Really, no one gets a chance to roll their eyes at it because I'm too busy making it clear that this is exactly what I wanted (which it was!). And, I guess, thirdly, I'm not the kind of person who gives a shit what anyone thinks anyway so anyone who knows me knows better than to even try any kind of girly bullshit stereotype. Heh.

So I think that if you buy the ring you want and love it will be clear that it totally works for you, and the only people who are going to comment negatively are so snobby and stupid that really, all you can do is pity them. And if anyone brings up the royal family just say in a puzzled voice "Kate who?".
posted by shelleycat at 10:19 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

My ex and I got engaged using $25 rings from the Cute Little Semi-Precious Rocks store. (Rings plural, because nobody explained to us that dudes don't normally wear an engagement ring. Oops. Seriously, how the hell do people find out about this stuff?)

There were, yeah, people who didn't automatically assume that we were engaged the way they might have if we'd shown up with a big-ass diamond on her finger. And she had one or two coworkers sort of cluck their tongues over what a cheap slack-ass she was marrying -- which she took as a useful clue that those coworkers were inclined to be sort of shallow and obnoxious about traditional relationship dynamics and she probably shouldn't tell them anything ELSE about our relationship.

I think it depends on what you want out of the ring. If you're hoping to have That Moment when you walk into a room with a rock on your finger and all the ladies in the room squeal and flock to you and etcetera.... well, then you need a proper rock on your finger, meaning a diamond. And I think that's really where some of the pressure to get a diamond comes from. I'm genuinely not trying to put down people who DO want to have That Moment, because it's an important part of getting married for some people, and you shouldn't cheat yourself out of it if it's something you care about, you know? Symbols are all about triggering social interactions that matter to you. So decide what interactions matter to you and go from there.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:24 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This is 100% about what you want to do. Anyone who gives you any sort of trouble or judgement over this kind of thing is a miserable asshole. Really.
posted by something something at 10:26 AM on September 25, 2012 [9 favorites]

I have a color change sapphire (purple to blue) set in platinum as my engagement ring. I've worn it for almost 14 years and have gotten nothing but compliments. If this is something you are going to wear everyday, then wear what you love.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 10:27 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

The stone in my engagement ring is blue tourmaline. It was made by McFarland Designs, Tamara does an awesome job with custom rings. I am not a traditional sort of person (my actual wedding ring cost me 12 bucks on etsy) so it was not important to me what other people thought of my jewelry choices.

You should get the ring you want to wear every day, opinions from folks with different values than yours shouldn't matter.
posted by crankylex at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2012

If you like jewlery and would like a ring, I say go for what you love. Personally, we spent $240 on a white gold/CZ ring and I've worn it for over 10 years.

Diamonds and gemstones are not precious, they're just expensive. Most of the gemstones you see in jewlery shops are manufactured anyway (and not worth a sou.) If you can find a stone that you love, then buy it.

Go to a shop and see if the jewler does custom stuff. My Dad does sculpture and he did a carving in wax, which was then cast into a mold (Lost Wax Casting) and my Mom had her one-of-a-kind engagement ring. Our jeweler cast my ring and I just love it.

An engagement ring is an ornament. Don't spend a ton of money on it.

As for the wedding, we did ours on a Wednesday in July in Ft. Lauderdale and brought a wonderful party for 100, with a Cuban buffet, open bar and our clothes in at under $4,000.

Do exactly what you want to do. You'll never regret it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:30 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I also wanted to address the going with everything thing. One thing we found really surprising when ring shopping was how different the different metals and, to a lesser extend, stones looked actually against our skin. My husband, in particular, had a really cool knack of taking a lovely looking ring then making it look awful just by putting it on. We ended up with totally unmatching rings in the end, largely because of this, and this is his (awesome) ring here. This is also why I'm really in favour if getting one custom made, or at the very least going and trying them on before buying.

So I think that if you find a ring that suits your skin and overall colouring then it will look good no matter what you wear. Like greenish, my mother also has a green engagement ring (tourmaline at first, replaced with an emerald on their 25th anniversary) and it always looks great because it really matches her hair and skin tone. She often wears other rings that are a different metal or colour and it's fine, since everything matches her skin it all has the same base shade or something. So yeah, I think you're good!
posted by shelleycat at 10:31 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

My center stone is a tsavorite garnet, so a deep green color. In addition to being green, it's also fairly inexpensive, at least at the 1/3 karat size. As far as how people react, in my experience everyone is able to recognize it for what it is, and many people have complimented me on it (although they do assume it's an emerald). The color is something I did think about, as far as how I might want other things to match, but it's something I just forgot about after a while. Sometimes I do wear just the small white gold wedding band instead, if I'm going for less fancy or less colorful.
posted by bizzyb at 10:31 AM on September 25, 2012

I want a gemstone ring too, and we actually went to an estate jeweler and talked about it. They definitely had some concrete recommendations about what to choose and not choose - for both stone and setting - based on the fact that this is a ring you wear every day. Chipping, hardness, and the setting matter to the ring's being practical and lasting a lifetime. I was glad I went; we learned a lot, but we haven't decided on anything yet. I just recommend you go talk to someone who knows a lot about gems and is not going to try upselling you to diamonds - these estate jewelers 'got it' and definitely did not do that. Apparently they see a lot of requests like ours.
posted by Miko at 10:31 AM on September 25, 2012

My wife gave me a silver ring (no gems or diamonds) shortly after she proposed to me, and later in our engagement I gave her a silver ring with a similar design. We had our wedding rings made from gold and modeled after the engagement rings.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:32 AM on September 25, 2012

This is my engagement ring.

Imagine it in white gold, and imagine the center stone as a sapphire. I adore it, and given the size of the stones, it was a fairly inexpensive ring (well under $1,000), but I don't think it's "cheap" or that my husband "cheaped out" on it by any means. (FWIW, my wedding ring has stones halfway round it, three sapphires on either end with diamonds in the middle and that wasn't even twice as much as my engagement ring).

The key to this ring is it has to be something you want to wear. Find something you like and you'll be happy with and is comfortable.

And, honestly, I've had my engagement ring for close to 7 years now and not once has anyone said to me, "Oh, your engagement ring doesn't match your pink shirt!" That'd be silly for anyone to care about.
posted by zizzle at 10:33 AM on September 25, 2012

If you google antique engagement rings, you will find many that are not diamond, so it does seem that it is not a new trend.

Personally, I would go with sapphire, emerald or ruby, as those are the colors that speak to me the most, and are much prettier, to me, than a diamond.

Forget about what other people think. You can't live your life that way. Go for what makes you happy.

(I also don't need anyone to suffer needlessly because I want to wear a rock on my finger. But that is just part of my own value system. It would be a big disrespect of my marriage to represent it with a conflict diamond.)
posted by Vaike at 10:34 AM on September 25, 2012

As far as I know, any ring that is worn on the ring finger of the left hand is going to be recognized as an engagement/wedding ring. At least, when I see someone with a ring of any kind on that finger, unless they are wearing a myriad of other rings, I assume they are taken. Get what you like, hopefully you'll be looking at it for a long long time!
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:34 AM on September 25, 2012

Get the ring you and your fiancee want, diamonds are complete propaganda from deBeers. Your and your fiancee's happiness is all that counts. The worry about an emerald clashing with her outfit is, frankly, ridiculous. A classic emerald ring will go with any outfit (my two everyday rings are a sapphire in gold I inherited from my grandmother, and my antique pearl and emerald engagement ring. Both are beautiful and get a lot of complimentary remarks).
posted by goo at 10:35 AM on September 25, 2012

Have you thought about vintage? I happened upon this ring in a pawn shop and bought it for $150. Had it resized for $40 and paid for an appraisal.

Turns out it is a 5-carat Ceylon sapphire, and the gemologist and jeweler able to date it due to the rough cut diamonds around the edge. Note the cornflower blue color, as opposed to a darker blue that many people associate with sapphires (and they can indeed be many colors).

Obviously you'd want to take someone with you or buy from a reputable estate dealer and have the right of return pending your own appraisal.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:36 AM on September 25, 2012

I have a ruby engagement ring. There's never really an issue with it going with outfits or jewelry. It makes me happy because I like the color (well, and because of the fella who gave it to me, naturally).

This ring will be on your finger for many, many years - get one you like. And don't let some big company tell you what to like.

PS. Some gems are significantly less hard than diamonds; that's the only issue to note with colored stones, and doesn't apply to sapphires, which are nearly as hard as diamonds.
posted by agentmitten at 10:37 AM on September 25, 2012

Best answer: Without having read any of the other responses yet:

I just got married this month. I had (have) a sapphire engagement ring. The only comments I have ever gotten about it are that (1) it's beautiful and (2) my great aunt also had a sapphire engagement ring. Seriously. No comments about the royal family, no comments about "oh, but what about a diamond?" (although I suppose you may get that, depending on the sort of people in your life... but if they say that, then they're nitwits, so don't worry about them). No one has thought anything of it. I love sapphires, and they're a heck of a lot cheaper than diamonds. Go for it!
posted by divisjm at 10:38 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, also: I have not once worried about matching it to what I'm wearing.
posted by divisjm at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Non-diamond engagement rings aren't particularly common in the US/Canada, so people might think it is strange, but most people don't seem to actually comment on it, in my experience.

I proposed to my wife with a garnet ring, specifically because she didn't want a diamond (and also because she likes garnet). Generally, if anyone bothers to comment on it, they ask if the stone has a particular significance. They also tend to assume it is a ruby, rather than a garnet, and so unless we correct them there is no assumption that the ring is "cheap." Most of those comments came when we were first telling people that we were engaged. They asked to see the ring and, when they saw that it wasn't a diamond, some of them asked about. Approximately zero people have commented on it since then (although, she doesn't wear it everyday; most days it is wedding band only).

Having said that, we did receive at least one comment that I will call "politely negative." Upon being shown the ring, a certain relative simply said, "Oh," in a slightly confused tone. It was pretty obvious that she had expected to see a diamond and was absolutely baffled by the red stone that she was seeing. She didn't say anything rude or nasty, but it was pretty obvious that she thought it was very strange and possibly even inappropriate that the engagement ring didn't have a diamond in it.

Anecdotally, I've more often heard women commenting about the size of the diamond on someone's finger than the fact that, occasionally, the stone is something other than a diamond. One nice thing about stones that aren't diamonds -- whether precious or semi-precious -- is that you tend to get more rock for your money. I'd never have been able to buy my wife a diamond that's as big as the garnet I got her, at least not without going into significant debt, but I was able to get a very nice, quite large garnet for a pretty reasonable amount.

There is some risk that people will think you're jumping on a trend by getting a sapphire ring in particular (a similar thing happened for my wife: she likes rose gold so her engagement ring and wedding band are rose gold; shortly after getting engaged we noticed that rose gold was had become trendy, so people might assume that we jumped on the trend instead of choosing it as a personal preference), but ultimately you're the one who has to wear it and enjoy it. Choose a ring that you'll enjoy (or give your partner an idea of what you'll like, if he's picking the ring out on his own). Other people might make snippy comments, but they're not marrying you or your husband-to-be, so their comments ultimately don't matter.
posted by asnider at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2012

Ugh, sapphire! In my post above referring to your fiancee's ring. I can read - sorry.

Also - my fiancee and I picked out our rings together at the antique store, which was a lovely bonding experience.
posted by goo at 10:40 AM on September 25, 2012

I didn't have an engagement ring at all--I got one for my husband, instead. The only person who cared was his mother, who is very status-conscious and insisted on running me out to get me "a nice ring." It was a production--we went to TJ Maxx and she was horrified by the fact that I chose a lovely opal because opals are bad luck or something and it was on sale and she was upset about that. I thought it was weird, since she'd said she wanted to do something nice for me. Later she revealed that she was really just embarrassed at her son not buying me a ring and she expected me to lie about him having bought it for me. Which I wouldn't do.

Some people will never get it, and my (otherwise lovely) mother-in-law is in that class of people. Everyone else--from 90-year-old grandparents to our friends and acquaintances--didn't care a whit. In my opinion, only you can figure out what's right for you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:51 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "the blue stone may not match with everything I’m wearing"

Even Miss Manners will tell you that engagement and wedding rings are exempt from rules about matching, gemstones before evening, etc. When you choose your clothes and jewelry for the day, you are allowed to act as if your wedding and engagement rings are invisible, because they're not a fashion statement; it's more like wearing a religious symbol.

Princess Di's ring looks like this; if you don't get a big round flat stone, people won't make the connection.

I have a few friends with non-diamond (usually sapphire) engagement rings, and the only comment they ever get is, "Oh, how pretty! I love blue!" or "Oh, my mom has a sapphire engagement ring!" or similar. Sometimes people ask them conversationally why they got a colored stone instead of a diamond, but not judgmentally, just because it's a fairly safe conversation topic. (Instead of saying, "I don't like diamonds," because a lot of people will have diamonds, say something like, "I've always loved sapphires.") They hear a few comments about Princess Diana, but they either say something like, "Naw, I just like sapphires," or something like, "Yes, all women of extremely refined taste pick sapphires!" in a joking tone.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:55 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife wanted a blood-red ruby ring, and specified no diamonds. It was nigh-impossible to find a ruby solitaire, so I had to get her one that also had two small diamonds. I was surprised to find out that a good quality blood-red ruby is more expensive than most equivalently-sized diamonds.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:57 AM on September 25, 2012

Best answer: Mrs. Lurgi has a big, honking ruby in her wedding/engagement ring because she doesn't really like diamonds. She prefers rubies. I've never been a diamond fan and I like colored stones, so I had no problem with this. It's a beautiful ring (if I do say so myself).

You absolutely, positively, 100%, without a doubt, should get a ring that you like, tradition be damned. It's going to be on your finger, not anyone else's.

I insist that you get a sapphire ring.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:57 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

I don't see why they would. Top-quality sapphires and (especially) rubies can cost more per carat than diamonds. Of course you don't have to spend that much, heat treated rubies can be quite reasonably priced.
posted by mr vino at 10:59 AM on September 25, 2012

Getting something different increases your awesome quotient vis-a-vis everyone else. Different is better.

People may be surprised, or politely rude or call your husband "cheap" behind your back. You can't control what people do or say. More people will be happy that you got something unique and something that you specifically wanted.
posted by cnc at 11:02 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

and nobody has mentioned Priscilla Chan's ruby ring?
posted by mr vino at 11:03 AM on September 25, 2012

Nthing get what you like and don't worry about the haters.
My engagement ring was my husband's grandmother's ring (can't get cheaper than free). But I like that my ring has family history and I've only gotten positve comments in that vein.

My wedding band has amethysts on it. It's my birthstone, I like purple, and matching is never an issue for me.
posted by natasha_k at 11:04 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

I do not think anyone thought HRH The Prince of Wales was cheaping out when he proposed to Diana Spencer with a sapphire engagement ring, nor that Prince William was cheaping out when he gave the same ring to Kate Middleton. If it's good enough for two pincesses, it's good enough for you! (And me - my engagement ring is also sapphires and diamonds.)
posted by DarlingBri at 11:08 AM on September 25, 2012

You should get a ring that YOU think is beautiful and that YOU want to wear for the rest of your life. My late Mom's engagement ring was 2 sapphires bracketing a small diamond and I am still really envious that my sister got it.

BTW, as a daughter of a jeweller who had rings and pendants of various types from childhood, I think diamonds, most gold and most expensive jewellery, are as boring as hell. I spent a long time looking for birthday earrings for the same sister who got THE BEST RING, and finally found a pair with a nice knotted design. Everything else I saw looked too plain or too gaudy.

In short: get a lovely coloured stone and wear it proudly. No one has any damn right to expect you to wear some overpriced piece of clear carbon when what YOU want is something else.
posted by maudlin at 11:14 AM on September 25, 2012

Lots of women I know have sapphire engagement rings. It would never occur to me to think of it as "cheaping out."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:15 AM on September 25, 2012

Best answer: As mentioned above, sapphires are good enough for the British royal family (and some upper crust British ex-pats I know), and are actually traditional: blue is the color for fidelity.

A good sapphire is more expensive than a mediocre, mall-store diamond.
posted by availablelight at 11:22 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife's engagement ring is all sapphires. I don't have much to add to what's already been said, but I would definitely recommend finding a jeweler with a gemologist on-site, who will actually let you look through cut stones to pick out exactly what you want. We found a place in Brooklyn that does this (I have no idea if that's nearby to you; if so, MeMail me!), and spent an hour browsing stones so that we could actually see what the difference in hue and cut was. We also got backstory about what types of stones come from what sort of fields, and I was digging the geology-nerdery while my wife was really into checking subtle differences in color against her hand and the metal that the setting was made from. We found a great sapphire that my wife absolutely loved, and when the ring was made, it gave her a sense of ownership that I don't notice as much in my female friends with regular (boring old) diamond rings.
posted by Mayor West at 11:28 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

My engagement ring was my fiance's great-grandmother's engagement ring. It's very clearly not a diamond (I think it's amethyst, although nobody's too sure) and they didn't have much money, so it wasn't ever a super-expensive ring.

This is fine by me - I was ambivalent enough about the idea of engagement rings anyway and definitely wouldn't have worn a diamond - but I was expecting a few comments. So far, though, nobody's said anything negative at all, and neither of us have once even been asked why it's not a diamond. I can't rule out that some people are thinking it's weird or he's a cheapskate and just not saying, but honestly, who cares if they are? I'm wearing it because it means something to me, not because I want to prove to the world that somebody spent a lot of money on me.

Also, since it's an engagement ring that predates the big De Beers marketing campaign, it's technically more traditional ring than a diamond ring would be. So you can always use that line, if anyone does disapprove!
posted by Catseye at 11:29 AM on September 25, 2012

Response by poster: Wow. This was the fastest influx of responses I have ever recieved on askmefi, and that includes the question I asked from my other account trying to figure out whether my cat was especially stupid. People apparently have strong opinions about diamonds/gemstones!

Well, you guys have confirmed what I thought/knew. A sapphire engagement ring given to me by my stupendously awesome partner is exactly what I want. It may not be for everyone, but it absolutely is what I want and the couple of friends I have mentioned it to jumped all over it with squees and "Oh my god, that would suit you so perfectly!".

Decision made.
Sapphire it is.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:39 AM on September 25, 2012 [10 favorites]

What should I/we be considering when we decide?

Emeralds are extremely soft. I broke a 1/2 carat emerald in half inside an 18k setting when my hand didn't clear an interior kitchen doorway. I like your idea of a sapphire.

What are the benefits to getting a gemstone ring vs. a “normal” diamond engagement ring that I’m not thinking of?

The main benefit is that you will look down at your finger every day and completely love your ring if you go with exactly what you want.

Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

Every single time I see a gemstone engagement ring I think "Huh, these people are individualists. Cool."

In fact, my friend wears a star sapphire engagement ring. She'd always wanted a star sapphire ring, and so her now husband had a ring made around a particularly beautiful one. She gets to wear her favorite stone every day, and knowing that he knew that detail about her and had it made makes the ring that much more meaningful.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:41 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

2nding blue topaz option mentioned above, get compliments all the time. We chose together and it meant a lot to us.

Screw what other people say, if they are openly rude it makes me think less of them for not respecting our choices.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 11:54 AM on September 25, 2012

If you want a sapphire, then by all means you should get a sapphire. If you are anti-diamond and just looking for any alternate stone, you could look into moissanite. It's clear like a diamond (if you're worried about color matching or people making dumb comments), it's more durable than a diamond, and also more sparkly with none of the ethical problems of diamond.

(on preview, it looks like you want a sapphire, so yeah... You should get whatever makes you happy.)
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:56 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding weeping_angel.

My engagement ring is moissanite and I adore it. I particularly dislike diamonds (for the marketing/deBeers crap and the social justice issues) and when I read an earlier thread on engagement rings and diamond alternatives that pointed out moissanite, I was sold. The idea that the original moissanite came from meteors and that it's waaaay sparklier and way more clear than a diamond made me giddy. Add to the fact that my husband found it 80% off and I was delighted.

Also, I told *everyone* that it wasn't a diamond and it may be that my friends and coworkers are just nicer than the average person but once they found out it wasn't a diamond, everyone was gushing at how awesome it was. Out of the four weddings I've been to in the last few years, not a single one has had a diamond engagement ring. Again, that may be that run with a crowd that is a little more socially conscious, but I do think in the next generation or so, the diamond may be less important.
posted by teleri025 at 12:08 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

What should I/we be considering when we decide?

We just went through picking out a ring. There's something paralyzing about marriage and the formalities around it -- it feels like there are rules for everything, and a whole world of friends and relatives and coworkers and strangers to care about whether you get them right.

The truth, I think, is when you find the right ring for you (or whatever's important to you -- the right dress, the right ceremony, the right venue, or, most especially, the right person to marry) it will make you ring like a bell inside, and you'll be able to hear it, and the people who care about you will be able to hear it. The rest of it is static. Your love will consecrate this ground beyond our poor power to add or detract.
posted by jhc at 12:23 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just to add to the pile: my engagement ring is a small antique ruby solitaire. It was literally cheap -- I think we paid $135 for it. Nobody has ever questioned that it was my engagement ring, and the one person who was snotty to me about the cost was so clearly a horrifying asshole that it just made me laugh and laugh and laugh. I love it, it is perfect for me.
posted by KathrynT at 12:26 PM on September 25, 2012

Best answer: Sapphires were the traditional gemstone for engagement rings (in the Western world) until about the '30s and then were overtaken by diamonds when De Beers started its "A Diamond is Forever" campaign in the late '40s.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 1:15 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's up to you to decide if the ring is a reflection of your relationship with your partner or if it's about your relationship to outside people. These aren't always mutually exclusive, but kinda.
posted by rhizome at 1:39 PM on September 25, 2012

I had been quite set on the idea of a sapphire engagement ring until we went shopping. I had never seen a *real* diamond (just fake cheap one you get for >$10) up close before and I had no idea they were quite beautiful and very sparkly. The sapphire ones I did see where super gorgeous and please do not care what anyone else thinks. Go shopping look at a bunch of different stones/settings/etc go to more than on shop, see what you like don't like. Find something you'll love to look at everyday and will remind you of how much you love your fiancé. Don't settle, don't worry if you change your mind while you shop, and have fun spending time with your loved one.
posted by HMSSM at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2012

If someone showed me a sapphire engagement ring I would think, "Cool, this is someone who knows what she likes and is not afraid to buck the trend. What an awesome ring to suit her."

There are plenty of good points above to say that engagement rings don't need to match one's outfit or other jewelry, but if you remain concerned about the color not being neutral enough for everyday wear you might want to check out "champagne" sapphires. They are a gorgeous warm neutral shade and they absolutely glow. If my then fiancé had the means, I would have asked him for a chunky cushion cut champagne sapphire ring. *dissolves into puddle of drool*

Fortunately for me, moissanites are stunning, extremely durable (9.5 on the MOHs scale), and affordable. Though they don't come in champagne, I've seen them in pink, yellow, blue, and green. I chose white for myself, and I could not be happier with my ring. Moissanites actually have more fire and brilliance than diamonds due to slightly different refractive properties.

I do know how you feel regarding potential awkwardness with rude assholes who think engagement rings must involve honking large diamonds. I've told all my friends and family that my rock is a moissanite and have had a range of reactions from, "Wow it's gorgeous! Why did I waste money on a diamond?" to, "Huh? What is that? Are you sure it's not going to turn yellow?" (my mom, bless her). The vast majority of reactions to having an "alternative" stone have been positive. And I've come to discover that once you're actually married, no one will bother about the ring anymore.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2012

Best answer: I have a blue topaz engagement ring. I told my now-husband that I did not want a diamond ring. I like that it's a) not diamonds, 2) different than most engagement rings, and d) really beautiful. I get compliments on it all the time, and not a single person has ever even hinted that they thought it was a way to cheap out on the ring.

Short version: go with what you like and screw what anyone else thinks.
posted by bedhead at 2:11 PM on September 25, 2012

Best answer: My engagement ring is not only a sapphire, but vintage (and therefore not heat-treated, which actually makes it more valuable). It's a little dinged up, but super cool. No one has ever said anything negative to me about it.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:26 PM on September 25, 2012

Having read most, but not all of the replies.

Do people see a gemstone engagement ring and think “Huh, he cheaped out…”?

Some people do, and as you already know, these people are morons. Some people will also think you copied Kate Middleton. I would encourage you to think about why other people's potentially negative opinions matter so much to you, since it will help you deal with the process of getting married and having a Wedding (which from what you've said above, I assume you will) without fearfully second guessing every decision you need to make.

If it hasn't already been linked above, this Atlantic article is an excellent read on the subject of diamonds.
posted by bimbam at 3:05 PM on September 25, 2012

If someone showed me a sapphire engagement ring I would think, "Cool, this is someone who knows what she likes and is not afraid to buck the trend. What an awesome ring to suit her."

My mom had a cluster of sapphires as a "promise ring" sort of deal (she and my dad have been together since they were 15, d'awww) and she got them incorporated into her engagement/wedding ring later on... so even if you end up changing your mind later on (which I don't feel is likely, but I guess possible), don't forget the idea that you could keep elements from the original ring.
posted by jorlyfish at 4:32 PM on September 25, 2012

I'm of the no diamonds please brigade.

My engagement ring is a fancy ceylonese sapphire - it is a purple blue.

The best part of the ring was we got it made by a local jeweller who took into account lifestyle - so the stone is fully encased around the sides in white gold, with a nice fat gold band - hard to lose and it can take a few knocks. (it also matches my wedding ring and mr insomniax's band. Funniest part is that my husband's ring cost more than both of mine combined)

Nobody has ever said anything about diamonds to me, and with the price of gold at the moment - i figure the rings are worth more than you could ever get with a diamond if I ever needed to sell.
posted by insomniax at 4:43 PM on September 25, 2012

My engagement ring is a sapphire solitaire. One thing to consider is that it looks very dark on my finger -- almost black in most lighting. I had the setting altered twice to attenuate this, and it's still very dark. If I were to choose a ring over again, I would go for a much lighter sapphire.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't have a sapphire, but I have a unique wedding ring set. My wedding ring set is Depression-era shadow boxed diamonds (antique, obviously). It's probably a really low carat-weight. Most people think it's really unique and elaborate piece of jewelry, the kind you rarely see any more. Given that I like to wear vintage clothing, I think they know my partner chose well.

Several friends have gotten engaged with sapphire rings recently. It seems like the ones who've gone the topaz / sapphire route have gone for a more ostentatiously large and brilliant, colorful stone. More "bling." I've been kind of jealous! A high quality sapphire is really striking.
posted by sweltering at 2:16 AM on September 26, 2012

I know I'm pretty late to this conversation, but I just wanted to say that I don't have diamonds. My engagement ring was a small band of emeralds (my husband's birthstone) that was very inexpensive. My wedding ring has two peridots (my birthstone) and two emeralds (his birthstone). It meant more to me to use stones that had significance to me, and it's totally ok to be different.
posted by Kronur at 6:52 AM on September 26, 2012

Way late to the thread, but I never understood why anyone would want a diamond engagement ring that, for the most part, looks like everyone else's diamond engagement ring. As noted above, sapphires were the rock of choice until the diamond industries stepped up the marketing.

My ring is sterling silver with a single set garnet. I love it SOOO much. Especially because 1) I am metal intolerant and KNOW I can wear silver, 2) garnet is my favorite color ever, so it matched my wedding dresses (I had three), and 3) we spent a fraction, a tiny fraction, on our rings compared to the usual ring outlay.

That it may not color match perfectly with every outfit or be instantly recognized as an "I'm married" signifyer is so so so secondary to the heart-swelling thrill you will get every time your gaze happens to fall on your hand for the rest of your life.

posted by Jezebella at 7:24 AM on September 26, 2012

Response by poster: FOLLOW-UP: My partner took me out at lunchtime today to look at rings and I absolutely fell in love with a pear shaped sapphire surrounded by small diamonds. He loved it too, apparently he had seen it the day before and had said to himself that it was perfect and that he knew I would love it.

Nothing purchased offically, but it looks like I'm going to be getting the ring of my absolute biggest dreams, and it is a sapphire. :)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

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