Non-Diamond Engagement Ring
July 14, 2004 1:20 PM   Subscribe

I am fairly well resolved to do what must be done to turn my girlfriend into my fiance. One thing is delaying this: I'd like to get an engagement ring without enriching the diamond monopoly (she and I are both on the same page about this). What's to know about substitute/faux/synthetic gemstones? Are they worth it? What would make a good ring given this unorthodox constraint? Any and all suggestions much appreciated!
posted by cleetus to Shopping (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I bought my wife an antique sapphire and platinum ring from the 20's. (On eBay, no less!) And while it has diamonds in it, my purchase of it didn't directly benefit the cartel. And my wife was (and is) completely thrilled with my purchase.
posted by crunchland at 1:34 PM on July 14, 2004


you could get another kind of stone--something precious or semi-precious--or get an estate (vintage, secondhand) diamond and have it reset.

I think fake diamonds are silly--like shaping tofu into a burger or hotdog form.
posted by amberglow at 1:35 PM on July 14, 2004


What crunchland said, I was going to recommend buying an antique diamond ring as well. There are also manmade diamonds and Canadian diamonds.
posted by substrate at 1:41 PM on July 14, 2004


Canadian diamonds aren't (yet) part of the DeBeers monopoly. We were thrilled with our purchase of one of these purchased from here thanks to the great advice from all of you guys.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:42 PM on July 14, 2004


Pre-congratulations! I don't think your constraint is unorthodox at all - I love the idea. Have you given any thought to an estate ring? You know, some gorgeous vintage thing you can pick up for a song from an auction? (on preview, I see that a lot of us are on the same page about that!)

If you don't want a diamond at all though, why buy a fake one? If you don't want to enrich the diamond monopoly, then why should she be wearing a ring that looks like you do enrich it? Buy another stone entirely, and chances are very good that hardly anyone at all (except family members, of course) will even comment on it or ask why it isn't a diamond. It's really not all that uncommon to use another stone in an engagement ring.

Marcasite: mmmm...gorgeous. If money is not an issue - emerald: gorgeous. Ruby: gorgeouser! Opals are simple and lovely, so are sapphires. All of those are beautiful and timeless. A simple band is beautiful as well.

Also, like flowers, gems have a meaning or messages that you might want to look into before you purchase one. It adds to the meaning of the ring to know the symbolism behind the metals and the gems used to make it, especially if you're having something custom made. There are a bunch of sites online that detail the meaning behind the gems.
posted by iconomy at 1:46 PM on July 14, 2004


I don't think there's anything wrong with a fake diamond. Nowadays they make diamonds in the lab too, although you can only get yellow right now.
posted by agregoli at 1:48 PM on July 14, 2004


Oh, they're called mossanite (sp?)
posted by agregoli at 1:49 PM on July 14, 2004


Although I have no experience purchasing engagement rings I have experience being knocked off my feet by how much friends have paid for theirs, acting under societal pressures to buy large and buy DeBeers.

My advise would be to forget the pressures to get a diamond/diamond-lite piece and find something that really strikes you. I'd second the above vintage suggestions or searching out something modern that is a bit more adventurous. It is something your to be fiancee will hopefully have for the rest of her life, so it is probably worth some extra effort.
posted by shotsy at 1:55 PM on July 14, 2004


personally, i want a diamond. but if i had an ethical objection to it, i wouldn't want a fake diamond. there is an obvious difference between the two and jewlelry made with the fakes just look off. so, i'd want a nice ring with either a different gemstone or metalwork instead of a gemstone. i have my great aunt's engagement ring; it's a ruby and very beautiful.

tiffany does lovely wedding bands without gemstones of any kind, for instance. james avery (a texas jeweler) makes a reproduction of martin luther's wedding band that has a garnet.

you could also look at estate jewelry. usually quite distinctive.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:01 PM on July 14, 2004


Or make a donation in both your names to yr favorite cause.
Or get a tattoo.
Or trust that her YES! Oh YES!! will be good enough.

I wish you the best!
posted by black8 at 2:02 PM on July 14, 2004


Custom gold/platinum/whatever rings made by a real craftsperson and not a jewelry factory. Engraving maybe?

What ever happened to the idea of plain old bands anyway? Or does the engagement ring always have to be fancier than a wedding band?
posted by luriete at 2:04 PM on July 14, 2004


fwiw, I think I probably ended up paying 1/10th of what I would have paid for a ring with a diamond caret size similar to the sapphire I got. Estate rings, all the way.
posted by crunchland at 2:09 PM on July 14, 2004


is there really an "obvious difference" between "real" and "fake" diamonds? i thought they were the same thing, except for the source of heat and pressure (ie. chemically, physically).
posted by andrew cooke at 2:09 PM on July 14, 2004


also, is "estate" a euphemism for "second hand" or does it have some other meaning?
posted by andrew cooke at 2:10 PM on July 14, 2004


"Estate" usually means bought at an auction, generally an auction after someone dies.
posted by gleuschk at 2:17 PM on July 14, 2004


thanks. obvious in retrospect...
posted by andrew cooke at 2:30 PM on July 14, 2004


My (now) wife and I got cool matching Thai rings for like $5 at a street fair a few minutes after she proposed. (It was kind of impromptu.) A little while later, we went to an antiques fair, and did the "vintage ring" thing everyone else is mentioning, which was nice, but in the end, we got simple, hammered gold matching bands made for the ceremony, and that's really all we both wear day-to-day.

I'd say the most important thing is to gauge what matters to her--not that that's a reason to go overboard on a ring, by any means, but hopefully you've got a good sense of what's really important to her. If she likes serendipity, find a way to keep a ring in your wallet, and pop it out at an opportune moment. If she likes ceremony, arrange something romantic and formal. No matter what, if you can nail the circumstances, she won't care if you give her a ring from a Cracker Jacks box.

[As an aside, more than one person I know has done just that--proffered an obviously temporary toy ring at the proposal, as a placeholder for one they could go out and pick together.]
posted by LairBob at 2:37 PM on July 14, 2004


andrew--

i think it depends upon which sort of fake diamond you're talking about but as agregoli noted, the "real" fake diamonds are only available as yellow which is clearly noticeable.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:46 PM on July 14, 2004


Where can you purchase the manmade diamonds? All I've seen to date is an article in Wired that promised them real soon. There must be sites for them, right? Any good, reputable ones?
posted by mathowie at 3:26 PM on July 14, 2004


Claddaugh rings. (scroll down the page for the info section)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:32 PM on July 14, 2004


man made diamonds: these are the yellow ones
posted by chrisroberts at 3:52 PM on July 14, 2004


andrew, even without the yellow they are detectable. An article I was reading recently mentioned that the average jeweler can not tell the difference but DeBeers has a special tool for gemologists. The process that makes the artificial diamonds causes them to glow a faint red under the right wavelength of light. Natural diamonds don't.
posted by substrate at 4:02 PM on July 14, 2004


Matt, I think I saw an add for them in USA Today not too long ago. I'll see if I can find it when I go in to work tomorrow.
posted by substrate at 4:02 PM on July 14, 2004


'Course really real real colored diamonds are rarer (which is to say, they are actually rare) and more expensive than non-colored diamonds. A "real" yellow diamond would probably cost a mint.
posted by kenko at 5:13 PM on July 14, 2004


Ruby all the way. Go lab-created!
posted by beth at 5:26 PM on July 14, 2004


family heirlooms work pretty good as well....was going to have something made from a collection of rings, gold from here, diamond from there...but then her grandmother wanted her to have her ring.

its awesome, and more our style than modern rings.

my first ring was fake stone, and it broke, my second ring was stone and gave me headaches. My final ring is art nouveou silver handmade from a vender i'd seen in berkeley off and on for years, and everyone loves it.

anyways, be creative...but only if she will like it.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:11 PM on July 14, 2004


I think people are getting terms mixed up: fake diamonds are costume jewelry. What you're really referring to are "synthetic" diamonds - those grown in labs - that are identical to diamonds grown in the earth (unless you're using some of DeBeer's machinery to quibble over trivial differences unobservable to the human eye).

"Synthetic" diamonds are still absolutely diamonds, the "synthetic" only applies to the process for making them.

And Kenko's correct: natural yellow diamonds are much rarer and more expensive than white.

They do make white synthetic diamonds now, though.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:27 AM on July 15, 2004


I have an antique diamond ring, which I love, but I think that if I were choosing today I would like a pearl, in some sort of interesting/dramatic setting, like this, maybe. (lots of pearl/wedding customs.)

Another idea is a Victorian snake ring (which was actually Queen Victoria's engagement ring), because the snake stands for eternity. You can find these in many different styles, both antique, and contemporary.

Or you could do something very unusual and give her something actually ancient, like this or this (from this page - music warning!), which to me would be megacool, but perhaps not for everybody.
posted by taz at 3:31 AM on July 15, 2004


My friends recently got married and went the craftsman-made route which I thought was particularly excellent. They had paired engagement/wedding rings done at the same time [probably not right if you want to spring a ring on your girlfriend]. In their case the rings formed a giant tree, the engagement ring was made up of mostly roots, the wedding ring was all the branches, leaves etc. Get it? It wasn't cheap, but there were no stones involved and everyone gets all misty-eyed when they tell the story about them. You can see a close-up jpg of them here.
posted by jessamyn at 5:30 AM on July 15, 2004


These
are good.
posted by free pie at 8:21 AM on July 15, 2004


My wife picked out a nice Canadian Diamond from Birks.

They were nice and helpful when we bought it. I know about as much about jewelery as I do about cars.
posted by punkrockrat at 2:48 PM on July 15, 2004


DeBeers has a special tool for gemologists.
Ultraviolet light.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:05 PM on July 15, 2004


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