Princess Diana, Jackie Kennedy, Victoria Beckham, Halle Berry, Princess Eugenie. Did you know they all chose non-diamond, gemstone engagement rings? Gemstone engagement rings are becoming more and more popular due to their unique style, large size, and lower cost. However, because all gemstones have different levels of hardness, not all gemstones are good engagement ring center stones. In other words, it’s important to know which gemstones will stand up to your life together, and which gemstones may break easily during normal wear. To understand this, let’s talk about the Mohs Hardness Scale, and what your daily life looks like.

Bottom line:

Do: Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby, Aquamarine, Spinel, Alexandrite, Topaz

Don’t: Amethyst, Opal, Pearl, Tanzanite, Morganite

 

What is a Gemstone Engagement Ring?

A gemstone engagement ring is a type of engagement ring that has a non-diamond center stone. Often designed using traditional engagement settings such as solitaires, halos, and three-stones, some couples choose less traditional settings to hold their less traditional center stone. Common gemstone choices include Sapphire, Emerald, and Ruby. Aquamarine engagement rings, Morganite engagement rings, Tanzanite engagement rings, Opal engagement rings, and Amethyst engagement rings are gaining popularity too. However, some of these stones will not stand up to daily wear.

 

What are the Risks and Benefits?

There are many benefits to choosing a gemstone engagement ring, including personality, uniqueness, and cost. Learning the risks associated with choosing a gemstone over a diamond will help couples better care for their gemstone engagement ring, and feel confident in their choice.

Benefits

  • Fun, colorful expression
  • Lower cost
  • Bigger sizes and more shapes

Couples choose gemstone engagement rings for many reasons. Some like to express themselves in color. A bright red ruby engagement ring says passion. A dark blue sapphire engagement ring stands for loyalty. Couples love splashy oranges and pinks, and cool fresh greens. Gemstones are lively!

Another reason to consider a gemstone engagement ring is cost. Depending upon the stone, size, and color, gemstones are often a fraction of the cost of a similarly sized diamond. So, couples choosing a gemstone engagement ring can often afford a larger center stone in gemstone than in diamond.

Speaking of size, many gemstones regularly grow in large crystals. As a result, many gemstones are available in sizes and shapes that diamond is not. So, couples have the opportunity to choose large, fancy shapes for their special ring.

purple rectangular gemstone engagement ring with round diamonds around stone

Tourmaline Engagement Ring

Risks

  • Lower hardness
  • Difficulty replacing exact stone

While there are many benefits to gemstone engagement rings, there are risks to consider before purchase too. Because gemstones are not as hard as diamond, gemstone engagement rings may scratch or chip more easily. Couples can protect against this by choosing a hard gemstone, and by designing a protective setting.

Another issue to be aware of is that gemstones’ unique colors and shapes can be more difficult to replace in the event of loss or breakage. Because gemstones are often cut in less standard shapes than diamonds, couples may have a harder time finding the exact measurements of their original stone. Likewise, as gemstone color is so unique – consider all the various shades of “blue” at the paint store – finding the exact color you originally had can be tough. Couples can protect themselves by having a gemologist appraise and color grade their gemstone so they have an exact record.

Shades of Blue

Are They Durable Enough?

Some gemstones are – and some aren’t. One of the reasons you’ll hear a “diamond is forever” is because diamonds are a 10/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. This means that diamond is (literally) the hardest substance known to man. There is nothing that can scratch at diamond except for, you guessed it, another diamond. Non-diamond gemstones are not as hard. However, neither is the glass on your car’s windshield, the screen on your iPhone, or the table you’re sitting at right now. In other words, there’s still some pretty durable stuff out there. Let’s talk about how hard a gem needs to be in order to stand up to daily wear.

 

What is the Mohs Hardness Scale?

The Mohs Hardness Scale was developed to rank the hardness of gemstones and minerals. It goes from 1 (Talc) to 10 (Diamond). This is useful when trying to select a gemstone engagement ring center stone, because we know how hard daily life is. Huh? No seriously, hear me out.

Dust is a 7/10 on the scale.

You know, the stuff floating around in the air? That’s the stuff that will scratch your gemstone when you try to clean it. So, when choosing a gemstone engagement ring, your best bet is to choose a gemstone of 7.5/10 and above. The closer to 10/10 you get, the more durable your ring will be.

 

Mohs Hardness Scale Chart

Mohs Hardness Scale. (Photo by: GIA)

What Gemstones Make Good Engagement Ring Center Stones?

Gemstones of a 7.5/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and above make the best engagement ring center stones. My own Spinel is an 8/10, and I still treat it very gingerly (and love it very much!) Let’s review some durable gemstone engagement ring options, in order of hardness:

Emerald Engagement Rings

  • Look for a beautiful medium (not too light or too dark) green
  • Stay away from gems with dangerous, surface-reaching inclusions

Emerald is a beautiful, mystical green. It is durable, at a 7.5/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Its name derives from Sanskrit, and it symbolizes growth and energy. Emerald comes in many shades, including pure green, yellow-green, and blueish-Green. It can be light or dark. As a Type III gemstone, Emerald often shows extensive eye-visible inclusions. In other words, don’t expect an Emerald to be flawless. Some people call an Emerald’s inclusions its “garden.” Couples choosing an Emerald engagement ring should take caution that inclusions which reach the surface of the gem may increase its risk for chipping. So, watch out for large inclusions which meet the edges of your stone. Also, make sure to choose an emerald engagement ring setting that protects any inclusions which may put the ring at risk.

 

 

 

cushion cut emerald engagement ring 7.5 on Mohs Hardness Scale

Emerald Engagement Ring

Aquamarine Engagement Rings

  • Very shiny and eye clean
  • Darker stones hide dirt and oil better than light gems

Aquamarine is a shiny, light blue gem that symbolizes tranquility and healing. Unlike its sister, Emerald, Aquamarine is a Type I gem, meaning it should be pretty flawless. Like Emerald, it is a 7.5/10 on the Hardness Scale. Aquas can come in light, medium, and darker blue tones. It sometimes shows a hint of green, like the sea. Couples choosing an Aquamarine engagement ring should look for an eye-clean gem that shows its blue color. Lighter blues are less valuable than medium or medium-dark blues. Darker color blues will also help to hide when your Aquamarine engagement ring is not sparkling clean, whereas light blue shows dirt and oil much more easily.

aquamarine engagement ring 7.5 on Mohs Hardness Scale

Aquamarine engagement ring. (Photo by: La More Design)

Topaz Engagement Rings

  • Big stones available
  • Eye clean

Topaz is an 8/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, making it a good engagement ring option. It symbolizes wealth and royalty. The most common color of Topaz today is blue, however it is also naturally found in colorless, pink, yellow, and peach hues. Blue Topaz comes in some massive crystals, making it a great choice for couples that want a huge look. When choosing a Topaz engagement ring, you should look for an eye clean stone with medium color.

topaz engagement ring 8 on Mohs Hardness Scale

Topaz engagement ring.

Warning! Mystic Topaz Engagement Rings: Gem scientists have developed a variety of enhanced Topaz colors called “Mystic” Topaz, which shines multiple colors all at once. Couples should be aware that Mystic Topaz treatment is a surface coating, and is therefore not a durable option for an engagement ring. It can wear off or chip off! Instead of looking for a Mystic Topaz Engagement Ring, those looking for a rainbow color effect should consider Alexandrite (below). 

Spinel Engagement Rings

  • Multiple colors, with red, blue, pink, and purple being most common
  • Search for eye clean gems

My engagement ring is a Spinel! Although it is not commonly heard of, Spinel makes a good engagement ring choice due to its 8/10 hardness on the Mohs Scale and its vast array of colors. Spinel symbolizes power and protection. My Spinel is a blueish-Violet color, but I have also designed Spinel engagement rings in bright Pink and Black. The most sought after colors in this gemstone engagement ring are red, pink, and blue, as they can rival Ruby and Sapphire. Spinel is a Type II gemstone, which means they often have some inclusions, but can also be eye-clean. So, couples choosing a Spinel should look for an eye-clean stone in a color that speaks to them!

cushion cut dark blue gemstone engagement ring in white gold

2.75ct Cushion Spinel Engagement ring.

Alexandrite & Chrysoberyl Engagement Rings

  • Great hardness at 8.5/10
  • Alexandrite changes color from green to red
  • Chrysoberyl is yellow, green, or bronze

Alexandrite is a great choice for an engagement ring due to its 8.5/10 Mohs hardness. It is the color-change version of the larger gem group Chrysoberyl, and symbolizes luck and balance. Alexandrite changes from green in daylight to red under a light bulb. Non-alexandrite Chrysoberyl comes in yellow, bronze, and green. Chrysoberyl symbolizes protection and healing. Chrysoberyl and Alexandrite are Type II gemstones, meaning they will have some inclusions, but eye-clean gems are available. So, couples choosing this engagement ring should look for eye clean gems.

When looking for an Alexandrite engagement ring, the most important thing to consider is the quality of its colors and color change. Couples looking for a Chrysoberyl engagement ring should seek out a pleasing, warm color.

teal colored and amber gemstone engagement rings in white gold

Left: Alexandrite engagement ring. | Right: Chrysoberyl engagement ring.

Sapphire Engagement Rings & Ruby Engagement Rings

  • Superior gemstone hardness
  • Rich colors in all the rainbow

Sapphire and its sister, Ruby, are the hardest non-diamond gems available at a 9/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Members of the gem family Corundum, red gems are Ruby, and all the other rainbow colors are Sapphire. A Sapphire engagement ring signifies loyalty. A Ruby engagement ring symbolizes love and passion. Sapphire and Ruby are Type II gems, meaning they will have some inclusions, but eye clean gems should be sought out. Rich medium tones (in other words, not too light and not too dark) are the most beautiful and valuable. Because of its superior hardness and crazy amount of colors, a Sapphire engagement ring is an excellent gemstone engagement ring choice. Likewise, due to its romantic color and great durability, couples looking for something different should definitely consider a Ruby engagement ring.

blue three gemstone engagement ring in yellow gold and red engagement ring with halo in rose gold

Left: Sapphire engagement ring. | Right: Ruby engagement ring.

What Gemstones Are Risky as Engagement Rings?

Opal Engagement Rings

  • Very soft
  • Instead, consider star sapphire

Opals are beautiful shimmery gems that are very, very soft. A 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, in fact. So, even with extreme caution, there is a real chance the gem will break during normal wear. As a result, Opal engagement rings are not ideal. Instead, couples looking for an Opal engagement ring should check out Star Sapphire – much harder and just as unique!

 

chipped opal ring low on Mohs Hardness Scale and white star sapphire ring

Left: Chipped Opal center stone. | White star sapphire engagement ring.

Morganite Engagement Rings

  • Shows dirt and oil almost immediately
  • Instead, consider Pink Sapphire, Pink Topaz, and Pink Spinel

Morganite is a peachy-pink gem that is typically eye clean. It symbolizes love and innocence. This may sound like an ideal engagement ring choice, but real life gets in the way. Because of its light color and lack of significant sparkle, Morganite shows dirt and oil almost immediately. Even people who take great care of their rings will experience this, because, well, life. You have oil on your skin, put on makeup, use hairspray, wash your hands. So, instead of choosing a Morganite engagement ring, couples should check out Pink Topaz, Pink Spinel, or Pink Sapphire – much harder, and do not show dirt and oil as easily!

comparison of morganite engagement ring and pink sapphire engagement ring

Left: Dull, dirty Morganite engagement ring. | Right: Pink sapphire engagement ring.

Pearl Engagement Rings

  • Very, very soft
  • Instead, consider cabochon sapphire

Pearl engagement rings are romantic. Unfortunately, they are also too soft, at a 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Normal damage we see to Pearl engagement rings include loss of the pearl, dull spots where the nacre has worn off, and chipping. This is tragic! Instead, couples looking for a Pearl engagement ring should consider a white cabochon Sapphire instead. A sapphire engagement ring is much harder, and will last the test of time.

 

missing pearl center stone compared to star sapphire centerstone

Left: Missing pearl in ring setting. (Photo by: MyJewelryRepair) | Right: Cabochon Sapphire engagement ring.

Amethyst Engagement Rings

  • Too soft
  • Instead, consider Purple Sapphire

Amethyst is a rich, Welch’s grape purple that people adore for a unique engagement ring. Sadly, at a 7/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, Amethyst is the same hardness as dust. As a result, Amethyst will wear poorly over time, experiencing mini scratches until it is dull. That’s not what you want for an engagement ring! Instead, couples searching for an Amethyst engagement ring should check out Purple Sapphire which is much harder and will always be beautiful.

scratched amethyst stone compared to purple sapphire

Left: Scratched Amethyst stone. | Right: Purple sapphire engagement ring.

Tanzanite Engagement Rings

  • Too soft
  • Instead, look for Violet Spinel

Tanzanite burst onto the scene in 1967, and suddenly everyone wanted a Tanzanite engagement ring. It’s no wonder – it’s a gorgeous blue-violet that is quite uncommon in gems. However, at 6-6.5/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, it’s a bad idea for an engagement ring. Instead, couples looking for a Tanzanite engagement ring should look for Violet Spinel (like mine!). Spinel is much harder than Tanzanite and will hold up to daily wear much better.

scratched loose tanzanite stone and diamond halo spinel engagement ring

Left: Scratched Tanzanite gemstone. | Right: Violet Spinel engagement ring.

Can You Help Me Design a Great, Durable Gemstone Engagement Ring?

I’d love to! Contact me here and describe the delicious color you’re looking for! I will walk you through what gemstone options are the most durable and find the perfect stone for you.