Rings did not always signify marriage. Styles, materials & meanings behind rings have evolved throughout time. It’s said Egyptian pharaohs were the first to wear rings, to honor their gods - a circle represents eternity as they have no beginning or end. Fast forward to Medieval Times (500 - 1500) & there were wedding rings set with precious gemstones.
Early 14th Century Sapphire and Emerald Ring, c.1300
Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
Puritans in colonial America (1630) considered jewelry frivolous & the Eastern trend of ornate engagement rings was becoming lost. Thankfully diamond engagement rings became popular once more during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) - she had a famed love for diamond jewelry.
Up until the 1940s, diamonds were just one among numerous gems used in engagement rings. However by the 1950’s diamond culture was in full swing - this was largely thanks to South African diamond giant DaBeers & their legendary campaigning - 'Diamonds Are Forever'.
A De Beers ad in Reader's Digest, 1960
Source - SensaiAlan/Flickr
Now, in 2021, wedding rings have evolved into statements of individuality. More & more clients have been asking if they can add color or use materials not traditionally seen in wedding jewelry & we love it! With the amazing advancements in jewelry research & technology, most jewelers have preferences when it comes to what gemstones to use in engagement & wedding rings. After all, you’re going to be wearing this piece everyday for the rest of your life!
Here are 5 stones we think are best for long-lasting engagement rings:
Let’s start with the most popular gem - diamonds. A diamond is a rare, naturally occurring mineral - it’s a solid form of the element carbon. Why are they so rare? They were formed billions of years ago & survived the journey from the depths of earth to its surface. Aside from their rarity, diamonds are popular for their undeniable beauty. The optical properties of a diamond (how it reacts with light) cause it to glimmer in a striking way… that bling effect we all love.
There is however a more technical reason diamonds are a great choice for an engagement ring - longevity! Diamond is the hardest-known mineral. It’s a 10/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale (a system jewelers use to measure a stone’s surface hardness). This means that your gemstone or diamond in your ring will be able to withstand daily wear for decades to come.
Bonus about diamonds? They also come in hues of red, pink, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green and brown. Referred to as ‘fancy color’, these diamonds are extremely rare and often sold at auction. On average, only one in 10,000 nearly colorless diamonds mind has a color that earns the fancy designation.
Lab grown diamonds are a great alternative to earth mined ones. These man-made gems have the same chemical, physical & optical qualities of mined diamonds.
Much like their natural peers, lab-grown diamonds are formed under extreme heat & pressure - just in a laboratory instead of underground. This allows the prices to be lower than their counterpart - so if you love the brilliance of diamonds but want to save some money, this is a great option for you!
Another advantage to lab grown diamonds is that they are grown in a controlled environment & can be coloured in the manufacturing process. You can get your dream fancy-colour pink diamond for a fraction of the price.
Another great alternative if you love the look of a colourless stone is a moissanite. Moissanite was first discovered in 1893 by Henri Moissan while examining rock samples from a meteor crater - this has led to people referring to the stone as ‘born from the stars’. It’s a mineral form of silicon carbide that is widely used as a diamond simulant.
Moissanite is a clear stone that can have even more sparkle than a diamond. They exhibit a fiery, rainbow brilliance that diamonds don’t have. Though some people adore this about the gem, some find it too flashy, especially in sunlight.
With a hardness of 9¼ on the Mohs scale, moissanite is very suitable for everyday wear in an engagement ring. However, jewelry-quality moissanite is incredibly rare. Most moissanite available today is laboratory-created - resulting in less clarity imperfections and lower prices than diamonds. This makes the experience of shopping for a ‘perfect’ gemstone much easier.
If you love color, sapphire is the stone for you. It’s a beautiful precious gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum, that has been used in jewelry since ancient times. This gemstone is perfect for an engagement ring because it's not only attractive, but durable as well. Coming in at 9/10 on the Mohs scale, sapphires are the third hardest gem after diamond & moissanite.
A reason we love sapphires is their amazing range of colors. Though blue is the most well known & valuable hue of sapphire, they also form in stunning shades of yellow, purple, orange, green, or even colorless.
Natural sapphires come from around the world, but they can also be imitated in laboratories. Synthetic sapphires have essentially the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as mined ones. Make sure you know if you’re investing in a natural or synthetic stone when buying sapphires. Adding sapphire to the design can add a unique and personalized feel to your ring.
The last of our top 5 is a versatile gem that does not get enough recognition - spinel. Natural spinel is a rare & beautiful gem. It's an oxide mineral with a Mohs hardness of 8 - hard enough to use in rings. You may not have heard of this stone due it’s reputation. Synthetic spinel has been around since 1930 & it’s commanily has affected its public perception. We say, forget all those negative thoughts & see spinel for what it is: a gem-mineral so spectacular it was confused for ruby & sapphire for over 1000 years!
Spinels are so naturally beautiful, almost all of them on today’s market are untreated. They also form in colors that span the entire spectrum:
red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet & purple - even black, gray & colorless.
We think this gemstone deserves its moment in the spotlight. It’s comfortable price range, beautiful colors & durability make it an obvious choice for an engagement ring. As usual, we recommend double-checking if your stone is synthetic or not before committing to a piece.
Browse all engagement rings here.