Alternative Engagement Rings: 4 Gemstones To Avoid

In this blog, I’m going to address the 4 gemstones that are NOT suitable for engagement rings and why.

Thanks for coming back to my blog on the in’s and out’s of alternative engagement rings.In my first blog in this series, I addressed the moral and ethical problems surrounding diamonds and mining. I’ve given you a few options for new designers who are using ethically sourced gemstones and materials, along with more ways to solve those problems.

In this blog, I want to address what I see as the REALLY BAD ADVICE people write in articles about what gemstones to use for alternatives to diamonds. I’m going to talk about the alternative gemstones that would be good options if you just can’t handle a diamond at all in my next blog. This is not my normal blog, but I can’t stand by and let all the misinformation I’m seeing on gemstones for alternative engagement rings get passed around like gospel. In this blog, I’m not going to sugar coat things. I’m going to tell it like it is because no one else seems to be doing it!

First, I’d like to say that a lot of people are looking for alternatives so if you are, you’re not alone. There’s a great need for options in our modern world. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of uninformed sources putting a lot of misinformation into the market. I’ve recently read some articles stating opal, pearl, tanzanite and emeralds are good options for engagement rings. I’m going to be very clear here: they are NOT! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they are considered very poor choices for every-day-wear jewelry.

If you are not planning on wearing your engagement ring every day, or plan on using it for the ceremony only, then by all means, get what you love. I’m not going to tell you to NOT buy something that you adore.  I’m here to give you information and you can decide for yourself what to do. If you really love opals, pearls, tanzanites or emeralds, consider getting a separate ring with one of those options in it. You are allowed to wear more than one ring at a time. You have 10 whole fingers and 365 days in a year so as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier!

If you’re planning on wearing your engagement ring every day, then you need to keep other factors in mind.

Most people use the one big factor as the test for an everyday gemstone: hardness. Hardness isn’t the only factor in choosing a gemstone for everyday wear. Other issues like toughness and if a gemstone has been treated in some way determine how well it will withstand the test of time. Diamond is the gemstone that’s able to withstand scratches the most, but they’re not indestructible. If you hit a diamond hard enough, it can break or chip. Jade can scratch, but it’s tough so it’s more likely to be carved without breaking. If you have a fracture-filled diamond or treatments in most gemstones, chemicals and heat will cause serious issues. To read more about these concepts, you can check out this link from GIA.

Now think about how a gemstone is set in a ring. Most are set in a ring with prongs. Most gemstones can chip. That doesn’t only mean that they can chip on the side of the gemstone, but they can chip at the prongs holding them in. If a gemstone chips at the prongs, that means that the prong isn’t holding any portion of the gemstone anymore. If the prong isn’t holding the gemstone, the gemstone can FALL OUT of your ring. That’s the biggest factor in choosing a gemstone for everyday wear.

You can bezel set a gemstone and protect all of the edges of a gemstone, but your gemstone won’t sparkle as much as a gemstone set with prongs. Bezel setting a gem, or putting gold all around your gemstone to set it, will not allow light to enter through the sides of the gem and will therefore not sparkle as much as one set with prongs.

Aside from opals, pearls, tanzanites and emeralds, I have to tell you that MOST gemstones are not going to be the best choice for an engagement ring. There are some that I would recommend, which I will do in my next blog. I want to first talk about the cons of the four gemstones listed above.


Pearl

Pearls are the most vulnerable of these gems. Did you know that you are supposed to clean your pearl jewelry after every time you wear it? Things like hairspray, body lotion, perfume, shampoos and conditioners can damage your pearls not to mention tiny things like perspiration! If perspiration can damage your pearls, imagine what dish detergent and cleaning agents can do to them! People have literally dissolved the nacre (the actual pearly substance) from their pearls! (That’s why you’re supposed to clean them after every wear.) Now think about scratching it, hitting it, etc. If you love pearls, I totally understand. They’re beautiful.  Wearing them every day and not maintaining them properly is a recipe for disaster. On the Mohs’s Scale which is a hardness chart from talc-1 to diamond-10, pearls are a 2.50 to 3. Think about it this way, silver is a 3 on the Mohs’s Scale. Substances with the same hardness factor can scratch one another. That means that setting your pearl into a silver setting can scratch it. Your granite countertops in your kitchen are a 6-7. Can you scratch your pearl making or cleaning up after dinner? Absolutely!

Opal

I adore opals. They’re my favorite gemstone and I have plenty of opal jewelry. I don’t wear opals every day because they’re considered a “softer” gem. I also try to wear it in forms other than rings, like earrings or necklaces, because they are more protected that way. Earrings and necklaces don’t take the abuse that rings take. Think about everything you do in a day. You’re constantly hitting your rings and you don’t even realize it. It doesn’t have to be a hard blow to damage an opal, you can scratch it very easily. You can also chip or break it. Opals are susceptible to extreme changes in temperatures and humidity (or lack of humidity) and regular household chemicals like bleach and cleaning supplies. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t remove your jewelry, you’re causing a LOT of damage to your jewelry, but especially to opals. Even things like hairspray and body lotion can harm an opal and many of us apply those products multiple times per day.

Tanzanite

You’re probably scratching your heads on this one. You thought tanzanite would be a great choice for an alternative engagement ring, right? I would have thought that too until I got into the jewelry business. Did you know that tanzanite wasn’t recommended for use in rings when they first hit the market because they scratch and chip so easily? The high demand for rings changed that quickly. People WANTED them as rings, so they were made into rings to fill the demand, against gemologists’ advice. Tanzanites chip and break easily.

Emerald

This is probably the least understood of all these gemstones. The most important thing that you need to know is that the vast majority of emeralds have fissures (or breaks) in them. You don’t see them because they are filled with oil. Most of the oil is synthetic, some is natural and some has green color in the oil to enhance the color of the emerald. It’s a common practice and it’s been happening for hundreds of years. It’s so common that most people don’t think to talk about it because it’s so widespread. Be especially careful about taking your emerald jewelry for cleaning and repairs. The ultrasonic cleaner in the jewelry store can cause the oil to come out making the fissures more visible. Hitting an emerald on one of those unseen fissures can cause your emerald to break in half! The heat from a jeweler’s torch can also cause damage when it’s being repaired.

I’m going to repeat this because it’s IMPORTANT!

These 4 stones can FALL OUT of the rings!

All the above gemstones, and many other ones, are more prone to chipping. Many people chip their gemstones at the prong or channel where the ring is actually holding the stone in place. That means that at the chipped part of the gemstone, there’s NOTHING holding your stone. If there’s nothing holding your stone, the stone will fall out of your ring. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but I want to be very clear about this. Most people don’t consider this when choosing a gemstone for every day wear and most people will just not tell you that because they want to make a sale! Most gemstones are perfectly safe to wear in rings, as long as they are not worn every day! It’s the everyday part that gets most people in trouble.

If you’re the sentimental type and want to wear the gemstone that you were married with daily, then alternative gemstones might not be the ideal choice for your engagement ring. You will most likely need to replace your original gemstone.

Like I said before, if you love something, get it. If you want a gemstone other than a diamond for an engagement ring, then you should have what you want. Just be smart about it. You need to factor in replacement gemstone costs to your initial purchase price of your ring when your gemstone is scratched, chipped, broken or falls out. If you’re ok with replacement gemstones for your engagement ring over the course of your life, then buy ANYTHING your heart desires.

Once again, I’m sorry to be so blunt here, but I haven’t seen anyone else correcting this information. I don’t want you to be someone headed for heartbreak if you lose the gemstone in your new ring!

If you object to diamonds on moral or ethical issues, please see the first blog in this series where I address these issues and give you alternative options. If you still want a gemstone other than a diamond for your engagement ring, there are some that I would recommend. Please check back for my third installment in this series where I’ll give you the secrets to alternative gemstone engagement rings, the options for good choices and plenty of alternative styles from some great jewelry designers! You can even sign up to receive my blogs in your email so you can read them whenever it’s convenient for you. Just fill out your name and email address at the bottom of this blog!

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