I get asked this questions a lot. "Can you show me a traditional engagement ring?" It's a difficult question to answer. Not because I don't know, but because it really depends on what you mean by "tradition.
"Traditionally" there were no engagement rings, only wedding bands, and they were typically just simple plain bands. Hundreds of years ago, if peasants couldn't afford rings, they would steal silverware from the rich and make them into rings. I'm sure you've seen a "spoon ring" before. It wasn't until the late 1940s that you started to see diamond engagement rings. So in a way, the 1940s and 1950s engagement rings can be considered traditional. Usually when people ask me that question, I interpret it as, "Can you show me a classic engagement ring?" This implies a ring that has always been in style, and will always be in style in the foreseeable future.
Gemstone engagement rings became popular when Princess Diana was given a blue sapphire and diamond engagement ring in 1981.
Diamonds are the hardest material on Earth. There's no comparison. As far as durability goes, diamonds will outlast all colored gemstones.
However, diamonds and gemstones alike have been through a lot to get to you. Most were created deep in the Earth, were transported to the surface, often by volcanic activity, lasted through multiple weather conditions, mining, and the cutting process. We use these stones in jewelry for a reason. In order to qualify as a gemstone, a stone must be beautiful, durable, and rare.
There is also a difference between durability, hardness, and toughness. A lot of you may be familiar with Moh's hardness scale. Hardness
is a gem's resistance to scratches. Most gemstones are above a 6 on the hardness scale, but some stones, like opal, are much softer and need to be extra cared for. Diamonds, sapphire, and ruby perform very well against scratches. Durability
means a gem's ability to withstand wear, heat, and chemicals. Again, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies perform very well in this category as well. However a jeweler needs to be careful when applying heat to sapphires and rubies (as well as all other gemstones) because most gemstones are treated in some way, and heat can change their color. Toughness
refers to a gem's resistance to breaking and chipping. Again, diamonds perform exceptionally well in this category, but the toughest material known to man, is jade. Jade is a softer material, which makes it great for carving, but is not nearly has hard as a diamond.
Over time, gemstones will show wear and tear, but if you are aware of a gemstone's limitations, there is no reason you can't have a gemstone for your engagement ring. You may just need to take extra care of your pretty ring.
A lot of you may question whether it is more ethical to have a diamond or a gemstone for your engagement ring. Let me break down a brief description of the mining and creation process of each.
Blood diamonds. That term leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. The term refers to poor mining and transporting processes that cause people involved to loose their lives over someone else making money. Not every diamond is a "blood diamond" or conflict diamond. In fact, less than 1% of diamonds in today's market are conflict diamonds. Believe it or not, not everyone is just out there to make a buck. There are many people in this industry who care about workers' well beings and want to bring you products they feel good about selling. Thanks to the Kimberley Process, people have put forth regulations in making sure the workers are taken care of and any blood diamond processes are stopped. Click the link if you'd like to learn more about he Kimberley Process
. You can also get certified Canadian diamonds if you want to be extra sure of where you're diamond is coming from. Without a certification, it's impossible to tell where a diamond came from in the world.
Gemstones are mined all over the world. Most are very small scale operations. A lot of the conditions in the mines are not ideal for workers because of the environments they mines are in or the lack of equipment. Again, people in the industry are don't a lot with helping miners are safe, taken care of, and are working under suitable conditions. Gemstones can typically be traced to where they came from, so if a stone's origin matters to you, a gemstone is a great route to go.
The easy answer is, diamonds are more rare, and are therefore more valuable. As a whole, this is true, but as for individual stones, this may not be true. As you've learned before, a diamond's value has to do with it's cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. These main four things make up a diamond's value. As for gemstones, the most important thing is it's color, then followed by it's clarity and carat weight.
For example. If you have a diamond that weighs 0.26 carats, is a L in color, I2 in clarity, and is poorly cut, it's not going to have nearly as much value as a diamond that weighs 5.15 carats, is a D in color, VVS1 in clarity, and has an excellent cut. Diamonds that are large and high in color and clarity are very very rare, whereas the first diamond I described is still rare, because it's a diamond, but not nearly as sought after.
Gemstones are in a completely different market. There are so many kinds of gemstones, but as I said before, their value comes in their color and rarity. A 1.18 carat ruby with a rich red color, lots of transparency, and some minor inclusions is rare, and therefore quite expensive compared to a 1.64 carat red garnet with excellent transparency and no inclusions.
The 1.18 carat ruby I mentioned is also much more valuable than the 0.26 carat diamond I mentioned. The value of a stone has so many different factors that apply, that it's difficult to give a flat price for how much a stone is worth.
At the end of the day, PICK WHAT YOU LIKE! If you don't want a diamond, or don't feel comfortable buying one for whatever reason, DON'T! If you want an opal engagement ring even though you know they're softer and require fore care, BUY IT! I'm not here to tell you what to buy. I'm just here to answer your questions and guide you to choose the ring and gemstone that is right for you.
At Caleesi Designs Jewelers, you will never be pressured into buying something you don't want or need. We want you to be happy and love your engagement ring. So come by our Austin jewelry store on South Lamar and design the ring of your dreams.