They say that a diamond is a girl’s best friend, but the truth is that women (and men!) getting engaged today aren’t always looking for a diamond as the sparkling gem in their engagement rings. There’s no rule anywhere that says that diamonds have to be part of an engagement ring – in fact there’s a broad array of stone options for the modern couple.

Gemstone Hardness

Before you begin thinking about gems for your engagement ring, get to know the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This scale was developed in 1812 by a German geologist named Friedrich Mohs, as a way to compare the relative hardness between stones. What it really measures, more or less, is how scratchable different minerals (including gemstones) are. It speaks to their durability in a piece of jewelry that you’re going to wear every single day.

Mohs didn’t necessarily plan on this scale being used to rate durability of engagement rings, but it makes a great tool for quick comparisons that don’t require a great deal of accuracy. To summarize it simply, if the stones in your engagement ring are too soft (low score), you’re going to have to be very, very careful with them; if they’re a lot more durable (high score), you’re going to be fine to live a little louder.

Great Stone Options for Engagement Rings

There are lots of reasons why people may choose to shy away from diamonds for their engagement rings, even though they’re incredibly durable and have the highest practical score on the Mohs scale. Some may have ethical dilemmas with the way the stones are harvested in certain parts of the world, while others are hoping to spare some expense they can shift toward a bigger honeymoon or wedding. And, some are just looking for stones that break tradition, which can be a great way to start a path all your own.

Among your many options, the most popular fall into two different categories: clear stones and colored stones. Both have a lot of sparkle potential when correctly cut by an expert gemologist. Let’s explore some common options.

Clear Stones

Princess Cut Moissanite Ring

.75 carat princess cut moissanite.

Clear stones can often be made to look very much like a diamond, and the average person can’t really tell the difference. This is a good option if you want a clear stone, but something about a diamond simply won’t work for you.

Try one or more of these for crystal clear sparkle:

Cubic Zirconia. While diamonds score a 10 on the Mohs scale, cubic zirconia (CZ) is still pretty hard with a rating of 8.0 to 8.5. It’s clear, it’s easy to cut and customize and there are plenty of them to go around, giving them a very attractive price point for even the biggest stone.

Lab-Created Moissanite. Looking for a stone that’s hard and also kind of magic? Moissanite naturally occurs in meteorites, but scientists can create them in labs today. They’re almost as hard as diamonds with a Mohs score of 9.5 and, hey, you can use them in a space-themed setting to drive the story of your stone’s origin home.

White Sapphire. A white sapphire is another very hard stone, with a Mohs score of 9.0, but they’re also about a third the price of a comparable diamond. They’re not from space, but their price point is also good for people on a budget. While they won’t sparkle quite as much as a diamond, a well-cut sapphire will still be hard to distinguish with the naked eye.

Colored Stones

When it comes to colored stones, your options are virtually endless. Several are common to see in jewelry stores, including:

Morganite Engagement Ring

Morganite engagement ring set in rose gold.

  • Morganite
  • Emerald
  • Tourmaline
  • Topaz
  • Ruby
  • Labradorite
  • Sunstone
  • Moonstone
  • Peridot

Each of these stones offers a different look, and many come in a range of colors. The gems listed above are all of a hardness sufficient for daily wear, though many are softer than the clear stones. Even so, the possibilities are endless, especially with custom engagement rings. Many couples choose to use a colored stone as the main focal point in a ring setting and punctuate it with many smaller white stones in a nod to not-so-long-ago engagement ring traditions.

Because these colored stones are often considered unusual choices for engagement rings, you’re sure to get a lot of comments and questions about your gems. Ask your jeweler for more information about those you’re most interested in so you can be armed with lots of fun facts about that alluring blue, green, red, purple, or smokey stone that’s now a permanent part of your wardrobe.