Alternatives and Simulants To Diamond Engagement Rings

While we looked at how to cut diamond ring prices to the bare bone using Amazon.com earlier in the week, there are many other options available to people who don’t want to take part in the crazy world of paying large amounts of money for a really hard rock.  Money isn’t the only consideration here.  I know several  individuals who preferred certain “alternative” engagement rings due to the fact it is often difficult to know for sure that your ring is not a blood diamond from a war-torn part of Africa.  Others prefer engagement rings that are more sustainability-conscious.  As I said in the last article, I don’t think anyone is qualified to tell you which is the best engagement ring for you personally.  The only thing I’m 100% sure about is that you shouldn’t buy a certain ring because you feel pressure from the rest of society (and this includes the ridiculously random 2-3 month rule of thumb that De Beers has so cleverly thrown out there).

In my research (a much better term than “clicking around the internet for a couple of hours”) I was shocked at how much controversy, propaganda and venomous accusations that surrounded the diamond alternative industry.  Claims and counterclaims that certain rocks were not qualified to be called diamonds while others were, and still others were just like diamonds yet clearly not diamonds to other people who looked at them.  I guess I can’t be too surprised considering all the excess money just floating around within the industry and crazy profit margins that are out there.  I definitely recommend starting your research on Amazon or sites like Front Jewelers for any of these alternatives to the traditional diamond ring option and then comparison shop from that baseline.

Gem Stones

I’ve always been told that most women want to be treated like a princess.  Well Kate Middleton officially wears a sapphire engagement ring, so I guess being a princess actually doesn’t include diamonds at all ;).  In fact, from what I read, it is actually quite common within the royal family to opt for gem stones as opposed to diamonds. Aside from the obvious price and morality reasons, I think semi-precious gemstones have a lot to offer from a uniqueness point of view.  With emeralds, rubies and other brilliant options to choose from your ring can truly stand out as opposed to merely comparing sizes with everyone around you.  One thing to keep in mind when looking at this alternative engagement purchase is that any stone with a hardness rating of under 8 on the 10 scale (10 being a diamond) is not recommended for daily use.

Synthetic Diamonds

Synthetic Diamonds are the wave of the future from what I can tell.  Scientific advances continue to make the process of growing 100% real diamonds in a laboratory cheaper and more “white-like”.  The common criticism of this option was that up until recently synthetic diamonds had a very difficult time replicating the colorless look associated with naturally-occurring diamonds.  It is still difficult to find a colorless synthetically-produced option that is anything bigger than half of a carat.  If you like the look of a diamond that does have a certain hue and color to it (a light shade of yellow, pink or orange are most common), then you can save some major money and relieve your conscience by looking at laboratory-produced stones instead of the ones taken out of the ground by children in Africa.  Don’t let anyone tell you that these are not “real” diamonds.  As long as they have their certification report with them they are atomically identical to any naturally-occurring diamond on the market.  The major producers of these “man-made diamonds” are: New Age Diamonds, Gemesis, Chatham, and Apollo.

Moissanite

What is cooler than a ring that is made out of a 50,000 year-old meteorite?  Just think of the cheesy moments you could produce along the lines of, “Like this rock that once burned its way to Earth, you have lit a fire inside of me that will never be extinguished.”  Moissanite was first found in the late 1800s by Dr. Fredinand Moissan and does not try to be a diamond.  Some places might market it as a “diamond simulant”, but the truth is that Moissanite is a brilliant rock in its own right.  It is common consensus now that this lesser-known stone actually possesses more brilliance and fire than a diamond.  As the second-hardest naturally-occurring substance on Earth, it more than passes the wear-and-tear test as well.  While Moissanite is not cheap, it is still favorable to it its diamond brethren, and many reputable places claim that most Moissanite rings are indistinguishable from diamonds under the naked eye unless the assessor is an expert in the field.

Nexus Diamonds

Nexus diamonds appeared to be by far the most controversial of the self-proclaimed diamond simulants on the market today.  A comment from a reader who loved her Nexus ring actually turned me on to the whole thing last week and I am kind of fascinated by the company and interested to know if anyone else out there has had any experiences with them.  Some testimonials had people talking about what a great product these man-made diamond simulants are and how they are indistinguishable with the human eye from real diamonds.  Others passionately claimed that Nexus Diamonds were no more than dressed up Cubic Zirconias with a great marketing scheme and a disreputable creator.  From what I can tell, Nexus Diamonds are closer to CZs than to real diamonds.  Not to get too scientific on you all, but a real diamond is pure Carbon.  Cubic Zirconias are chiefly made out of zirconium, but Nexus Diamonds are made up of ten different minerals including carbon.  I honestly have no idea why one shiny mineral is more desirable than another, but trust me people, there are folks out there who write thesis-level comment board material advocating for one side or the other.   There seems to be many discrepancies as to the actual physical characteristics of Nexus Diamonds and if they are actually as hard or as brilliant as they are purported to be.  I do know this much – they are definitely a lot cheaper than diamonds, and significantly cheaper than synthetic diamonds (which they are definitely not as many people take great pains to point out) or Moissanite.

Cubic Zirconia and Russian Brilliants

Finally we get to the grandpappy of them all in the quest for an alternative to diamond engagement rings.  Cubic Zirconias have been around a long time and despite the negative reputation that the slick marketers have been able to pin on the man-made creations, I think they are still very pretty to look at.  One consistent pointer that was brought up amongst many authors was that there is a huge range in the quality of CZ jewellery on the market, so to do your homework if you wanted something that looked like a diamond simulant and not a piece of colored class.  Because of the unenviable reputation that CZs have gotten over the years many companies have sprouted up claiming that their man-made product was much superior to CZs even though they are essentially the same.  Russian Brilliants are probably the most popular of these options.  CZs are about an 8.5 on the hardness scale, and so even though people are often embarrassed to own one, value-conscious buyers can be satisfied the product will last for the long-term.

The Cost of Going With or Against Social Norms

I can easily see how the wedding industry simply wears down most young men until we just capitulate and say, “Ok, enough already, there is so much conflicting information and weird guilt wrapped up in this decision just give me whatever will be acceptable to everyone,” to the lady/gentleman behind the counter at the local jewellery store.  I have no idea what I want to do at this point in regards to my eventual engagement ring purchase (they keyword there being eventual), but I’d love to hear a few ideas from people out there given how hopeful Y and T readers were in providing information on last week’s wedding article.

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7 Responses to Alternatives and Simulants To Diamond Engagement Rings

  1. While I personally like the alternatives I am not the one that would need convincing. I could see my wife’s face if I bought her a meteorite stone. It sounds all good but you better be sure the woman you are with is on board with you as well. Just like with finances this has to be a joint effort and decision.

  2. I think all of these are great options! The colored simulated diamonds are seriously beautiful, as is Moisannite. And as for CZ, Mr. PoP’s mom wore a CZ in her engagement ring until her 30th anniversary not too long ago when they finally bought a real stone for it. It’s a big stone, I think 2 carats, so I totally get not wanting to buy that when you’re first starting out. But when she told friends about her anniversary “gift”, people were shocked because never once in 30 years had they considered the fact that her 2 carat CZ wasn’t a real diamond.

    Any one of these will easily last a lifetime, and that’s what it’s all about – having something to indicate the life you’ll share. Corny, I know. But there’s no need to break the bank when the sentiment is the same!

    • That is really interesting that no one realized the CZ. I wonder if there are any readers out there who agree or disagree? I have honestly never paid much attention to jewelry before writing these articles so I’m still a little new at all of this. Moisannite does look like a really cool option from a story standpoint and looks standpoint. I definitely agree on your final point!

  3. I also wanted a ring. I opted for moissanite after looking at these options online. No one has realized that it wasn’t a diamond, and I have told a few friends.

    I told my then-boyfriend what I wanted when we were discussing marriage plans, and he agreed. We shopped for it together. He seemed to be worried that it would mean less because it wasn’t a diamond, but I told him that I would be much happier with us not throwing our money at an overpriced ring when we could put it toward more important purchases. I think he had it in his mind that we could buy a more expensive ring when we had more money, but when he brought it up recently, I confirmed that I didn’t need one.

    I was able to get an amazing deal from JC Penny where the 1 carat-sized stone was not much more than the 1/2 carat (otherwise I would have never opted for the larger size), but I think the price may have had to do with them phasing out that specific ring. Moissanite was still pretty expensive at the traditional jewelry store we went to.

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