Ruth Donaldson

Ruth Donaldson

A diamond is a must in an engagement ring right? That's certainly what we've been lead to believe - and the bigger the better!

And if you don't get a diamond in your ring… well, perhaps he is a cheap skate or maybe everyone will think he can't afford one. Maybe he'll feel bad because it looks like he doesn't value you enough… the peer pressure and the potential for embarrassment are huge stressors when it comes to choosing an engagement ring.

But is a diamond really the only stone that will do in such an important ring?

Personally, I love diamonds, and there is no doubt they bring many advantages, but an engagement ring doesn't have to contain a diamond - there are plenty of alternatives.

Whether you can't afford a diamond, just find them a little predictable or simply want your personality to shine through with something a little different, there are lots of options. Some will look similar to a diamond, but cost you less, and others will clearly show you've opted for an alternative. It's your engagement - so you can choose!

However there are a few points to consider, so here are some suggested alternatives with the pros and cons of each:

Cubic Zirconia (synthetic stone)

A clear stone, CZs have a brilliance which at first glance is very similar to that of a diamond.

They are mass produced, and as such are very cheaply available.

They don't have the same fire.

Stones will wear over time.

If you are strapped for cash, a CZ could be set in a platinum ring, until you can afford to buy the right stone.

Zircon (Naturally occurring)

Has a similar brilliance and fire to a diamond although colourless stones are more rare. Treated stones are often blue.

A good zircon can have even more fire than a diamond. And they are cheaply available.

Not recommended for everyday rings due to being quite a soft stone.

Can be used in an engagement ring until ready to 'trade up' - but if you wear it a lot, it will wear.

Dementoid Garnet (Naturally occurring)

Bright green stones, which are rare and have higher brilliance and fire than diamonds.

Beautiful stones, Very unusual and attention grabbing.

You may not like green. Seldom found in larger sizes than 1 carat.

Soft stone

For an unusual ring, this will stand out from the diamond 'also rans'. Not good for active hands though.

Sapphires (Naturally occurring)

From the corundrum family, in a rainbow of all colour bar red (this is a ruby)

Hard wearing, and with every colour including some that change colour in different light.

Sapphires are increasing in popularity, and also price.

Good in all jewellery sapphires will make an exciting, enduring engagement ring.

Aquamarine (Naturally occurring)

The colour of its' name, with a soft sparkle.

A hardwearing stone, cheaper than a sapphire enabling larger stones to make a dramatic ring.

Softer than a sapphire, and not the right colour for everyone.

Popular in more modern engagement rings this is great if you want a larger stone.

Another route to a diamond is to choose smaller stones for a cluster effect. Small diamonds are far more cost effective to purchase, and properly set they create the effect of a much larger stone.

A diamond will always be a classic engagement choice, preferred because no gem sparkles quite like it and will ever be as hard wearing. And they aren't always as expensive as you may think, for example, a platinum and diamond engagement ring from Heirloom London starts from £2,200 for a half carat stone. However, if you can't afford one, find them a bit predictable or just want to be different - as you can see there are plenty of options.


Ruth Donaldson is the founder of Heirloom London.

Heirloom London is a unique personalised jewellery buying service. Whether you need a sparkling engagement ring, flawless wedding bands or a beautiful gift, Heirloom will deliver the perfect piece to your budget specifications. We delight our customers with the best possible design and quality for their budgets. Sourcing from our own stunning ranges to the finest designers and makers, Heirloom London simplifies the art of adornment.