An engagement ring shouldn't have to cost an arm and a leg, and when you or your significant other can't afford to spend a house downpayment-worth of money on a sparkler, it shouldn't discourage you from proposing. Instead look into equally gorgeous diamond alternatives because, let's face it, it's the diamond that makes the ring price skyrocket.
"Gemstones are so much cheaper than diamonds and you can expect to save a lot of money when using them in your engagement ring," says Nadine Kahane, founder and CEO of online jeweler Stone & Strand. "For example, a new round 1 carat diamond will cost you around $3,000 and up while an equivalent sapphire can cost you anywhere from several hundred dollars!"
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Since most gems also come in a variety of colors—just like diamonds do—you are not limited to the classic colorless option. Kahane explains that popular alternatives to colored diamonds are morganites, aquamarines, amethysts, tourmaline, and citrine stones. But if your mind is set on white, consider sapphires, topaz, zircon, and quartz.
"Some diamond cuts such as the round, princess and oval are designed to be more sparkly than others like the emerald cut, and if you are looking to substitute your diamond for a gemstone these understated cuts are going to be your best bet. Look for rose-cut gemstones in all shapes, or emerald- and asscher-cut gemstones," Kahane adds.
Of course, you shouldn't expect a gemstone to have the exact same qualities a diamond has, but don't let this stop you.
"The main consideration when buying a gemstone ring is that they are softer than diamonds and can break or chip more easily. Diamonds are close to four times harder than sapphires and rubies, the next most durable options," Kahane says. So, basically, be more careful, and leave your ring at home if you're going rock-climbing.
The one gemstone that she would avoid are opals, because while beautiful, they are very fragile and may lose color exposed to water.
Now check out a few of our favorite engagement rings that will cost you a fraction of a diamond one.