Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but what about rubies and sapphires? Coloured gemstones have long been favoured by royals and celebrities and only continue to increase in popularity. They can often be more affordable and a conversation-worthy alternative to diamond engagement rings.
We know “diamonds are forever”, essentially unmatched when it comes to day-to-day durability, which is one reason why they are typically the stone of choice for engagement rings. The other reason we use diamonds to say “I do”? Clever marketing.
The historic players supplying the Western diamond market: India from the 1400s, during the 1700s major sources were found in Brazil and then huge deposits were found in 1800s South Africa. Due to their relative rarity and therefore extremely high cost, diamonds were initially only worn, in any form, by Royalty and the wealthiest of the wealthy. It wasn’t until the early 1950s when they solidified their spot at the top of the gemstone chain:De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. began positioning diamond engagement rings as a symbol of love and commitment – rather than just a symbol of wealth and luxury – in a brilliant ad campaign begun in 1947 that evolved from a reaction to the extreme slump in sales after the Great Depression and post-war malaise.
Suddenly diamonds became coveted for the emotional connection they evoked, and this resulted in creating a demand unaffected by status or the economy that has held strong for decades.
There is an ever-growing interest in alternative gems. Some buyers are simply enticed by the bold statement-making appeal of a colourful gem or are perhaps drawn to the traditional meaning behind a particular stone. Certain coloured gemstones can even be more valuable and rarer than diamonds.
The big three that often come to mind when we think of precious coloured gemstones are rubies, sapphires and emeralds.
One of the most valuable and popular gemstones, the ruby is considered the “King of Gems” and its beauty was touted in both the Bible and ancient Sanskrit texts. With its intense red hue (caused by the trace element chromium) the ruby is associated with passion, desire, power and nobility. Composed of the mineral corundum, it also has one of the highest ranking scores on the Mohs scale measuring hardness, toughness and stability, making it nearly as durable as a diamond. As practical as it is precious!
Also composed of corundum, sapphires are suitable for everyday wear and come in virtually every colour of the rainbow, except red, when the term ruby comes into play. They are, however, commonly best known for their striking vivid blues. Steeped in fables and lore, the sapphire was a holy stone to the ancient Persians who believed the earth rested atop a sapphire formed by the heavens. The stone stands for virtue, loyalty and wisdom – ideal traits for an engagement ring!
Dating back to the days of Cleopatra, emeralds were thought to bring good fortune and youthfulness to the wearer, a symbol of rebirth with their vibrant green hue. The emerald is the most famous member of the beryl family, and although it’s considered generally not recommended for everyday wear due to the fact that it’s not as hard as many other gems, it’s certainly a very special choice for special occasions.
Diamonds are graded on the internationally respected GIA’s scale from D to Z, from colourless to a subtle, but still noticeable, very, very pale yellow. Separate from that scale, diamonds of colour are considered “fancy” and comprise naturally occurring shades of blue, red, yellow, green, orangey, pink, brown, champagne, etc.
Unlike diamonds falling on the D-to-Z chart that become less valuable the more apparent their colour, fancy coloured diamonds actually increase in value based on the depth of hue. Colour saturation is described within a range from faint to light, to intense, to deep and ultimately, to the highly desirable, vivid.
Whether you choose to opt for a more daring coloured gemstone for your engagement ring, or stick with a classic and traditional diamond, there are plenty of options to suit your budget, taste and style – the colourful or subtle choices that will flatter you are absolutely endless!
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