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A Gemstone Engagement Ring? Here's what you need to know about durability to avoid costly mistakes.

A Gemstone Engagement Ring? Here's what you need to know about durability to avoid costly mistakes.

Published by Jessi on Dec 15th 2020

Glorious colors at a fraction of the cost of a diamond? Yes, please! We don't just offer gemstone engagement rings, we revel in them - and we have some battle-hardened words of advice. Not all gems are the same when it comes to durability, and an engagement ring needs to be more resilient than any other piece of jewelry. You're ideally going to wear this for a lifetime, and pass it on to loved ones long after that - but many gems will see worn-down facets, cracks, and chips tarnish their beauty after time takes its toll.

Key question: Are you going to get attached to the gem you were engaged with?

Some people buy a less expensive stone as a placeholder until they can responsibly splurge on something more extravagant later on. Others like change, and some simply aren't attached to the center gem. If this is the case, buy whatever you feel like! The only risk you have is that the gem will be damaged before you're prepared to pay for another one - but the relative affordability of colored gemstones means that in many cases, even that wouldn't hurt the wallet too badly. But if you can tell it's going to make you (or your SO, if you're shopping in secret) grieve if you have to replace the gem, then listen carefully to the advice coming up.

What gems are hard enough for engagement rings?

To cut to the chase: Moissanite, Alexandrite, chrysoberyl, sapphire, and ruby. None of these are as durable as a diamond (though Moissanite comes really close!), but they outrank all others by a wide margin. They are also more likely to see damage due to facet abrasion than chips and cracks, meaning that if they start looking rough in a decade or two, you can have them re-polished instead of replaced.

But what about the Mohs Scale?

If you're doing your research, you'll see something called the Mohs scale of hardness. It runs from 1-10 (diamonds are 10, sapphires and rubies are 9). You'll find lots of gems that look almost as hard on the Mohs scale and think, "Ohhh, that's 8, that's almost as good as a sapphire at 9!" Nope. It's a ordinal scale, which has no standard of measurement for differences. In terms of absolute hardness, a diamond (10) has a hardness of 1500, while a sapphire (9) has a hardness of only 400! This little fact should give you some insight into why diamonds are so popular and why it's dangerous to use the Mohs scale as a guide without knowing much about gems.

But I saw an opal and moonstone engagement ring on another site!

Just because a website or jewelry store labels something an engagement ring does not mean the stone in it is durable enough to last! You can get engaged with a ring from a gumball machine if that's what makes you happy, but if you're spending over a thousand dollars on a ring, chances are there is an expectation that it will be durable with daily wear. It's a little rage-inducing to see pearl and opal "engagement rings" in particular, because a pearl has roughly the hardness of your fingernail, and opals crack if you look at them snarky. 

We ONLY tag rings set with diamonds, Moissanite, chrysoberyl, Alexandrite, ruby, and sapphire as engagement rings, because we're not money-grabbing cave goblins with a desire to see brides-to-be cry. I mean, if that's your thing, go for it - we'll role-play too once we have your informed consent. Also, no gem is indestructible. Your sapphire isn't going to look amazing after your nephew plays with it with a belt sander, and if you're into slamming your fingers in car doors, you might want to take your ring off first. 

It's a budget thing. I want to propose with a beautiful setting and upgrade the stone later.

We got you! May we suggest a lab grown sapphire? They are beautiful, durable, relatively inexpensive and come in some lovely colors including diamond white. They won't add too much to the cost of your setting, and will last as long as you need until a new stone fits your budget.

But - but - I want this one!

So, let's say purely hypothetically, that you've read all this and you have that pouty feeling in your gut because you fell in love with a ring that you cannot haz. The gem is just too fragile to survive you - you slay monsters for breakfast and scale mountains when you're feeling low. Never fear - everything we do is custom. That means we can help you pick out an appropriately hard-ass gemstone, and set it in the ring design you're lusting after.

No, I really, really want this one.

So your dream engagement ring is a tanzanite, moonstone, amethyst, or other non-durable stone. That's fine! We'd advise in this case that you simply be prepared to replace the stone, which isn't a big deal as long as the ring is designed for it. We would suggest sturdy prong settings as opposed to bezel settings, which will make it fairly easy for a skilled repair jeweler to swap out the stone. We'd also suggest getting what is called a "calibrated" stone, which are standardized sizes that make it easy to shop for a replacement gem that will fit in your setting. 

Please get in touch with us at info@distinctionjewelry.com and we can help you make the perfect choices for a durable and/or easily replaced engagement ring that suits your taste perfectly.

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