Monday, April 02, 2007

Alternatives to Diamond Engagement Rings

Because I am hearing of recent engagements in my circle of friends, I want to discuss some alternatives to the classic engagement ring.

Diamonds are a girl's worst enemy! Since I have written about the problems with the diamond industry before (here and here), I won't bore you with any of the details here. However, suffice it to say that even if diamonds WERE a marvelous choice, they're also an expensive one. Most couples that are starting out would be wiser to save the money for a honeymoon or household expenses. Going into debt for a small, clear rock is a poor choice when faced with other bills that quickly mount up because, I assure you, two can NOT live as cheaply as one.

Many people will be surprised to hear that the diamond engagement ring has only been a tradition over the last 100 years or so. As Wikipedia rightly states, "The establishment of the diamond engagement ring as a standard in Western culture is a result of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history..."

So, what are the alternatives to the diamond engagement ring?


There are some lovely, flawless CZs available in gold or platinum settings. Such rings mimic the diamond but give you more bang for your buck. A $5,000 diamond ring becomes a $200 CZ ring, and can be purchased with ease through Ebay or the Home Shopping Network.


When she was engaged in the early 1980s, Princess Diana was given a lovely sapphire engagement ring. Suddenly everyone realized that diamonds weren't the only option.

Colored gemstones are a wonderful way to stand out and proclaim that YOUR union is exceptional. A Note of Caution: Make sure that this is the ring and color that you can live with because, with any luck, you'll wear that ring for as long as you live.

Gemstones that make durable and beautiful engagement stones are the "hard" gemstones such as alexandrite, amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, garnet, morganite, rubies, sapphires, topaz, prasiolite, tanzanite, tourmaline, iolite, quartz (rose, smoky or green), spinel, and zircons (which are not the same as cubic zirconia).

I recommend against "soft" gemstones such as emeralds, pearls, or opals, because they are not durable enough for everyday wear. Also, stay away from the "mystic" stones such as mystic topaz. They're treated with a fine metallic mist which gives them their unusual color. Over time, if they're worn continually, they will lose their finish.


The Irish Claddagh ring (two hands encircling a crowned heart) is a classically symbolic ring meaning "Let love and friendship reign together." If it is worn as an engagement ring, it is traditional to wear it with the heart and crown facing away from the wearer.

Other decorations could include celtic knots (indicating you are permanently intertwined with each other), the eternity symbol, or connected hearts.

Birthstones are also a wonderful way to decorate your ring with representations of each other. And, of course, rings can always be engraved with names and promises.


Men now wear engagement rings, too. Sometimes his engagement ring becomes his wedding ring, sometimes it becomes his right hand ring when he's married, or sometimes he will double up the rings on his ring finger.

Just like your wedding plans, don't feel so bound by tradition that you don't do what you wish to do. This is YOUR life, YOUR wedding, YOUR rings.


Matt said...

I hear you on all of this but it comes down to competition within the strictures of our financial-sexual marketplace.

As a man, you're judged on how nice your car (and bank account) stack up against that of other primates. And, as Homer Simpson said, "This [ring] means I OWN her!"

It's hard to be the first to break out of traditions (like male genital mutilation, a.k.a. circumcision).

Matt said...

Interesting. I had actually considered borrowing my buddy's wedding band for a job interview--to appear more responsible.


Hans said...

I think wearing a borrowed wedding ring is perfectly acceptable. Your just implying that your married not saying that your married. Women wearing fake engagement rings all the time to keep creepy guys like me from hitting on them.

And you could casual show them your wanger, implying that you're not a son of Abraham.

Cranky Yankee said...

I can't believe there are people out there who think it's perfectly acceptable to spend 2 or 3 months salary on an engagement ring. That type of conspicuous consumption, not to mention the bad karma form buying blood diamonds, is what has this country in the shit house.

Well, at least we aren't talking about unclean genitalia.

The Lazy Iguana said...

Too bad about emeralds. I always thought I would try to push that idea. I like green. but hey, nothing wrong with a ruby or sapphire.

Or be sneaky! Nab the CZ and just say it is a diamond! If the chick gets it appraised and finds out it is fake - then call off the whole deal (if it is not already too late). Just go to the jeweler a day before the "lets go look at rings" thing and bribe them to show CZ rings and pass them off as diamonds. Toss in an extra Franklin to the patsy in on the plot with me.

No way in hell I would spend months of salary on a stupid rock. I know the supply is manipulated to keep the price high. Plus, three months of salary = one jet ski!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, I love emeralds. There are some top-quality imitations that include artificial "jardiniere"... the pattern that emeralds usually get (there's really no such thing as a flawless emerald, with a rare exception here and there). A jet ski is much more romantic... what a great way to get out and keep the romance alive!

Cranky, ;o) admit it. You loved the unclean genitalia controversy. And yeah, it's pretty silly to say you should spend 3 months salary on a ring. Who gets to make these rules, and where do *I* sign up?

Hans, OK, that was very funny. And, as a matter of fact, I used to sport a fake engagement ring. Now I'm less timid and I just tell them I'm not interested (if I'm not). ;o)

Matt, not unethical...but very smart. ;o) I see nothing wrong with it. It implies something but promises nothing. True about traditions... but if an engagement ring says "I own her", by god I'm making the man that I marry wear an engagement ring, too (and I have). :-D

daveawayfromhome said...

I paid $120 bucks for a small pawn-shop engagement ring. It was all I could afford then, and I'm not much better off now. If the girl cant accept that (and she did, by the way) then maybe you just need to keep looking.

Meow said...

I think an engagement ring should be a symbol of the heart, not the bank balance !! I love my small, beautiful ring, that didn't cost a fortune. It came from my Hubby, that's all that matters.
Take care, Meow

Hans said...

Wearing that fake engagement ring probably saved you from seeing my "A Game" at some point in time so consider yourself lucky.

As far as guys wearing engagement rings there is one thing that you need to keep in mind. When I was married and wearing the ring girls that won't even look at me today were flirting hard. Must be that your gender always wants what the other one has or maybe it's just that you feel comfortable about not getting hit on in return.

The Lazy Iguana said...

No rings on the boat! New rule there! Did you ever see the photos I posted of the guy who got a line caught on his ring? It was ugly.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, OK, next time we go boating: no rings! I just bought a catamaran, BTW. ;o)

Hans, sick, isn't it? I don't understand the mentality of women who view married men as fair game. The moment I see a ring, I back off. I still respect the bounds of marriage and would expect others to do the same. Any woman that doesn't deserves to be beaten over the head repeatedly with a set of marriage vows wrapped around a brick.

Meow, I agree completely. You have such a sweet family ... you set an example for us all.

Daveawayfromhome, I agree wholeheartedly.

daveawayfromhome said...

Actually, Lazy's got it right. Neither my wife nor I have worn our rings much since a writer friend of mine told us about a story he was involved in about "degloving", where your ring snags on something and gets pulled off your finger, along with a considerable amount of flesh. (shudder). The first time you catch your ring on something after hearing about this, you'll have a hard time leaving it on your finger.

Miss Cellania said...

I am all for cheaper (and less exploitive) alternatives to diamonds, as long as there is no deception involved. I would gladly wear a cubic zirconium from a guy who loved me, but there would always be some folks who look at it and feel obligated to "break the news" that it isn't a real diamond... and assume that the giver was trying to pass it off as rel.

The custom of women wearing jewelry in the first place connotes the powerlessness of women. In some societies (India comes to mind) a woman's jewelry is her entire wealth. She wears it with her because her husband (or father, or son) can lock her out of her home anytime with no warning.

Anonymous said...

If you do go with a ring, I found a clarity enhanced diamond at a great discount on buddy of mine got his there and told me about it.