Choosing an alternative engagement ring to the traditional diamond ring

During the 20th Century the diamond emerged as most sought after stone for most jewellery and, in particular, engagement rings. In recent years even the territory of the traditional ‘band of gold’ wedding ring has been encroached upon by this sparkly specimen, with diamond-encrusted wedding bands being paired with similarly themed engagement rings.

By no means is the diamond the only option for the engagement ring, however, and it certainly doesn’t need to be the sole hero of the piece. There are several alternative engagement ring stones out there that could set your ring (and your hand) apart from the crowd, including a gemstone engagement ring.

The tradition of gemstones

Each month of the year has its own birthstone and the addition of or focus on these can be a particularly individual approach to a very personal piece of jewellery.

The tradition of these birthstones is very ancient, dating back to the Book of Exodus. The High Priest of the Israelites wore a sacred breastplate which contained twelve different stones, each associated with one of the tribes of Israel. It was later believed that these twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes, were intimately connected with the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twelve months of the year. The modern tradition of wearing the birthstone from your month of birth is believed to have been born in 16th-century Germany.

Gemstones by month

Here’s a quick guide to gemstones by birth month if you’re considering choosing the stone that corresponds with the month you were born to sit in your engagement ring.

January – Garnet
February – Amethyst
March – Aquamarine
April – Diamond
May – Emerald
June – Pearl
July – Ruby
August – Peridot
September – Sapphire
October – Opal
November – Topaz
December – Turquoise

The meaning of gemstones by month

In 1870 Tiffany’s published The Gregorian Birthstone Poems (note these are not all the same as the modern ones above):

By her who in this month (January) is born
No gem save garnets should be worn;
They will ensure her constancy,
True friendship, and fidelity.

The February-born shall find
Sincerity and peace of mind,
Freedom from passion and from care,
If they an amethyst will wear.

Who in this world of ours their eyes
In March first open shall be wise,
In days of peril firm and brave,
And wear a bloodstone to their grave.

She who from April dates her years,
Diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears
For vain repentance flow; this stone,
Emblem of innocence, is known.

Who first beholds the light of day
In spring’s sweet flowery month of May
And wears an emerald all her life
Shall be a loved and happy wife.

Who comes with summer to this earth,
And owes to June her hour of birth,
With ring of agate on her hand
Can health, wealth, and long life command.

The glowing ruby shall adorn,
Those who in July are born;
Then they’ll be exempt and free
From love’s doubts and anxiety.

Wear a sardonyx or for thee,
No conjugal felicity;
The August-born without this stone,
`Tis said, must live unloved and lone.

A maiden born when September leaves
Are rustling in September’s breeze,
A sapphire on her brow should bind
`Twill cure diseases of the mind.

October’s child is born for woe,
And life’s vicissitudes must know,
But lay an opal on her breast,
And hope will lull those woes to rest.

Who first comes to this world below
With drear November’s fog and snow,
Should prize the topaz’s amber hue,
Emblem of friends and lovers true.

If cold December gave you birth,
The month of snow and ice and mirth,
Place on your hand a turquoise blue;
Success will bless whate’er you do.

Choosing an engagement ring with a gemstone: Our top tips

• If you love the idea of buying your partner an engagement ring that isn’t a diamond, be sure that she would feel happy and comfortable wearing an engagement ring with a gemstone as an alternative.
• Shop around for a gemstone engagement ring and consider the different styles that are available.
• Some gemstones are truly rare and therefore may cost more than a diamond engagement ring, so be prepared budget wise.
• If you buy an engagement ring with a gemstone, be sure to ask for a certificate of authenticity.
• It might be worth asking how to properly clean and take care of an engagement ring with a gemstone as it may require different attention than a diamond.
• Consider looking at what styles of wedding rings might complement a gemstone engagement ring before you make your purchase; if a matching wedding band is available at the time, consider buying that too!