Get a Non-Traditional Engagement Ring!

Michael Fried
Michael Fried

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What is a non-traditional engagement ring? A non-traditional engagement ring usually refers to an engagement ring that’s unconventional and unique in the choice of stone, the style, or both. In a nutshell: it’s not a flawless, white, solitaire diamond. 

In this post we’ll navigate the smorgasbord of options:

  • Can engagement rings really be without a diamond?
  • What is the best alternative to a diamond?
  • Our favorite unconventional engagement rings

Can engagement rings really be without a diamond? I mean really?

Absolutely! You can have a gorgeous engagement ring without diamonds.

The flawless white diamond is no longer the only option for an engagement ring.

Within the past decade, engagement rings have grown to include colorful stones and modern design. We’ve seen the change in social media, on celebrities’ fingers and in our own lives. 

5ct White Diamonds in multiple shapes
5ct White Diamonds in multiple shapes (Marquise, pear, Oval)

Trends in jewelry have always ebbed and flowed depending on celebrity fashion, availability, and marketing. Engagement rings are no different. 

Most people envision a flawless white diamond when they hear of an engagement ring. Yet the flawless white diamond’s prominence is relatively new in the grand scheme of jewelry. Less than two centuries ago did Tiffany & Co. introduce the diamond solitaire with its iconic six-prong setting. De Beers coined the term “A Diamond is Forever” even more recently. Stars such as Elizabeth Taylor furthered the movement to make the white diamond standard for engagement rings. 

Since this time, a diamond’s worth has been measured through the “4Cs”: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. This is a classification system primarily focused on perfection. For example, the more blemishes (or inclusions), the lower the clarity grade. Any hint of a hue besides white will lower the color grade. 

4Cs infographic

Thank goodness for the radicals. Princess Diana wore her 12-carat blue sapphire halo which planted a seed of change in popular culture for engagement rings. See its resemblance in this Oval Sapphire Halo from Blue Nile

In 2002 we got to experience Jennifer Lopez’s pink diamond (6.1 carat) from Ben Affleck. But even as celebrity engagement rings got bigger, the traditional solitaire diamond remained center stage on the fingers of starlets. 

The past few years have seen some major changes– both in politics and in the engagement rings of celebrities. Pearls have been popular. Gemstones have bloomed like summer gardens. 

Change is here: from the modern, diamond-pearl combo of Ariana Grande to Katy Perry’s ruby (not to mention Kate Middleton’s sapphire and Elizabeth Olsen’s emerald). 

As the fashion trends trickle down, jewelry store owners and designers are accommodating. Whether honoring sentiment, lowering budgets, or good ol’ self-expression, alternative engagement rings are finding their place both for starlets and modern women.

Alternative Engagement Rings with Gemstone Center Stones
Alternative Engagement Rings with Gemstone Center Stones

What is the best alternative to a diamond?

In some ways, the lack of rules for engagement rings has made a buffet from what used to be an omelet bar. There have always been choices on size, shape, style. But now the choices are exponential. So what makes the best alternative to a diamond for an engagement ring? It depends on your distinctive lifestyle and desires. 

The most popular stones jewelry designers offer are sapphires, rubies, pearls, lab-grown diamonds, and “imperfect” diamonds (also known as salt-and-pepper diamonds). Birthstone engagement rings are another great choice. They are pleasing both to the eye and the sentimental heart. All of these possibilities produce a beautiful ring at a much lower price.  

1. Pearls

Pearls appeal to the emotional. Much like the hardness of a diamond resembles the fortitude of a marriage, a pearl is created over a long time. A single grain of sand morphing into a lustrous gem is a great metaphor indeed. But pearl’s are more fragile. If you are exercising, swimming, or sleeping, it’s best to take them off.

For example, the Freshwater Cultured Pearl and Diamond Bar Ring is elegant and stunning. Yet Blue Nile warns the buyer of its delicate nature in the description. 

Another beautiful example of a pearl ring is this 14K Yellow Gold Freshwater Pearl Ring from James Allen:

Cultured Freshwater Pearl Ring
Yellow Gold Cultured Freshwater Pearl Ring from James Allen

2. Sapphires

Sapphires are durable, second only to diamonds in hardness. They are a stone you can wear everyday without much maintenance. There are also many dazzling colors to choose from. Though blue is the most known, they can also be a royal purple or pink hue. For examples in pink, check out this sparkling charmer from Jame s Allen or this simple yet very elegant Blue Sapphire Solitaire ring from Blue Nile

Blue Sapphire Split Shank Solitaire Engagement Ring
Blue Sapphire Split Shank Solitaire Engagement Ring from Blue Nile

3. Salt and Pepper Diamonds 

Like your relationship (and snowflakes!), these diamonds are one of a kind. Whether gray, speckled, or creamy white, these stones maintain the fortitude of a diamond with an eccentric flare. This salt and pepper, fancy pink diamond from James Allen is romantic and extraordinary. This emerald-cut diamond is hip and spunky. 

Salt and Pepper Orangy Pink Pear Diamond
“Salt and Pepper” 1.46 Carat Orangy Pink Pear Diamond from James Allen

4. Champagne Diamonds

A dazzling choice, ranging in darkness from lighter shades to deeper hues. We especially love champage diamonds framed in rose gold like this Champagne Three-Stone Diamond Ring:

Champagne Diamond Three Stone Enagegemnt Ring
Champagne Diamond Three Stone Enagegemnt Ring from Leibish

5. Lab-created Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds are another choice couples are making with their equivalent sparkle and their lower price tag. Can you tell the difference between an organic diamond and this stunning 1ct Radiant Cut Diamond from James Allen?

lab diamond vs natural diamond price


Our Favorite Non Traditional Engagement Rings

While the options are endless, non diamond engagement rings quench the desire for personality and non convention. Here are some of our favorites.

1. The Emerald Cut Sapphire and Diamond Ring will turn all the heads in its elegant refinement.

Emerald Cut Sapphire and Diamond Three Stone Ring
Emerald Cut Sapphire and Diamond Three Stone Ring from Blue Nile

2. The 14K Yellow Gold Freshwater Pearl And Diamond Trio Ring is very elegant with its thin gold band.

Freshwater Pearl And Diamond Trio Ring
Freshwater Pearl And Diamond Trio Ring from James Allen

3. Bring a splash of color to the surrounding white diamonds and white gold with this Petite Emerald Stacking Diamond Ring. It stacks with other rings but holds its own as an individual.  

Petite Emerald Stacking Diamond Ring with Emerald center
Petite Emerald Stacking Diamond Ring with Emerald center from Blue Nile

4. Between the gentle luster of the stone and the highlighting effect of the side diamonds, the Cushion Cut Green Chalcedony Cabochon Ring is stunning. 

Cushion Cut Green Chalcedony Cabochon Ring
Cushion Cut Green Chalcedony Cabochon Ring from Blue Nile

The deep blue topaz, embraced by the aquamarine trillion cut stones gives a dynamic appeal to this Cushion London Blue Topaz and Aquamarine Trillion Ring.

Cushion London Blue Topaz and Aquamarine Trillion Ring
London Blue Topaz and Aquamarine Three Stone Ring from Blue Nile

Want more ideas and inspiration for your engagement ring? Check out these helpful articles:

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online.  Save 10% off Lab Created Diamonds during limited time sale!
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
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  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. Blue Nile have generously offered our readers an exclusive one-time use coupon. (Click Here to save $100 off $1000 purchase)

Please enter your email address to receive your personal one-time use unique coupon code:

What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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