Ten Big, Beautiful, and Affordable Engagement Ring Stones
Looking for a gem that will make a big impression on your finger, not your wallet? These ten gems make great options for affordable engagement ring stones.
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The blue to greenish blue variety of the beryl gem species, aquamarine is related to emerald. However, unlike emerald, aquamarine tends to have greater clarity. Since most aquamarines have light tones, this is particularly important. (Inclusions and imperfections may be more visible in lighter gems). The combination of light colors and high clarity can give aquamarines a limpid, icy appearance.
The soothing colors of aquamarine have led to many symbolic associations with bodies of water, especially oceans. Folk tales and myths tell of the treasure boxes of mermaids filled with these gems. While greenish blue aquamarines enjoyed great popularity during late Victorian times, consumers nowadays prefer bluer stones. However, some people may prefer more greenish aquamarines because these are more likely to have natural, untreated colors. Nevertheless, both blue and greenish blue will make beautiful ring stones. Aquamarines are also the modern March birthstone.
Darker colored aquamarines generally have higher prices than lighter ones. Read our aquamarine buying guide to learn more.
Named after the American financier J. P. Morgan, morganite is another member of the beryl family. Discovered in 1910, this pale pink gem has become a very desirable engagement ring stone. Morganite's color has helped associate it symbolically with love and innocence. Its high clarity and affordability, even in large sizes, also contribute to its popularity.
Pure pink morganites generally have higher prices than those more orange or peach in color. However, peach color prices are rising. Consumers who adore padparadscha sapphires but can't afford them should consider choosing morganites. Of course, these gems are lovely in their own right. Many jewelry designers set morganites in rose gold settings, which both enhance and blend with the pink colors.
Read our morganite buying guide to learn more.
Peridots occur only in one color: olive green. However, their shades may vary somewhat from yellowish to brownish green, though pure green appears occasionally.
The modern August birthstone, peridot has some extreme birthplaces. This gem forms under extremely high pressure and temperature in the Earth's mantle, like most diamonds. Peridots have also been found in meteorites formed during the solar system's birth. Space probes have even recovered them from comet dust. This means some peridots are extremely ancient!
Despite their exotic origins, peridots are fairly common gems. They can make affordable engagement ring stones, even in large sizes. Read our period buying guide to learn more.
Most consumers know this November birthstone as a blue or yellow gem. Few know that it also occurs in green, orange, red, pink, and even purple. Furthermore, most blue topazes on the market are actually heat-treated colorless topazes.
Topaz varieties are usually simply referred to by their color — blue topaz, pink topaz, etc. However, the more valuable varieties have trade names. Very rare "imperial topaz," the most expensive variety, ranges in color from medium reddish orange to orange-red. (Some gem traders extend the definition to include pink as well). "Sherry topaz," yellowish brown to orange in color, is also often called "precious" topaz. Aside from these colors, most topazes have very modest prices in any size.
Even though topaz has a high hardness of 8, it does have a cleavage plane. This means it can break in two rather easily if hit in the right direction. Faceters and jewelers must treat this gem very carefully during cutting and setting. Protective settings are highly recommended. Of all the gems in this list, topaz requires the most care. Nevertheless, they still make beautiful and affordable engagement ring stones and have many symbolic associations with wealth, health, and love.
The January birthstone occurs in almost every color. The most well-known are brownish red, followed by green and orange.
Brownish red garnets are both the most popular and affordable type of garnet and have been used in jewelry since 3,000 BCE. The Ancient Greeks thought they resembled the seeds of pomegranates. Friends and lovers often exchanged garnets as tokens that they would meet again.
Some garnet varieties are very rare and very expensive. Green tsavorites and demantoids can rival emeralds in color and price. Discovered in the 1990s, bright orange mandarin garnets have rising in popularity and price.
Consumers who want a large and affordable engagement ring garnet should opt for brownish red colors, purplish red rhodolites, or yellow-orange to reddish orange hessonites. Note that hessonites have the lowest hardness (6.5) of all the gems on this list, so make sure these gems have protective settings.
The February birthstone has a rich body of folklore. This gem can supposedly prevent drunkenness and also represents wisdom and mature love. The most well-known of all purple stones, amethyst can range in color from violet to reddish purple. This quartz variety was once considered the equal of ruby, emerald, and sapphire in rarity and value. However, large deposits discovered in Brazil have made it affordable for modern consumers.
The value of amethyst depends primarily on its color. Reddish purple commands the highest prices, especially if the stone also has high saturation (intensity of color). However, light lavender-colored "Rose de France" amethysts are gaining in popularity. Amethysts tend to have high clarity, although they're prone to color zoning. That means they may have strong purple color in one area and a pale violet or yellow in another.
Amethyst's durability, rich colors, wide range of available sizes, and affordability make it a very versatile gem for jewelry designers. Consumers looking for a large gem to make a statement should consider it.
Read our amethyst buying guide to learn more.
November has a new birthstone option: citrine. This gem supposedly infuses its wearer with optimism. No wonder, since its sunny hues have long led many to associate it with the Sun.
Evidently, citrine infuses some appraisers with optimism, too. This yellow variety of quartz is sometimes misidentified as yellow topaz. Nevertheless, it's a lovely stone in its own right. It's also less expensive than topaz, with prices usually only a few dollars in sizes below one carat and $15-20 per carat in larger sizes. Even the most expensive citrines, "Madeira citrines," with more orangish red colors and dark tones, may top a little over $100 per carat in larger sizes.
Natural yellow citrine is rare. Most citrines on the market are pale, color-zoned citrine or smoky quartz that has been heated. This stable heat treatment produces evenly colored, vivid orangey yellow colors.
Read our citrine buying guide to learn more.
Made of both amethyst and citrine, hence the name, ametrine is an incredibly fun and beautiful quartz stone. Since these gems combine very distinctive colors, some people associate them symbolically with balance and harmony, a fitting choice for an engagement ring stone.
Typically, faceters cut the stone into rectangular shapes that show the contrast between the yellow and purple areas. The greater the contrast and clearer the demarcation, the more valuable the stone. However, some custom gem cutters will shape ametrine into designs that offer blends as well as contrasts of colors. Ametrine can make an affordable engagement ring stone and still leave you with money to spend on an unusual cut instead of the material.
This custom-cut ametrine features zones of distinct yellow and purple as well as blended areas. The first photo, taken under fluorescent lights using a light ring, shows off its brilliance and sparkle. The second photo, taken with no light ring, emphasizes the colors. 40.24 cts, 26.2 x 18.9 x 14.5 mm, USA. © All That Glitters. Used with permission.
Heliodor or Golden Beryl
Yet another member of the beryl family, heliodor or golden beryl varies in color from a pale orangey yellow to a pale yellowish green. The name "heliodor" means "gift from the Sun," and this gem is said to make its wearer radiate energy and positivity.
Heliodors have high hardness, great clarity, and very intense color saturation. They also occur in large sizes. The largest ever found weighs 2,054 carats! Nevertheless, in sizes up to 10 carats, it only ranges in price up to $150 per carat. You could radiate a lot of positivity and still have an affordable engagement ring with a heliodor.
Until the 1980s, rose quartz was known only as a opaque stone. Although transparent material has since been found, these gems are still best known as opaque cabochons, shapes with flat bottoms and round or domed tops. Consumers who prefer the look and gleaming luster of cabochons will love rose quartz.
Rose quartz colors range from orangey pink to slightly purplish pink, with pure pink or slightly purplish pink commanding the highest values. These gems tend to have light tones, so those rare ones with medium tones may cost more. However, rose quartz is relatively inexpensive, so try to select a medium-tone pink stone with good clarity. Rose quartz pairs beautifully with rose gold, which further enhances its color. Some jewelry designers also accent this gem with small diamonds.
Cabochon cuts can also bring out two beautiful optical effects in rose quartzes: asterism and Tyndall scattering. Gems with asterism, or "star stones," show a star-like pattern. Rose quartz can show a 6-rayed star. Tyndall scattering is what causes the sky to appear blue when light hits particles suspended in the air just right. So, some rose quartz cabs can turn blue, too, if the light hits particles inside them just right.
Rose quartz has popular symbolic connections with love, compassion, gentleness, and forgiveness. These make perfect associations for a big, beautiful, and affordable engagement ring stone.
Phoebe Shang, GG
A gem lover and writer, Phoebe holds a graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America and masters in writing from Columbia University. She got her start in gemology translating and editing Colored Stone and Mineral Highlights for a professor based in Shanghai. Whether in LA, Taipei, or New York, Phoebe spends her time searching for gems to design and being lost in good books.
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