Classic Engagement Ring Stones
Emerald, ruby, sapphire, and diamond are the most popular choices for classic engagement ring stones. Learn more about these traditional favorites.
4 Minute Read
With their lush medium to dark green or blueish green color, emeralds are the highest-selling gemstone by value in the United States. People have treasured emeralds for thousands of years, and these stones have inspired many folktales and legends. Royalty such as Cleopatra, the Mughal emperors, and the Duchess of Windsor have favored emeralds. "Emerald green" has even become a popular color term.
Although emeralds have a high Mohs hardness, which means they're very resistant to scratching, they require more special care than any other classic gemstone. Emeralds tend to contain many inclusions — fractures and crystals — inside their own structure. While these can give every emerald a unique appearance, they can also lower its clarity and weaken its stability. Jewelers often use oils and fillers to minimize the appearance of inclusions and improve gem durability, so emeralds must be cleaned very carefully, and any fractures may need to be refilled every few years.
Although emeralds are "high maintenance" stones, for gem lovers who adore their rich, soothing colors and their "garden" of inclusions, they're worth the effort and expense. For more information on emerald quality factors, consult our emerald buying guide.
Known as ratnaraj, "the king of precious stones," in Sanskrit, ruby is the most valuable variety of corundum. Rubies are red, gem-quality corundum gems, while all other colors are known as sapphires. "Pigeon's blood" is the most prized ruby color of all, so-called because this red resembles that of drops of blood from a freshly killed pigeon. This color is noted as R 6/6 in the GIA color grading system, which means a red hue with a medium-dark tone and an intense, "vivid" saturation. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is the most well-known source of rubies with this color.
Red has so many associations with passion and desire, it's little wonder rubies have accumulated a pretty fantastic body of lore. Burmese warriors wore rubies under their skin into battle to protect them from harm. The Ancient Greeks and Hindus believed that rubies contained fire and could even boil water. This belief may stem from the fact that rubies fluoresce (especially those from Myanmar), appearing like glowing coals under ultraviolet light.
Rubies are one of the hardest gemstones, making them both beautiful and practical as engagement ring stones. For more information on ruby quality factors, consult our ruby buying guide.
With their celestial blues and violets, sapphire gems have reminded many of heaven. Throughout the centuries, people have associated this gemstone with nobility, fidelity, and eternity. It has also been popular as an engagement ring stone, worn by royalty like the Empress Josephine and Princess Diana.
Kashmir and Myanmar produce the most valued blue sapphires. Kashmir sapphires in particular are famed for having a dreamy, velvety glow. Some sapphires may exhibit some phenomenal visual effects. For example, color change sapphires will show a warm color under incandescent light and a cool color under fluorescent light. Star sapphires will show bands of light arranged like a 6-rayed star that roll across the stone.
Although most well-known for their blue colors, sapphires occur in every color, except red. All sapphires also make very hard and durable ring stones. For more information on sapphire quality factors, consult our sapphire buying guide.
The following two sapphire colors are also particularly popular.
Pinkish orange or orangish pink sapphire, said to have the same color as lotus flowers at sunset, are known as padparadscha sapphires. In fact, their name comes from the Sinhalese word for "lotus color." As a result, this stone is particularly treasured among Buddhists, who associate lotus flowers with purity.
Determining the precise color range of padparadscha sapphires has proven difficult. Consumers from Western cultures favor somewhat different mixes of pink and orange hues and levels of saturation in these gems than consumers from Eastern cultures. Gem labs may also use different criteria for determining whether a sapphire qualifies as padparadscha. For more information on padparadscha sapphire quality factors, consult our padparadscha sapphire buying guide.
Pink sapphires are more affordable than padparadscha but are still absolutely stunning. The best pink sapphires combine a pure, vivid pink hue with good brilliance.
These gems make wonderful options for those who enjoy pink or want a splash of color on their classic engagement ring.
Of course, diamonds are the most popular choice for classic engagement ring stones. Although white diamonds (colorless to slightly tinted yellow) are the most well-known, diamonds also come in a variety of colors. Known as fancy colored diamonds, these include famous pinks and blues as well as incredibly rare reds and greens.
Although fancy colored diamonds can be very expensive, fancy yellow diamonds are both popular and somewhat more affordable, closer in price to white diamonds. Yellow diamonds will add a colorful twist to a traditional diamond engagement ring, and they still have the benefit of being the hardest gem on Earth.
Prized for their luscious golden or sunny hues, fancy yellow diamonds receive color grades of fancy vivid, fancy intense, fancy, or fancy light. The most expensive grade, fancy vivid appears golden in color. Fancy vivid to fancy intense yellows are also known as "canary" diamonds and have a lighter, more delicate hue. Fancy and fancy light grades also make good, less expensive options. A subtle difference in saturation can mean a great difference in price.
Celebrities with yellow diamond engagement rings include Heidi Klum, Nicki Minaj, Kelly Clarkson, and Iggy Azalea. For more information on fancy yellow diamond quality factors, consult our yellow diamond buying guide.
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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