Sapphire or Emerald? The Hidden Meaning Behind Your Diamond Alternative

By Anna Mack

Diamonds may be famous for being a girl’s best friend, but in reality, they aren’t for everyone—especially when it comes to engagement rings. These days, many brides are looking for conflict-free alternatives to the traditional diamond, including healing crystals (we all have that friend) or gemstones. But this isn’t a new phenomenon; many celebrities and royal figures in the past opted for a colored gemstone, too. And hey, if it’s good enough for Princess Diana, it just might be good enough for you!

To find out more about diamond alternatives, we sat down with Lisa Owusu, owner and designer of the jewelry store, Charlton and Lola, located between Rockefeller Center and the Diamond District in New York City. Lisa personally works with couples to design the perfect diamond-alternative engagement ring. Her biggest piece of advice? Always go to a reputable jeweler who can give you the necessary assurances and certificates on the stones you are eyeing.

Photo: Courtesy of Charlton and Lola

Black Diamond

Still considered a colored gemstone, the black diamond is the hardest substance on earth, making it the most desired bridal jewelry for everyday wear. Who can forget when Mr. Big finally proposed to Carrie Bradshaw with a stunning 5-carat black diamond ring and whispered,“Because you are not like anyone else?” Recently, the black diamond has had a resurgence in popularity because of the stone’s dark grounding brilliance.

Photo: Courtesy of Croghans

It doesn’t get more legendary than the green stone of the Goddess Venus. Not only was the emerald the favorite stone of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, but John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie Bouvier in the 1950s with a 2.84-carat emerald and a 2.88-carat diamond engagement ring. The green gem is unique and more fragile than the other stones that are desired for engagement rings and contain inclusions, due to the manner in which the crystal grows, that are sometimes called jardin. (French for “garden” due to the mossy-like appearance of the marks.) The jardin also make the stone more prone to cracks, so an emerald ring has to be created with the utmost thoughtfulness to protect the stone.

Photo: Courtesy of Croghans

Made popular by the British royals, the sapphire engagement ring first gained modern notoriety in 1981 when Prince Charles proposed to Diana Spencer with a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire. The blue gem is a type of stone known as corundum: the second hardest material on earth. Some sapphires exhibit the phenomenon known as “color change,” most often going from blue in daylight or fluorescent lighting, to purple under incandescent light.

Photo: Courtesy of Charlton and Lola

Known as the jeweler’s stone, the spinel is not a mainstream darling, but it is absolutely exquisite. The stone’s chameleonic color ranges from red to blue, green, black to colorless. The stone also has its place in history as many famous crown jewels included spinels that were mistaken for rubies. The famous 14th-century Black Prince’s Ruby in the British Imperial State Crown is a red spinel. The stone was presented to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom for his 66th birthday and cut into several polished gems.