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Like me, you’re probably seeing magical iridescent moonstone rings all over your feed right now. Or maybe it’s those cool southwestern looking turquoise and silver rings. Maybe you’re getting targeted with ads for those edgy geometric shaped grey diamond rings?

Let’s face it, there are so many talented indie designers making unbelievably unique jewelry right now.  And for the first time ever, brides are finding their engagement rings through Instagram and Pinterest instead of big box jewelers and retailers, so we’re seeing a surge in brides with unconventional designs and materials

I work at a custom jewelry design studio and live and breathe engagement rings, so I know all about what’s trending — especially when there’s an uptick in the type of ring pics clients bring in as inspo. One of the biggest (and most talked about) shifts: millenials are moving away from diamonds rings and toward unconventional center stones like moonstone, opal, pearl, turquoise, and even wood and dinosaur bone. So, while I hate to be the one to break it to you, it’s my duty to let you know that most of these unconventional rings you see on your feed simply aren’t good choices for an engagement ring. There’s a reason why these quirky materials have taken a backseat to traditional choices for so many centuries, and it’s not as simple as a diabolically clever marketing campaign

If you’re considering any of these materials for a fashion ring to wear on special occasions or if you don’t mind replacing your ring within a few months or years, go for it! Seriously. Most of the materials that aren’t durable enough to wear everyday are absolutely beautiful, that’s why they’re so popular. But before you put that trendy ring in your cart, you should know what you’re signing up for. In this article, I’ll go over what engagement ring trends and materials to avoid and why.

What Makes Certain Materials Good For Engagement Rings?

In a word: science.

Developed in 1812 by German geologist Friedrich Mohs, the Mohs Hardness scale (pronounced “moze”) is used to identify a gem or minerals hardness and resistance to being scratched. This scale has been used by jewelers and geologists for centuries and is still the undisputed authority today.

The scale works like this: a mineral gets a higher rating than a mineral that it can scratch. Diamonds were found to be the hardest material, unable to be scratched by any other mineral or gem and therefore getting a perfect 10. The second hardest mineral can be scratched only by diamond but, here’s the thing — this scale isn’t linear, it’s logarithmic — meaning that a diamond isn’t just 1x as hard as the next hardest mineral, it’s many, many times harder (as shown with the sharp upswing in the graph below). 

 

For most people, this scale and the concept of some stones being harder than others can be a real wake up call. It also sheds light on why so many engagement rings use diamonds: they’re simply  the hardest natural substance on earth and engagement rings tend to go through a lot of potentially damaging situations within a lifetime of wear.

Jewelers use the the Mohs Scale because it helps determine which gems and minerals are suitable for jewelry making. The harder a stone is, the easier to work with and set without breaking and the more able to handle the wear and tear of everyday tasks without being scratched. If you’re making fashion or special occasion jewelry, you can work with a wide range of gems. If you’re looking to make a ring that’s going to last forever, you’re choices are few.

For a soft stones, everything from putting your hand in your pocket to accidentally tapping it against your car door has the potential to leave a lasting scratch, not the best news for most brides-to-be. After you get the ring, you want to wear it 24/7, show it to as many people as possible, and stare at it all the time. Do this with a vulnerable stone and it probably won’t last very long — leaving you with a ruined engagement ring, or worse none at all.

 

Photo courtesy of Estate Diamond Jewelry.

Engagement Ring Materials to Avoid

Personally, we won’t work with any stones lower than a 7 in the studio, period. When we do get a request for an emerald or amethyst ring, we’re really transparent that it’s going to require their extreme caution and care. We won’t consider a 6 or lower and you shouldn’t either unless you’re prepared to have it break. Remember that the Mohs scale is logarithmic. At a 6, moonstone isn’t just a little bit less durable than a stone with a 7 rating, it’s many times less durable.

Beyond gem hardness, jewelers also rate diamonds and gemstones on toughness, resistance to breaking or chipping, and resistance to temperature changes and household chemicals. Diamonds and sapphires rate high on this scale, but opal, moonstone, and pearl rate very low in these categories.

Beyond chipping and breaking, certain soft stones have distinct weaknesses: 

  • Opals can crack or craze if they get too dry,  ending up looking like shattered tempered glass.
  • Pearls can lose their trademark iridescence if exposed to hot water, leaving them looking like yellowed plastic.
  • Pearls are very porous and  susceptible to chemicals which they absorb.
  • Over time, Pearls can naturally erode and deteriorate away.

With obsessive levels of proper care and restraint, these stones can be preserved, but it’s important to know how much effort is needed to care for your stones and if proper care is something you can invest your time into before purchasing softer stones. There are people out there that are lucky enough to inherit heirloom pearl jewelry or have an opal ring that’s lasted an entire lifetime, but this is rare.

 

 

(The Amanda opal engagement ring, before wear).

(The Amanda opal engagement ring after long-time wear).

Better Choices for a Trendy Look

Non-traditional stone choices make for a really unique looking ring, and if that’s what you have your heart set on, it can be hard to find a ring that feels special enough amongst a sea of colorless stones and homogenous designs. Luckily, there are some really beautiful unconventional materials that are tough enough to last a lifetime. Diamonds, for one, are available in a wide range of colors and clarity. Pink, yellow, blue, black, champagne, and chocolate are some of the most well-known options. Rough diamonds (also called raw diamonds, rustic diamonds, and rose cut diamonds) have varying degrees of opacity and color and are VERY popular right now. The most commonly used rough diamonds are cloudy grays and blacks. Rose cut diamond denote a specific cut, and are commonly found in milky opalescent colors.

If you know that you absolutely don’t want a diamond, sapphire and rubies are your next best bet. Both stones have been used in jewelry for centuries, and continue to be for a good reason: they last and come second only to diamonds in terms of durability. And though blue is the most well known color for sapphires, they actually come in all colors of the rainbow and different levels of clarity. You can find the color-change of a moonstone or pearl, the greenish/blue hue of turquoise, as well as pinks and yellows

Bottom line: before you fall in love with an unconventional material or non-traditional stone choice, ask yourself why you haven’t seen anyone else with this type of ring. Better yet, look up its rating on the Mohs scale. There are plenty of colorful and alternative materials that are also durable, check out our custom engagement ring portfolio to get inspired. And one surefire way to get a unique ring minus the risk of it breaking: go unconventional with the design, not the materials.

Want to be even more informed on all your engagement ring choices? Download our free guide: 7 Things You Need to Know Before Buying an Engagement Ring.