Alternative engagement ring ideas for the modern bride

Get inspired by these gorgeous engagement rings that offer a unique and affordable alternative to the traditional diamond. Rubies and emeralds for alternative stones and rings made of wood are a modern choice

By Maria Jakobsen

When it comes to selecting an engagement ring, diamonds are a classic choice for a number of reasons. Not only are they the strongest naturally occurring substance on earth, but also a long-established symbol of love and commitment. If you’re looking for something a little less conventional, however, you might want to consider these stunning alternatives.


Lily Arkwright oval moissanite 950 platinum petite solitaire ring

Moissanite is an excellent option for a white gemstone at a lower price. Approximately one-tenth of the cost of a diamond, the glittering stone boasts a lot of similar properties. While diamonds are the hardest gemstone with 10 on the Mohs scale, moissanite ranks second at 9.25-9.5.

The biggest difference between diamond and moissanite is their brilliance. Moissanite has more sparkle than any gemstone and thus is cut differently to a diamond to enhance this. In addition, while diamonds reflect white light, moissanites have a rainbow-like reflection. Natural moissanite is very rare, and therefore most moissanite used in jewellery is lab grown.

Coloured gemstones

A rutilated, thread-like effect adds depth to this Anna Sheffield black quartz and white diamond ring

“It’s fabulous that couples are ditching tradition and embracing coloured gemstones to showcase their unique personalities. They prefer the beauty and symbolism to these gemstones and the uniqueness and colour combinations,” says Nikki Galloway, owner of the London-based Nude Jewellery.

Gemstones, from emeralds to aquamarines, can introduce a pop of colour to your engagement ring. Those who opt for gemstones over a traditional diamond often do so because of each stone’s unique symbolism. “I personally find them more romantic, each stone having a meaning, a bit like flowers,” says Sophie Lepourry, founder of Parisian jewellery brand Sophie d’Agon.

Ruth Tomlinson yellow gold ring set with emerald and antique diamond

Nothing can match the hardness and durability of a diamond, but some gemstones are stronger and more durable than others, which is important to consider as your engagement ring will likely be worn every day. 

Emeralds are great choice, as they have a 7.5 to 8 hardness on Moh’s scale. Other options for colour and durability include aquamarine, topaz, sapphire and ruby. Some gems, such as opal and pearl, are best avoided for engagement jewels, due to being soft and easily damaged.

Nude Jewellery rose gold Milena ring set with ruby and pink sapphire

If you’re looking for something even more out of the ordinary, consider a lesser-known gemstone like moonstone or rutilated quartz, characterised by its dark or golden streaks.

“Quartz is a great option as they are a strong material and in the case of the rutile or tourmalined quartzes, each is totally one of a kind with the striations and coloring. Alternately, Spinel is a beautiful gemstone – really sparkly for a semi precious gem and they come in a captivating range of colors,” says fine jewellery designer Anna Sheffield.


Wood is an excellent alternative if you’re seeking a natural material with sustainable credentials. Danish jeweller Kinraden specialises in the use of Mpingo Blackwood, including engagement-style rings.

Kinraden’s yellow gold If At Last ring set with Mpingo Blackwood

“The Mpingo Blackwood we use in our Kinraden creations is ethically sourced from offcuts from classical wind instrument production,” says Sarah Müllertz, the brand’s founder. “It is then faceted using traditional diamond-cutting techniques to ensure the client still delights in wearing a beautiful piece but with peace of mind around the ethical sourcing of the material given the wood is FSC-certified and sourced from a WWF-protected forest in Tanzania.” 

Kinraden’s yellow gold For A Day ring set with Mpingo Blackwood

Mpingo Blackwood is the world’s densest and most prized wood. Kinraden shapes the wood using brilliant and cushion cuts, as with traditional diamonds. The result is a velvety, black “gem” which sits in recycled and refined metal, making this an excellent sustainable choice with a unique look. “These pieces are unique in both their material and style,” says Müllertz, “and are perfect for those seeking an elegant and distinctive alternative to traditional, cookie-cutter engagement rings.”

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