What is the best alternative to a diamond and still hard enough for daily wear?
While we LOVE our diamonds – white diamonds, rose cut diamonds, champagne diamonds, colored diamonds, salt & pepper diamonds – we’re equal-opportunity gem lovers and have many other sparkling faves on our list.
The upside of diamonds (besides their glimmering sparkle) is their impressive strength – at a 10 on the Moh’s hardness scale, they’re the hardest gemstone on the planet. So, in today’s blog, we’re sharing our favorite gemstones durable enough to wear on the daily. Whether it’s for an engagement ring or a #treatyourself ring to wear as your signature piece, these diamond alternatives will hold up to your daily routine (and look stunning while you’re at it).
1. White Sapphires
What is the best alternative to a diamond? White sapphires!
Completely colorless, white sapphires are the closest cousins to diamonds and in our view, the best diamond alternative. If you love the white bright diamond vibe, a white sapphire is the perfect alternative gem for you. And rated a 9 on Moh's hardness scale, they’re the next hardest gemstone besides the perfect 10 diamond.
What’s the difference between white sapphires and diamonds?
THE SPARKLE FACTOR
Besides being slightly softer, white sapphires have a subtler sparkle than diamonds. While diamonds give off a blinding, multicolored disco ball sparkle, white sapphires exude more of an intimate silver-white candlelit glow.
Sapphires are a more ethical, sustainable alternative to diamonds. Around 80% of sapphires are mined artisanally by small scale miners, making them easier to buy directly from the mine. Small scale mining is also much less disruptive to the environment than the mechanized mining methods used in diamond extraction. A sustainable diamond substitute that we love.
At Gem Breakfast, we only purchase sapphires from dealers that directly support artisanal miners. Many of our suppliers own a piece of the mine or source directly from the mine. This means better traceability in every stone's journey to us.
The best part: white sapphires look similar, but are much less expensive than diamonds.
2. Colored Sapphires
If you love a colored stone, sapphires are the ultra-durable (rated a 9 on the hardness scale), incredibly stunning answer to your prayers. Made mostly of the mineral corundum, when mixed with small doses of other elements, it transforms into almost every color under the rainbow: blue, teal, green, pink, yellow, orange, pinkish-orange (Padparadscha), and purple. You can even find bi-color sapphires with two different hues, or color-change sapphires that shift with the light.
Most sapphires are heat-treated to intensify their color - if there’s no mention of treatment, you can assume it’s been heat-treated. If it isn’t heat-treated, the company will share that with you.
A little known fact: rubiesare actually just red corundum (the mineral that creates sapphires). The name 'ruby' just refers to its red color. Rubies are chemically identical to sapphires, and the red hue is created by trace amounts of chromium.
Rated a 9 on the hardness scale, rubies are perfect for worn-daily rings and especially as an engagement ring gemstone. Plus, who can resist that luxe red hue?!
Rated 8 on Moh’s hardness scale, spinel is perfect for everyday wear, and seriously stunning in its rainbow of hues and tones. Spinels range from soft pastels to deeply saturated tones of red, lavender, blue, pink, purple, and black.
Spinels are one of the few colored stones that need no heat treatment to improve their color and clarity – they’re extremely vivid and brilliant without any outside help! They’re also renowned for their magical color-shifting abilities, transforming with changing light.
One of the rarest gemstones around, spinel costs much less than its more popular cousins, ruby and sapphire. Found in such small quantities, spinel can only be sourced from small local suppliers, meaning you won’t find a spinel at your average big box jewelry store.
All the spinels at Gem Breakfast are sourced from dealers who deal directly with local mines in Sri Lanka.
Learn more about spinel on our blog!
Chrysoberyl is the next hardest stone after sapphire, rated an 8.5 on the Moh’s hardness scale. It’s extremely rare and ranges in color from yellow to green to yellow-green.
Alexandrite is the color-changing variety of chrysoberyl – like spinel, the color shifts with the light and can look blue or green in daylight, and red or purple in artificial lighting. Alexandrite gems are even more rare than the standard chrysoberyl gemstones.
Chrysoberyl is also known for its “cat-eye” inclusions – in some stones, a line of light appears across the surface, creating a gorg cat-eye effect.
ROCKEFELLER ART DECO OVAL CUT RING (sold - reach out to commission something similar)
Rated a 6.5 to 7 on the Moh's hardness scale, tanzanite is the softest stone on our list. Though it's not the most durable option, if you lead a low-impact life and take great care of your jewels, this mermaid hued, blue-purple stone is worth the extra TLC.
Tanzanite has a rare and seriously magical quality called trichroism - it shifts in different lighting, giving off alternating flashes of colored light. It's the prism of colored stones!
Most tanzanite is heat treated to bring out the vivid blue and purple hues. Unless it's labeled 'unheated', you can assume it has been heat treted to improve color and clarity.
Even though tanzanite is the rarest stone on this list, it's also the most affordable! If you're searching for an incredibly eye-catching multidimensional stone on a budget, tanzanite may be for you.
Gemstones to avoid for engagement rings
Now that we've shared the delicious buffet of gemstones that can replace the traditional diamond, let's talk which gems to avoid in your engagement ring or wear-everyday ring:
While they're seriously mesmerizing (and are having a major moment right now), opals are only a 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and are incredibly delicate. They can easily break, chip, scratch, and can even be damaged by water! Opals are best for jewelry you'll only wear occasionally and that you don't need to last a lifetime.
Even softer than opals, pearls only rate a 2.5-3 on the Mohs Hardness Scale - one of the softest gems around. They can very easily chip, break, become dull, and since they can't be set with prongs, they can fall out of their settings completely. Pearls can be become damaged by handsoap, hairspray, and countless other everyday items that may come into contact with your engagement ring. Just say no and opt for a stone that can stand up to normal life!
We get it, you can't help but love the dreamy iridescence in a moonstone. While we can deny its magic, moonstone is not a good choice for an engagement ring. Rated at 6-6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, it can easily be scratched and will lose its signature luster over time. Opt for an opalescent sapphire to mimic that luminescence or an icy white diamond for a similar etheral energy.
Quartz or Amethyst
Rated a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, Amethyst will easily scratch and become dull over time. If you love that rich purple hue, shop purple sapphires or purple spinel to get the look in a stone that'll last forever!
As serious devoted pink fans, we love morganite's pinky-peach hue. Unfortunately though, it's not a great engagement stone option. With a rating of 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, it's not super durable, plus it shows dirt and oil very easily. Even the natural oils on your hands will cause the stone to look cloudy.
If you're thinking pink, opt for a pink sapphire, pink spinel, or pink topaz for the same look that can be worn forever!