Moissy, peach sapphires? Wait, Montana sapphires, is real really rare? lab diamonds - what?!
Ever feel like a spaz are you are pursuing Instagram shopping for your dream ring? Well if you don't - you have nerves of steel because that's how we feel sometimes. In a world of endless options and endless opinions (eh, em), how do you figure out what is the right center stone for your engagement ring? It's dizzying. But have no fear Gem Hunt is here!
We recently chatted with Sasha of Custom Made, they are experts in their namesake - custom-made jewelry and also opened-minded people, that just want the best choice for you - the consumer which at the end of the day is all that matters. In this interview, we walk through how to navigate all these options to find the best one for you.
When designing a custom-made engagement ring where is the best place to start?
For some of our customers, a custom-designed engagement ring starts with a pretty specific or unique vision of the ring they have in mind. But for most, they’re looking for guidance. They may have some sense of style, maybe they know what gems or metal colors are right, or maybe they have some clues in the form of a Pinterest board. Our job is to help turn that foundation into the perfect ring design. So we often start by discussing the center stone. That’s typically the biggest driver of both the overall look of the ring and the budget.
Some know she’s definitely going to want a diamond. Others know she wants anything but a diamond. Some are worried about the ethics of mined gems. Some want the gem to reflect something personal, like a birthstone or a gem with ties to a special place. There’s no right or wrong answer, but there’s a lot to consider, so we like to start the design discussion by focusing on the center stone.
If I am considering a moissanite center stone what do I need to know about choosing this material?
Moissanite’s a beautiful gem. It does occur in nature (and that’s how it was discovered), but pretty much any moissanite you buy today is created in a lab. That makes it a great choice for those struggling with the ethics of mined gems. It’s also extremely durable, coming in just behind diamond (and a bit ahead of sapphire and alexandrite) in terms of its hardness. So it’s a great choice for a ring you’ll wear every day.
It’s cut with facet patterns that are just a bit different from diamonds, but it’s readily available in most of the same popular shapes and cuts as a diamond. A few shapes are less common, so it’s worth asking if you have a less common cut in mind!
It’s a bright, sparkly, colorless gem. All of the moissanite we use for an engagement ring center stone falls at the very top of the color and clarity scales. And that should always be the case! It’s a much less expensive gem, and you can get a flawless one for a very reasonable price. In fact, it’s so clean and white that it tends to give itself away a little bit! You can usually spot moissanite rings among other colorless gems in our photos because of how pure and clean the color is.
For someone who loves the look of a colorless gem but doesn’t feel the need to buy a diamond (or wants to avoid the potential ethical challenges that are tied up with diamonds), moissanite can be a great alternative. And many genuinely love the gem. It sparkles brilliantly, and many happy moissanite owners would argue that its sparkle easily beats any diamond.
There is so much hubbub about lab diamonds? What are the facts? How do I know if one is for me? Is real really rare?
One of the biggest misconceptions about lab-made gems (diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds… really any lab-made gem) is that they’re an imitation. The terminology can be confusing. But the important thing about lab-made gems is that they are the exact same material as those created by nature. We like to use the analogy of ice from your freezer vs. ice formed outside by the cold. Both are chemically the same, but one was formed by a man-made process and one was formed by nature.
So, why buy lab made? Well, if you want a diamond and you want to be certain that the stone was ethically sourced, you should go with a lab-created diamond. Many attempts have been made to ensure diamond mining is “clean.” You’ll hear about the Kimberley Process, which was designed to prevent the distribution of conflict diamonds. And some companies have admirably tried to create even more rigorous systems for ensuring the conflict-free source of their diamonds.
But diamond mining and distribution can be messy. There are a lot of middlemen involved from the time diamond rough is mined through its cutting, polishing and distribution. In our experience, that makes it pretty much impossible to guarantee the provenance of the diamond with 100% certainty. A man-made diamond offers the certainty that some people need.
If you’re not worried about the sourcing process, you might just like the fact that lab-made diamonds are less expensive and are typically going to rank higher on color and clarity. They’re grown to be as perfect as possible. For diamonds, this can mean more affordable access to a colorless, inclusion-free gem.
Some advertising campaigns would stress that real is rare… that natural, mined diamonds are special. We won’t argue with the fact that diamonds are special. But it can be helpful to understand that they’re not uniquely rare. Like all gems, they’re relatively rare. Of all the many materials found on earth, diamonds and other gems make up a very small part. But relative to a lot of other gems, there’s actually quite a bit of diamond out there!
So, which is right for you? That’s a really personal choice, and we really think there’s great reasons to choose natural and great reasons to buy lab-made. We just hope buyers are getting all of the facts and don’t feel any pressure or judgment for their choice!
If I am looking at moissanite and lab diamonds is there anything else I should consider?
A lot of people feel a bit trapped by the idea that an engagement ring needs to have a diamond. It can help to remember that diamond engagement rings are a relatively modern idea. Sapphires and rubies used to be even more popular than diamonds, and continue to be great choices. Among our customers, we find that a large and growing number are considering a colored gem, and we love that trend!
It’s a lot of fun for us to create beautiful, sparkly diamond rings. But there’s a ton of uniqueness and personality that someone can inject by exploring other gems.
Ruby, sapphire, and alexandrite continue to be really popular, both because they’re undeniably beautiful and because they’re durable and wear really well. And that’s already a huge spectrum of colors, since sapphire can be found in a huge variety of colors. In fact, a ruby is just a red sapphire!
Other popular choices we see quite a bit include amethyst, morganite, aquamarine, and emerald. These are just a bit softer, so there’s a bit more risk of wear over time. But the reality is that there’s always risk!
This is another case where it’s just a matter of knowing what to expect. In the end, even a ring with pearl or opal (which are quite soft and risky in a daily-wear ring) can be a great choice, if you know to expect repair or replacement over its lifetime. And it’s worth mentioning that there’s a lab-made option for almost any type of gemstone, with the same cost and ethics benefits as lab-made diamonds.
I could go on for quite a while. There are tons of really interesting and really beautiful gems to consider. Diamonds are a beautiful choice. But we hope people don’t feel like it’s the only choice!
What should I consider to make sure I get the right stone for me for my ring?
Keep a few things in mind as you make a decision on the center stone:
- Do you know what your partner would want? There are a ton of options, but if you know their preference, that’s almost always the place to start. If she loves diamond and you’re struggling with the price, we can find a great way to make it work (e.g. perhaps a cluster setting with a smaller diamond, maybe a less common cut like marquise with a larger face-up size, etc.).
- How much are you comfortable spending? You don’t have to spend beyond your means to get a great and really meaningful ring. In our experience, the process of investing your time and energy into designing a custom ring makes the piece personal and meaningful. And there are great options at every budget. So pick a price you can afford!
- How will the gem wear? Both the gem and the gem setting will make a big difference in how well the ring will wear and how much cleaning and maintenance it will require. As will the way it’s worn. Familiarize yourself with the maintenance characteristics of the gem you’re considering so there are no surprises.
This article is in partnership with Custom Made you can find them at custommade.com.