Marilyn Monroe sang that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and ever since the deBeers advert campaigns of the 1930s, diamonds have been the favoured stone for engagement rings. If you’d like something a little different, however, there are lots of other gemstones available for those wanting to rock the non-diamond look. The list of alternative stones to diamonds is endless, ranging from the better-known rubies, emeralds, pearls and sapphires to semi-precious stones such as tourmalines, moonstones, topazes and peridots.
|Aquamarine ring from Diana Porter|
One beautiful alternative to diamonds is aquamarine; with its light blue colour and subtle sparkle it is becoming increasingly popular. Diana Porter, the jewellers on Bristol’s Park Street, sells a 9-carat white gold ring set with a princes cut aquamarine (pictured), and with prices for this starting at £600, it can be a much more affordable option than a diamond. Another idea for a less-expensive yet still beautiful stone is to use spinels, which are a type of gemstone that closely resemble more expensive rubies. If you like the rich red hue of a ruby but don’t have a budget to accommodate this, then a spinel can be a much more affordable alternative.
Clare Chandler, who runs Bristol jewellers Clifton Rocks, uses a range of stones in her work. One of her latest pieces was an unusual stack ring that used the customer’s own gold and featured sapphires, aquamarine and amethyst. Clare says: “I have had people using this style of wedding ring to represent them and their children’s birthstones.” By selecting an engagement ring that features a stone personal to you in this way, you’ve instantly made it a talking point!
|Stack ring from Clifton Rocks|
You can take this a step further and have your engagement ring made as a one-off design especially for you, which is a great way to ensure that you can customise it exactly the way you want. “I can source any stone that the customers requires,” says Julie Anne Palmer, who specialises in bespoke jewellery. “I will work with the customer through the making process to ensure the ring is exactly as they wanted.” And as John Titcombe Jewellers say, who also offer a bespoke service, “the designs are only limited by your imagination!”
In this era of thrift and vintage, there is always the option of refashioning an heirloom piece to create something new. Perhaps you have a ring from a family member that doesn’t suit you, or an old brooch that you don’t wear any more. Diana Porter recently made a tourmaline ring for a customer who wanted to put a gemstone to good use. “The tourmaline stone was a customer’s own, which is a wonderful way to keep an heirloom yet have a contemporary design that suits the customer.”
When it comes to wedding bands, gold and platinum have certainly dominated the market for quite some time, but recently couples have started looking for alternative metals and designs. One metal that is becoming popular is palladium, which is from the same group of metals as platinum but with the added bonus of being cheaper than its more expensive cousin. Clare has certainly seen an increase in the use of palladium. “We sell a palladium slate ring which has been really popular for men buying a wedding band.” This trend has also been seen at Diana Porter. “Palladium is great alternative to traditional metals of gold and platinum. Its silvery colour is close to that of platinum but is lightweight and more affordable.” Another option is zirconium, a grey-white metal that Julie Anne has used for wedding bands and which can be grooved to create an unusual texture.
|Palladium ring from Clifton Rocks|
|Grooved zirconium ring from Julie Anne Palmer|
As well as an alternative metal for wedding bands, there are other ways you can personalise your wedding band so it’s unique to you. Diana Porter is well known for her etching and customers are utilising this by having their own words etched around rings. This can be great for a wedding ring, with the date of the wedding picked out in Roman numerals – simple yet beautiful.
Maybe it’s time to rewrite that song…
This article first appeared in West Weddings’ sister publication Folio, a monthly magazine celebrating the best of Bristol and Bath. Folio publishes a wedding guide every six months, so keep an eye out for the next one in Spring 2012.