Gemstones vs Diamonds: which one is perfect for you?
When it comes to investing in fine jewellery, one big decision to make is whether to choose a Diamond or a colourful gemstone such as an Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby or Aquamarine as the star of your piece.
10 minute read | Words by Angeli
When it comes to investing in fine jewellery, one big decision to make is whether to choose a Diamond or a colourful gemstone such as an Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby or Aquamarine as the star of your piece. Below we’ve summarised everything you need to know, from cost to durability and rarity, so you can find your perfect match!
Where do Diamonds and Gemstones come from?
Both Diamonds and coloured gemstones are formed by nature over millions of years, requiring the perfect combination of heat, pressure and available chemical elements.
Diamonds are made up of carbon, and with the right balance of high pressure and temperature underground, this carbon crystallises to become the much loved gemstones, adored for their signature sparkle (thanks to their high refractive index). Sometimes other trace elements can be present causing diamonds to be coloured.
Gemstones are a little different. What we love about coloured gemstones specifically is that each requires a near impossible set of geological circumstances to be formed - a true miracle of nature. Each gemstone family, i.e. Corundum (Sapphires and Rubies) has its core minerals which form their chemical composition, however each gets its colour from the exact combination of transition elements present in the earth at the time of their crystallisation such as Chromium or Iron. It is the different combinations and concentrations of these chemical elements which we have to thank for the rainbow of gemstones!
And as no two are alike, each offers a unique combination of hue, tone, colour, clarity and inclusions, which tell the story of your specific gemstone. Pretty cool right?
Gemstones & Diamonds through history
Gemstones have been prized throughout history since ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, Aztecs and Romans (who were the first to use them in engagement rings). Jewellery became an important symbol of status, while gemstones took on talisman properties, said to bestow blessings and protection such as luck, love and happiness on their wearer.
Looking back, coloured gemstones were always an intrinsic part of the story - with Emeralds, Blue Sapphires and Rubies becoming the most famous, loved by royalty and celebrities alike. During the Victorian era Engagement Rings started to become more mainstream; a symbol of love worn broadly across society. And at this time coloured gemstones and pearls were the most popular choices.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s when Diamonds surged in popularity, making them a go-to for engagement rings. Fast forward to the 1980’s and Princess Diana’s Ceylon Blue Sapphire cluster style engagement ring saw a resurgence for coloured gemstones.
It’s now estimated that around 20% of engagement rings are coloured gemstones, with the remainder being Diamond. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but we for one are huge lovers of coloured gemstones for their uniqueness, colour and beauty. The perfect choice for the modern bride, groom or marrier.
You may have heard of the 4 C’s, which is the universal grading system for Diamonds, but unlike Diamonds there is no universal grading system for coloured stones, although we can follow the same structure.
Modern Diamonds are often cut by laser machines, to scientific ratios set out to best accentuate their sparkle.
Coloured gemstones however take a little more skill and are predominantly still cut by hand, using modern versions of traditional tools such as a lap. The quality of the cut is a combination of ratio, symmetry, facet alignment and the final polish of the gemstone. An excellent cut is one that uses these factors to bring out the best of the gemstone in terms of colour and liveliness.
When looking for Diamonds there is a clear scale from D to Z which denotes how ‘colourless’ a Diamond is.
When it comes to coloured gemstones it's all about the colour! The key thing here is that the colour should be evenly distributed across the stone. In our gemstones we look for excellent qualities of:
• Hue (the basic colour we see)
• Saturation (the intensity of the hue)
• Tone (the gem’s relative lightness or darkness)
As creations of nature, all gems will have clarity characteristics such as growth planes, crystals, needles or feathers which may be visible to the naked eye. Some types of gemstones, for example Emeralds, are more prone to inclusions and should be expected and are a part of their beauty.
Choosing your Gemstone
When it comes to choosing a coloured gemstone, it's all about following your heart - fall in love with your gemstone’s story!
The cost of Diamonds and Gemstones explained
Each gemstone demands its own value based on a number of factors such as rarity, quality and demand within the marketplace at that time.
Diamonds, for example, are one of the most abundant gemstones, however there is a strictly controlled market supply which facilitates the high price they command. In recent months the price of Diamonds has been rising steeply due to disruptions to the supply chain, positioning coloured gemstones as a stunning alternative. And with an estimated 20% of Diamonds coming from Russia, and the sanctions currently in place on these, this is a trend which you can expect to continue.
Gemstones can be a beautiful alternative, offering greater value for money and uniqueness! (Especially at Fenton - we personally source each of our gemstones, from the top 10% available in the market, cutting out the excess middlemen to ensuring you never pay excessive markups - find out more here).
Diamond vs Sapphires
Often, due to the controlled stock of the world's diamonds, a diamond's price per carat may be higher than a sapphire. However, the higher the sapphire quality, the higher the price per carat at often equalling or eclipsing that of the diamond due to the sapphire being more rare to find in certain sizes and qualities. This is especially true for more rare colours of Sapphires, which will demand a high premium.
One of the most famous Sapphires is the Jewel of Kashmir, a stunning blue colour, which weighs in at 27.68 carats and was sold by Sotheby's for a huge $6.7m in 2015!
At Fenton, we personally source each of our Sapphires. This means that we are able to cut out the excess middlemen in the supply chain, offering unrivalled value in comparison to both Diamonds and other sources of Sapphires.
Diamond vs Emeralds
Did you know Emeralds are 20x rarer than Diamonds? It’s one of the reasons we think they’re so special! Most Emeralds have inclusion characteristics such as needles, feathers and mica platelets which only add to their character and tell the story of their crystallisation over millions of years. They can also show some surface lines due to the way in which they crystallise.
As with our Sapphires, our Emeralds are all personally sourced and so an Emerald Ring such as the Emerald Cut Emerald Trilogy can be up to 2-3x cheaper than a comparable size and style of Diamond.
Diamonds vs Rubies
High quality Rubies are incredibly rare and especially in the larger sizes they can command a higher price per carat than many Diamonds. Even in the smaller dimensions, they can often match Diamonds in price.
There are several trade names used to describe specific colours of Rubies, with ‘Pigeon Blood’ being the most well known, suggesting a vibrant orange-red colour.
The most expensive The Crimson Flame Ruby, weighing in at 15.04 carats, was sold in 2015 for a record breaking price per carat for a gemstone at $1,196,809, 4.7 times more than the most expensive colourless Diamond.
However, as with our other gemstones, we offer our Rubies for an unrivalled price point, with our rings coming in at around 2-3x cheaper than comparable Diamond designs.
If you love the deep red hues of the Ruby, but are seeking a more affordable alternative we recommend checking out our Garnets.
Diamonds vs Aquamarine
If you love the versatility of a Diamond, but are also dreaming of having a larger centre stone, an Aquamarine can be the perfect choice! This gemstone has a soft blue hue and offers stunning sparkle.
An 8x6mm Aquamarine, for example in our original Trilogy or Solitaire Rings, will be comparable in price to a 5x3mm G-H VS Diamond in a similar style of ring.
Gemstone vs Diamond Durability
Durability is made up of three components - hardness, toughness and stability! Hardness can be defined as a gemstone’s ability to resist scratching, whilst toughness is the ability to resist fracture and stability is the ability to resist changing in appearance over time. The best gemstones for daily wear are those that score high on each scale, for example a Sapphire.
It’s no secret that Diamonds are the hardest mineral known to man-kind. You can see this if you look at a Mohs scale of hardness, which ranks all gemstones from 1 to 10.
Diamonds receive the top score at a 10, followed by Corundum, the family to which Sapphires and Rubies belong. This means these gemstones are hard and resistant to scratching. They’re also fairly tough - meaning they aren’t as likely to chip or fracture over time as other gemstones, such as Emeralds. This makes Sapphires and Diamonds a great gemstone for everyday wear and a perfect choice for your engagement ring.
Emerald and Aquamarine are part of the Beryl family. They’re a little softer coming in at around 7.5 on the Mohs’ scale. Emeralds have a complex DNA which results in the famed Emerald 'Jardin' - the unique set of inclusions found inside each Emerald. This is also why you must treat Emeralds with care, as their crystal structure means they are slightly more brittle than their more durable gemstone counterparts. They are fine for daily wear, but do require a little extra TLC. However, Aquamarines go through a slightly different crystallisation process so they are much tougher than Emeralds and therefore more durable.
Diamonds or Gemstone engagement rings?
When it comes to buying an engagement ring, there's no wrong choice, it’s all about personal preference and finding a ring which you and your partner love! Here at Fenton, we obviously have a soft spot for gemstones. We love that each is entirely unique, offering a bespoke mix of colour, hue, saturation and inclusions - telling the story of your gemstone’s formation!
If you’re looking for more advice on choosing an engagement ring, our expert gemmologists have put together lots of helpful tools!
4 Engagement Ring Shopping Mistakes To Avoid
5 Simple Steps To Find Your Perfect Engagement Ring
How Much You Should Spend On An Engagement Ring
How To Choose An Engagement Ring
10 Things To Consider When Buying An Engagement Ring
Ready to start creating your gemstone jewellery? Start customising your ring, band or earrings now! Or start with a gemstone from Blue Sapphire, Yellow Sapphire, Pink Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby, Aquamarine and Garnet.