Diamonds may have been a girl’s best friend once upon a time, but it seems they've lost their sparkle among millennials. Young couples are increasingly choosing colorful stones such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires for engagement jewelry, eschewing from a long-standing tradition (and marketing push) towards diamonds.
Speaking to, Experts recently told The Telegraph more and more millennials gravitate towards alternative engagement rings for a variety of ethical, financial, and even expressive reasons. "A generation of marital-age people are now prioritizing other things such as weddings, housing, and the cost of having children, rather than splashing out on a really expensive ring,” Anusha Couttigane, a senior analyst at Kantar Retail, told the publication. Couttigane noted that there's still a market for solitaire diamond rings. However, experts have noticed growth "in non-traditional designs which use a range of cheaper, colored stones too."
The typical spending amount for engagement rings is far less than it used to be, according to a new study from the insurance company Allianz. The long-standing (and wildly expensive) convention was to spend three-month's salary on it — but nowadays, the average is closer to £537 in the U.K., which is about $700 at the current exchange rate. Instead of shelling out on a rock, couples would rather save money to buy real estate or go on vacation, Allianz reported.
This isn't a totally new trend in the wedding jewelry business, though: Colorful stomes have been popular throughout history because of the uniqueness factor, according to Anna Flower from Gemfields, which supplies responsibly-sourced colored gems to brands. "There are meanings and connotations behind each," Flower told Refinery29. "Emeralds are believed to represent hope, and rubies passion, prosperity and protection." Recently, Gemfields has seen an upturn in all of its colored stones, she said — although, she highlighted the popularity of rubies as the most notable, since it's a rare gem. However, with the connotations around red being the color of love, they're proving particularly popular as engagement rings.
Colorful stones are not only cheaper, but there's also arguably more fashionable, as they allow for more experimentation with design. When it came time to choose her engagement ring, Charlie Boyd, executive fashion and jewelry editor at Harper’s Bazaar UK, opted for an antique art-deco opal ring in a platinum setting, surrounded by diamonds and emeralds. It was love at first sight, she told Refinery29. "As an editor, I see all sorts of jewelry 24/7," she explained. "When I showed it to my boyfriend at the time, he agreed it was the right one and immediately said that it was 'me in a ring.'"
Because she specializes in this particular category of fashion, Boyd said she wanted to make sure her ring felt "unusual" — and the combination of a rainbow-like stone and the unique setting sealed the deal. "I've always been very colorful in my style, so it was probably quite natural that I gravitated towards a colorful ring. Opals have always been my favorite stone, because of the rainbow play of light within them."
More people are seeking engagement rings that are somehow reflective of one's own love story. Fashion stylist Issie Gibbons, for instance, also opted for an opal, for sentimental reasons: She chose an antique Victorian opal set in pavé diamonds — a combination of her and her fiancé's birthstones — which would originally have been worn as a cocktail ring.
“We knew we wanted something with both, so we trawled around antique markets – literally for months! – until we found one we liked," Gibbons said. An alternative ring like hers is one that draws many questions, she noted: "Although a lot of the time people don't realize it's an engagement ring, but I quite like that – it's not obvious," Gibbons explained. "I've never been that keen on traditional diamond engagement rings and knew I wanted something a bit more personal and original."
Traditional engagement ring styles haven’t totally lost their shine among young couples, though. A 2016 report from De Beers showed that millennials spent $26 billion on diamond jewelry in its four key markets (China, India, Japan, and the United States) — more than any previous generation. Plus, the company predicted that the number of people shopping for the classic stone is expected to grow as this shopper ages.
However, diamonds may no longer be the most expensive stones on the market: The growing popularity of colored gems means that they, too, are becoming pricier and beyond the reach of many consumers. "In auction, we're seeing prices that we never saw before [for colored stones], John Benjamin, an expert in antique jewelry, told The Guardian. He characterized it as "a very different sort of marketplace from the old days," when you could find relatively affordable stones at an auction. In recent years, though, he said. "the prices have absolutely skyrocketed."