We know that a diamond is one of the best stones to have on your ring, but it is true that it is also among the most expensive. And this is just one of the reasons that may make you consider other gems. So, apart from the price tag, where differences are readily visible, how do diamonds compare with other gemstones?
Colorless Diamonds vs. Colored Gemstones
It is clear that most gemstones are colored while most diamonds on the market are colorless or have a slight yellow tint. However, this is not what we are going to focus on here.
A more important fact is that colored gemstones are often heat treated. This type of treatment is used to enhance color; the result looks good and is usually permanent, but some gemstones may fade with time. This may take years to show and might not be readily noticeable, but you should keep that possibility in mind.
Actually, a lot of gemstones on the market have undergone heat treatment – without it, most naturally mined gems just don’t have especially rich colors; those that do are usually very rare and expensive.
So, what should you do? If you are debating whether to buy a colored gemstone over a diamond, always ask the seller whether the gemstone has been treated in any way and if the effects are permanent. It is strongly recommended that you buy from a reputed jeweler that you know you can trust.
Durability: A Tougher Issue
When it comes to durability, diamond is the undisputable winner over most gemstones. Very few gems come even close to it in terms of hardness.
How important is gemstone durability and hardness when choosing a ring, for example? Well, the softer your gemstone, the more likely it is that it will scratch, chip and even crack if hit harder. If your gemstone is faceted, the lower its hardness, the faster the edges of its facets will become rounder over time. So, if you’re about to buy a stone that is much softer than a diamond, perhaps it is a good idea to go for a gem that is cut as a cabochon, i.e. a polished stone (this is how most stones with hardness lower than 7 on the Mohs scale are cut anyway).
In general, pick a diamond if you are going to wear your jewelry every day. Less durable gemstones are suitable for pieces that you will wear occasionally.
The Next Best Thing: Non-Diamond Precious Gemstones
“Precious gemstones” is a term that usually denotes a group of four gems: diamond, emerald, sapphire and ruby. They are also more expensive than most other stones. If for some reason you don’t want to buy a diamond, the other precious gemstones are all good candidates to take its place.
If you are after durability, you may want to go with ruby or sapphire. These two stones are the next hardest gems after diamond – they both have a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale (diamond has a hardness of 10). Emerald, on the other hand, is softer, and its hardness is in the 7.5-8 range, so it is not the best substitute for diamond in this respect.
In case you want a stone that is almost as durable as diamond and is also as colorless, you can go for white sapphire. It is a natural stone that looks like a diamond but is not as expensive.
Making the Final Decision: Durability vs. Color
In summary, pick diamond if you are going to wear your piece of jewelry more often – it is the best choice when it comes to durability. If you want more color, go with a colored gemstone, but choose a softer one only if you will wear the jewelry occasionally; for everyday wear, choose the more durable sapphire or ruby, and get the best of both worlds.For more information on diamonds: Read our Diamond Cut Quality Guide.