A diamond may be a girl’s best friend, but for the modern woman, it is just one of a variety of stones that complement her global style and romantic sensibility. Since the 1980s, when Princess Diana opted for a sapphire and Duchess Ferguson for a ruby, the popularity of colored stones has skyrocketed. Today, these stones are prize choices for unique engagement rings. Rooted in folklore and shimmering in colors that symbolize characteristics such as strength and eternal hope, gemstones say a lot about the woman wearing them.
A member of the quartz family, this violet gemstone is said to symbolize sincerity, security and peace of mind. The name is derived from the Greek word amethystos, meaning not intoxicated.
Part of the beryl family, this blue-green gemstone is said to symbolize compassion and give individuals the courage to speak their truth.
A symbol of eternal hope and rebirth, emerald is one of the precious stones. Because it is far softer and scratches more easily than diamonds and sapphires, Harold Krasner, president of Harold Stevens Jewelry, suggests wearing it in a deep setting like a bezel or prong.
A symbol of consistency, good health and perseverance, this stone is known for its reddish brown hue. Tsavorite, derived from Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, is a member of the garnet family and shows a brilliant green hue. So stable and perfect in its natural form, the stone is left untreated. "Emerald is so soft and porous and fragile, it really doesn’t work for everyday purposes," says Jeffrey Martin, general manager and jewelry designer for John Franklin Fine Jewelers. "Tsavorite [is stronger and] looks great in both metals — yellow gold as well as the white metals."
Associated with hope, happiness and truth, the opal’s hue varies from colorless to onyx. "A customer had a black opal ring and wanted matching earrings. Natural black opals are rare, and it’s very rare to find two pieces the same," says Hunaida Shamieh, general manager of Royal Maui Jewelers and graduate gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). "We found an uncut opal rock that was extremely close to her ring. We had the stone cut, and we duplicated the design to make earrings to match the ring."
A stone of springtime, this earthy gem ranges in color from light lime to dark green. Peridot is said to symbolize light, rebirth and renewal, combating negative and useless emotions. Interestingly, some peridots have been derived from meteorites. Malcolm Koll, owner of Charles Koll, says that while peridot is typically set in yellow gold, recently he’s been mounting it in white [metals]. "It looks stunning," he says. "The rules are changing."
Part of the corundum family, the crimson stone gained popularity when Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, wore a ruby and diamond engagement ring. Resembling the color of the heart, it is said to symbolize passion, love and sexual desire. "I had a client with a ruby that was a family piece—a grandmother’s. It was an antique, cushion-cut karat and a half ruby," Martin says. "We ended up setting it in a platinum and diamond pendant she could wear on her wedding day as her something old."
Second only to diamonds in hardness, sapphires come in nearly every color imaginable, making them the best option for a colored gemstone that can be worn every day. Blue sapphire is believed to represent innocence and truth. "Sapphire, currently, is really hot primarily because the precious metals we’re using these days are silver or white—white gold, palladium, platinum. The blue of the sapphire really works well with the white metals," says Martin. Malcolm Koll, of Charles Koll, and his team won an American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award for a ring featuring a blue sapphire set in platinum. Typically set in a traditional, Edwardian style, he combined these elements with a more contemporary look. "It’s important to select something that works with everything," he says. "The blue sapphire is color neutral."
Regarded by some as healing, sacred and representing new life, this rare gemstone is found only in the foothills of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. A member of the zoisite family, it shines equal parts blue and purple. "A customer brought in a gem-quality 15-karat tanzanite...brought back from Tanzania. It’s very rare to see any stones that size coming out anymore from Tanzania because the mine has been depleted," says Liz Rayon, sales manager of Swiss Watch Gallery. "We set it in a beautiful pendant and surrounded it with a combination of rose and white gold, and added white and natural pink diamonds."