Move Over, Diamonds: Colorful Stones Are Millennial Girl's Best Friends

Engagement ring shopping isn’t what it used to be. Just ask millennials.

”Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” said the iconic Marilyn Monroe, but millennials, apparently, prefer having food on the table and their taxes paid.

While everyone seems to blame the Generation Y for “killing” industry after industry, when it comes to expensive gemstones, it all makes sense. Engagement ring shopping isn’t what it used to be. Just ask millennials.

Two-to-three month’s salary to spend on an engagement ring? Probably not. Instead of shelling out for a hefty diamond, millennial couples are opting to put that cash toward a house, having children, or an epic honeymoon.

Research shows that millennials are focused on prioritizing their finances, as well as the ethical problems that come from the industry. And after all, when you look into it, are diamonds really worth it?

It seems like millennials are just catching up and realizing that diamonds are not that special. A growing fashion for engagement rings with colored stones, such as rubies and emeralds, is threatening to undermine their pre-eminence.

The sparkle fades

Diamonds, in the words of one of the world’s most famous marketing slogans, are supposed to be forever. Sure, they are extremely hard and durable and have a high dispersion of light, which gives them the characteristic “fire” that people seek, but they are also severely overpriced. And what or who is to blame for that? Marketing.

Back in 1930s, De Beers started advertising diamonds as “a must” for engagement rings, successfully manipulating consumer demand. It was De Beers diamond company’s marketing campaign that invented the “rule” that a man ought to spend at least two months' pay on his fiancee's engagement ring, which reinforced the cachet of diamonds as a gift of rare and eternal beauty.

While almost universally believed to be extremely rare, and therefore expensive, today diamonds are actually quite common with an estimate of 26 tons produced annually. 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.

Today, the ethics of diamond-buying are also important considerations for many young couples: millennials are aware of the human cost of the diamond trade (thank Leo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond) and hence more likely to ask questions about provenance.

Experts say that the rise of the millennials, with their more cost-conscious and individualistic shopping habits, along with their growing demands for more ethical sourcing of products, have led to diamonds losing their sparkle.

Uniqueness first

As the tastes in jewelry have changed, colored stones are seen as providing a more individualistic and distinctive alternative to the once ubiquitous white diamond.

The traditional in-stock ring isn’t the option that excites most millennials. Unique, customized pieces make a statement and do not blend into the crowd. Millennial couples want a ring that tells their own story and reflects who they are as individuals.

Even if the budget is limited, many couples prefer to design their own rings instead of purchasing an in-stock design. Creating a customized ring personalizes the experience and ensures a one-of-a-kind ring that illustrates the uniqueness of the couple.

Colored stones actually provide a more modern, striking and individual alternative to a traditional diamond – and the fact that they tend to be cheaper than the once-ubiquitous sparkle is definitely another advantage.

While young millennials won’t always opt for the expensive rings, they want something special, a unique piece that speaks to them and their relationship. That’s why this e-savvy generation is skipping the traditional in-store experience; these millennials want unique, customized creations, and they prefer to find them online.

Unique rings are similar to handwritten love letters, whereas rings purchased at a franchise is similar to a Hallmark card. Receiving either is great, but the handwritten note is more meaningful. Does the bride love the color pink? Then maybe proposing with a pink stone might be right down your alley.

Beautiful and expressive

Plus, colorful engagement rings are pretty awesomely beautiful to boot! It ties in with a growing trend for women to veer away from generic white diamond engagement rings, with colored stones becoming a more common choice among modern brides.

Color is an intense way to express your personality. According to individual jewelry designers, gaining major traction among the fashionable set today, not only do colorful engagement rings tote a much friendlier price tag, but they also offer much more opportunity for a little self-expression.

Brides are able to show off their individuality with beautiful blue, gorgeous green, and romantic red hues, with some getting even more personal by choosing their own birthstone as their engagement bling. More and more women are experimenting with African mint tourmalines, green tourmalines, morganites and amethysts.

Cost vs. value

Aside from the increased individuality, there are more practical reasons for proposing with an emerald, sapphire, ruby or other colored gemstone.

Most colored stones have a more accessible price point than diamonds, and there’s a vast array of options in terms of cut, color and quality. This allows for greater flexibility and experimentation – and of course, a bigger gem on the hand, which never hurts!

The great thing about colored stones is that you can buy something really fabulous-looking and most people will have no idea how much it cost, explain jewelry experts. This is a big selling point for people who perhaps don't have as much to spend on a ring and don't want others to know exactly what they've spent on it.

Colored gemstone engagement rings are hot. They’re showing up on royalty and celebrities alike. They’re beautiful. They’re unusual. And they can be a great value.

With celebs such as Jessica Simpson, Halle Berry, Eva Longoria, and even royalty (like Princess Eugenie and Kate Middleton) all toting engagement bling with colorful stones, millennials are certainly in good company.