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What Are Alternative Gemstones and Why Are They More Affordable?

Written by Annabelle
July 19, 2019

Love sparkly gems but you're on a budget? It's time for you to consider some alternatives that will save your wallet or credit card from looking dangerously sad. From genuine stones, to synthetics and simulants, there's something for everyone's price range here. Read on to learn about alternative gemstones that won't break the bank.

Alternative Gemstones

Simply put, these stones are visually very similar to other gemstones that you like. The difference lies in either the method of production (ie. lab-created vs. natural) or chemical structure. For instance, a diamond is not the same as a moissanite as one is harder than the other.

Alternative gemstones have been a popular way for people to get a certain aesthetic without exceeding their price range. However, it pays to do some research about durability and resale value before going ahead and purchasing an item.


People love diamonds for their stark white radiance. It can be incredibly expensive to get a genuine diamond of a certain size and quality, so here are several lower-budget options:

  • Lab-Created Diamonds: Unlike their natural counterparts, lab-created diamonds are made via a man-made process in a highly controlled environment. This procedure simulates the intense high temperatures and pressure that natural diamonds go through in order to create a stone. Because of their origin, lab-created diamonds are comparatively less expensive than natural diamonds, and they can be bought at a higher quality and carat weight at a lesser price. Despite the fact that they're man-made, they're chemically the same as natural diamonds, making this option a great substitute.

    A ring with a lab-created diamond as the center stone

  • Moissanite: Contrary to customer confusion, moissanite isn't a type of “diamond.” While it looks very similar to diamond, moissanite is actually a form of silicon carbide that ranks at 9.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. It can be graded on the diamond grading scale with clarity and color ratings, and its durability is only slightly under that of a genuine diamond.
  • White Topaz & White Sapphire: If lab-created diamonds and moissanite are out of your budget, consider these natural stones. White topaz and white sapphire are the colorless variants of their mineral type, and they can be affordable options to retain that clear, eye-catching look. However, it's important to keep in mind that white topaz and white sapphire have a lower refractive index than diamond, which means that they have a more muted sparkle in comparison. In addition, white topaz needs to be inclusion-free in order to have a “flawless” look; damage over time makes it appear cloudy.

    An emerald ring with two white topaz shoulders

  • Cubic Zirconia: At the bottom of the list, cubic zirconia is a man-made product from zirconium dioxide. It's incredibly affordable and can be found in costume jewelry. For people who want a piece of jewelry to wear without much heartbreak if it get lost or stolen (such as a travel engagement ring) cubic zirconia is an excellent option.


  • Red Spinel: This stone comes in an attractive red-pink color that closely imitates fine rubies. It's a little less durable at a 8 on the scale for hardness, compared to a ruby's 9, but it's also a bit more affordable. Historically speaking, many spinels were mistaken for rubies due to the similarity in color. In fact, the famous Black Prince's ruby in the British crown jewels is a spinel.
  • Garnet: Garnets come in a wide range of colors and can be quite affordable. The almandine and pyrope types typically come in a wide variety of red shades, allowing you to choose the color you want without draining your funds.

    A garnet ring surrounded by a diamond halo.


  • Blue Topaz: Topaz is a nice precious stone that comes in a multitude of colors, including blue. Through a heat treatment, colorless white topaz turns into a rich, dark color that is comparable to sapphires with a substantially lower price.

    A ring that we provided a blue topaz for

  • Kyanite: Kyanite is an interesting stone that has become increasingly popular in the jewelry scene thanks to its sharp blue color. Because of its mineral construct, it has a unique filament-like appearance that distinguishes it from sapphire. Nevertheless, many people find this texture to be visually appealing and even desirable. Its price is also much lower in comparison to gem-grade sapphires, but this is balanced out by the fact that kyanite is much more brittle.


  • Tsarovite: This green variant of garnet is rare yet pretty- it has such a strong pop of color that's comparable to some of the finest emeralds on the market. And unlike emeralds, tsarovite has less inclusions that give emeralds their typical “mossy” texture.

    This pair of earrings is set with two genuine tsarovites

  • Peridot: Peridot is a form of olivine that is used in jewelry. It has a lighter, gold-green color that isn't quite like emerald, but has a more spring-like feel to it. Best of all, it's quite cheap and can be easily bought in large carat sizes.
  • Green tourmaline: If you're looking for alternative gemstones that are darker in color, green tourmaline can come in impressively deep shades. This stone usually comes in a more “true green” color as opposed to the blue-green shades of emerald or yellowish peridot. Compared to the other alternatives for emerald, it can be a bit pricier.

Alternative gemstones are a wonderful way to substitute for a stone that's far out of your price range, and now that you know a little more about them you're all set to get one for your jewelry! If you're feeling the need to upgrade some pieces, or play around with a new color, check out our stone replacement service here.

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