Brides who aren't wedded to tradition may be happy to forgo a diamond ring altogether. They'd be in good company. "Gemstones made a big comeback after Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with Princess Diana's sapphire engagement ring," says Levine.
Ruth Batson, executive director of the American Gem Society, says sapphires and rubies make particularly good choices for engagement rings. "They are high on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, just under diamonds," she says. "Because an engagement ring is worn daily, you need a gemstone that is hard."
Brides favoring white stones have nondiamond options as well. For her engagement ring, photographer Sara Meynardie chose a white sapphire that "cost a fraction of the price of a diamond and looks just as stunning." And LeeAnn Shattuck, co-owner of Women's Automotive Solutions, opted for a synthetic diamond, choosing to invest the money saved in starting her business.