What should you spend on an engagement ring?

Joopy Gems tourmaline mixed cut 2.315 carats
Apricot Pink Tourmaline Oval Mixed Cut 2.315 carats, 9.8×8.4×4.3mm, $125

JCK news report that something like 36% of Americans want to spend less than $1000 on their engagement rings, and that furthermore, older adults are likely to believe this more than those who are younger. Of course there is (as I know from my other life as a

Pink Tourmaline Heart, 5.290 carats, $460

psychologist) that there is often a gap between what people say they believe and what people actually do: the average cost of an engagement ring in the US is between $3000 and $5000. But it made me think – is that necessary? When I got engaged, in the car on the way over to buy the ring, I remember saying to my husband-to-be, ‘Oh, let’s not spend too much, I don’t need anything fancy, it’s not what it’s about anyway’…

Green Tourmaline Square, 5.415 carats, $565

And then they brought out the trays of bling, and I was ‘Uh…oh… I want that one’!!! And it was more than $1000. More than £1000 come to that. That was before I was in this line of work, and now I’d do it differently. Now I’d work from the stone out – that is, pick a stone that I loved and then have the ring designed around that.

Yellow Tourmaline Oval, 5.165 carats, $450

I’ve got a sapphire in my ring and I love it, but I think if I were to have my time again, I’d maybe choose something different. Forget about diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire, with the prices sky-high, and having to keep it small. How about the gorgeous apricot pink oval at the top of the page, with gorgeous pleochroic lighter and darker shades? Or what could be more perfect than a big, plump, pink heart to seal the deal? This one (above left) is is around 12x11mm –

Joopy Gems pink tourmaline pear, 1.46 carats
Pink Tourmaline Pear, 1.460 carats, $85

imagine that sitting proudly on your finger! Or for something more classic, the green square mixed cut (above right) would be beautiful surrounded by some baguette-cut diamonds.  What I love most about tourmaline is its extraordinary colour range, and more unusual is the gorgeous sunshine-yellow oval, left. Again, it’s a good size at around 11mm long. Also lovely is the luminous pink pear, right, also a great size at around 10mm, and an even more fantastic price.

But what about a ring for $1000 and under? Impossible?! Not at all; there is plenty on offer; so many I had trouble picking just a few. Here are some of my favourites; clockwise from top left: rhodolite garnet is a beautiful and under-rated stone, in my opinion. This garnet, palladium and rose gold ring by Nodeform Weddings is beautiful in its simplicity and the rhodolite and rose gold compliment each other perfectly and comes in well under budget at $785. Those who know me know that there is a special place in my heart for textured metal; Stone Fever Jewelry’s Moonscape ring features a green tourmaline on a hand-punched, cratered 14 carat rose gold band and sneaks under the bar at $999. They will can also make matching wedding bands.and this style can also be made in yellow gold. Doron Merav’s Leaves engagement ring of white gold set with diamonds showcases an unashamedly feminine yet contemporary aesthetic, and at only $370 represents fantastic value for money. I don’t think I’ve seen anything so pretty that I’ve like so much in a long time. Last but not least is Nangijala Jewelry’s rough teal, sapphire and rose gold ring; sleek, contemporary and original. This is priced at a very reasonable $825.


As for me – the ring we ended up buying, the one I absolutely had to have? I remember saying to the rather austere assistant (with the brutal dark red lipstick) ‘My only concern is that it’s quite like Princess Di’s.’ Without missing a beat she replied, ‘Princess Di’s was much bigger.’ Well, I could have walked out there and then. But then, I absolutely had to have that ring.

All tourmaline stones featured above are from my ‘Limited Edition’ range. For limited edition tourmaline mixed cuts, click here; for cabochons, click here.


Red, Blue, Green

Joopy Gems blue sapphire 3mm rose cutOtherwise known as the Big 3. The stuff of magic. Ruby, sapphire and emerald. This tends to be material that I have for a while then scrabble around trying to replace because it’s hard to find in nice quality at the right price. But it’s always really popular – and I am really excited to have just listed these – 3mm rose cut ruby, emerald and sapphire. The ruby is a deep pinkish-red and is $24 per stone; and good news, it’s from Mozambique, so can be sold to US customers (unlike Burmese material). The sapphire a deep, cornflower blue, and $13 per stone. Both of these have some inclusions, which I viewed under my microscope; fingerprints tiny included crystalJoopy Gems ruby 3mm rose cuts and some evidence of heat treatment, as is very common with corundum, both ruby and sapphire. The sapphire also has some angular colour zoning, not very obvious. Now I know that clarity is the holy grail for many people but for me, I am always glad to see a bit of the included crystals and fingerprints, as well as the angular colour zoning, because it helps me to see that what we have here is natural, as opposed to synthetic material. Most exciting of all, because I’ve never carried it before, is the rose cut emerald. It’s a nice shade of quite light blueish-green, quite strongly bluish. As you tend to expect with emerald, it’s quite Joopy Gems emerald 3mm rose cutincluded with parallel needles, crystals and liquid inclusions. I’m also seeing some evidence of fracture filling and indeed, I would be very surprised if it were not as some 95% of emerald is fracture filled, either with oil or resin. However, the stones are small and the clarity appears pretty good to the naked eye, with nice lustre. The emerald is $8.75 per stone.Now, I don’t have many of any of these except the emerald, but I will be getting more. To shop the 3mm rose cuts, for sapphire, click here, for ruby, click here and for emerald, click here.


Rainbow dreams

Joopy Gems 3mm rainbow moonstone cabochons

It’s so hard to keep this material in stock. 3mm rainbow moonstone cabochons, clean quality. I also try not to run out of it, and re-order before it’s completely gone, but then someone comes along and buys up the entire stock, and we can’t find the rough and before I know where we are, I’m out for months! Anyway, this is the first of the 3mm and 4mm restock – plain cabochons, now $1.55 per stone. There’s so much of the cloudy, fractured material about, that when you see a clear stone with bright adularescence (or flash) it can take your breath away. In fact, a customer said to me just yesterday, having received her stones ‘is this real?’ Because the extreme, billowing flash can have an almost unreal appearance. It’s truly astonishing. (Answer, by the way, is yes, it is real. As far as I am aware, this is not synthesised at all). Harder and harder – and very expensive – to find in larger sizes, I can still just about put my hands on it for smaller sizes. Now, I’m not a fan of AAA etc grading systems as it is so subjective, and not standardised, but I do use it for moonstone as I carry such a wide range of qualities. This is AAA material, and for that you can expect clean stones with great adularescence. As for what to do with it, below is a lesson in perfect, understated elegance from one of my lovely customers. This sterling silver and rainbow moonstone ring from Brightsmith features a 3mm moonstone on a narrow, hammered silver band, $28.

Brightsmith 3mm Tiny Rainbow Moonstone Stacking Ring in Sterling Silver - Super Thin Micro Stacker with Smooth or Hammered Band

To shop 3mm AAA cabochons, click here; to shop all my AA and AAA rainbow moonstone, click here. To shop my entire range, click here.


Turquoise cabochons

Joopy Gems 3mm turquoise cabochons

Now back in stock, ever popular 3mm turquoise cabochons! These are one of the (actually many now) stones that I struggle to keep in stock. This material is light greenish-blue with a bit of a colour range going from a bit more green to a bit more blue – do shout if you have a preference. It’s stabilised, as is very common with turquoise, but not dyed. There’s a bit of matrix on the underside of some of the stones, but not across the top and hey, at least you know it’s real! It’s pale tan matrix, so for those of you who are interested, this tells you that the turquoise formed in sandstone. Now, turquoise is quite strongly linked with the ‘southwestern’ style of jewellery, but it also lends itself very well to smaller, sleeker designs, and works equally well with both silver and gold. For inspiration, below are some examples of small-scale, perfectly formed turquoise jewellery. From left: Holly Presley’s turquoise ring features a 3mm turquoise sitting on an organic drop of silver; Rita Moehler’s sterling silver turquoise bangle features six turquoise stones on a solid silver ridged band; Melanie Casey’s set of 5 gold stack rings features 3mm and 4mm turquoise stones (and one green chalcedony!) set in solid 14k gold and Thalassa Jewellery’s silver pod earrings feature 3mm turquoise stones set in oxidised silver pods.

Holly Presley turquoise ringRita Moehler Sterling Silver Turquoise Bangle Bracelet, Handmade Silver and Turquoise MetalworkMelanie Casey 5 gold stacking ringsThalassa Jewellery Tiny Turquoise Earrings

To shop 3mm cabochons, click here; to browse all turquoise cabochons, click here.


Joopy Gems 8mm cabochon african amethyst round

Purple Velvet

Sometimes I can’t believe all the stones I have. And sometimes I can’t believe what I don’t have. Like today, listing for the first time plain African amethyst 8mm cabochons. Well, I say plain, but these lovely, velvety-dark purple stones need nothing fancy to set off their beauty and in fact will work equally well in a sleek, clean setting or a something more complex. Some inclusions on these stones, as is common with this material; a bit of colour zoning, wispy veils and some crystals, but the colour is dark enough that it’s not obvious. $11.50 per stone; to check them out, click here. To shop all African amethyst, click here.

Inspiring pieces, from left to right, Laura Wilson Gallery one of a kind amethyst sterling silver brooch or pendant, my lovely customer L. Sue Szabo’s hollow form sterling silver and amethyst ring, and Stowe Gems amethyst cabochon 14k stack ring.

Laura Wilson Gallery amethyst and sterling silver broochlsueszabo silver and amethyst ringStowe Gems Amethyst Cabochon 14K Stack Ring



As brilliant as diamond

Joopy Gems Blue zircon octagon, 7x9mm

Zircon isn’t a very well-known gemstone and it’s a shame because it has a brilliance and fire that rivals diamonds, and which has for centuries caused confusion between the two. Now the confusion is more likely to stem from the similarity of its name to cubic zirconia, a synthetic diamond simulant, also very fiery but a very different beast. For those of you interested in such things, unlike diamond, zircon is doubly refractive; that is, when light enters the stone, it is refracted into two rays travelling in slightly different directions and at different speeds. The double refraction in zircon is so extreme that it is eye-visible in larger stones. This differentiates it from diamond which is singly refractive. You can see this effect in the picture above; the doubled facet edges through the stone, and in fact, can make the stones sometimes appear rather blurry.

Despite its relative obscurity now, zircon was popular in Victorian times, both as a diamond simulant and as a gemstone in its own right. It comes in a range of autumnal shades; reds, greens, yellows, browns and of course, white. However, the most popular and well-known colour – accounting according to the GIA for 80% of all zircon sales – is blue. From pale to deep blue, this unique shade of greenish-blue also commands the highest prices. It’s almost always heat-treated to attain its characteristic colour. I currently have in stock (from left to right above) a 7x9mm scissor cut octagon, a mixed cut 5mm round, a 7x5mm mixed cut oval, a brilliant cut 2.5mm round, and a 6x4mm mixed cut oval. To browse my zircon section, click here.

Zircon is a stone that seems to lend itself to a lot of classic zircon and diamond engagement settings, which are beautiful, but I’ve compiled a pinterest board full of more contemporary and funky blue zircon jewellery. I love this blue zircon and 18k gold engagement ring by lolide. Anyone who knows me knows that I love textured metal and this band sets off the deep blue of the zircon perfectly. I like the combo of the yellow and white gold and by the way, this is a unisex ring, and I can see that working.

lolide blue zircon and 18k gold engagement ring

Or how about Jewellery by Francine’s Sterling Silver and Blue Zircon necklace? I love the way that the shape of the round stone is echoed by the silver rings and this is a piece that is sleek and restrained, where every detail counts.

Jewelry by Francine Sterling Silver and Blue Zircon Necklace

Possibly because of its unfamiliarity, zircon is one of the hardest stones in which to find funky, contemporary designs. The zircon in this ring, below by Metamorphosis Jewelry, is kept company by a classic pairing of diamonds and set in white and rose gold, but its shape and form is out of this world.

Metamorphosis Jewelry white and rose gold ring with zircon and blue diamonds

Speaking of out of this world, Jacob Albee’s cuff bracelet is formed from Gibeon meteorite, and set with a single, 3.03 carat zircon. Peppered with diamonds and inlaid with gold, this is contemporary, stark and original, the gold echoing and highlighting the natural striations of the Widmansttatan pattern (didn’t that make me sound clever? Actually I just came across that term on Wikipedia 😉 ). Looking at it, I just want to touch it.

Jacob Albee cuff bracelet

I love these solid 18k gold maple leaf earrings, by Patrick Burt and not just because I’m married to a Canadian! It’s nice to see the zircon paired with gold, rather than silver, as it gives it a completely different feel. These leaves were individually moulded and cast and then set with the zircons that take on a warmer feel set against the gold.

18k maple leaf and zircon earrings

More gold; this is a-mazing, right?! My mum is freaked out by octopuses (octopi?). When my older daughter was young, she had a furry, squeaky octopus and I could make my mum shriek by playfully tossing the thing at her. Anyway, this is a ring of strange beauty; a 4.5mm blue zircon set in a swirling set of 14k gold tentacles, by Marty Magic. This is not a piece that would go un-noticed, nor I imagine, un-remarked upon. Love it. Love the texture, the undulating lines, the complexity, and, oh… I fear it *might* give me nightmares. But I still think it’s amazing.

Marty MagicOctopus Ring With Blue Zircon - 14k Gold

And finally, black gold is a ‘thing’ right? I keep seeing more and more of it and I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it certainly appears to make that zircon pop. This ring by David K Designs is made from rhodium plated white gold and set with a lab grown stone – sharp intake of breath, I know, but I guess you can make a case for lab-grown stones… They are chemically, physically and optically identical to natural ones, they’re just grown in a lab rather than dug out of the ground, and as long as the seller is upfront about what they are, I guess they have a place, but…I don’t sell them and yes, I do have the equipment and skills to tell the difference! This ring, accented with black diamonds, is supposed to be for men, but hmmm, I can’t see my old man sporting it! Anyway, something different, isn’t it?

Black gold and blue zircon ring

Look out for more ‘gemstone’ specials, or if you have a piece you’d like me to feature, please contact me. I’m going to be looking at tourmaline next.