Reader Question: I Need Help Finding an Engagement Ring

November 25, 2013

Today, a reader asks:

Hi, I was wondering if you could help me source antique diamond engagement rings as my girlfriend is vegan. I want to make sure the diamond is sufficiently old, which I think helps alleviate any blood diamond concerns and new mining techniques, which are highly detrimental to the environment.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Vegan Lover


Dear Vegan Lover,

Your email made me go “awww!” just now. You are absolutely right that your socially conscious, vegan girlfriend would not want just any diamond ring, but something that she’d feel proud to wear all the rest of her life. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to mainstream diamonds out there, and in a wide price range.

Antique diamond rings are great not only because they have less social impact, but also because of their unique beauty. Brilliant Earth is a great site with tons of antique ring options. Because they were founded with the mission of only selling ethically sourced jewelry, their new ring selection is just as safe, too! In addition to using gemstones from ethically sourced mines, they also use only recycled gold and platinum to reduce the impact of mining precious metal.
If you want to see the ring before you buy it, antique shops specializing in vintage and estate jewelry are your best choice. Ask as many questions about the provenance of the ring as you need: credible, trustworthy shop owners will be happy to assure you of its history.

Finally, working directly with indie designers is my personal favorite way of ensuring that your engagement ring is beautiful and socially conscious. One of my favorite jewelry designers, Barbara Michelle Jacobs, designs and makes each of her pieces by hand using reclaimed precious metals and ethically-sourced gems. Her diamonds are sourced from Canada and each comes with a certificate that proves the provenance, down to which mine–the kind of accountability that should give you relief. If you would still like to use an antique stone, she can help you find the right antique diamond and create a new ring around it.

custom antique diamond and pearl ring by barbara michelle jacobs

Antique modified cushion cut diamond and pearls in 18k reclaimed white gold band. Custom ring by Barbara Michelle Jacobs

And don’t forget: there are other great colorless and colored gems besides diamonds! Some of my favorites are morganite (pink), moissanite (colored and colorless), sapphire (pink, blue, or clear), and emerald. An engagement ring with her favorite color or birthstone is a great alternative to the ubiquitous diamond.

Now, you’ve got a great start to your search for the perfect ring. But ethically-sourced stones are just half the game! You need to make sure that the style of the ring is right for your girlfriend. Many guys prefer to ask a trusted confidante (like your gf’s best friend, or your sister) for advice, but in case you don’t have someone like that–or fear that she’s going to give away your big surprise–here is my advice.

1. Her favorite color is pink. She would describe herself as girly and feminine. She always looks pulled together, with her hair usually blown out and down. She wears jewelry often and well. She has said before that she likes diamonds or “bling.”

…Your girlfriend is a Princess who will love a “princess cut” (square) diamond over a modern platinum or white gold band. She will also like a “cushion cut” diamond, which is like a princess cut with rounded edges. Stay away from any yellow gold or (gasp) pear shaped diamond! Overly intricate or distinctly retro designs are also a no-no.


platinum vintage art deco diamond ring

Vintage art deco brilliant cut diamond ring by MyBohemianJewels at Etsy, $2729.

2. She who prefers “taste” to “fashion.” She favors cardigans, trench coats, pearls or a locket necklace, and ballet flats.

…Your girlfriend is a Classic Beauty who will love the most classic of all diamond settings–a round cut diamond. Yellow or white gold, it’s your pick. But nothing cutesy like heart shaped diamond or overly intricate settings, please.

retro engagement ring in white gold

Vintage round cut diamond ring on white gold band with flower detail by MSJeweler’s on Etsy, $1585

3. She is the most down-to-earth person you know. She prefers being outdoors to shopping. She dresses casually and rarely wears jewelry.

…Your Natural Beauty girlfriend will fall in love with vintage rings with meaning. If you have any family heirlooms, here is someone who will really appreciate it. If you don’t, go for colored stones or “raw,” untreated diamonds over rose gold or yellow gold band. Look for botanical details like leaves or flowers in the setting.

natural sapphire peach surrounded by padparadscha sapphire

Natural peach sapphire surrounded by padparadscha sapphire ring, handmade from ethically sourced stones and reclaimed metal in Brooklyn, $900 by Vena Amoris Jewelry on Etsy.

4. She is sophisticated, opinionated, and well-read. She has bangs and long, artfully disheveled hair. She dislikes looking like everyone else. She believes that in an outfit, one thing should always be slightly “off” to make it “right.” She might wear things that you don’t even know what to call (that would be rompers and maxi dresses) but she pulls them off, and looks great.

…Your Bohemian girlfriend will love an emerald cut ring or anything that gives off Art Deco vibe. She can really pull off a true vintage ring, as well as big colorful rings that look more like cocktail rings than most engagement rings. Don’t ever get this lady a round cut diamond–you may as well tell her that she’s not one in a billion.

Emerald cut ring by barbara michelle jacobs

Emerald cut blue topaz and tsavorite garnet radiance ring by Barbara Michelle Jacobs, $890, is influenced by the lushly intricate designs of the Georgian period.

emerald moissanite twig engagement ring by Kristin Coffin

Emerald cut moissanite ring on reclaimed 14k yellow gold band in twig handmade in Denver, $1575 by Kristin Coffin at Etsy

Now that you’ve got your bearings in terms of the ring, God speed, and good luck! She is one lucky lady to have such a thoughtful boyfriend!

xo Juhea

Also see: How to Select Conflict-Free Engagement Rings

Related: Conflict-free Engagement Rings for Vegan Brides

Eco-friendly Wedding Dresses Using Vintage and Reclaimed Fabrics

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