It's All About the Rock
For many women, the most important element of an engagement ring is the size of its diamond. Flashy rocks symbolize wealth, but regardless of your financial situation, you're not necessarily stuck with a tiny stone. Lower-grade diamonds are often indistinguishable from some higher-priced stones to the naked, untrained eye, so as long as you don't mind a few microscopic imperfections, you can probably afford a diamond you don't have to squint at to see.
But you don't have to use a diamond at all. You probably have a friend with a gemstone engagement ring, a style that's been around forever. Many of the world's most famous brides proudly wore bands with precious rocks as centerpiece stones. Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana both received sapphire engagement rings, and Princess Sarah Ferguson sported a ruby ring after Prince Andrew proposed. The trend isn't exclusive to British royalty, either. John F. Kennedy gave Jackie a now-famous emerald-centric engagement ring when he asked for her hand.
Diamonds may be the most popular choice for engagement rings, but any precious stone will do. Just stay away from fake or imitation diamonds. No matter what the salesperson says, you'll know -- and so will anyone who sees the ring.