From $140 to $3k: 9 of the best non-traditional engagement rings.

Getting engaged is probably the most ritualised moment in our life. 

Ever since we were old enough to be read to, we’ve been force fed fantasies of the prince and the princess, one true kiss, a fairytale wedding and the happily ever after. For a whole host of reasons, this is absolute bullshit. But that’s another article...

For the sake of this one, I shall simply say that the archaic customs surrounding the concept of ‘the ring’ do not accurately reflect the egalitarian nature of modern relationships. 

Let me explain.

You’ve probably heard of the ‘three month rule’, yes? I can scarcely believe it as I write it, but some people hold the belief that an appropriate engagement ring should cost a whole ass QUARTER of their partner’s annual pay. I mean, in this economic climate? 

If I was forced to make a list of all the things I’d happily sacrifice such a huge wad of cash for, a poxy old ring would not be it. But that’s just me. 

Watch how this man hid an engagement ring inside a necklace he gave his girlfriend for months. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia

This stupid rule probably comes from a time when it was illegal for women to work, speak or think and a man was expected to take care of them like prized breeding stock. 

Being able to drop a casual three months’ sal on a sparkly symbol of ownership was most likely to demonstrate he was capable of buying her lots of prescription amphetamines and pink ovens, or whatever else the men publishing the magazines told them that they wanted.

These days we are absolute queens with careers, voting rights and air fryers! All we need men to ‘provide’ is a PowerPoint presentation on why we should continue to put up with them instead of just living our best lives in a commune. (Kidding! Kind of).

Now, let’s talk about the greatest marketing campaign in history. Diamonds. 

While the British were very busy pillaging South Africa’s mines, scooping sparklers from the Earth by the actual tonne, one particular businessman came to the astute conclusion that diamonds actually held very little value. 

Diamonds were so abundant, and the market so awash, that they faced the very real risk of being demoted to semi-precious stones at best, which obviously was v. bad for business. So was born the crafty idea to control supply in order to push the false narrative that diamonds were ‘rare’ and subsequently ‘valuable’. Hellooooo, exorbitant pricing.

Next, these essentially worthless stones were cleverly rebranded as the ultimate symbol of undying love. ‘Diamonds are Forever’, they cried. Except, they actually decay faster than most rocks. But it worked, and to this day people continue to lay down hella coin on solitaires with “cut, colour, clarity and carat” thinking it’s an investment, then wonder why they can’t sell it when they call quits nine years later.


I’m not some disillusioned thirty-something divorcee. (I’m quite cheerful about it, actually!). I just think the patriarchal and consumerist nature of a big diamond ring upon proposal is the antithesis to the idea of an independent woman. I’m not boycotting engagement rings, either. I’m all for a good jewel.

I just want to empower women to say “to hell with tradition!” and start choosing and rocking ethical, unconventional rings that suit their style and budget. After all, about 50 per cent of you will be wearing it for the rest of your life.

So as someone who is utterly obsessed with jewellery, here are my top 9 non-traditional engagement rings that give all the joy, with way less of the capitalism.  

1. Initial Shield Rings by Stash Jewellery - Mini, $380, and OG, $450.

Image: Stash Jewellry.


Romance, but make it rock 'n’ roll. I’m sorry but if my (hypothetical) future husband doesn’t want matching, hand-engraved initial rings, then frankly, I don’t want him. 

These are by Stash (aka Tash Adams) who you may have seen at Bondi Markets slinging her badass, handmade designs. These custom made initial rings can be made to order in silver or gold, and given a personal touch with bespoke engraving that reflects you and your lover's story. 

2. The Secret Compartment Vintage Emerald Green Spinel Ring, $595.


Who wouldn’t absolutely DIE for a stunning emerald? Except this is a Spinel, an alternative green stone that looks just like one but is way more affordable. I bought a ring from Sarah recently to celebrate a milestone, and should probably stop following her on Instagram because she may send me broke. 

Based on the Gold Coast, she’s an expert in beautiful vintage cocktail rings which she sees as representing freedom, choice and a strong sense of self. Love that, and love supporting a small, Aussie female-owned business. 

(This is the ring I bought here!)


3. Dreadful Galadriel Ring, $140.

Image: Dreadful.


Holy heck. This chonky square-cut citrine secure in the grips of drippy, silver talons is the creation of Newtown-based artist Timothy Benson. Dreadful by name only, his online jewellery business was birthed from a desire to create and breed beauty into the world. 

Using the ‘lost wax’ method, he is amazed by the metamorphosis of intricate wax mould into eternal metal adornments, featuring oversized semi-precious stones in unconventional, ethereal settings. 

4. Stash Jewellery ‘Sucker For Love’ Signet Ring, from $160.

Image: Stash Jewllery. 


Another candidate from Stash because it’s just too freakin’ cute. These solid gold love hearts would look BLOODY GORGEOUS stacked with a sparkly wedding band. If you’re not actually engaged and are just here to perv, maybe get one as a pinky ring. Little gift of self love: we’re worth it.

5. Sarah Gardner Jewellery Opal Pompeii Ring, $3,900.


This ring by Paddington-based jeweller Sarah Gardner must be how it would look to wear the moon and stars on your hand. I am blindsided by its beauty, and love that she’s chosen to hero Opal, the fiery, native stone that’s the most reliably sourced gem in the world. 

Unlike their Ethiopian cousins, Australian opals are not porous, so they are the most durable and long-wearing type, in addition to holding the most spectacular colour.

6. Millie Savage Tourmaline Cloud Ring, $1,300.

Image: Millie Savage


Tourmalines are spectacularly, beautifully diverse and this whopper of a ring is nothing short of a party. This piece is the closest you can get to one of Naarm gal Millie’s custom creations, without the cost. Choose your unique centre stone, which Millie will then set between flanking pink and green tourmalines, and your choice of diamonds or CZ’s. 

All silver is certified recycled, and these rings are strictly limited, with only 50 available, ever. Stacked with a fat gold wedding band, YASS PLS.

7. Halo & Hurt The Erté - Pear Cut Lavender Spinel, $2,200.


I have died and gone to ring heaven. This DIVINE set from Melbourne jewel label Halo & Hurt is an absolute vision. Make it delicate, but spiky. Beautiful, but badass. I simply cannot with this set! Named after one of the most influential fashion illustrators and designers in 1920’s Paris, this art déco inspired masterpiece features a moody pear cut gem and a dazzling white gold band with an epic stardust finish. Ugh!

8. The Secret Compartment Victorian Ruby Bezel Ring, $895.

Image: The Secret Compartment.


I am an unapologetic ho for mixed metals and an antique setting, so this vibrant ruby ring from the 1900s ticks my boxes. A cracking hot pink centre-stone, hugged by imitation diamonds, and meticulously detailed with old-world milgrain. Can see this nestled up against a fine, but dazzling band. Delish.

9. Sarah Gardner Emerald Sun Ray Ring, $3,470.

Image: Sarah Gardner Jewellry.


Hello sparkly pebble ring of dreams. Were it not for this baby, I probably could have called this piece ‘the best alternative engagement rings under $3k’, but alas, I found her. Too gorgeous not to include, I can just SEE THIS on my hand with some black nail polish for understated vampy glamour. Jewels should spark joy and this one is absolutely doing it for me.

Now, before I pop off, a couple more things. 

As everyone’s online bestie and notorious jewel fiend I get asked about rings a lot. So, if you’re no longer together: 

What should you do with your old engagement ring?

Well, girl. Whatever the heck you want. We’ve already chatted about how the resale value ain’t great, so you’re probably not going to recoup anything close to what you paid for it. Probably not even half. 


But this is why it’s even more important to get a ring you absolutely love, because then you just switch it to the other hand and keep wearing it anyway. I’m a firm believer you should never let a man ruin a good bit of sparkle, so if you enjoy it, rock it. Just give it a good sage first.

Otherwise you can save it for your daughter, have it reset, or if it makes you feel better, toss it into the sea. There are no rules for getting rid of one. Which is why it’s extra silly there are so many rules around buying them.

Finally: Is it okay to choose my own ring?

Hell yeah! Back when I got engaged in 2014, my husband-to-be knew way better than to try and surprise me. I disliked surprises, he hated moseying round antique shops, so we came to a very grown up arrangement. I went ring shopping *gasp* by myself. With the budget we discussed in mind, I found ‘the one’, popped it on hold and he swooped in and paid for it later. 

The eventual proposal was still romantic, magical and all the other shit you expect. I just had a ring I BLOODY LOVED and almost a decade later, I still do. Open up the dialogue. Pick your own ring. It’s 2023. 

We’ve got air fryers, remember.

To read more from Carly you can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Supplied.

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