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How Much Should I Spend on an Engagement Ring?

Couple holding hand

Shopping for an engagement ring is a big deal. It will be one of the most meaningful pieces of jewelry in a person’s life, which is why we put so much effort into finding just the right one.

While there are a lot of factors to consider when looking for a ring, one of the most important is financial. More does not always mean better when it comes to the amount of money spent on a ring but cutting corners in the wrong places can leave you with something lack-luster.

We breakdown common misconceptions and share expert jeweler tricks that will help you decide how much you should spend on the perfect engagement ring.

What the Stats Show

When it comes to how much you need to spend on engagement rings, there’s a wide spectrum. Some believe you don’t even need a ring, while others say it should be 3 months salary (even if you’re salary is $100,000!).

Here’s what some reddit users think:

“The 3-months salary rule is not a rule. It’s the De Beers marketing at its finest.”

“I spent $4000 on a ring when I couldn’t afford it and it was the worst decision of my life. When the marriage ended and I sold the ring, I only got $700 back for it. Worst investment ever!”

“I didn’t worry about what I was ‘supposed’ to spend. Instead I decided to focus on making sure the ring was right for me and my future wife.”

So, what do the stats show?

  • The average wedding ring cost is $6,351
  • The average diamond size for engagement rings is 1.0 carat
  • In the UK, couples spend around $2500 for their engagement ring
  • Japanese women prefer smaller diamonds (.30 carats)
  • No one really spends 3 months salary on their ring

Are There Rules for How Much an Engagement Ring Should Cost?

The first rule of engagement rings is that there is no rule. You should spend what you’re comfortable with and what makes financial sense for you and your partner. The 2-month or 3-month rule is outdated and mercenary.

But let’s back track a little.

Once upon a time (before a woman could build her own wealth), an engagement ring was a guarantee of financial security for the bride-to-be in case the engagement was canceled. Thankfully times have changed. Now, the primary purpose of an engagement ring is to symbolize love and a couple’s joint commitment to the next huge step in their relationship.

In more recent history, the rule of two or even three months’ salary has been used to dictate how much a person should spend on an engagement ring. But this guide was part of a marketing campaign for the DeBeers mining company in the early 20th century.

The campaign produced the famous slogan, “diamonds are forever” and also encouraged buyers to purchase a diamond engagement ring that cost approximately two months’ salary. Over time, this notion grew to three months’ salary which has created unrealistic expectations and shifted the focus from finding a meaningful, personal ring to a ring with monetary value instead.

Times have changed once again. People have become more practical about wedding costs, designers are getting more creative and brides are owning their personal style. Now it’s possible to find a beautiful engagement ring that suits a brides’ personal style to a tee without breaking the bank.

The Most Important Factors to Consider When Buying an Engagement Ring

Interracial couple
  • Finding the Right Ring for Your Financial Situation

An engagement is a very important milestone and should be celebrated. But it’s also important to remember that it’s one milestone in what should be a long and happy life together as a couple and part of that life is financial security.

This is why you should be realistic about your financial situation before you buy an engagement ring. Starting your new life together in debt for an engagement ring is probably not the best idea. Take a look at your financial situation, set a budget, and stick to it.

  • Get to Know Your Partner’s Expectations

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every person wants to see a huge diamond at a proposal. While this may be true for some, it can be the complete opposite for others.

Your main goal is to buy an engagement ring that your partner will love and want to wear, regardless of the price tag. Get to know their style by paying attention to the types of jewelry they already wear, talk to their friends or family, and keep an eye out for any potential hints they may be sending your way.

Or, you can ask your partner outright about their expectations. This won’t ruin the surprise of the proposal as they still won’t know when or where it will happen. Once you have an idea of what style of ring they would want, you can start looking for a ring that fits the bill and your budget.

What Makes Engagement Rings Expensive?

Engagement ring solitaire setting

Check Price Here

The price of an engagement ring is ultimately dictated by you. By getting to know the different aspects of a ring, you can decide what you want to spend your money on.

Carat

Carats measure the weight of stones used in jewelry. The heavier a stone is, the more carats it will have and the more expensive it will be. Carats are expressed as decimals of 100 points to allow for precise measurements.

A 0.10 difference in carats can mean a big difference in price, even if you can’t visually see the difference. If you are buying a ring with multiple diamonds in it, the carat measurement should be of the entire ring, not just the center stone.

It’s not always easy to see or understand how carats affect the cost of a ring, so be sure to ask your jeweler lots of questions to help you decide whether the number of carats will be meaningful to your partner, and whether they are worth paying for.

Clarity

Clarity measures how flawless a stone is. More blemishes and inclusions will generally result in a duller stone, but higher clarity also increases its value.

All flaws are taken into account in pricing – even microscopic ones. When it comes to clarity, consider shopping for an eye-clean stone. This means that the flaws can’t be seen with the naked eye so you’ll only be paying for clarity that you can see.

Cut

Cut refers to the way a stone is shaped. This impacts how light passes through the facets but also the overall shape of the stone.

Emerald and princess cuts are generally more affordable because they follow the crystalline shape and are easier to cut. Heart, pear, and oval cuts are more expensive because they are more difficult to shape.

Cut is more visible, and your partner may have their heart set on something more specific so this may be something that you will want to put your budget towards.

Unique engagement ring

Monique Lhuillier Jardin Emerald-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring from Blue Nile

Jeweler

Jewelry is an art and some artists are more costly than others. A jeweler can be more expensive because they have a specific style that they specialize in; they can also have years of expertise, or they could have built up a brand that comes with certain clout. If your partner has their heart set on a specific jeweler, this can be worth paying for.

Customization

Bespoke engagement rings are typically more costly than generic designs. However, a custom engagement ring is more personal and can mean that your partner gets the exact ring design that they are hoping for. If you can’t find their desired ring ready-made, this can be a good option. You may just have to shop around for a designer that can create a ring within your budget.

Color

Ruby ring cluster

Cluster ruby ring by Ferkos Fine Jewelry. Check price here.

If you are shopping for a colorless stone such as a diamond, then the whiteness of the stone can impact its price. Colorless gems are rare which makes them expensive. Any tint or cloudiness will decrease its value because it can make a stone appear dull. However, like clarity, you should only pay for what you can see.

Stones are sometimes compared side by side to show differences in color, but your stone may be the only one in a ring so you should look only for dullness that you can notice when looking at the stone on its own.

Colored stones such as sapphires, yellow diamonds, and emeralds can also be expensive because of their rarity. Again, if your partner has their heart set on a particular gem, this can be worth spending money on.

How to Make Sure Your Chosen Ring Doesn’t Look Cheap

Simple solitaire ring

Six claw diamond solitaire engagement ring from Blue Nile

Keep to one color: If you are shopping for a ring with multiple stones, make sure they have a similar color grading – even if it is lower on the scale. It’s quite easy to spot mismatched stones and can make a ring look cheap.

Don’t skimp on setting: The setting of your stone is not only a visual attribute but a practical one as it secures stones to your ring. The last thing you want is a lost stone – even if it isn’t the highest quality. Uneven or misshaped prongs will also be very visible. Make sure the prongs are well-balanced: this will make the ring look and feel more expensive.

Get the ring fitted: When you buy an engagement ring, ask your chosen jeweler about resizing and factor this fee into your budget. There will be cheaper options for resizing out there – but the price of resizing is reflected in the quality. What you often end up with is an unsightly solder line or mismatched seam that is visible on the underside of the ring. If you need to resize, take it to the jeweler that made it. You’ve already spent money on the ring, the last thing you want is to ruin it with a visible marking. 

So How Much Should You Spend?

In the end, you should only spend as much as you can afford for a ring that is as true to your partner’s style. When you get married everything becomes shared, including debt and an engagement ring isn’t something that you need to get in debt for.

There are so many talented jewelers out there that create different styles for different budgets. You just need to be privy to what aspects of a ring mean a lot to your partner and allocate your budget towards these parts of the design.

Aside from elements that affect quality, you should only pay for things that you can see. And remember, the most important thing about an engagement ring is its sentimental value. If you’ve done your research and put a lot of thought into your choice, then your partner will love the ring because it has come from you.

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