Your jewelry shopping questions, asked and answered.
Shopping for an engagement ring, and setting the budget for one, is no easy feat—but being prepared and doing your research is key to mastering the art of finding the best stone, cut, and ring at your desired price point.
Forget all the tired theories of spending three times your monthly paycheck; skip over the stress of using an online budget calculator; at the end of the day, your budget is your budget. Currently in the United States, the average engagement ring costs $9,900, but many spend much less or far more—with some rings being priced at under $1,500, and others soaring to the price of well over 1 million dollars.
Before you shop (and buy), consider your current financial goals; are you saving to buy a house soon? Are you making a career change? Maybe you are stashing away to pay for the wedding, too. It may not be the sexiest aspect of the wedding planning process, but plotting out your budget is one of the most important. All things considered, set a budget that is right for you. But not until you are well informed on the process and establish what is most important to you in the one piece of jewelry you're sure to cherish for a lifetime. Here, a simple checklist (and some added tips from industry experts) to help you determine the perfect engagement ring budget for you.
Gemstones, unless they are very rare, can be a more cost effective alternative for non-traditional brides, or fans of the Duchess of Cambridge's engagement ring. Rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are the most popular options in this category, and they range in price. Other gemstones, like moonstones or opals, are stunning—and highly recommended on a tighter budget.
If you are definitely a diamond girl, know your 4 C's—cut, carat, color, and clarity. If quality is important to you, then clarity and color will weigh heavily over carat size. And if you still crave that big statement ring, try a diamond halo, side stones, or fancy diamond cuts like a marquise, pear, or oval that pack a bigger punch.
If size matters to you most, carat weight should be your focus. With that said, keep in mind that most jewelers do not sell diamonds lower than K on the color scale, and a popular clarity range is VS1-VS2. No matter how much you wish to save, note that it is not advised to go below these ranges and sacrifice more of a diamond’s quality just to increase the impact of the carat weight.
Platinum is the most durable metal—but also the most expensive. It does not scratch or develop a patina over time, hence its higher price tag. White gold, yellow gold, and rose gold are great and beautiful choices at a lower cost, especially if you are not willing to sacrifice any of the 4 C's when shopping for your stone. While other metals are available when shopping for rings, they are not always the best choice; for example, silver is nowhere near as durable as gold or platinum, and isn't strong enough to withstand everyday wear and tear. If you're going to invest, do it in a piece that is sure to last.
Ring settings can quickly set you over budget if you are ill prepared, or unsure of what you are truly looking for.
Pavé diamonds, while beautiful, can heavily increase your bottom line. If you love the look but want to cut down on cost, opt for a half pavé band. Become well-versed in the different types of ring settings and determine which best suits your style, and your budget.
Corina Madilian of Single Stone advises that couples “focus on what is important to you— whether that be the style of the ring, or the type of center stone. Buy something you feel comfortable with and not what you are told you should have.” Walter McTeigue of McTeigue and McClelland adds that one should “select a mounting that will actually enhance the beauty of the center stone. Even an average diamond can look magnificent if it's beautifully and thoughtfully set. Choose a mounting that's handmade by an artisan who you have met and worked with. Make it special!”
It is important to factor the wedding band into your overall ring budget. Bands can be as simple as a metal ring, or as grand as a diamond halo band. Check out wedding bands simultaneously while shopping for the ring to make sure you have an accurate sense of the look you'll be after, and the budget you'll need to achieve it. Even if you decide not to purchase the band until closer to the wedding date, it is important to know what pairs well with your ring style of choice, and to make sure the whole package stays within your budget from the start.
Yes, it seems romantic and dreamy to just go with your gut, pick out the perfect ring, and propose to the love of your life—but this is also one of life's biggest investments.
Make sure you have a sense of what the bride or groom wants to see when that ring box pops open. Do your research on your significant other’s dream ring with the help of a best friend, mother, Instagram, or Pinterest. Don’t go shopping blindly; protect your money and your feelings upfront. Given that most rings are one-of-a-kind, returning an engagement ring can get complicated.
Once you decide on the style and are confident in your decision, insurance might feel optional, but consider it mandatory. Don’t forget to factor the cost of insurance into your budget—the more expensive the ring, the higher the cost of insurance.
Walter McTeigue stresses that an engagement ring is meant to be a special and unique symbol of your love. "Don't just get the job done; have fun and explore options that are unique and special and that you feel a connection to," he explains. "Know and trust your jeweler, this should be non-negotiable. You want to work with a jeweler who is hoping to establish a life-long relationship with you. You should feel a good deal of trust with the people that are helping you shop for, learn about, and purchase an engagement ring. You want to feel trust in relation to the quality and integrity of the people and what they are representing, but also in their advice and guidance. Buying an engagement ring ought to be a fun and romantic experience.”