Tips for Selecting Engagement Rings
Ask Your Other Half What They Want
The first rule of being successful when it comes to buying an engagement ring is to know what you should be looking for. It might seem completely obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of women who walk around wearing a style of ring that they don’t actually like.
So, does your other half love vintage rings or modern rings? Should you buy a solitaire or should it have as much bling as possible? Should colored stones be included or not? In order to find out, simply ask her, ask her friends or family, or go shopping with her to see the type of rings she likes.
Ignore the ‘Three Months’ Salary’ Advice
Somewhere in a smoke-filled office, an advertising copywriter long ago invented the idea that an engagement ring should cost a man two or even three months of his income. It’s a benchmark I’ve seen printed time and time again in bridal magazines and in wedding blogs, but just because you see it printed somewhere doesn’t mean you have to follow it! (The origins can be traced back to a marketing campaign by gemstone giant De Beers.)
Two or three months of income is a serious financial outlay, and for many couples who live paycheck to paycheck, it’s preposterous to blindly use that guideline to determine how much to spend on an engagement ring.
Know What You Can Afford
Instead of multiplying your monthly income, know what you can realistically afford. Are you in debt? If so, you might want to buy a ring you can afford to pay off in cash instead of going into more debt for a diamond. Do you have a monthly budget? If so, look and see if there is anything you can give up for a few months to help save for a ring instead.
If you love someone and want to buy a ring, choosing one you can actually afford really is the greatest gift you can give them. Being ready and able to buy an engagement ring with money you already have is far better than making monthly payments throughout your first few years of marriage.
Think Outside the Box
There are many beautiful engagement rings that aren’t sparkly clear diamond solitaires. My mom’s engagement ring is a light blue sapphire. I have friends who wear opals, black diamonds, alternative diamonds, and other precious stones. My husband gave me an affordable aquamarine ring when I gave birth to my twins last year, and it would make an absolutely stunning engagement ring.
The point is, you don’t always have to go with what society has deemed the norm — or rather, what the world’s largest diamond producer deemed the norm when it began marketing the diamond engagement ring in the 1930s. Prior to World War II — and the cunning De Beers campaign — only 10% of engagement rings were diamonds, according to the BBC.
Talk to your fiancée and discuss it together. After all, if the person you’re proposing to has extremely high expectations for their ring and would rather go into debt than wear something both of you can afford, maybe you need to have a deeper discussion about money and marriage.
Affordable Engagement Rings
Option No. 1: Family Ring
The ring I wear on my left hand belonged to my great grandmother. She actually received it as an anniversary gift from her husband after they had been married for many years. It has a very unique, vintage feel being that it’s from the 1920s, and it has two smaller diamonds on it instead of a main center stone, which I love since it’s unique and memorable.
The best part is that it was passed down to my grandmother, then to my mother, then to me. Ask your family members if they have a ring they could pass down to you. It doesn’t have to be a four-carat diamond. A unique, vintage sapphire or other stone would be equally as amazing and romantic — and the best part is that it’s totally, 100% free.
Option No. 2: Brilliant Earth Classic Solitaire Diamond Ring
Sometimes, it’s just gotta be a diamond. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy the biggest hunk of clear carbon out there. A classic solitaire cut on a simple band of 18k white gold looks elegant no matter what size the stone is.
Brilliant Earth, where I found this small but timeless 1/3-carat diamond engagement ring, sells only “beyond conflict-free” jewels — the company says it goes above and beyond industry standards to ensure its jewelry comes from ethically and environmentally responsible sources adhering to fair labor and trade practices. They even use recycled precious metals.
No matter how much you want to spend on an engagement ring, you can find a selection of affordable engagement rings for you and your budget with online diamond retailers and, lab-grown diamonds, and our diamond engagement ring buying options.
- Shop Online
- Buy Diamonds with Slight Inclusions
- Choose a Near Colorless Diamonds
- Don’t Buy Whole Carats
- Opt for White Gold or Palladium Rings
- Purchase Loose Diamonds
- Shop for Cluster Diamonds
- Choose a Size Enhancing Style
- Buy a Diamond Alternative or Lab-Grown Diamond
- Shop for Used Engagement Rings
- Search for Discounts
1. Shop Online
It’s no surprise that there are jewelry stores abound. If you’ve been to a mall in the last thirty years, you know that they’re basically on every corner. They display their gems for all the world to see. From Zale’s, Jared, Tiffany & Co., and Cartier, brick and mortar jewelry stores are certainly not hard to find (though a little harder to avoid!).
These retailers do a fine job, but spend a significant amount on TV, digital, and print advertising. To make up for it, their diamond and engagement ring prices are hiked up to as much as twice their actual cost, if not more.
You can start your engagement ring search at one of these physical locations to get a sense of style. But, if you want to make the most of your budget, you probably won’t want to actually shop there.
You might wonder how online diamond retailers are able to sell their gems for lower prices. There are several reasons that online jewelry stores sell engagement rings at lower prices.
Buying Diamonds Online is Much Less Expensive
For one, due to the manner in which diamonds are sourced and circulated, online retailers are able to purchase them at a cost below that of big chains. They can purchase specific diamonds or larger quantities whenever necessary.
Additionally, online retailers often have the ability to pull different diamonds from a wide range of distributors and other sources. This, in turn, gives them the ability to keep a much lower inventory level and thus save money on warehousing and distribution, all without also having to pay rent on physical locations around the country. They can then pass all these savings on to you, a budgeting, mindful, and conscientious consumer.
Another reason that shoppers tend to spend more when they buy at a brick-and-mortar jewelry store location is not exactly nice to hear, but it’s the truth nonetheless. The salespeople at these retailers often have to work on commission. What’s more, they usually deal with individuals who don’t know a whole lot about diamonds, rings, or the jewelry business in general.
Due to all these reasons, diamond salesmen and saleswomen can use slick language and a bunch of industry jargon during their interactions. They do this to trick people into believing that they should fork over more money for their shiny jewelry, when in fact nothing much substantial is being communicated.
Of course, not all salespeople in every chain jewelry store will do this, but it does happen often enough that you should be more than a little wary whenever one of them strikes up a conversation with you over at the fancy glass counter.
Finally, as we mentioned earlier, big box stores spend an inordinate amount of money on television, online, and magazine advertising. Naturally, this forces them to make up that expenditure somewhere else.
Unfortunately for engagement ring shoppers, this primarily comes in the form of diamonds and other gems at a significant markup to customers.
How Much Cheaper Are Online Diamond Engagement Rings?
With all this in mind, you can easily see how the savings add up — and quickly! — by shopping away from traditional diamond retailers. Even so, you probably also want to know exactly how much actual money you might save by shopping at an online jewelry store instead.
Again, these numbers will differ depending on the website in question, but you can legitimately save up to half of what you were originally planning to spend, simply by shopping online instead of in a physical store. And it’s more convenient too! Talk about a win-win!
2. Buy Diamonds with Slight Inclusions
Most diamonds have imperfections called inclusions. Diamonds with slight inclusions cost much less than flawless diamonds.
Inclusions can come in many forms, such as spots on the diamond and miniature cracks. The amount of inclusions a diamond has is reflected in its clarity grade. A clarity grade is part of the 4C’s of diamond grading. This grade ranges from FL for flawless to I3 for visibly flawed.
Diamonds with no or very few inclusions are rare and expensive. However, most inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. These types of diamonds are called eye-clean. This means that you can get a diamond that looks flawless without the high price.
Depending on your budget, we recommend getting a diamond with a VS1, VS2, SI1, or SI2 clarity grade. These grades are in the middle of the clarity range with hard to see imperfections. Slightly included diamonds will save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Learn more about Clarity and Diamond Grades:
3. Choose a Near Colorless Diamonds
Color is an important factor when shopping for diamonds. As part of the 4C’s, color denotes how white a diamond is. Color is graded from D for colorless to Z for a faint yellow. Just like with clarity grade, you do NOT need to get the highest color grade.
We recommend buying a near colorless diamond. These diamonds include G, H, and J color grades which look white. You can still enjoy a colorless looking diamond while saving thousands.
4. Don’t Buy Whole Carats
When shopping for diamonds, many people pick a rounded number. A 1-carat diamond ring is a popular choice. However, prices significantly go UP every whole carat.
Let’s compare two round, Excellent cut, G color, and SI1 diamonds from James Allen.
A difference of 0.10 carats is not noticeable but comes to a savings of $1,280! Save money by slightly lowering your ideal carat weight.
5. Opt for White Gold or Palladium Rings
Engagement ring savings go beyond its diamond. The ring’s metal type can drive up prices. White gold and palladium rings are cheaper than metals like platinum.
For greater savings, buy a white gold ring with lower purity. A 14k white gold ring will cost less than an 18k white gold ring. The lower gold purity will also result in a whiter looking band.
6. Purchase Loose Diamonds
A loose diamond will cost less than a diamond set in a ring. Preset engagement rings usually cost thousands. A simple ring from your local jeweler can cost a few hundred dollars.
7. Shop for Cluster Diamonds
An engagement ring can have more than one center stone. A cluster diamond ring is comprised of several small diamonds closely set together. This cluster creates the appearance of one large center diamond.
Instead of a single 1-carat diamond, a cluster ring can have five 0.20 carat diamonds. Several small diamonds cost far less than one large diamond.
8. Choose a Size Enhancing Style
Instead of buying a large and expensive diamond, select a setting that makes the diamond look larger.
Consider these styles to make a diamond look bigger:
- Bezel settings encircle the diamond with metal and create a large presence.
- Diamond halos are a ring of diamonds around the center stone. They collectively make the center diamond look larger and more brilliant.
- Elongated diamond shapes like ovals and marquise look larger than their actual carat weight. Due to their style, a 1-carat oval will look larger than a 1 carat round diamond.
9. Buy a Diamond Alternative or Lab-Grown Diamond
You can also save an enormous amount of money by opting for an alternative gemstone. This might immediately conjure up images of cubic zirconia ( CZ for short). These days, a ton of options exist outside of “traditional” earth-grown diamonds: