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Buying a Diamond Engagement Ring: What You Need to Know

Getting the Most for Your Money When Buying an Engagement Ring

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Shopping for Jewelry
Michael Krinke/E+/Getty Images

When deciding to get engaged, you’ll surely have a lot running through your mind, but putting yourself into debt by buying an overpriced engagement ring shouldn’t be one of them. Some people still go by the old “two month’s salary” standard, but that surely isn’t necessary. The average cost of a jewelry store diamond engagement ring is between $3,500 and $4,000. Advertisers and the social media have conditioned couples into believing that the size and price of your diamond is correlated to the devotion and love for each other the couple feels, but you know that isn’t true. Here’s some advice so that you can buy a diamond engagement ring without breaking the bank.

The Diamond as an Investment

Sit down at any jewelry counter and you’ll be sure to hear a sales pitch about the highest quality diamonds being a good investment. It’s true that diamonds are a precious commodity and that they may increase in value over time, but seriously, no one should be buying an engagement ring as a way to diversify their portfolio. Diamond engagement rings shouldn’t be a couple’s emergency relief fund, so focus your finances on the present and think about the diamond’s price today.

How much should I spend?

Decide on your budget before heading out to the jewelry store, where you put yourself under the pressure of sales people and special offers. Remember that you aren’t out to impress the jeweler (who you’ve never even met before) or anyone else with the price of your engagement ring. Stay within your parameters and you’ll keep yourself out of debt.

Should we buy the ring together?

Relationship statistics show that more than half of men surprise their loved one with a diamond engagement ring during their proposal. This means that the majority of men get no input if size, cut, and cost are important to her. By bringing her along to the check out rings, you can get a better picture of the finances behind the ring and you’ll know that she will get the engagement ring she truly wants.

How much do diamond engagement rings cost?

There are two major factors which contribute to the cost of a diamond: a ratings system called the “Four Cs” and whether or not the diamond is ASG/GIA certified. The Four Cs refers to the diamond’s color, cut, clarity, and carat size. As a general rule, as a diamond increases in size and clarity, and decreases in color, the price of the diamond rises. Diamonds that are ASG/GIA certified are also more expensive. Most jewelry stores follow this pricing structure:

  • Quarter carat or less diamond, $125 to $500 set in 14 carat gold
  • .3 to half carat diamond, $750 to $1,000 set in 18 carat gold or platinum, possibly more if ASG/GIA certified
  • For diamonds up to .75 carat, or smaller ASG/GIA certified stones, $1,000-$2,000
  • For diamonds up to 1 carat, $2,000 to $3,500, set in 14 carat gold
  • High quality 1 carat diamond, $4,000 or more, set in 18 carat gold or platinum

Before you spend $5,000 on a diamond engagement ring, think about more practical uses for the money like a down payment on a house or for starting a family. A diamond may last forever, but if you aren't in the financial position to afford a big expensive ring you can always start out small and upgrade later. Would you rather spend the next five years paying off the credit card bill on that engagement ring purchase or start married life off on a sound financial foundation?

Tips for Saving Money on a Ring

Here are some alternatives to buying your ring from an expensive jeweler:

  • Use a family ring for your engagement
  • Buy a ring from an antique shop
  • Stunning high quality cubic zirconia
  • Pawn shops or classified ads
  • Consider an alternative stone to a diamond
  • Purchase a setting using several smaller stones instead of one large stone

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