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How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

How much should you spend on an engagement ring in the first place? The answer varies by couple, but I’m going to expose some common myths and help you determine the right cost for your budget.

What's the Average Cost?

Data show that the average engagement ring prices are continuing to increase year by year. Brides' American Wedding Study found that the average engagement ring cost in 2018 is $7,829, up from 2017's standard price point of $5,023. However, some to-be-weds spend a lot less and some spend a whole lot more (Justin Bieber, for example, forked over about half a mil on Hailey Baldwin's rock—hello!). According to Taylor Lanore, diamond consultant and PR director for Ring Concierge, it all depends entirely on your fiancé-to-be's financial situation. "Spend whatever you're comfortable with—there's no reason to go into debt," she says. "It also depends on your partner's preferences. If she wants something very minimal, it's hard to spend a lot. But if she wants a big stone, it's still very doable. There are ways to accomplish any look for any budget."

When it comes to buying the ring itself, prices are going to vary widely due to a number of factors: The size and quality of the center stone, any details (like a halo or stones set in the band), and the type of metal chosen—not to mention mark-ups that can come along with factors like a popular brand name.

Engagement Ring Cost Myths

Spending 3 months’ worth of your salary. It's become a suggested engagement ring rule that men should shell out about three months of their salary, but this is the most common (and outdated) engagement ring myth. There's actually no set rule on how much you should spend on an engagement ring.

These days, many people are finding cheaper diamond rings online. However. It’s actually riskier to shop online because there are far more low-quality stones to select from, which isn’t always obvious to the untrained eye. Instead, it’s recommended to go straight to the source and buy your engagement ring in person, this way you can see every facet of the diamond(s) with your very own eyes.

How Much Is Too Much to Spend?

Although there's truly no set price cap when it comes to buying an engagement ring, some women are still worried their boyfriend will be tempted to go overboard. If this is you and you know the proposal's coming, be direct and slip your opinion into a casual conversation. Make up a story, and try something like, "You know, Jen was just telling me the other day that she really wishes her husband had spent less on the engagement ring so they could have had a bigger wedding budget to play with. I think some guys are going a little crazy these days. Honestly, I don't think anyone should spend more than $[fill in the max you want him to spend here], don't you?"

Or, you can pass your concern on to his family and friends, who will relay the message. But, at the end of the day, some guys really just want to go above and beyond and splurge on the engagement ring, which is totally fine (and really sweet!) as long as he has the means to do so.

How to Cut Engagement Ring Costs

If you're working within a budget, you can still treat your significant other to the ring of her dreams thanks to a few engagement ring shopping hacks.

  • Ditch the diamond. Diamonds are the most expensive part of an engagement ring, so you can save major dough by using a diamond alternative as the center stone. “Consider a white sapphire, which is hard enough to withstand daily wear and has a similar color,” says Jennifer Gandia, owner of Greenwich St. Jewelers in New York City. “Other traditionally popular gemstones are blue sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Depending on quality, these can be slightly less than a diamond, though truly rare and high-quality stones can sometimes cost more.” Other non-traditional stones that are getting more popular by the minute? Green tourmaline, peachy-pink morganite, and ice blue aquamarine. “These are all great options for clients looking for a lower-priced alternative to a diamond that will still really shine!” says Gandia.

  • Know your settings. Keep in mind that certain settings can be expensive. Your future bride may (understandably) be obsessed with Meghan Markle's three-stone engagement ring, but said setting, as well as three-row pave rings, can actually cost you a pretty penny and affect the size of the center stone. Instead, if you would rather focus the bulk of your budget on the ring's diamond, consider a classic solitaire setting to make the stone appear more prominent.

  • Manipulate the "Four C's." The Four C’s is a universal grading system for comparing diamond quality since they are so valuable. This standard system was developed by the GIA (GemologicalInstitute of America Inc.) Working on the lower end of the color and clarity scales can go a long way in terms of majorly slashing engagement ring costs (especially with brilliant cut diamonds) without sacrificing quality, according to Lanore. As far as clarity goes, "as long as you can't see inclusions to the naked eye, you're in great shape," Lanore says. "Contrary to popular belief, clarity is independent of anything else and doesn't affect the brilliance of the stone." Lanore adds that the color of the diamond remains "purely personal preference," but, "if [diamond] size is your biggest interest, consider working lower here if you're working with a budget."

  1. Carat - Simply the weight of a diamond measured in carats. As the weight of a diamond increases so does its rarity and price. One carat is divided into 100 “points,” so that a diamond of 75 points weights .75 carats.

  2. Clarity - The clarity of a diamond is determined by the amount and location of flaws or blemishes when viewed under 10 power (10x) magnification. GIA rates clarity grades in diamonds from Flawless to Imperfect 3.

  3. Color - The best color for a diamond is no color at all. A totally colorless diamond allows light to pass through it easily, resulting in the light being dispersed as the colors of the rainbow. Colors are graded from totally colorless to light yellow.

  4. Cut - Pertains to the proportions of the diamond as opposed to its shape. Every diamond regardless of its shape gets it brilliancy and sparkle by cutting and polishing the diamond facets. This allows the maximum amount of light that enters through its top to be reflected and dispersed back through its top.

Which Diamond Shape Makes Her Cut?

  • Go the antique route. "Antique diamonds are truly magical for hiding color and face up 2-3 colors whiter than their grade indicates," Lanore notes. "There's a real romance with these diamonds."

My Happily Ever After

My fiancé proposed to me with his most priceless family heirloom, his mother’s wedding ring. She had passed away when he was only 15 years old. This ring was priceless to him and he held on to it thinking that it would be viewed the same way by his future fiancé, he was right. To us, this ring is more priceless than any other engagement ring in the world. So, if you have a priceless family heirloom, think twice about buying a new one. It may end up being the perfect match for both of you.

All in all, to get the most bang for your buck and give your girlfriend the engagement ring she really wants (and deserves), Lanore advises paying close attention to her personal style or any hints she might be dropping. "What I've noticed is that if their partner doesn't request a specific design, a lot of guys tend to pick a round brilliant diamond, which is the most expensive diamond per carat because of their difficulty to cut," says Lanore. Make sure you put your personal preferences aside to truly cater the engagement ring to your significant other. After all, she is the one who will be wearing it every day.

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