Once you and your partner have decided that you want to take the next step in your relationship, most couples cement their decision by getting engaged. Rings are still the most traditional way for a commitment like this to be announced. A casual shot of the engagement ring on Instagram and Facebook has become the de facto way of announcing that a couple intends to get married.
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The Average Cost of an Engagement Ring
Today, engagement rings are just as popular among couples as they have been for decades. And while many couples may be focused on saving money for future goals, they’re still spending on engagement rings.
According to a 2018 TD Bank survey of adults in the United States, the average couple spends around $3,000 on an engagement ring. And that amount has increased since 2017. Jewelers, however, report that this number is a little lower than what they typically see couples spend — CNBC notes that jewelers usually see couples spend between $4,500 and $6,000 on engagement rings.
Sticking to a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the quality or the beauty of the engagement ring you give to your loved one. With smart shopping and knowledge of how to save money on diamonds, ring settings, and more, you can find the perfect ring at a price that doesn’t break the bank. But you’ll need to shop carefully and make sure you do your homework.
Choosing a Cut
One of the first things to consider when you’re shopping for an engagement ring is your partner’s style. If you and your partner have decided to look at rings together, this gets a lot easier. However, if you want to surprise them, you have to look a bit more carefully. Asking a discrete family member or friend for their input might be helpful, too.
Typically, if you’re looking at buying a diamond ring, the first thing you’ll consider is what cut of diamond they like. This determines what shape the setting should be in, and how the rest of the ring will be laid out. There are dozens of different gemstone cuts, which are determined by the size and number of facets that are carved into the stone’s surface. Some of the most popular diamond cuts are Asscher, cushion, marquise, oval, pear, and princess. Once you’ve picked out a cut or at least a few options, it narrows down the design elements considerably.
You may not know the exact names of the cuts your partner prefers, but if you can bring in some images, any jeweler will be able to help you pick out some options that match.
Choosing a Diamond
Although most jewelry stores display completed rings, most of the time when you’re putting together an engagement ring, you’ll purchase the stone first. Then, the jeweler will put it into the setting of your choice. If the thought of buying a loose gemstone makes you nervous, don’t worry. There are lots of jewelers out there to help you.
First, starting at a store accredited by the Gemological Institute of America or Jewelers of Americaensures you’re working with qualified and trustworthy gem merchants. Most of us don’t know a diamond from a piece of quartz, so it’s important to trust your jeweler. All quality diamonds are certified by these governing bodies and will have certificates attesting to their authenticity.
A diamond is still the most popular choice for engagement rings, but many younger brides and grooms are picking colored gems like rubies, sapphires, and opals for their center stone instead. They’re much cheaper and many customers appreciate that they’re sourced more ethically than diamonds.
If you decide to go with a diamond, remember the 4Cs – cut, color, clarity, and carat. Hopefully, you’ve already picked out a cut, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Color and clarity refer to the stone’s transparency, visible color, and whether there are any internal flaws. The carat refers to the weight and consequently, the price. The average engagement ring is less than one carat. For reference, Jennifer Garner’s engagement ring from Ben Affleck was 4.5 carats and the ring George Clooney’s wife Amal Clooney wears a seven-carat ring. There are lots of tips on how to pick a good diamond, including that cut matters more than color or clarity. A good cut can hide all sorts of flaws and imperfections.
Choosing a Metal
Once you’ve chosen a cut and have a diamond picked out, the next step is choosing a band. The most popular choices for engagement ring bands right now are gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Within those four categories, there’s room for a ton of different variations. Gold comes in white, yellow, rose, and even green. You can buy mixed metal bands or bands with wooden or stone inlays. Ideally, you would want to pick a band for your engagement ring that will match or complement your partner’s wedding band. When choosing a metal, take the durability, as well as the look, into account.
Once you’ve decided on the band and you’ve got the diamond, the next step is putting it all together. Rings usually take at least six weeks to assemble or longer if they’re a custom design. Some couples choose to engrave their wedding date, initials, or a meaningful phrase into the inside of their ring.
Find an Affordable Ring
In the past, many people who were in the market for engagement rings believed that there was an unspoken rule that your partner’s engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months’ salary. Thankfully, most people don’t pay attention to that “rule” anymore. You should only buy a ring that you can afford.
However, that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with whatever’s cheapest at your local jewelry store. There are lots of ways that you can secure a gorgeous engagement ring for a really affordable price.
The worst thing that you can do when shopping for an engagement ring is failing to compare prices. Check out different jewelry stores and compare their offerings to each other to see who is offering the best price.
Another way that you can get an affordable engagement ring is by buying online. There are plenty of online-only retailers now who offer better deals because they don’t have the expense of a brick-and-mortar showroom or store.
Etsy is an online craft marketplace where many young people are shopping for engagement rings. You can message the seller directly and see reviews of their work from past clients. Another place where you can find less expensive diamonds is through a wholesaler or diamond retailer, where stones cost around 30 percent less than they would in a traditional jewelry store setting.
Get a Diamond Just Shy of the Next Carat
A useful trick recommended by jewelers is to purchase a stone that’s just shy of the next carat up. This means buying a diamond that’s 1.9 or 1.7 carats rather than two carats. Diamond prices jump dramatically around the carat and half-carat mark, so you can save as much as 20 percent on a diamond that’s microscopically smaller.
Buy the Engagement and Wedding Bands Together
Many jewelry stores will give you a deal if you’re willing to purchase the engagement ring and wedding band (often called a “suite”) together. You may even be able to negotiate a further discount if you bundle all three rings — an engagement ring and two wedding bands — together. You’ll never know if this is an option until you ask!