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How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

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Because she deserves the best engagement ringWhen my husband and I decided to marry, neither of us was really excited about spending a large amount of money on an engagement ring. I had a friend whose family was in jewelry wholesale, and my parents knew an old jeweler. We got a great deal on an engagement ring (which was actually an anniversary band), and we were able to have it verified by the jeweler.

The experience of speaking with “insiders” taught us that it’s common to see a 700% or 800% markup on jewelry — particularly diamond engagement rings. As a result, we have been wary of going into a chain store for our jewelry needs. And it’s a good thing we haven’t been caught up in expensive rings, since I’m on my third wedding band.

Rings tend to slip off my size 4 finger in cold weather. My first band was lost a little less than a year after we were married, since we didn’t get it custom; size 5 was the smallest option. Since that experience, we started ordering custom rings from a local jewelry artisan. My second wedding band lasted 10 years until this past Christmas Eve. The last I remember seeing it was while I was peeling potatoes. I remember thinking that I should take it off before it slipped, but I’m not sure that I did. In any case, I can’t find it.

There’s no replacing the band, since it was totally unique, made specifically for me. So we’re working with another artisan to design a different ring. When we’re done with this ring (which will have no diamonds, just small emeralds), our total for buying my wedding bands will be just over $1,000.

Society’s Rules of Thumb

I’ve read that a good rule of thumb for buying an engagement ring is to use two months’ salary. That’s a fairly expensive ring. And, when you consider the massive markup that comes with engagement rings bought in chain stores, you can be fairly certain that you are over-paying.

Another rule of thumb is this: Bigger is better. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, either. You can get a big diamond ring that doesn’t have a good cut. Indeed, you might find a big diamond to have only a “Fair” or “Good” cut, meaning that it might be big but it doesn’t have the same sparkle as one cut “Very Good” or “Ideal”. You might not see the same clarity, either, with a large ring. Many stores try to sell the “big” diamond, and count on customers not being educated.

You might be better off looking online at a reputable jeweler, or having something made by a local. You can also consider buying a loose diamond and then having the setting custom-made. While I’m not a jewelry expert, I have been fortunate enough to associate with jewelry professionals, and have them look at my choices before I make a purchase decision, and we end up with very good values in our jewelry selections.

What you spend on an engagement is ultimately up to you and your significant other. However, I don’t think there’s a need to spend a lot of money on something of good quality. What do you think? How much would you spend on an engagement ring?

{ 19 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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19 Responses to “How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?”

  1. elloo says:

    I look at engagement rings like I look at weddings. Dumb idea. Invest the money in real estate and/or equities. A diamond may last forever, but if it stays on your finger, what good is it?

  2. admiral58 says:

    At least 5-6 months gross salary. Make sure you actually get a deal. Don’t pay more than a thousand or two above cost

    • elloo says:

      So if someone earns $80,000 gross a year, you are suggesting that someone spend $40,000 for a ring? Seriously? Are you a jeweler?

      • Martha says:

        Ha! That’s what I thought when I saw the comment. But, I think a lot of this depends on where you live in the US (or if you’re in the USA at all…). In college my friends from NY/NJ told me that any engagement ring had to be at least 3 carats. But, don’t worry, it didn’t have to be 3 carats in ONE diamond, it just had to be the whole set. Hahah, I thought that was a bit excessive when we didn’t make any money other than work study as college students.

    • DMoney says:

      I can’t roll my eyes back far enough.

  3. daenyll says:

    Diamonds are a metastable material, they do not last forever. Given the right conditions they will return to graphite. That stuff that fills pencils. Lovely advertising ploy based on a common misconception.

    Get something you like, but don’t go crazy.

    We’re no longer in the days where hocking the ring might be the only way a poor girl could support herself if something happened to the fiance/husband. Women can own property now and have careers and even vote.

  4. Mark says:

    Two months salary on a ring is absurd no matter how much or how little you earn, and “society” has no say in what I choose to buy or how much I choose to spend on it.

    I got married without an engagement and with only plain, simple wedding bands. Still married almost 20 years later.

    • Well said Mark!

      And thank you for sharing that.

      I positively hate the idea that somehow one has to put emphasis on these kinds of things in relation to marriage.

      If you have the money to spend on jewelery garb, and like it, fine. Spend what you see fit for your circumstances, I say.

      But it’s certainly not necessary.

      And anyone who judges me & my spouse for having gotten married without rings (of any type), is missing the point of marriage – or at least the reasons we got married.

    • jim says:

      Your words carry a lot of wisdom. I would like to know how many of those couples who spent outrageous sums on a wedding and/or rings are still married today.

  5. Brandon says:

    I’m sure the individual wearing the ring will decompose far before the diamond.

  6. Scott says:

    #FirstWorldProblems 🙂

    Like daenyll said, get something you like but don’t go crazy. Tune out the marketing and spend only what you feel comfortable spending, because if you spend more than what you are comfortable with, it will cause at least some stress on you, and that is no way to start an engagement/marriage.

    Some things I would recommend considering as well when talking about buying an engagement ring (or really any jewelry):

    The flashier the ring, the more likely it is to be stolen or lead to a mugging. Obviously depends on where you go.

    A big, fancy ring may look really cool for a big night out, but if you expect her to wear it every day (and I think you do), you should get something that she will feel comfortable wearing just about anywhere. And get something that will withstand wear and tear over the years (consider a 6-prong over a 4-prong if she has an active job).

    Special cuts and colors and other unique variations may look cool and stylish today, but will they still be in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years? Go for a style that is timeless if that’s what you want from your marriage.

    I’ll throw in a suggestion from my own experience if you’re looking to get good value for your money – buy online. Reputable online retailers are far cheaper than their brick and mortar cousins. Of course, you do need to make sure you get the ring appraised by an independent consultant after you get it just to make sure the retailer upheld their reputable status.

  7. Shirley says:

    We were married 34 years ago with simple gold bands. Being in our 30s at that time, we placed far more value on combining our families than on what we considered frou frou.

  8. Kimmie says:

    Why put large sums of money on an engagement ring with lots of “bling-bling” on it, and being in debt trying to pay for it. My husband and I have been married for 20 years with having simple[nothing fancy] wedding bands on our fingers. Having your family is “Priceless.”

  9. John says:

    The way I look at it with things like this, you can’t put a price on happiness. My wife always dreamed of having a diamond ring from Tiffany’s. So for her engagement ring, that’s what I got her. Yeah, it wasn’t cheap. But seeing her smile every time she puts it on is worth every penny spent on it.

  10. I didn’t spend a large amount on the ring I brought for my wife to be, but it was far more than I had spent on any gift before because it was important. The nice thing was that she really appreciated it, for weeks afterwards I would catch her looking at the ring and smiling at what it meant and of our future together. Priceless.

  11. Ralph says:

    The best investment I could recommend is 10 minutes of your time doing a web search on “how to remove a P-trap”. The chances that your ring is sitting right below the sink I think are rather good. If your house is newer you may not even need wrenches to remove it.

  12. Bucksprout says:

    1 month salary is enough but I would try to keep it below that. I have no idea where the 2 month rule came about but it’s absolutely crazy. I rather take that money and put it towards a trip or save it.

  13. Steph says:

    My boyfriend is a grad student who rarely has any leftover cash at the end of the money because he makes so little. If I waited for him to save up even ONE month’s salary to buy a ring, we’d NEVER get married! I do know that he doesn’t intend on going with a diamond, but other than that, I’m in the dark. And honestly, I don’t really care how much he spends on a ring. We can always upgrade later if we want to…

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