Engagement Ring Shopping 101

by Kaitlyn Ranze

Planning to pop the question? Congratulations! We promise, like with most things and money, managing the emotional aspect of it is probably the hardest part.

I know you’re probably like “hold-up. Engagement rings are expensive.” And I’d totally agree with you. According to The Knot 2020 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is $5,500. With that price tag, we consider it a serious investment.

But you’ve conquered the hard part. You’ve decided to commit to your person. Shopping for an engagement ring is simpler than it seems, once we get a few things straight.

Before you start shopping, we’ll tackle how to create your budget for engagement ring, and highlight the factors to consider when selecting the best ring for your partner and your budget.

How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

Even Moira’s surprised by the rise of diamonds.

The two-to-three month salary rule is a myth

First of all, diamonds in engagement rings weren’t common until the 20th century. When did it grow in popularity and what led it to be commonplace? In the 1930’s, the De Beers diamond company ran a successful marketing campaign true love and commitment could only be shown if a man spent a month’s salary on his wife’s ring. This was later inflated by the tagline “Diamonds are forever” in 1947. By the 1980’s, billboards suggested that women didn’t know what their futures were worth unless a man spent 2-3 months on an engagement rings.

So how much should you actually spend on an engagement ring?

You can ignore salary metrics all together. What would your partner be happy with? What would you be happy giving them?

Ok, so you’re a numbers person. You need a box and a budget.

What’s more common and realistic budget for an engagement ring?

The short answer is between 1% and 3% of your annual salary. So, if you make $50,000 a year then the engagement ring should cost between $500 and $1,500. This percentage rule also applies to couples that make $100,000 a year and couples that make $1,000,000 a year.

You shouldn’t feel like you need to scrimp on quality or appearance just because you are on a budget. It’s possible to buy engagement rings that cost under $1,000 and still look great. There are many engagement rings that cost under $500 that will fit the bill.

Pro-Tip: Automate saving for an engagement ring inside the Nav.it money app.

If you can afford to spend more on an engagement ring then do it.

What you spend on an engagement ring really up to you and what you think it’s worth.

Full disclosure: my husband opted to buy me a motorcycle instead of an engagement ring. Why? Because I was very clear I didn’t want a ring. I harassed him for months about the proposal, but I didn’t want a ring. I wanted a grand gesture. A motorcycle was a symbol for adventure and a promise of commitment. It is also what I wanted.

Just because I didn’t want a ring, doesn’t mean your partner will be the same. If you’re not already having these types of conversations, bookmark this article and come back to it later. If you’re ready to buy, however, keep reading.

Below are some tips on how you should go about purchasing an engagement ring for your significant other.

Tip 1: Keep your budget low.

Before you even begin looking at engagement rings, you need to understand what your budget is. There are engagement rings that range from $20,000 to engagement rings that can be bought for around $100. Critically look at your overall fixed expenses and consider how much you have saved.

Try to avoid financing.

Serious but gentle question: If you’re going into a debt for a wedding ring, how can you afford a wedding? Try to consider the engagement ring as a category in your overall wedding budget.

If your partner suggests spending more than what you were thinking about spending, take this as a sign you need to start talking more openly about money.

And remember, sales people are there to sell. Once you have a budget in mind, stay closer to your lower end.

Tip 2: Understand the engagement ring jargon.

Engagement ring shopping can sound like it’s coming from a secret language.

Here is some basic information on some common engagement ring jargon:

  • Solitaire engagement rings- engagement rings that don’t have any stones next to the engagement ring itself.
  • Semi-mount engagement rings– engagement rings that have a diamond that is already set in the engagement ring and has it’s own metal band, or “mount”. This can be used as an engagement ring by itself or with other stones added to it.
  • Prong engagement rings– engagement rings that have just one, two, or four prongs protruding from the engagement ring itself.
  • Tension engagement rings– engagement rings that are set with very small diamonds in order to have them stick out of the engagement ring so they can hold other stones.
  • Bezel engagement rings– engagement rings where the engagement ring itself has a flat surface that holds the diamond in place.

Tip 3: Understand how diamonds are judged

The diamond market is pretty broad, so it’s important to understand how engagement rings are judged by their clarity, cut, and color before you go engagement ring shopping.

  • Clarity: dimonds are judged by their clarity, which is the measure of how many imperfections are in the diamond. The higher the clarity, the better quality engagement ring you will be able to get for your budget.
  • Cut: diamonds are judged by their cut which determines how brilliant the engagement ring’s stone looks when it is being evaluated. The cut of engagement rings is significant because the engagement ring itself should reflect light in a way that makes the engagement ring look as brilliant as possible.
  • Color: diamond engagement rings are judged by their color, which means how close to “colorless” an it is. A diamond engagement ring with a higher color rating will have less color in it.

Two Main Cuts: engagement rings are available in two main cuts, which are round engagement rings and square engagement rings. Round engagement rings have pointed edges while square engagement rings have straight edges.

Tip 4: Consider Alternative Diamond types

You can buy engagement rings with other precious stones instead of diamond engagement rings, such as engagement rings with sapphires or ruby engagement rings. In fact, prior to the DeBeers campaign, it was much more common for engagement rings to have different stones.

While 86% of ring shoppers prefer diamonds, Moissanite, for instance, continues to increase in popularity. In 2020, 26% of those who bought an alternative ring with a precious stone opted for Moissanite (up 7% from 2019).

Tip 5: Know when to ask for help.

We did our best.

We threw some words on a screen, and hoped you’d commit them to memory.

Know that you can always ask questions.

In fact, it’s preferable to ask for help when engagement ring shopping. Not everyone understands engagement ring jargon or know what engagement ring fits your SO’s preferences. (See Tip 6 if you aren’t sure about this last one!).

When you engage in engagement ring shopping, we encourage you to ask questions. Engagement ring shopping is a big decision, which means you should feel comfortable doing engagement ring research and asking questions before making that big purchase.

Tip 6: Engagement rings are about your partner’s personal preference.

When you’re engagement ring shopping, it’s important to think about your partner. Not only do you need to know their ring size, but you also need to know what their engagement ring preferences might be. Your engagement rings should reflect your style and personality but also represent the things that matter most to your partner.

Tip 7: Consider the source

If you’re worried about the conditions under which your diamonds were mined, keep reading.

First things first: Understanding where diamonds come from

The majority of diamonds in today’s market come from mines in Africa. A lot of countries have very little regulation when it comes to mining activities — and therefore they lack safety and environmental standards. As a result, mining for diamonds often results in deforestation, soil and water contamination (because of chemical runoff), air pollution (from the blasting required to excavate the earth) and health issues among miners.

The Kimberley Process is an international agreement designed to stop or reduce conflicts arising from this kind of mining. To qualify as “conflict-free,” a diamond must abide by the following requirements:

  • The rough diamonds must have been extracted from an official government mining body
  • They must be exported in a manner that’s compliant with Kimberley Process
  • Most importantly, the country of origin (the place where the diamonds were mined) needs to be participating in the Kimberley Process.

Unfortunately, not all diamonds on the market today meet these criteria. There are even some that don’t come from countries that participate in the process at all!

You might be wondering: Does buying a conflict-free diamond actually make a difference?

It sure does. Many of the mines that are below standard are also places where human rights abuses are common. For example, children often get involved in mining activities at very young ages (some as young as 5 or 6 years old) and work under hazardous conditions without protective equipment. Adult miners often face similar conditions: low pay, long hours and exposure to dangerous materials.

Diamonds mined in this way not only fuel conflicts but also fund violent rebel groups that commit atrocities against innocent people. It’s been estimated that as much as 70% of “conflict diamonds” are used to finance insurgencies.

Diamonds have played a role in funding the civil wars  in both Sierra Leone and Angola, for example.

Here are some other facts you should know about the diamond industry:

• Although it’s illegal, sometimes diamond traders mix conflict diamonds with “clean” ones to make a larger profit. If your diamond’s certification seems suspicious, do your research .

• Diamonds should come with an official certificate from the government of the region where they were mined. If you don’t see this kind of certificate, your diamond might not be 100% ethical.

Tip 8: Engagement rings can be fun.

When engagement ring shopping, it’s important to remember that engagement ring shopping should be an experience you enjoy and cherish. You did the hard part already, emotionally and mentally committing to someone. The ring is a fun way to express this.

Related Reads;

How to Save Money for a Wedding by Skipping the Traditions

Creating a Wedding Budget


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