5 Tricks That Will Save You Money On Your Engagement Ring
“If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it,” as the modern saying goes. And since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, proposals are big on a lot of people’s minds.
Buying an engagement ring can be one of the most meaningful purchases of your life. But it doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. “One thing that people do often forget is the overall cost,” says Stephen Lloyd, jeweler and gemologist of Lloyd & Co Jewelry. “The material costs of fine jewelry can get expensive. And contrary to belief, the markups in the jewelry business are quite small.”
Before whipping out your credit cards or splashing the big bucks to get the perfect ring for your girlfriend (we’re going with tradition here to make things easier), consider the following tips on how to buy an engagement ring on a budget and start your union off on solid financial footing:
1. Start with a budget — and don’t fall for the “three month’s salary” myth.
This myth was conveniently created by the De Beers diamond company. Back in the 1930s, to drive bad sales because of the Great Depression, they said men should spend one month’s salary on an engagement ring. By the 1980s, they were saying it should be two. And later, it evolved to three months. Let’s be realistic — this amount is unreasonable for most people. “Most people getting married are younger and just getting started on their professional career,” says Lloyd.
Forget tradition and set your own budget. It’s a personal decision, after all. Sit down and look at your finances to find out how much you can truly afford. To help you set an achievable financial goal, check out our guide.
2. Consider your partner’s lifestyle.
An engagement ring “is the one gift that a husband will give his wife that will be worn on a daily basis,” says Lloyd. So take her lifestyle, job, and personality before buying a ring. There’s no use buying a ring with a gigantic rock if your partner is a doctor who has to wear gloves constantly for work, since the ring will just inconvenience her. In that case, a plain band might be better.
3. For diamond rings, master the 4 Cs to get the most bang for your buck.
Set on buying a diamond ring? You can still save money by reading up on the 4 Cs and finding out how to save money on each one. (The Gemological Institute of America sets the worldwide standards, so if you want to learn even more, head over to gia.edu):
Photo: Lumera Diamonds
The cut determines how sparkly the diamond will be, and is the factor with the most effect on the diamond’s appearance. The ranks of diamond cuts are: excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor, with some stores having their own “signature ideal” cuts. Go for the best cut you can afford, but if you’re on a really limited budget, a “good” cut should save you thousands while retaining quality.
Photo: Blue Nile
Most diamonds have a tiny bit of color, which gemologists assign a range of D to Z. A diamond with a near-colorless grade of G to I can give you great value for your money, because it’s basically clear to the naked eye.
Photo: Blue Nile
Almost all diamonds have some imperfections in them. Clarity ratings range from FL or IF (Flawless or Internally Flawless) to I1 (Included), where you can see imperfections with the naked eye. For good value, go for SI1 or SI2. If you’ve got a real tight budget, you can save a lot of money by going for a diamond with visible imperfections, but hide it under a ring prong and nobody will ever have to know.
Photo: Blue Nile
This deals with the diamond’s weight. Once you’ve selected a cut, color, and clarity, you can easily figure out how many carats you can afford. You can “buy shy” by going just under a round number — instead of buying a 1 carat, buy a 0.90 carat stone. This could save you as much as 30%. Looking to save even more? A 0.5-carat stone should do you nicely.
4. Or, skip the diamond entirely.
When Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with an 18-carat sapphire ring, interest in gemstones as engagement rings ratcheted up. “Sapphire and ruby are very good engagement ring alternatives,” says Lloyd. Both these gems are durable, and tend to be less expensive than diamonds. “Plus sapphire comes in a rainbow of colors!” Lloyd adds, so if that suits your future wife’s style more, it’s definitely worth considering.
5. Work with a good jeweler.
When you’re ready to buy, “go to a reputable jeweler who has the training and experience to competently grade diamonds,” Lloyd advises. A good jeweler will work with your budget to help you find the perfect engagement ring that won’t break the bank. Some of them, like Lloyd, will even custom-design rings for you if the perfect ring isn’t out there already. “We have made thousands of engagement rings over the years. People do not always know exactly what they want, but almost everyone does know what they do not like. So, I start there and work backwards.”
Now that you’re armed with the information you need, good luck with the ring hunt — and don’t forget to plan a proposal to match!