We explain engagement ring costs and what you should expect to pay
When it comes to buying an engagement ring, one of the most prevalent concerns our customers have is, “Am I getting the right price?” Whether your significant other prefers traditional or modern engagement rings, diamonds or gemstones, or something completely off the wall, you’re likely wondering what an engagement ring should cost.
We know the concerns you’re feeling while shopping for an item that means so much to your future life partner. Many first-time ring buyers aren’t sure how much they should spend, if they’re overspending, or if they’re getting the best possible engagement ring for their money.
Many factors affect what people consider spending on an engagement ring. From societal norms to slick marketing campaigns, a lot of perceptions are floating around as to how much you should spend. But ultimately, the only thing that matters is your loved one’s happiness—and yours. Look for that special ring, and don’t worry about what TV ads or others have to say about what it should cost.
Let’s dive into engagement rings: the factors that go into the price, and how to figure out how much it should cost.
The traditional cost of an engagement ring.
Let’s start with some traditional “societal norms” relative to the cost of an engagement ring.
First, there’s the classic rule of thumb that the cost of your engagement ring should total your salary for 3 months. This concept was created by a marketing agency hired by De Beers in the late 1930’s that helped bring diamonds into the mindset of mainstream America. (It was De Beers that gave us the slogan, “A diamond is forever.”) Long story short, De Beers has a monopoly over diamonds across every platform, and they hired an excellent marketing firm that forever changed how people think about (and purchase) engagement rings. There’s no base in reality, however, to prove that your loved one won’t be happy unless you spend one-quarter of your yearly wages on an engagement ring. So that ridiculous “3 months” rule should be long dead and forgotten.
Here’s another silly concept: The size of the diamond should match the recipient’s age. For example, a 20-year-old would get a 2.0-carat diamond, whereas a 50-year-old would receive 5.0 carat diamond. I feel bad for the poor guy who falls for this one; he would be broke by the end of his purchase! This is a myth and should be treated as such. It’s most likely a spoiled brat’s old wives’ tale.
These “rules” take the romance out of buying an engagement ring. In reality, there is no set rule on how much an engagement ring should cost. Everyone is different and should make their own budget based on what they can afford. Don’t think you need to make Kanye West-type money to buy something huge. Buy an engagement ring that’s special and meaningful to you and your loved one.
How to figure out the cost of your engagement ring
Only two things should influence the price of your engagement ring: you and your significant other. Starting from there, you’ll need a realistic dollar figure with which to work.
When you visit a jewelry store, a well-trained sales associate will talk budget with you from the start. He or she will work with you and tailor an engagement ring to your taste and budget. This is done by altering the diamond or gemstone size, mounting style, and metal choices such as gold or platinum. Jewelers know how to sell the best ring in your budget, and great jewelers will not pressure you to spend more than you are comfortable spending. This is the type of service people experience at Braunschweiger Jewelers. All our expert jewelers want to help you find the perfect engagement ring, and will not push you into something you can’t afford.
On a more personal note, I cannot say the same about other jewelers in New Jersey. For example, when I was single and just curious about engagement rings, I did not have a good experience from other stores and met many pushy sales people who left a bad taste in my mouth. When these salespeople asked about my budget, I made up $3,000 and said that I was looking for a 1-ct look or more. The sales associate made a smirky “ugh” sound, and I left feeling embarrassed that my question was absurd. I saw nothing funny about it. If you’re a young person out shopping for engagement rings, I’m sure you’ve had a few similarly unenjoyable experiences.
If you want play around with the various factors that determine the cost of an engagement (diamond, the band, metals, side stones, etc.), I encourage you to check out our Ring Builder page to see some of the engagement rings we offer and the various price ranges.
Diamonds are the biggest cost in engagement ring prices
There’s no surprise here. You can expect to spend most of your ring budget on the most important aspect of the engagement ring: the diamond. And when I say the diamond, I mean the main diamond that usually sits in the center of the bridge. This is virtually always the biggest cost factor of an engagement ring. You can change your mounting anytime, but your center stone is where the “promise” is made, and where the sentimental value is held.
When it comes to the main diamond, some cuts can cost more than others. Traditional round, “clear” diamonds often cost more than fancier cut diamonds because round diamonds are more versatile, have more brilliance (sparkle), and are timeless. These factors make them more desirable—and more expensive—than unique shapes such as a cushion, pear, or princess-cut diamond. As any other business, the supply and demand affect the cost of jewelry.
Many trendy, modern options may be more appealing if a round or traditional diamond isn’t the right cut for your significant other. For example, a modern pavé or halo setting will give your engagement ring the appearance of having a larger diamond, usually for a lower price. Regardless of the setting, when choosing a trendier cut such as a cushion or princess cut, you won’t pay as much for your diamond.
Trendy diamond cuts, however, pose one potential drawback: If you keep up with the latest trends today, you may regret your decision 15 years from now. Everything changes, from clothing and accessories to technology and interior design trends, and the same goes for jewelry. Customers come into our store with marquis or pear-cut diamonds (both cuts popular in the 1970’s and 80’s) wishing they had a round cut instead because they feel their jewelry looks dated.
As a side note, most jewelry stores (including ours) have most of their mountings ready for a round-stone setting. So if you choose a round diamond, fewer alterations would be needed and you would get your ring sooner. If you want something trendier, such as a princess-cut diamond, the mounting would most likely need to be altered or ordered to accommodate.
For the record, a princess cut is the perfect square-cut diamond with a flat top, which is very popular right now. While it is a very pretty stone, a princess cut tends to have pointy edges that need to be protected with more metal because this cut tends to be more delicate. Of all the available diamond shapes, princess cuts are the most fragile to set and one of the most frequent stones to chip or fracture.
If you’re wondering what kind of diamond fits your budget, check out our Diamond Link page, which lets you search by various factors such as cut, carat, color, clarity, and price. It’s a great resource to see what types of diamonds you can afford for your engagement ring.
You can cut engagement ring costs with alternatives to diamonds
Diamonds are traditional in engagement rings because of the slogan, “A diamond is forever.” Although, as mentioned above, this slogan was created to sell expensive jewelry, it has some base in reality because diamonds are the hardest stone on earth. An engagement ring, likely worn on your hand every day, will get knocked around repeatedly and undergo much wear and tear. The good news is, a diamond can withstand much of this abuse and still look amazing.
A diamond’s hardness is verified by the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which more or less rates the durability of minerals such as diamonds, emeralds, and opals on a scale of 1 to 10. Diamonds are the hardest mineral and won’t scratch, so they come in at the top of the scale and are rated a 10 out of 10.
A diamond can break, however. One area that’s susceptible to damage is the girdle, the widest part of the diamond dividing the top (the crown) and the bottom (the pavilion). We’re not suggesting you try to see how durable it is yourself, but you can rest easier knowing your diamond can take some punishment and walk away unscathed.
That said, both sapphires and rubies come in second on the Mohs scale at 9 out of 10 making them great options for engagement rings. Either stone also costs much less than a diamond. Additionally, for anyone looking for a stone with some color, both sapphires and rubies are a good bet as they come in a variety of colors.
While sapphires and rubies come in second place, it’s not a very close second. Aside from the Mohs scale, there’s an additional measurement called absolute hardness, which is more precise. For example, a diamond has an absolute hardness of 1,500 while sapphires and rubies rate at only 400. This means that sapphires and rubies are much more susceptible to scratching or damage than diamonds—and explains in part why diamonds are more valuable than other stones.
Additional engagement ring costs
There are additional engagement ring costs, such as the appraisal. While I can’t speak for other stores, at our jewelry stores we offer complimentary appraisals, a limited warranty, first-time ring sizing, and lifetime anytime cleaning and checkup on any engagement ring bought in our stores.
This may not always be the case, and other jewelers may nickel-and-dime you for various services today and down the road. It’s best to ask what is and isn’t included when you’re factoring the price of an engagement ring in order to avoid any future unknown costs. The cost of an engagement ring also may (or may not) include any of the following:
- Written insurance appraisal. An appraisal for insurance purposes on an engagement ring can range between $100 and $150. This price is based on how much the appraiser has to work at evaluating your diamond and the ring. If you have a solitaire diamond engagement ring with a copy of the diamond certification, that would lower the price of the appraisal because there’s less work to do. If you had an engagement ring encrusted with diamonds of various shapes and sizes with no certification, the appraiser would have to do a lot more work (measuring and counting diamonds), so the appraisal would cost more.
- Monthly or annual insurance costs. When it comes to insurance for your engagement ring, companies vary with what they cover, meaning your cost and coverage will be variable. Shop around and contact different insurance companies to find out how much it will cost to cover your ring. As a simple rule of thumb, the more expensive the ring, the costlier the insurance.
- Diamond certification. An official certification is not necessary when buying a diamond, but it’s a good idea. A diamond certification establishes the credibility of the stone and assesses the main factors that people look at when buying a diamond: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. A certification will map out the diamond’s inclusions (overall clarity and visual characteristics). The certification will give your diamond an official color and clarity grade based upon a regulated scale.
- Free first-time sizing. The sizing of a ring can start at around $45 and go up from there, depending mainly on the setting and how many sizes it’s going up or down. Resizing an engagement ring becomes more expensive when there are side diamonds, and too many side diamonds makes sizing the ring difficult.
- Ring cleaning. Full-service jewelry stores often clean jewelry purchased at their store for free. Many mall jewelers that do not have full-service departments will often charge you for cleaning and send the jewelry out to be cleaned, which can take days. Realistically, cleanings should occur at least every 6 months. We give a free sample of cleaning solution with engagement ring purchases, and although it is the same solution we clean with, the method is different. In the store, we often polish the jewelry on a special machine, perform ultrasonic cleaning, and steam each piece. At this point, our jewelers will check the stones and other aspects of the ring.
- A warranty. Like a car, an engagement ring will need maintenance because, as mentioned above, it’s being worn every day. Stones loosening, mountings getting scratched, and prongs shifting are all examples of normal wear and tear that can occur on any engagement ring. Engagement rings, however, often don’t come with a warranty. Many jewelers will offer some type of warranty-like protection for your ring. For example, they may replace a side stone that falls out from normal wear or solder a crack in the band within the first year.
These mishaps are rare in a new engagement ring because jewelers make sure that the rings are 100% safe and ready to go when they leave the store. Any problems that do occur are attributable to neglect to the ring or a manufacturing defect. Regardless, we recommend that our customers bring their engagement ring back every 6 months for a cleaning and checkup to avoid potential problems.
If you would like your stone certified, you can bring it to your local jeweler, who will then send it to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) lab in New York City. This service costs about $400. GIA adheres to the highest standards and is the world’s most widely respected certification agency. Other organizations certify diamonds, but they’re not as trusted.
The average cost of an engagement ring
Let’s discuss what people are really paying for an engagement ring.
In 2015, a study conducted by The Knot (an online wedding resource) conducted a poll to figure out what people we’re paying for engagement rings. The poll found that men were spending an average of about $6,000 on engagement rings. That’s up from around $5,100 in 2011.
Using our own data, we’ve found that the average price of an engagement ring at Braunschweiger Jewelers usually ranges from $7,000 to $10,000. However, we’ve sold engagement rings ranging from $300 all the way up to $450,000. But ultimately, it’s all about finding the right ring for your future partner and staying within your budget.
The cost of an engagement ring should fit your budget
Like we said, you should go into a jewelry store with a rough idea of what you can spend, since that’s where a sales associate usually starts. Keep in mind, though, that you can’t have champagne taste on a beer budget. You have to be realistic.
You can’t walk in wanting a 2-carat stone for $5,000. While $5,000 is a lot of money, you’ll need to consider several factors when it comes to building an engagement ring. For instance, a strong mounting for a diamond that large will cost $1,000 itself. That leaves you with $4,000 for the diamond. I doubt it would even be possible to find a stone that large for that price that would look nice.
If a customer came to us with this idea, I would most likely ask him what’s more important; a really nice mounting or a larger diamond? In the past, some people have purchased a beautiful mounting because they chose to focus on that versus the size of a diamond. Or they opted to use a different gemstone in the center in order to spend more money elsewhere on the engagement ring. A sales associate can help you figure out how to best spend your money.
When you visit our jewelry stores, no matter your budget, everyone is treated the same and given the same education. Our goal is for you to leave feeling confident you’re getting the best engagement ring for your money.
We try to make everyone feel comfortable because this is a big purchase—and an even bigger commitment. The last thing you need to think about is the price of an engagement ring. It’s hard enough to put your heart on the line, tell someone you love her and propose without also wondering whether you got “ripped off.”
We fully understand why so many people are concerned about the expense of an engagement ring. Couples are getting married later in life and are spending their money elsewhere. Many young couples are already living together and have been sharing their lives for years before they consider marriage. Add in the fact that parents today generally don’t help pay for weddings, and you’re finding that young couples are increasingly watching their wallets.
An engagement ring should be a symbol of love and commitment, not a piece of jewelry to brag about. Spend only what you want to spend. Don’t let anyone talk you into something you can’t afford.
To learn more about the engagement rings we offer, feel free to visit either of our New Jersey jewelry store locations in Morristown or New Providence to see for yourself and talk to any of our expert jewelers.
If you’d like to talk to someone directly about repairs, you can contact us online anytime by emailing us at email@example.com, or simply fill out our contact form. We’ll answer your questions quickly.