How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

There are countless wedding traditions that couples are pressured to abide by because it’s the so-called proper etiquette. But there also are plenty of rule-breakers out there who say that old norms have no place in the current conversations about money and marriage.

One of the classics is how much to spend on an engagement ring. There’s the outdated “three-month rule,” which argues spending one-fourth of your annual salary on a ring for your fiance is the ultimate way to show your love.

But before you go spending three months’ worth of your hard-earned income on a diamond, remember that this rule started as a marketing tactic created to drum up diamond sales during tough economic times, reports the wedding website, The Knot.

To put that number into perspective, the three-month rule means that someone making $50,000 per year ought to spend $12,500 on the engagement ring.

If a budget of three months’ income seems like too big of a stretch for your lifestyle, you’ve got plenty of company. According to a 2019 survey from The Knot, the average engagement ring cost is actually somewhere around $5,900, and a good number of survey respondents (10%) said they spent less than $1,000. More recently, in a 2020 Brides’ American Wedding Study, couples reported spending an average of $3,756 on an engagement ring, which is more than $2,000 less than the average 2019 price tag above.

Like everything to do with love and marriage, there’s no one right answer and no right amount to spend on an engagement ring. The answer, in simple terms, is that you should spend exactly how much you can afford and want to spend.

It might be more romantic to buy a modest ring this year and use the extra cash to build a joint savings account that puts you on-track toward the shared future you want. It might sound more practical than romantic, but a shared nest egg could help you kick-start the life of your dreams, which could be more important in the long run.

But if buying an expensive engagement ring is of utmost importance, there are ways to finance it if you don’t have the cash upfront. For some, making a low monthly payment is the most manageable way to go. Just make sure you can afford to make the monthly payments for the duration of your finance period.

The Most Popular Engagement Ring Types

Emeralds and sapphires may bear historical significance, but our study found that diamonds still reign supreme. Couples are overwhelmingly still opting diamonds with 86% of ring shoppers requesting this as their center stone. 

But alternative stones are still a popular choice for couples. 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). In total, about two-thirds of all engagement rings have a centre stone between a half-carat and one-and-a-half carats. In line with previous years’ data, 43% of all rings were round cut. About 58% of rings included a diamond centre stone with side accents, while 25% had a singular solitaire diamond. 

However, engagement rings aren’t just about the stones. The choice of metal matters to couples too. White gold is overwhelmingly the most popular metal setting among ring shoppers, with 48% of respondents choosing this material. Yellow gold was the second most popular option as 16% opted for the trendy metal, while rose gold rounded out the top three at 13%.

Engagement Ring Budgets

Engagement ring prices are clearly nothing to shrug off—so how should you even begin determining how much to spend on an engagement ring for your partner? The answer is both multi-faceted and highly subjective. “Setting a comfortable budget is an important first step,” says jeweller Katherine Kane. “From there, establish priorities (like size or quality) to help you find the perfect ring. Since this is a purchase you’ll look at every day for the rest of your life, it’s worth setting a budget for.”

One of the easiest ways to avoid spending too much on a ring is by setting a budget. Our study found that nearly 82% of ring shoppers set a budget for the purchase. A fair amount of to-be-weds (15% to be exact) consulted their significant other about the budget, but ultimately, the proposer decided on their own. Just 10% of all couples determined a budget together, according to our study.

Sticking to a budget was slightly challenging for some—67% of ring shoppers adhered to their number, while 20% went over their spending limit.

The Knot 2020 Jewelry and Engagement Study also found that nearly all those who proposed (91%) bought the ring independently. Just 2% of respondents said their parents contributed to the ring, while 3% said their partner paid or contributed. The same per cent bought the ring with their fiance with their joint bank account or by splitting the cost.

In addition to the engagement ring’s price, it’s also important to consider the cost of insurance. Our study found that 68% of buyers also purchased ring insurance. We’ll always recommend couples insure their rings, as it’s such a high-cost and high-value purchase.

What do I need to keep in mind when buying an engagement ring?

Pay attention – regardless of actual income – to your personal “price limit” and choose an engagement ring that is priced much higher. We often connect with men that send in their partner’s engagement ring as their lady wants a bigger diamond.

Regardless of the cost of an engagement ring, you should pay attention to the following things:

  • For a proposal engagement, precious white metals are particularly suitable, like silver, white gold or platinum. We recommend traditional white gold rings or engagement rings made of platinum, which is harder, heavier and more durable.
  • The diamond quality plays an important role as a rule of thumb: The higher the quality, the more the ring sparkles.
  • Of course, an engagement ring should meet your partner’s taste, so knowledge about your future fiancé’s personal style is important to make the right decision. Are you uncertain about her style? Just ask your partner’s best friend for more information.
  • The day of the proposal is here, everything is perfectly planned, the location booked. What is missing? The ring… To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, start searching for the right ring at least two months before your planned date.

How to Measure Yourself

If you want to take matters into your own hands (er, fingers), you can use a few different at-home measurement methods with our printable size guide, which features both diameter and circumference for each ring size.

Paper Technique

Wrap a thin piece of paper around your ring finger, keeping it close to your knuckle where an engagement ring would realistically hit (you can also use string, but it’s less reliable since it’s super thin and more likely to move around). Don’t wrap too tight; make sure the makeshift ring fits comfortably. Use a pencil to mark the spot on the paper where the ends overlap. Measure the paper’s length against a ruler and compare the measurement to the circumferences on the size guide for your ring size.

Printable Ring Sizer Technique

Print and cut out the ring sizer at the bottom of the size guide. Ensure that the guide is printed to scale by measuring the above diameters against a ruler for accuracy. Cut the slot marked at the end of the sizer, wrap it around the base of your left ring finger, and slide the pointed end through the cut. Gently pull until it fits securely. Check the number displayed on the sizer for your ring size.

Ring Technique

Grab a ring you already own that fits the ring finger on your left hand and place it against a ruler. Measure the inner diameter of the ring and compare the measurement to the size guide. Or, print the guide to scale and place the ring directly on top of the ring images to find a matching diameter and ring size that lines up perfectly.

How to Get Professionally Measured

If you don’t trust your judgement, don’t worry. You can always turn to a professional jeweller for an accurate engagement ring measurement (some things are just better left to the pros). Borochov says to be wary of at-home measuring methods, anyway, as they aren’t always completely accurate. Most jewellers use sizing rings, a large keychain with a set of rings in each size that you can try on in-house to quickly determine the most reliable fit. The type of sizing rings vary by jeweller, though. Some jewellers will have a standard set, which tends to be thicker than the average women’s band size, and some jewellery shops will use sizing rings that more closely reflect their in-house designs and bandwidths. You can also buy your own inexpensive plastic ring sizer from Amazon for the same effect. Try to shop for rings from the same jeweller that sized you or see if they have engagement ring styles similar to what you envisioned. This will help ensure that the size effectively translates into your desired band. Keep the sizing rings’ width in mind, as well, since that could influence your band measurement.

How to Guess Your Partner’s Size

Even though more people now seem to involve their partners in the engagement ring selection, some still want to maintain the element of surprise before a proposal. But, if you don’t know your significant other’s ring size, don’t fret. “It’s great to have someone on the inside,” says Lenore. “Talk to their mom or friends if they know about the proposal.” If you don’t have any resources, she recommends bringing a photo of your significant other where their hands are visible to your jeweller. This visual of his or her hands can help them gauge a ring size range.

You can also try to base the measure on one of their current rings, but this isn’t always the most foolproof method. “Some customers think taking one of their girlfriend’s [or boyfriend’s] other rings will suffice, or even trace [his or] her ring on a piece of paper,” Borochov says. “But, most people don’t wear rings on their left ring finger until they get engaged, so the sizing will be off. Every finger is a little bit different.” If you’re completely clueless about your partner’s ring size, he advises turning to coworkers with similar frames and statures for a more accurate estimate.

No matter what, always try to go a few sizes up so the ring can at least fit on your partner’s finger for the proposal; it kills the mood if it’s too small to slip on. You can still surprise them and simply bring it back to the jeweller later for resizing.

Getting Your Ring Resized

Jewellers can typically alter engagement rings up to two sizes up or down, but any more than that could compromise the ring’s integrity and might require the jewellery shop to make a new custom band. Also, be wary of getting an eternity band with diamonds around the entire band, if you don’t know a precise ring size. According to Lanore, eternity bands can only be resized about a quarter size up or down if there’s enough excess metal in the ring because of the diamond placement for this style. Otherwise, they have to be completely remade.

It’s normal to get a ring resized about two or three times, but any more than that can take a toll. “Resizing up or down more than one full size is like an earthquake for the ring,” says Lenore. “Frequent resizes of any kind aren’t good for the metal.” Many people mistakenly believe that it’s easier to resize rings smaller instead of making them larger. But, rest assured, Borochov says both processes are equally doable, as long as you use a skilled, experienced jeweller.

 

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