An engagement ring is one of the most personal pieces of jewellery one will ever own. Beyond the sentiment, an engagement ring will also probably be one of the biggest pieces of investment jewellery you’ll acquire. While there is certainly a lot that goes into choosing the engagement ring that is right for you, we want to make one thing clear: You don’t have to spend more than your means to get a ring that looks elevated and, well, expensive.
However, there is a list of qualities that, no matter the price, carat size, or cut, will make a ring look cheap․ However, always remember that staying true to your style is always a good idea when choosing an wedding ring․
Choosing Mismatched Diamonds
If your diamond engagement ring is a style with a central diamond surrounded by a diamond halo or a setting with additional smaller diamonds, make sure the stones all match. The smaller diamonds should be of the same quality as the central stone; if the Colour or Clarity is lower than the whole ring will look cheap. It is better to stick to one slightly better stone than surround an average stone with lots of lower quality stones.
If you’re not sure about how to choose a high-quality diamond for your engagement ring – or for any other piece of jewellery – read our story about the 4Cs of Carat, Colour, Cut and Clarity.
Low colour grade
A low coloured diamond on your engagement ring looks unappealing to the eye, as any yellow tint will immediately stand out. If your engagement ring style has a central stone with other smaller ones surrounding it, like a cluster, halo or three-stone design, all of the diamonds should be of the same colour grade. A yellow tint on a white diamond is particularly undesirable.
The key is to pay close attention to the grading scale when choosing a diamond — those ranging from K to M tend to have a yellow tint, meaning you won’t get the bright gem you’ve always dreamed of. A white diamond is typically considered valuable, so a yellow tint will decrease its overall worth. Even if it means having to size down, choosing a white diamond will make your engagement ring look more expensive compared to a stone with a yellow tint.
Choosing Carat over Colour
Unless you have a millionaire’s budget, you should be looking for the best quality stone in your diamond engagement ring that you can afford, but that doesn’t mean getting the ‘biggest’ diamond. Choosing a low Colour diamond will make your engagement ring look cheap, no matter how big it is. Low Colour diamonds will have a yellowish tone to them, something that is sure to stand out.
If you want a larger stone but can’t afford an enormous diamond, try a Coloured Gemstone instead; there are some stunning gems to choose from that will look expensive and will make a major style statement.
Large or unbalanced prongs
A high setting on a diamond engagement ring is where the prongs push the stone upwards too much so that there is a large amount of space between the bottom of the diamond and the ring band. This is sometimes because mass-market jewellery uses a template set designed to make the diamonds look larger than they are. The high setting also means that you will be catching your diamond engagement ring on everything, and you could lose the stone.
The experts at Ashley Zhang jewellery claimed that “prongs that are too wide or heavy cane distract from a gorgeous centre diamond” and cheapen the overall effect.
When you have a diamond that is either a quarter of a carat or over five, Octavia recommended getting it set by an expert as large or unbalanced prongs can look like an “arts-and-crafts project”… i.e. NOT what you want in a ring that’s supposed to last a lifetime.
The experts swear by sharp, claw prongs to make the diamond look more delicate and pricey.
While you may be more concerned with the gemstone or the band itself, there are smaller details about your engagement ring that you should take into careful consideration, such as the prongs which keep the stone in place. If they are too large or unbalanced on either side of the gemstone — often the result of poor craftsmanship — it can distract from the diamond’s natural beauty. Arguably worse still, they make a ring look like a poor attempt at an art and crafts project and cause the stone to loosen over time, making it more likely to fall out.
Choosing a Bad Setting
You can use many different types of diamond settings for an engagement ring, from the traditional claw or prong setting to invisible settings or even tension settings. Even if your diamond or other gemstone is amazing, choosing a clunky, over-large or unbalanced setting will take away from the stone and make your engagement ring look cheap. It might also cause your stone to become loose, and there goes all your money as you wash that diamond down the sink!
For an affordable but stunning way to get more bang for your diamond bucks, try something like Puzzle Settings which used a larger number of smaller diamonds to create a piece of jewellery with lots of substance.
Diamonds set too high.
While you might want your diamond to sit high up on your finger to show off to your family and friends, emphasising it too greatly in this way will cheapen the way your ring looks. The wrong setting will lessen the beauty of its appearance, which can be determined by how much space there is under the pointy part of the diamond, known as the cutlet.
When a jeweller uses a mass-produced setting made to fit a variety of diamond sizes, instead of designing each ring individually, this tends to happen. It’s a sign of poor quality and care from the jeweller. It may also easily become loose or get caught on clothing. You’ll know if your diamond is set too high by checking how much space is below it — while some prefer a high setting, any sized gap can be off-putting to wearers and look cheap. If this is the case, consider having your ring reset to lower the stone.
Poor quality resizing
This one may come as a surprise, but maybe you’ve got your dream ring, and it is just slightly too big or too small. If you need your ring resized, take it or ship it to the jeweller you made the ring. It might be more expensive overall and take a few weeks, but you’ve come this far! The seam should be undetectable.
Many jewellers offer a resizing service, so when you get your engagement ring adjusted by a professional, don’t skimp on the resizing fee. A ring that’s the wrong size could fall off your finger if it’s too big or feels uncomfortable if too small. However, where you choose to get it resized is crucial. If you happen to choose a low-quality jeweller, you may find that you get the level of craftsmanship you pay for — for instance, you might spot a solder line or mismatched seam once you see it in the cold light of day. This won’t look pretty and can make your ring look cheap, even if it does look fine from the top-down.
What To Do If You Can’t Afford An Engagement Ring
If you’re ready to propose but don’t have the funds for an engagement ring, here are a few solutions.
Find an heirloom ring: Does your mom or grandma have a ring they’d love to pass down to you? Is there a family diamond sitting in a jewellery box collecting dust? Transform it into a sentimental engagement ring for your beloved. You can get a ring resized or order a custom setting for a diamond or gemstone. Your costs will be significantly less—maybe even zero—while the special meaning behind the ring will be at its highest.
Adjust your budget and/or expectations: The size of your ring doesn’t equal your love size. Consider reducing your budget to a cost that’s more manageable. Your partner might also have to adjust their expectations in order to make a proposal a feasible option for both of you.
Wait until you can afford one: While you may be excited to propose now, it could be best to wait. A wedding and marriage often come with additional costs—making it best to save up for a ring and other expenses. Start looking for a ring now so that when you do have the funds available, you’re able to pull the trigger as soon as possible.
Tips on Buying a Cheap Engagement Ring (without Compromising on Quality)
An engagement ring is one of life’s most special purchases. But that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. There are many affordable options for engagement rings—and ways to reduce the cost without sacrificing beauty.
No matter what you plan to spend on a ring, learn how to make the most of your budget.
Choose a Diamond… Wisely
If you must have a diamond for one reason or another, then use your knowledge of the 4Cs to help you find the ideal ring at a good price.
The most expensive diamonds:
- Have high clarity grades, VVS2 and above
- Have high colour grades, in the colourless range D-E-F
- Come in standard carat weights such as carat size 1, 1.5, 2 or 3
By playing with these combinations and going lower down on the grades, you can find a great diamond at a cool price. Compare these two diamonds below. The diamond on the left is a .90 carat, VVS2, K colour, excellent cut diamond while the one on the right is a 1 carat, Flawless, F colour excellent cut diamond. The visual difference between these two diamonds is very slight. You may not even be able to tell the difference between the two. However, the difference in price is over $4500!
If you prefer a minimalist style, you can find a small diamond between .30 to .50 carats. To make the most of a small diamond, check out our article on how to make a small diamond appear larger.
Opt for a Diamond Look-Alike and Save
Part of the reason that diamonds are so much in demand for engagement rings, apart from the fact that they are prestigious, is extremely durable. A diamond is not forever, but it is harder than all other gemstones. Unfortunately, demand makes diamonds one of the most expensive gemstones.
If you want a gemstone that looks like a diamond, is durable and yet affordable, there are several options available to you. Moissanite is an excellent alternative as it is extremely tough, brilliant, beautiful and much more affordable than diamonds. And to the naked eye, it is almost indistinguishable from a diamond.
An equivalent diamond would easily pass the $10,000 mark. Another great option is to go for a white sapphire which looks very similar to a white diamond. Sapphires are also excellent for daily wear and therefore a great alternative to a diamond.
Choose a Cluster Setting
The larger the diamond, the more expensive the stone. And vice-versa, the smaller your diamond, the lower the price. Using this information to our advantage, we can opt for a cluster setting that utilises tiny diamonds rather than one large centre stone.
This is a sure-fire way of reducing your cost drastically while still having a diamond engagement ring that looks stunning and large.
Choose a Lab-Created (Synthetic) Engagement Ring
Whenever our readers ask us, we always say that we only really recommend four gemstones for engagement rings: diamond, moissanite, sapphire and ruby. This is because these four varieties are all extremely hard and tough, with Mohs rankings 9 and over. As a result, they have the durability necessary for daily wear.
However, apart from moissanite, the other three can be pretty expensive and aren’t ideal if you are on a budget.
This is where synthetic versions of diamonds, sapphires and rubies come in.
Synthetic gemstones are not fake. Rather, they are the lab-created, scientific counterpart to the natural mined gemstone. These stones are identical in almost every way to the mined version with the main difference being that they were created in labs.
Some people prefer synthetic versions to mined gemstones for a number of reasons.
They are ethical and sustainable, causing no negative impacts on the environment. They are conflict-free and clean gemstones, with no ties to wars or dubious labour practices. They are a wonder of human achievement and science. And last but certainly not least, synthetic gemstones often cost a fraction of the price of mined gemstones while retaining all the properties of their mined counterparts.
Opt for Prior-Loved Engagement Rings
If it doesn’t bother you that your engagement ring is prior-owned, why not look for a second-hand ring online? There are many sites that list prior-loved engagement rings at reasonable prices. You’ll be sure to find a stunning ring under $1000. Just ensure that you do your due diligence as most of the sellers are private and you would need to verify the authenticity of the ring (metals, gemstones) you’re purchasing.
Purchase with a Look to Upgrading
Young couples often have many commitments, and shelling out thousands of dollars on a ring at the start of a relationship may not be the best financial decision to make. This is why many couples purchase a cheap cubic zirconia ring (or equivalent) to start with, with the aim of upgrading this to a diamond engagement ring down the track when their finances have been sorted.
This is a great idea because it is symbolic of your growth together to achieve your dreams. It also makes good financial sense and shows the ability to prioritise, be patient and work towards a common goal.
Amazon has a range of affordable cubic zirconia rings that look very similar to diamond rings. These are often durable enough and will last you a long time until you’re ready to upgrade.
Don’t Compromise on Quality.
An engagement ring is a jewellery piece that you will wear every day for the rest of your life. As such, it needs to be durable enough to go through life’s ups and downs with you. This is why it’s important not to compromise on quality.
When looking for quality, consider durability.
- Is the ring set made of a premium metal like gold or platinum?
- How well has the ring been crafted?
- Is the centre stone durable enough?
Asking questions like these will help you to zero in on the quality of the ring.
Another important point is to ensure that you receive a certificate of authenticity from your retailer, verifying the diamond or gemstone (if applicable). Always shop at a reputable retailer.
For diamonds and engagement rings, we recommend Temple and Grace. We have a range of rings to suit varying budgets, and with some research, you may be able to find a stunning ring at the price you are after.
If you want help finding the cheapest engagement ring for your budget, reach out to our experts. We’ll do a complimentary search to find a stunning ring that falls within your price range.