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October 9th, 2019 | by Claudia de Simone

How Much Should An Engagement Ring Cost? (Hint: The Old Rule Is Outdated)

How much should an engagement ring cost? Yep, there’s a saying about that. You’ve probably heard your father or grandfather reciting/complaining about that bit of old family lore. But does the long-held guideline actually hold anymore? Read on — when you find out where it came from, you might wonder why it’s lasted as long as it has.

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How much should an engagement ring cost?

The two-to-three-month-salary rule

This is the old-school rule your father or grandfather likely told/warned you about: Essentially, that you should be prepared to spend two or three months’ salary on an engagement ring. For example, if you take home $4,000 a month, you should spend $8,000 to $12,000 a month on an engagement ring; if you take home $10,000 a month, you should feel obligated to spend $20,000 to $30,000.

The problem with that

For starters: Back in your grandfather’s day, you could work a part-time job and still afford to pay rent on a one-bedroom New York City apartment; college tuition cost 75 percent to 90 percent less than it does now at the best universities; health-care costs were a fraction of what they are now; and the biggest “experiences” you planned for as a couple were the reception and kids.

In other words, the men who adopted and popularized the two-month-salary rule had fewer expenses and different priorities.

And did you know who started the whole thing? The advertising agency of the company who sold the most diamonds in the 1930s. To reboot its business during the Great Depression, the British diamond company De Beers popularized a one-month rule in an ad campaign. It was highly effective: Before the 1930s, only 10 percent of engagement rings contained diamonds; by the end of the century, 80 percent did, and the one-month rule had grown to two or three. It was “one of the most successful bits of marketing ever undertaken,” T.C. Melewar, professor of marketing and strategy at Middlesex University, told the BBC.

Breaking up with tradition: engagement ring cost & budgeting today

More and more couples are breaking with tradition. Your situation is unique, and your ring should reflect the life you’ve created together, not an arbitrary rule. (Read more about how to buy an engagement ring on a budget here.)

Maybe you have other goals for your life together — a new house, paying off student loans, or saving for kids at the same time. Maybe, like a growing number of new couples, you’ve seen the research on the effect of experiences vs. material things, and you’re spending a greater percentage of your budget on opportunities like travel or mutually enjoyable hobbies. With that said, engagement ring budgeting is so much more different now than two or three generations ago.

Shopping together for an engagement ring

Engagement-ring shopping has become a more mutual experience than ever before: More and more couples are shopping for the ring together, and even splitting the cost. “Being there every step of the way helped me understand the magnitude of what really goes into a proposal,” wrote Rachel Torgerson of Cosmopolitan about co-buying her engagement ring with her fiancé. “Saving up enough money to buy a ring, comparison shopping, deciding if size or quality has more value, signing that check — it’s a lot to think through. I got to go through that same process, with all the same gut checks, highs and lows. It was truly incredible to see it through in a gradual and very intentional way.”

Browsing engagement rings online together can be a bonding experience for a couple — and with With Clarity’s beautiful selection of hand-crafted, ethically sourced engagement rings, along with free shipping and returns, replica home preview and lifetime warranty, it can set the stage for a lifetime of smart decisions you make together.

Beauty on a budget: engagement ring tips

There are ways to maximize your ring even if you’re working on a tight budget.

First, shop online. A brick-and-mortar jewelry store can mark up the price of a diamond by 50 percent or more, to cover their overhead. Because With Clarity is an online jeweler founded with close relationships to diamond sources, we pass those savings on to you.

Second: Consider purchasing a preset diamond engagement ring. Preset diamond rings offer a more affordable option that also saves time. With a preset ring, you are saving the time and cost of a jeweler having to set the ring themselves.

Third: Check out our expert advice on making your diamond dollar stretch further. For example, you could follow in Lady Gaga’s and Meghan Markle’s recent footsteps and add a trendy sapphire to your engagement ring; go for a three-stone ring; and explore either or both options in a halo engagement ring style, which makes any diamond seem bigger.

Fourth: Explore the option of purchasing a lab grown diamond versus a natural diamond. Lab grown diamonds are chemically identical to naturally occurring diamonds, the only difference being that they were created in a lab. This allows consumers to have a more affordable diamond option. Read more about lab created diamonds in our article: Mined Diamond Alternatives.

Fifth: There has been a recent spike in popularity in the use of moissanite in engagement rings. This beautiful stone offers a great alternative for those looking for a more affordable option.

With Clarity’s expert gemologists can help you find the right ring for your life together. They’re exceptionally experienced at working with each couple’s priorities and budget — contact us now so they can help find the best ring for you.

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FAQ

How much should an engagement ring cost?

To summarize, an engagement ring should be within a budget that’s comfortable for you and your partner. Throw out the 3 months salary rule and choose a number that helps you to stay in line with your life and wedding planning goals. Think through the elements that are most important to you whether that’s a higher quality diamond or a custom ring design and work from there to determine a budget.

Who traditionally pays for the engagement ring?

In most scenarios, engagement rings are purchased by the partner gifting it. However, in a growing number of scenarios, the wearer is contributing not only their opinions but also contributing towards the budget of the engagement ring, so speak with your partner if you’re discussing finances and engagement ring shopping.

How much of your salary should an engagement ring cost be?

This one is totally up to you. It’s really determined by your savings and expenses. The average engagement ring cost in the USA is around $5,000. However, if you’re looking for something that’s less expensive, you can get a lab diamond or work with a less expensive metal like 10kt gold. Nevertheless, be sure to prioritize her likes and tastes when choosing an engagement ring.

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