Saving money on an engagement ring? Don’t get this wrong – the idea isn’t to come off as cheap or stingy but to make a sound judgment call when purchasing the ring itself.
Okay, the temptation to extend the limit of your budget to the max is great, if there’s no reason to do so. You can get excellent bling for the price that won’t burn a hole in your pocket as long as you know how and where to make the purchase.
This write-up offers tips on saving money without making compromises you might regret. And, there’s extra advice on what not to do. So, let’s dive right in.
- Plan Well Ahead
- Get a Crash Course in Gemology
- Find the Best Time of Year to Purchase
- Get a Diamond Certification
- Choose the Cheapest Diamond Color
- Diamond Clarity Tips
- Choose the Correct Carat Size
- Yellow Gold, White Gold, Platinum?
- Heirloom Engagement Rings – Yes or No?
- Find the Best Jewelers or Store
- Buy Online instead of a Jewelry Store
- Take Advantage of Technology
- Set Your Budget Limits
- Look for Discounts and Special Deals (Promocodes)
- Ignore the Two Month’s Salary Rule
- Create a Checklist
- Buy a Loose Stone
- Bonus Saving Tips
1. Plan Well Ahead
The time frame isn’t set in stone. You can give yourself three to six months’ head start before you pop the question. The search for the perfect ring takes time and you need to do some detective work along the way.
Meaning, you should figure out what kind of ring would be ideal for your future bride. This includes checking the jewelry she already owns and gauging the style, setting, type of stones and metal, etc. It might be a bit overwhelming, so feel free to take snaps of the rings she likes and use them as a reference.
You’re still not saving any money, rather time, because the detective work allows you to narrow down the search.
This might sound like stating the obvious. However, many a soon-to-be groom got caught in the spur of the moment and rushed off to the nearest jewelry store.
Admittedly, there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t buy the ring right away. Check out the offer and the prices to determine what you can afford. And while you’re at it, ask if the shop offers some financing programs.
This allows you to get a ballpark price range you’re comfortable with. And you get a better idea of the financing options like, for example, a layaway program. The program shouldn’t be equated to saving money, but to give you an idea of what to ask for if you absolutely need to extend the budget.
2. Get a Crash Course in Gemology
Assuming you’re not a gem expert or jeweler, you should learn more about engagement rings. Look for information about the gemstone carat, cut, clarity, and other features that affect the price. All the while, compare the rings your significant other owns with the ones you find.
Again, you’re narrowing down the search and getting a better understanding of where to cut corners. For example, your loved one might be enamored by the Mazarin cut. Therefore, it’s something that shouldn’t be compromised. But you can go for less clarity or pick white gold instead of platinum.
What’s more, different gemstones have different prices per carat. This gives you more room to choose a ring that offers the optimal balance of price, carat, cut, and clarity, even if it’s not a diamond. However, if your future bride doesn’t seem to like amethyst, don’t get it just because it’s affordable.
3. Find the Best Time of Year to Purchase
The timing here refers to the moment you decide to purchase the ring. As a rule, you should avoid making the purchase during the holiday season or around big dates like Valentine’s Day.
Retailers expect a demand spike at that time and try to take advantage of the shopping spree. In other words, prices are often much higher and there are fewer discounts and special offers.
Summer months are slower and there’s nothing wrong with buying the ring at that time. Keep in mind that even if you purchase your ring during the summer you can still wait until later to actually propose.
4. Get a Diamond Certification
Without a doubt, the ring needs to come with a third-party lab certificate. To stress, you shouldn’t get a diamond ring without proper certification, no matter how inexpensive or blingy it might be.
The certificates you’re looking for should come from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society Laboratories (AGS), Universal Gemological Laboratories (UGL), or Gemological Science International (GSI). When certified, engagement rings fetch higher prices, but there’s a catch.
Certification criteria are standardized, if certain aspects such as color may be subjective. GIA is usually very strict and may label a diamond’s clarity as J or I, making it much less expensive. Whereas, the same ring could be labeled H (nearly colorless) with GSI or AGS and come with a much higher price tag.
5. Choose the Cheapest Diamond Color
Since color is such an important aspect in relation to the price, it pays to dedicate a section to it. According to GIA, D is the standard label for the colorless diamond and these are the most expensive. H diamonds trail behind and may reach high prices as well.
On the other side of the spectrum, N and Z diamonds have a visible yellow tint which puts them among the most affordable. But are they less appealing? The answer lies in the eyes of the beholder as N and Z diamonds pair well with yellow gold and other naturally colored gemstones.
6. Diamond Clarity Tips
The greater the clarity the fewer inclusions or tiny imperfections there are. As you may guess, this significantly affects the value and flawless (FL) diamonds that may reach astronomical prices.
Since you’re looking for ways to save money, clarity is a good place to make certain compromises. Again, GIA devised a clarity scale that works great as a reference. Without going into too much detail, the clarity labels that should fit most budgets include VS2 to SI2.
These are very slightly or slightly included diamonds, which usually means imperfections are visible if you peer into the diamond itself. However, this isn’t something that will ruin the overall impression and deter your loved one from saying yes. Plus, you get more leeway in the budget.
7. Choose the Correct Carat Size
To answer the question right away, no, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Bigger in the gemstone world relates to the diamond’s carat, which is the weight of the diamond.
This being the most apparent feature, you should approach it with caution. Opting for more carats means you’ll need to make a few compromises in all other aspects. This is okay if your future bride likes solitaries – rings with just one stone.
But you can get away with a smaller center stone if she’s into halo rings, for example.
Another trick is to look for odd or non-standard carat sizes that fall in between the carat categories jewelers aim to get. These are usually less expensive, yet visually fit the bill and there’s more room to get better clarity or color.
Alternatively, you can find a poorly shaped diamond that has fewer carats but has a larger spread. The diamond will appear much larger but won’t be as heavy in weight.
8. Yellow Gold, White Gold, Platinum?
Saving money on the metal might seem insignificant, but it all adds up in the end. Yellow and white gold are affordable and similarly priced, so choosing one or the other is a matter of personal preference.
Platinum is among the most expensive options, not to mention palladium and rhodium. Yes, these precious metals are rare and have amazing characteristics, but does it really affect the bigger picture?
Not too much.
Keep in mind, however, that spending the extra dollars to get platinum may be worthwhile, and not the place to cut corners. Platinum is hypoallergenic, and so if your skin is likely to react to the alloys in gold, platinum would be an obvious choice.
9. Heirloom Engagement Rings – Yes or No?
Presenting your loved one with an heirloom engagement ring is by far the least expensive option. Nevertheless, it’s not immune to challenges. First of all, you need to be 100% certain that she likes vintage rings.
Otherwise, you need to factor in the resetting and other customizations that may reach the price of a new ring. Either way, an heirloom ring needs to be professionally cleaned, appraised, and insured. This isn’t that expensive, but heirloom rings are more about the sentimental value.
Your future wife should become a part of the sentiment and appreciate the history that comes with the ring. Therefore, you should carefully gauge her feelings to determine if she’d be into it or not.
10. Find the Best Jewelers or Store
To get the most bling for your buck, you need to select a jeweler according to certain criteria. The company needs to provide insurance and special delivery for the ring. Of course, most pieces should feature a certificate and it’s best if the jeweler offers a no-questions-asked return policy.
In addition, it’s advisable to steer clear of brand-name jewelers like Cartier or Bvlgari. You’ll be paying for the history and assumed value that comes with the name.
When you find a jeweler you like, don’t hesitate to get in touch and ask for everything you want. You never know, you might be offered a discount or further instruction on how to wisely save money.
11. Buy Online instead of a Jewelry Store
Some may question the safety of buying a diamond ring online, but there are a lot of reputable jewelers that meet or exceed desirable criteria. With the added benefit that the rings tend to be much less expensive than in brick-and-mortar jewelry stores.
Think of it like this, physical store owners have high overheads. They need to take care of the staff, displays, rent, utility bills, and it all adds to the price of the ring. On the other hand, these expenses are much lower or non-existent with online jewelry stores, therefore they can afford to offer better prices.
It might take some time and investigation to find the right site, but the search pays off in the end. You should be able to get a better diamond or setting and still stay below your budget.
12. Take Advantage of Technology
When shopping online, it’s not hard to get lost amongst all the different options, tabs, and alluring gemstones. To avoid this, you need some sort of strategy and free tech that helps you sort all the options.
The strategy is obvious, you zero in on the shops that are reputable, affordable, and provide additional services (shipping, insurance, certificates, etc.). The idea is to narrow it down to two or three vendors and stick with them.
As for the tech, Estate Diamond Jewelry’s Wishlist Extension is among the best examples of helpful tech. The extension allows you to quickly add the rings that fit your budget to the wish list, then compare and contrast them to find the best bargain.
13. Set Your Budget Limits
At this point, you should have a clear understanding of the ring style, type, and the store or stores that have the best offers. Plus, you know when would be the right time to make a purchase. So you can go ahead and determine the budget.
Setting the budget according to the rings you like is the mistake you might want to avoid. Consider what is the highest price you’re okay with, then figure out the price you shouldn’t go below.
This provides a ballpark range and opportunities to save without feeling like you’re lowballing the entire thing. And the added benefit is that it allows you to get rid of all the rings that don’t fit the range.
Click here to learn more about our budget calculator.
14. Look for Discounts and Special Deals
These vary from one jeweler or vendor to another and might be time-based. The trick is to understand why a ring is discounted or offered as a special deal. Maybe it’s a style that’s hard to sell or the piece features some blemishes you should be aware of.
With this in mind, Estate Diamond Jewelry’s promotions are a great example of the discounts and special offers you should look for. The company may shave off 10% of the price on special days and the offer rings with a negotiable price. Our store, for example, has a running 5% promotion that applies throughout the year (PROMOCODE: 5OFF).
Okay, 5% might not sound like much, but you should do quick math to determine how much you’re saving. Say, your eyes are set on a $5,000 ring. With 5% off you save a significant chunk of change. Not to mention the savings if your budget allows for a $10K or $15K ring.
15. Ignore the Two Month’s Salary Rule
It’s long been understood that the future groom needs to get a ring that’s worth two month’s salary. But this unwritten rule is antiquated and you should be smarter than that anyway. That being said, the budget is determined based on your income and you should approach the ring as a long-term investment.
To reiterate, the price should represent an optimal balance of style, bling, and the X factor. The percentages that people talk about should all be taken with a pinch of salt. There are just too many variables and again, it’s not like the rule is set in stone.
Recently we developed a budget calculator that should help you determine how much to spend on your engagement ring. Give it a shot.
16. Create a Checklist
The checklist should outline all the features of the perfect ring and the features you’re ready to compromise. For example, the non-negotiable ring characteristics may be 1-carat diamond, round cut, and white gold. All other aspects are where you can make some savings.
Aside from narrowing down the search, the checklist allows you to gain an upper hand when contacting the jeweler. You can ask for a diamond of more affordable clarity or color. Or you might even opt for a 0.75-carat diamond if all other aspects exceed your expectations.
As said, saving money is about making educated choices with the fewest sacrifices. Moreover, the list is there to point you in the right direction.
17. Buy a Loose Stone
If you’re in for a diamond, the most affordable option is to get a loose stone and have it custom set. But this is also among the trickiest methods because you need to know exactly what you’re looking for to avoid getting burned.
In addition, you’ll probably be paying a visit to a well-known diamond shopping district like the one in New York. On the upside, you should be able to negotiate the price to your advantage or even get a wholesale bargain.
Loose stones also need to come with a GIA or other certificate and there are a bunch of other things to consider. Estate Diamond Jewelry provides an excellent loose diamond guide that may prove invaluable for inexperienced shoppers.
Just keep in mind that some companies won’t provide a setting unless you buy the diamond from them as well. If you have your eyes set on a particular design, make sure you ask the company first if they will agree to sell the mounting without the diamond.
18. Bonus Saving Tips
All the popular diamond shapes fetch higher prices just because there’s more demand. If your loved one isn’t adamant about a particular cut, you can save around 10% with less popular shapes. The in-demand cuts are usually a passing fad anyway and choosing a different one doesn’t take away from the actual value of the ring.
The stone’s fluorescence, or lack thereof, is another major contributor to the price. This is the diamond’s ability to give off a bluish glow under ultraviolet light. The stones that have GIA rating of Strong or Medium could be heavily discounted on account of this.
What’s more, strong fluorescence could be a desirable feature with K-color or I-color diamonds because it offsets the yellowish tint.
Engagement Ring Costs to Avoid
So far, this write-up has covered the dos of smart engagement ring purchases. Now’s the time to take a look at some of the don’ts.
The technology allows manufacturers to congest millennia of heat, pressure, and tectonic movement into a chemical reaction. And voila, you get a man-made diamond. But the truth is, these will never be the same as the real deal and their price isn’t that affordable.
If you can’t buy a real natural diamond, it’s better to opt for more affordable gemstones than buy the man-made alternative. Remember, part of the diamond’s value comes from the fact that it’s rare, hard to obtain, and unique. In a way, man-made diamonds conflict with these properties.
Buying from the Street
The tip is simple – if it seems like a hustle it probably is. And this doesn’t only apply to the rings you can get from a friend of a friend. Any independent jeweler, or the person who claims to be one, should be approached with caution.
You’ll need to get the ring appraised and checked out, even if it comes with a certificate. Being a lucrative business, the diamond/jewelry market is a ripe playground for all kinds of swindlers.
This doesn’t mean you’ll get a piece of glass that pretends to be a gemstone. But the certificates can be faked or manipulated in terms of carat, clarity, or color.
The article has already touched upon impulse diamond shopping, but it won’t hurt to revisit some of the tips. Diamonds are shiny alluring and it’s easy to fall for the deal of the century because it offers a great bargain.
But reputable dealers are rarely willing to go above 20% off for the rings that are worth anybody’s attention. And even if you find a super-affordable ring that catches your eye, compare it to all other ones that you like.
Chances are, it’ll turn out to be smaller, yellowish, and within a setting, even your grandma wouldn’t like.
Wise Bling Shopping – Final Chapter
When all’s said and done, the more you know about engagement rings in general, the more money you’ll be able to save. To that end, you’re now armed with all the money-saving details regarding color, fluorescence, proper timing, reputable dealers, etc.
It’s also okay to extend your budget a little and to miss out on saving some money. Proposing to your loved one means you need to make certain sacrifices, financial and otherwise. But don’t get in debt because that’s something you don’t want to bring into your marriage.