Engagement Ring Shopping Choosing Engagement Ring Designs Within Your Budget

Engagement ring shopping might just be the most important shopping trip of your life. It can also be the most intimidating, as you contend with all the different engagement ring design possibilities and the significant engagement ring cost. A little planning can simplify the process and make engagement ring shopping an enjoyable experience, rather than a stressful one.

Establish Your Budget Before Shopping

One of the easiest ways to reduce the stress of engagement ring shopping is to know, ahead of time, what you can afford. A persistent salesperson can easily coerce an unprepared shopper into paying an engagement ring cost that is out of his budget range. Know your budget before you start shopping, and tell the salesperson you’d like to stay within your budget range. Be upfront about what you can afford, and limit yourself to browsing for engagement rings within that price range.

Know the Average Engagement Ring Cost

Being aware of the average engagement ring cost can also take a lot of the mystery out of engagement ring shopping. The engagement ring cost spectrum is wide, ranging from $125 on the lower end to well over $5,500 on the higher end. The cost largely depends on whether the engagement ring is a diamond ring and, if so, the quality of the diamond. The band’s metal and thickness are two other factors that affect the ring’s cost.

So, what will your hard-earned money get you? If you’re in the market for a diamond ring, the following price ranges will give you an idea of what you can get:

  • $125-$500: A quarter-carat (or smaller) solitaire diamond with a 14-karat gold band. You can also purchase gemstone rings in this range.
  • $1,000-$2,000: A mid- to high-quality diamond up to three-quarter carat, with either an 18-karat fancier band or a simple platinum band.
  • $3,500-$5,500: A high-quality one-carat diamond with an 18-carat gold or platinum band.

Extra costs may factor into your engagement ring shopping, like insuring the ring or requesting a custom-made engagement ring design.

Choose Your Engagement Ring Design

The engagement ring design possibilities are endless, and your particular choice is completely up to your, or your partner’s, style preferences. The easiest way to decide on an engagement ring design is to ask your partner what she likes, although this may not be an acceptable option if you plan to surprise her when you pop the question.

If you’re on your own for choosing an engagement ring design, ask yourself:

  • Does my partner like larger, flashier pieces or more reserved pieces?
  • Does she prefer diamonds or other stones?
  • Does she prefer silver, gold or platinum?
  • What kind of jewelry does she usually wear?

Typically, “traditional” diamond rings with a solitaire stone and gold band are the most common type of engagement ring design. However, an array of other gemstones, band metals, colors and ring designs are available as well.

Shop for a Diamond Ring

If you decide on a diamond engagement ring, know the quality of the diamond before you make a purchase. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) created the “four C’s” of choosing a diamond to grade a diamond’s quality. These are:

1.    Carat: Carats are the weight of diamonds and gemstones. Just a slight difference in carat weight can make a significant difference in diamond cost.

2.    Clarity: The amount of diamond clarity depends on the amount of internal birthmarks (inclusions) or external blemishes. The GIA Clarity Scale has 11 grades within the following categories:

  • Flawless (FL): No visible inclusions or blemishes
  • Internally Flawless (IF): No inclusions; blemishes only visible using 10X magnification
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2): Inclusions, but they are hard to see under 10X magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2): Minor inclusions under 10X magnification
  • Slightly Included (SI1, SI2): Noticeable inclusions under 10X magnification
  • Included (I1, I2, I3): Obvious inclusions under 10X magnification that may affect look of the diamond.

3.    Color: “Clear” diamonds are valued by how close they are to not having any color (absence of yellow or brown tints). This does not apply to “colored” diamonds like pink or black. The GIA’s color-grading scale, which is the industry standard, begins with “D,” meaning colorless, and ends with the letter “Z,” meaning near-colorless.

4.    Cut: A diamond’s cut determines its beauty more than anything else. The cut consists of three aspects: Brilliance (total light reflected), fire (how light is dispersed into the colors of the spectrum) and scintillation (flash or sparkle of the diamond when moved). Cut is also related to the diamond’s shape. The standard is round brilliant, but other fancy cuts are available, including:

  • Cushion
  • Emerald
  • Heart
  • Marquise
  • Oval
  • Pear
  • Triangle.

The GIA diamond cut grading system assigns a grade for a diamond’s cut as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor.

Environmentally-Friendly and Conflict-Free Engagement Rings

A common concern with diamond rings is buying a stone that is “conflict free,” meaning it did not come from a war zone in Africa. The Conflict-Free Diamond Council website provides names of brands and retailers based on best practices.

Some retailers also specifically sell rings made from recycled gold and recycled or lab-created gemstones.

Engagement Ring Cost: Shop for a Bargain

You may already have a particular engagement ring design in mind, and think you’re stuck with the listed price, but this is where negotiation comes in. Don’t be afraid to bargain with a jeweler; it’s not only accepted, in many cases, it’s expected! Alternatively, if you’ve decided on a diamond ring or another particular gemstone, check out pawnshops, auctions and other “used” jewelry stores where you can find a nice stone and have it reset. You may even find an antique ring that does not require a new setting.

If you’re set on the look of a diamond ring but can’t afford the diamond, cubic zirconia and mossanite are affordable look-alike alternatives.