There are many aspects to picking an affordable engagement ring. There’s the setting style, the stone, the quality of the stone, the stone shape, the bride’s ring size, metal type, and the budget.
- If you’re looking to stay under $200, under $500, or under $1,000, then choosing an online ring might be easier.
- If your budget is greater than $1,000, then you have the flexibility of choosing from either a local jeweler or directly from a website. Be sure to study our jewelry haggling tips below before you speak to a salesperson at your local chain jeweler!
Engagement Ring Settings Guide
Just like there are many styles of engagement rings, there are also many settings to learn about when choosing an engagement ring.
A solitaire setting has a single stone in the center of the band and is held in place with prongs (typically four or six). The four-prong setting allows more light to shine through, giving off more sparkle. The six-prong setting is popular because Tiffany & Co. first produced it, and is often called the Tiffany setting. The solitary stone is usually a princess cut or a round brilliant stone. This setting is a simple setting that can help keep the cost of the ring down. Furthermore, the solitaire setting is a traditional and classic engagement ring style – and also popular. In our recent survey, 35% of engagement rings were solitaire.
The bezel setting has metal that encloses all sides of the stone and the edges of the top of the stone. Due to the bezel, the stone is secured in the ring and has a lower profile. This means that the stone won’t snag on anything. This setting is great for softer stones since the bezel adds protection to the stone. Due to the added metal that is needed for a bezel, this setting can be a bit more expensive than a solitaire setting.
The Pavé setting has small diamonds that cover the band, sometimes including the underside of the band. Pavé settings sometimes have a center stone. The multiple small diamonds give this setting an impressive look and are usually not as expensive as settings that have larger stones. Having a center stone can increase the cost.
A halo setting has a large center stone surround by a ring of smaller stones-creating a halo effect. The center stone can be a different stone than the surrounding stones. Halo settings make the center stone look bigger, which means a less expensive stone will look more impressive.
Three stone settings are also called ‘past, present, and future’ rings, as it is believed that the three stones represent the past, present, and future of your relationship. This setting has three stones, usually set with prongs. The center stone and two side stones don’t need to be the same size, shape, or color. This setting can be budget-friendly, as you can have three smaller diamonds that total 1 carat, but are less expensive than one diamond that is 1 carat.
A side stone setting goes a little further than a three-stone setting and can have many smaller side stones along each side of the band that flank the larger, center stone. The side stones add glitz to the center stone, which means the center stone doesn’t have to do all the impressing. This fact, combined with the fact that side stones are smaller and can be different stones or colors, can help keep costs down.
A ring in a cluster style contains several smaller diamonds that are set (clustered) together closely to mimic a larger diamond. Sometimes, there is a larger center stone that is surrounded by several smaller stones in the same shape (A Halo ring is a type of cluster ring.) The cluster of stones often forms a geometric pattern like a starburst or flower.
A channel setting means there has been a channel in the band of the ring, and there are several small stones set in the channel. The channeling adds glitz and glamor to any ring and is particularly nice combined with a solitaire setting.
Vintage & Antique
Vintage and antique rings come in many styles. They are usually one of a kind due to their age, but their styles have been replicated because of their popularity. Truly antique rings have stones such as emeralds, sapphires, and rubies as diamonds weren’t commonly used until the 1900s. Some vintage styles of rings include Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco.
Engagement Ring Stones
Choosing the stone for the engagement ring can be a difficult task. There are many characteristics of the stone to consider, including the type of stone, shape, and the 4 C’s.
The Type of Stone
A typical stone for an engagement ring is a diamond. However, many stones can be used in place of a diamond to make the ring more unique and to help keep the cost of the ring down. Some stones that are used are:
- Sapphires- these are a form of the stone corundum. Corundum comes in a variety of colors, including blue, yellow, pink, purple, green, and red. All colors except red are sapphires. Sapphires are more common than rubies, making them a less expensive option. However, certain colors are less common and are more expensive than blue sapphires.
- Rubies – this is a form of the stone corundum that is red. Since rubies are less common than sapphires, they are more expensive.
- Emeralds- Emeralds come from the stone beryl. Emerald is much softer than rubies and sapphires, making them more susceptible to chips and breaking.
The Stone’s Shape
Engagement ring stones come in the following shapes:
- Round Brilliant
When choosing the shape of the stone, it is best to go with whatever shape the bride likes. However, some shapes look better in certain settings.
The 4 C’s
The 4 C’s of buying a diamond include Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight. Which of the 4 C’s is most important is up to the buyer.
The cut is the most important factor in the amount of light that is reflected and refracted, giving the amount of sparkle. A better cut diamond will be more sparkly than a stone that has a poorer cut. If a diamond is cut incorrectly, it compromises its sparkles and will lose its brilliance.
Color refers to how white or colorless a diamond is. The closer a diamond is to white, the more light can pass through, making it sparkle more brilliantly — the closer to white, the better the color, which makes it a better stone.
Clarity refers to the flaws of the diamond. Typically these are seen only through a jeweler’s loupe (a special magnifying glass). Inclusions are imperfections that naturally occurred while the diamond was formed. These show as cloudy areas, white pinpoints, or feather-like shapes in the diamond.
Carat is the carat weight (or size) of the diamond. One carat is equal to 0.2 grams. Carat is a big factor that affects the price of an engagement ring. More carats equals a higher price. According to our survey, 48% of engagement rings were 0.5-1.0 carats in weight.
The budget is one of the biggest factors in picking an engagement ring. While the biggest “rule” in buying an engagement ring has been said that it should cost two months’ salary, that rule has been found to have been a marketing technique by De Beers (a mining company that controlled most of the world’s diamonds at one point) in the 1980s. Our recent survey found that 38% of their rings cost less than $500 and that only 8% of the rings cost more than $5,000.
Getting A Good Price
The ring buyer needs to have a budget that is comfortable for them. There are many ways to keep costs down when buying a ring. Some items that can keep costs down are:
- Choosing a smaller diamond (a 0.75-carat diamond can cut costs by up to 40%)
- Lower quality diamond (the stone should still be clean to the eye, but a stone with some inclusions in it that aren’t seen can lower the price by 30%-50%!)
- Choosing the shape of your stone (some shapes can make the same weight of a diamond cost up to 40% less!)
- Choice of setting (some settings cost more due to the intricate work involved, or the amount of metal needed)
- Choosing a less expensive metal (14K gold is less expensive than 18K, and gold, in general, is less expensive than platinum)
- Choosing a stone other than a diamond
Comparing retailers on prices of styles and sizes of engagement rings is helpful in your search. Online retailers are a great way to do this research. Keeping a log of quotes can be helpful in this. Another tool that is useful in getting the best price is haggling.
Engagement rings are high-price items, and jewelers need to keep their stock of them moving. This means that their prices are flexible and that the salespeople are often up for negotiation. The retailer would rather sell at a discount than have a ring sitting on the display.
Jewelers are used to being asked for discounts. This is not something to be nervous or embarrassed about. The worst thing that can happen is that the salesperson says no.
10 tips when jewelry haggling are:
- Have realistic expectations in the price reduction. While the markup for engagement rings is large, a price reduction of over 40% is unrealistic.
- Be well informed about all aspects of an engagement ring will help when haggling for a better price.
- Have a budget in mind as the “maximum” price you’d be willing to pay.
- Know what is wanted with respect to the 4 C’s.
- Avoid shopping during busy times.
- Make sure to speak to someone with authority to negotiate.
- Make sure not to demand a discount. Warm up the salesperson before initiating the negotiations.
- Go for a bold discount at first, and be the first to open negotiations.
- Treat ‘no’ as a ‘not yet.’ Continue with the conversation, looking at other rings that are within your budget. Ask for any extras that might be able to be included, such as free polishing or free resizing.
- Bring printouts or use a smartphone for proof to show the salesperson of a good price that has been found in research.
Reasons a jeweler is less likely to haggle are:
- Knowing that a ring is decided on gives the salesperson leverage to quote their highest price and stick to it.
- Knowing that there is desperation (like the proposal date is soon) will also give them an advantage.
- Knowing that the buyer is wealthy.
- Knowing that the buyer is not knowledgeable of the rings they are looking at.
During the haggling process, make sure to watch out for ‘today only’ specials, multiple sellers working together, or a salesperson who says they need to speak to the manager. A common sales tactic is to “pass off” buyers to other sales people as a way to still make sales.
When it comes to closing the deal, salespeople use a technique of staying silent to get a higher price. Be strong and stay silent to get the salesperson to continue talking and perhaps offer a lower offer. Most importantly, remember that walking away is always an option.
Purchasing insurance for an engagement ring is a great idea in case it gets lost or stolen. There are a few options for insurance.
- The first option is the warranty. It is technically not insurance, but the rings jeweler should offer a warranty for defects on their products and work. Make sure to understand what is covered.
- The second option is homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. There is usually an allowance for jewelry that is subject to some caps. The first cap is the percentage of the policy that can cover jewelry, and the second is a limit of value for any individual item.
- Individual insurance is the third option. Polices can vary vastly between companies, so research and reading the fine print is crucial.