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How Much Should I Expect to Pay for an Engagement Ring?

From choosing the location to deciding who makes it onto the list for invitations, planning a wedding is a minefield of critical decisions. And one of the first decisions may have the longest-lasting effect — how much should you expect to pay for an engagement ring?

How much an engagement ring should cost truly depends on your budget, of course. There are options for engagement rings that range from $500 to $50,000 and beyond — and you can find something personal and beautiful in any cost range. However, many people who start shopping for engagement rings for the first time find that they’re surprised by the price tags on engagement rings.

Why do diamonds cost so much?

A diamond mine can cost upwards of $1 billion to develop and can take up to 10 years after discovery to become fully productive. Then, the cost of operating that mine can reach $100 million annually before salaries. And that’s only the beginning.

Miners have to process the rocks and ore holding the diamond crystals (about 100 tons of rock yield one carat of gem-quality diamonds); after that, they ship the loose diamonds to cutting centers. Then skilled diamond cutters shape and polish the diamonds before they make their way to a jewelry store. Costs accumulate each step along the way and contribute to the price tag you see in the showcase.

So it’s not unusual for a 1-carat, round well-cut diamond with the highest grades in cut, color and clarity to cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 or more. And it’s typical for higher-quality diamonds to cost at least a few thousand or several thousand dollars.

What should I expect to spend?

On average, according to jewelry industry estimates, diamond engagement ring prices range from $3,500 to $5,000. 

That includes the cost of the diamond and the setting, which can add a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to the cost depending on the metal type, the ring design and any side stones you choose to add.

You can never go wrong by focusing on diamond quality. If you plan to spend more, hone in on well-cut, good-color and good-clarity larger diamonds. If you are on a budget but want a beautiful diamond ring, there are certain diamond characteristics you can prioritize or “tricks” you can employ to save a bit on cost. A few of these include:

  • Choosing a diamond that is slightly under a landmark size — 0.95 carat instead of 1 carat, for example. The difference in size is slight, but the price can be as much as 20% less.
  • If you love a ring by a particular designer but the price is too high, ask your jeweler to show you similar styles that cost a bit less. Or ask if you can substitute a different diamond to reduce the cost.
  • Instead of platinum, consider white gold in 14K or 10K, which will cost less and be just as beautiful.

In the end, there’s no one “right” price to pay for a diamond engagement ring — or any bridal jewelry, for that matter. It depends on how much you’ve saved for the purchase, how much you’re willing to finance and how much importance you and your future fiancée place on each of the 4Cs and the ring itself as a symbol of your love.

Regardless, you’ll find many options for a ring that delights your fiancée-to-be and enables you to walk out of the jewelry store knowing you’ve made a good decision for both of you and your future together.

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