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The Right Ring for Your Budget

There are engagement ring options to fit any budget. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s right for you and your bride-to-be.

“Spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring.” You’ve heard it, everyone has — and sometimes you’ll even hear it bumped up to three months. Some people think it’s an etiquette rule, and some may even believe it’s a law or something.

It’s not. It was a guideline developed on the heels of World War II by diamond giant De Beers’ advertising agency. It’s marketing — really impressive marketing. But it’s not a hard and fast rule.

You can get an absolutely stunning ring, one that will have lasting emotional and financial value, by making some easy trade-offs.

You need to look at your own budget — how much you can or want to spend — how important the engagement ring is to you and your bride-to-be. Diamond ads through the years also taught us that a diamond is forever, and that’s true. This engagement ring represents your love and your commitment to building a life together.

A little history lesson

That salary guideline, born in the late 1940s, doesn’t take into account how much life has changed for the couples it appeals to. Pretty much everything that was true then isn’t now. Think about it: people got married earlier in life and went right from living with their parents to living with their new spouses. Women looked at marriage as a time to stop working (if they were working before that). Men had the careers and were the breadwinners.

Now, the average age at marriage is higher. More people live on their own before they get married. Many couples live together before they decide to get married, and may already be splitting household expenses. So don’t feel like you have to follow somebody else’s idea of what you should spend. Unless you want to.

Setting a budget

It’s wise to set a budget before you head into a jewelry store. To avoid surprises, you can get an idea of what engagement rings cost by doing a little research on the Internet first. What might surprise you is how pictures on a website don’t do a diamond engagement ring — or color gemstone engagement ring — justice. The shimmer and spark as light hits the stone, the heft, the absolute tangible reality of holding a beautiful piece of fine jewelry might distract you. Stay strong, and keep your head about you.

In setting your budget, take into account what you and your future wife value. If you know she wants a big ring more than anything, do everything you can to make it happen. If you know you’d both rather afford to serve fine wine at your wedding reception, take off on an exotic honeymoon or move up to a larger home or apartment, then scale back. A bit.

Remember, the engagement ring is the first step toward your wedding and then your shared life together afterward. Talk about your priorities now.

The splurge

If you’ve got the means to go big without concern, congratulations. Your job is easier — you’ll be able to buy a diamond as big as you and your fiancée would like. You can choose whatever style you want without worry, at least about cost. Go shopping and have fun.

The save

You can get an absolutely stunning ring, one that will have lasting emotional and financial value, by making some easy trade-offs — in diamond size, color, the style of the ring and the type of metal it’s made of. With the right mix, you’ll blow her mind. Here are a few tips.

Round or square diamond with halo

The halo effect

When the smaller diamonds circle around a larger diamond or colored gem (we’ll get to that soon), it’s called a halo. It’s a way to get big, beautiful sparkle around a smaller diamond. It can also lend a vintage feel to the ring.

Vintage ring

All in the family  

Check around — there might be a family heirloom on your side or hers. You might have a diamond that you can put into a new, more updated setting. Or you might have a beautiful antique ring with a poorly cut diamond. Either way, you can spend a little bit less than buying a brand-new ring, making it special and hers alone while linking you both back to the past and connecting to your future together.

Colored Gem Engagement Ring

Color splash

Natural color diamonds are expensive and a favorite of celebrities and the uber-rich. But you can get that same look with a color gemstone or enhanced color diamond — a diamond treated in a lab to bring out its beautiful color. It’s a choice that some women make just because it’s out of the ordinary and makes a statement. And if it’s good enough for royalty — a certain princess’s sapphire and diamond sparkler, for example — it might just be good enough for your fiancée.

Simple prong set diamond ring

Simply stunning

A prong setting elevates the diamond above the ring — it’s a classic engagement ring look and the simplicity of the ring itself puts all the attention on the diamond.

Metal matters

Gold comes in a variety of colors and in several alloys — which is the karatage. Pure gold, or 24 karat, is considered too soft for use in jewelry so is alloyed with other metals to make it more durable. As the percentage of gold goes down, generally the price follows. You’ll see 18K, which is ¾ pure gold and will generally be the most expensive. The most common mark you’ll find in jewelry is 14K, and 10K is also gaining ground. Because of the alloys, gold comes in a variety of colors, though yellow and white are the most used in bridal jewelry.

No doubt, the rush of getting an engagement ring, proposing and planning a wedding can make anyone a little lightheaded. You’re in love with a woman you want to marry. The engagement ring you (or you both) choose says everything — you love her and want to spend your life together and build a future. Part of that future may mean being responsible in your spending now, but that doesn’t mean it has to look that way.


Ready to shop? Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry have a great selection of engagement rings.

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