The engagement ring is arguably going to be one of the most important, beautiful, and intimidating purchases of anyone's life. There are so many questions ranging from how big should the diamond be, what shape, what colour, does it have to be a diamond, where should I buy it from, and how much should I spend?
Long story short, you can spend whatever amount of money that you would be comfortable with. There are reports that say the average amount being spent on a ring in the UK is around £1,865 but don't run away just yet - what you get for that amount of money can vary quite widely based on a number of factors. The most important being the 4 C's - Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat. By adjusting these factors and a few other aspects you could potentially get a really impressive ring, plus some impressive savings.
My Engagement Ring Story
A couple of months ago I decided that I was going to take the next step in my relationship... combine finances with my partner and work together towards financial independence!
Nah just kidding - while I'm sure this will eventually happen I'm quite fortunate to have found someone who is quite likeminded in terms of avoiding excessive lifestyle inflation and overspending on frivolous things - so money isn't something I feel I need to worry too much about.
What I actually did - and I'm sure you've already guessed - is purchase an engagement ring.
As I write this article the creation of said ring is still in progress - I actually went to see the ring mounting today and it's looking really beautiful - but by the time you get to read it I'll have gotten down on one knee and she will have said "yes".
Author's Note: If she doesn't say "yes" then I'm not publishing the article...
For me the concept of purchasing an engagement ring was quite intimidating - as I'm sure it would be for anyone who's unfamiliar with the process. There were so many questions in my mind:
"How much should I spend?"
"How much do other people spend?""
"Are all diamonds priced equally?"
"Is it possible to get discounts?"
"How will I know I'm not getting conned?"
And many more... it seemed that the more I searched through the internet the more questions I had.
There really was a lot of unclear information out there and you get mixed results when trying to determine what the "average spend" on a ring is. I'll be honest though - what I was really asking was:
"What could I get for £X, and what would adjusting that price mean?"
You don't want to compromise too much on the overall quality and final product just to save some money - it's quite an important ring after all - but being a financially sensible person you'll also be well aware that going overboard is probably all too easy, and possibly not completely worth it.
So in the end I worked with a designer who guided me through the process of selecting and buying a diamond off the market so that it could be used to craft a bespoke ring.
Since I'm now through most of the process and I know what I'll get for the amount I'm spending I figured that sharing some of my experience might be of help to others who are thinking of purchasing their own ring at some point.
I myself might have gone through a bespoke service because I wanted to design something myself - but the tips and experiences shared by me in this article can still be used by those of you who might go with a ring that's available from the high street.
Basically I'm going to try and write the article I wished I could find at the start of my own process, identifying the areas where it's possible to save some money without visibly or outwardly diminishing the final product and therefore keeping the wow-factor for when it's time to pop the question.
Author's Note: I will mention here that everything I write is purely based on my own experience, process, and preferences which could differ from your own. Use it as a reference, not a rule book!
The marketing myth
Naturally when I decided to search for an engagement ring I started with trying to figure out what a typical price range should be. And if you do the same you'll probably come across similar "rules" for how much one should "typically spend".
"You should be looking to spend around three months salary on the ring."
Would that be before tax or after tax...?
Luckily I didn't need to figure this out because it turns out that this X months rule was simply a marketing campaign started by De Beers back in the 1930s. In fact, before their advertising campaign the diamond engagement ring wasn't even a common thing!
It's easy for those of us who are unfamiliar with this whole process to get swept up by "outside influences" - in other words, other people's opinions - but in reality whether you spend less than £100, around £1,000, or more than £10,000 it really doesn't matter.
There are no hard and fast rules and the amount you should spend is entirely down to what you and your partner are comfortable with. Think about it - you don't want getting down on one knee to be synonymous with debt or financial concerns for your future married life.
Spend what makes you and your partner happy - don't spend what makes the marketing team happy.
Just because diamond engagement rings are more common these days it doesn't mean you have to follow suit. There are plenty of other rare gemstones out there that are beautiful and eye-catching in their own right, yet potentially cheaper in comparison to the diamond.
In fact, some people out there might actually prefer to have a certain gemstone instead of a diamond on their ring - that's one reason to put on your detective hat and try to glean some information from your partner if you needed one.
If you want a stone that looks like a diamond then you might opt to go for something like moissanite, cubic zirconia, white topaz or white sapphire.
You could even go for lab-created diamonds which are almost indistinguishable to non-experts yet much cheaper than a natural diamond.
If you're not trying to get something "diamond-like" then you can consider other rare gemstones such as rubies, sapphires, emeralds, morganite, aquamarine or - my personal favourite - tanzanite.
Of course these are just a few examples and there are numerous other options, but the key is that each of these gemstones have their own allure and lustre.
While there will be certain market factors at play - as supply and demand plays a big part on the pricing of gemstones just as it does with diamonds - your range of options are certainly not limited to any single type of stone.
Best start taking notice on particular patterns or colours that your partner is drawn to - it could give you a hint on which type of gemstone they actually prefer.
Did you know that the cut (the shape) of the diamond also affects the price?
This came as a bit of a surprise to me but after getting an explanation it makes sense.
The round brilliant cut - the shape that we all imagine when thinking of diamonds - is the most expensive due to the precision needed when cutting it from the original rough diamond. This results in more being discarded from the rough diamond but the cost of the material being discarded would still effectively be passed onto you.
Fancy cuts cover all other shapes that aren't the round brilliant cut - so that includes pear shaped diamonds, marquise, oval, radiant, emerald and many more. The cost of these cuts can be considerably lower than the round brilliant (for the same carat size) because it requires less precision when cutting these from the rough diamond.
With less of the rough diamond being discarded you're basically able to keep more of what you're paying for.
The biggest cost savings can come from emerald or asscher cuts - also members of the fancy cuts group - due to their simple design. This means that these two could potentially offer the biggest cost savings in terms of price per carat.
While the round brilliant cut is by far the most popular I believe that all of the different cuts are actually equally impressive and have their own merits.
So if you're looking to get the biggest bang for your buck you might want to consider one of the fancy shapes, where you can save yourself quite a large chunk of money without reducing the carat size or impressiveness of the ring.
When talking about the colour of a diamond you actually want there to be less colour - meaning the diamond itself has the brightest and cleanest sparkle when you're looking at it.
Diamonds are graded from D - the best grade representing colourless - to Z - the lowest grade where there can be a yellowish or brown tint.
I wasn't actually aware of diamonds having colours before but when I was shown the differences up close it was indeed noticeable, especially if the colour gradings were quite far apart. For example a diamond with a grade of D was far more impressive than a diamond with a grade of I or J.
However, for diamonds that were similar in grade, such as F and G, it was very difficult to tell the difference. Both looked equally as beautiful and were it not for the "controlled environment" I was in I don't think I would've known there was a difference.
Additionally I was advised that the colour of the ring band could play a factor on the final look. For example if I wanted to have a ring made out of yellow gold then a lower colour grade on the diamond wouldn't really be noticeable due to the background colour already being yellow.
Due to this I think there are clear opportunities to save on the cost depending on the overall final product you're going to be getting.
While it's tempting to go for something that's perfectly colourless (grade D or E), most people out there who don't have a trained eye - basically the majority - wouldn't even notice. You could easily get a diamond towards the middle of the scale, such as a grade G to J and still have a really impressive ring to show.
I will be honest thought - for myself since I was creating a ring out of white gold I ultimately decided to go with a slightly higher grade since my mind's eye amplified the colourless effect.
But between all the stones I could've chosen from, any of them - even the ones slightly lower in grade - would have worked just as well and would've saved me more than just a few pennies.
Since natural diamonds are formed under intense pressure over exceptionally long periods it's going to contain some marks within it, known as 'inclusions', or on its surface, known as 'blemishes'.
The amount, nature, and size of these inclusions and blemishes make up the clarity grade of a diamond, with the purest of diamonds getting the highest grades and therefore fetching the highest prices.
If you ever hear someone mention a "flawless diamond" they're likely talking about a diamond where the inclusions or blemishes are not visible to the experts even under 10x magnification.
The more marks it has the lower in grade it will become where eventually someone looking at the diamond under 10x magnification will be able to easily see the "flaws".
But here's the thing... nobody is walking around carrying specialised 10x magnifying glasses to check if your diamond has any markings. So if the marks are there but can't be seen by the naked eye, even when the lights are shone on it, then who cares!
This is known as an "eye-clean diamond" and it is the most important factor whenever you're measuring the clarity of the diamond.
By dropping down the grades, even going to the lower end of the scale, yet making sure the diamond is "eye-clean" you'll be able to save yourself a whole load of money.
Honestly, if you're trying to keep to a tighter budget - or maybe free some of your budget up for other areas such as the colour or the cut - then the clarity is one of the easier places to save your money.
The carat doesn't always represent the visible size of the diamond so sometimes going for a higher carat doesn't necessarily mean your ring is going to "look bigger". Instead it represents the physical weight so if your diamond is "taller" or "deeper" then you might get hit with the cost but without the visible impact you wanted.
A lower carat diamond that has better proportions is one of the keys to getting the most for your money - so spend some time studying on what the most "optimal" dimensions are for the type of cut you're going for.
Diamond prices are also categorised based on their carat weight, with higher carat categories costing more per carat. Yes - the more diamond you buy the more expensive each carat becomes.
As an example, the price for a diamond that is between 1.00 carat and 1.49 carat might be £5,000 per carat whereas between 1.50 carat and 1.99 carat it could be £6,500 per carat - assuming cut, colour and clarity are exactly equal with carat size being the only difference.
Author's note: These are example prices to illustrate the price categories - the price will change everyday based on the overall global diamond market.
At those price categories a diamond that was 1.40 carat in size would cost £7,000 (1.40 x £5,000) while a diamond that was 1.50 carat in size would cost £9,750 (1.50 x £6,500).
Effectively this means you would be paying an extra £2,750 just for an extra 0.10 carat on your diamond. Probably not worth it!
In fact, if you found a 1.49 carat diamond it would "only" cost you £7,450, which is quite the saving for something that's only 0.01 carat smaller than a diamond priced at £9,750.
While it gets quite difficult to find a stone that'll be just below the threshold of the next price category - since the cutters have an incentive to get it up into the next level for the price boost, and you'll be competing with the rest of the world for the ones that come "just under" - they do exist and if you're willing to be patient and persistent you could potentially save yourself a load of money without sacrificing any of the "size impact".
Nobody's going to notice the 0.01 carat or 0.02 carat difference but you'll certainly notice the extra money in your pocket!
Some diamonds have a fluorescence effect which will make them glow a blueish colour when exposed to ultraviolet light (sometimes yellow or orange). When that light is removed the diamond returns to normal without any glow, and the visible difference is negligible when compared to a diamond that doesn't have any fluorescence.
The topic of fluorescence in a diamond is one of personal preference - some people like it while others don't - so this is something that's really going to be different for everyone.
But for diamonds that have a higher colour grade the presence of fluorescence can make it less valuable as it can be seen as a flaw.
Some people believe it makes the diamond look a bit hazy or oily but in most cases you're not even going to realise something is amiss unless you're a diamond expert - and even then it'll be with difficulty.
Nevertheless, the negative impact on the price could give you an opportunity to get a diamond that has a higher colour grade at a pretty nice discount.
Another thing to be aware of is that fluorescence could actually increase the price on certain colour grades - typically the ones lower down the scale.
This is because the blue fluorescence is thought to have a complimenting effect on the yellow colour of a lower graded diamond, making it appear whiter and therefore higher in quality despite its grade.
While the impact on price makes the diamond slightly more expensive, being able to get a lower colour grade diamond that looks like something of a higher grade could mean you're able to get something rather beautiful but at a fraction of the price when compared to another diamond that's actually graded higher.
When I first started my own journey of looking for an engagement ring I would've never expected so many different factors to be at play.
I literally thought there was a linear correlation between size and stone, and if I simply set a budget of £X I would get the same sized diamond as someone else with the same budget - perhaps just with a slightly different shape purely based on preference.
Boy was I wrong and to be honest I'm glad I was.
With everything I've managed to learn I was able to arrive at these 7 key areas where I figured I could make slight tweaks and adjustments to get myself a better deal.
Obviously if you drop down the scale on everything then the combined effect is going to result in you having a ring that isn't as amazing as you would've hoped for.
But if you play the balance correctly and drop some while raising others, you might find yourself the proud and excited new owner of a really amazing ring - and still the owner of a nice stack of cash that would no doubt be put towards your future wedding.
Hope my article helps you get a little closer to finding your perfect ring - good luck!
Hey - just one final word before wrapping up - I want to give thanks to the team at Ryder Diamonds in Hong Kong for helping me through the process of picking out a diamond, creating a wonderful design and getting a bespoke ring made.
The coolest thing was that I could see their on-site master craftsmen working in the workshop whenever I popped in for an update on progress.
Everything is handcrafted which makes the ring even more unique, and I'm told that this practice is unfortunately slowly dying out due to high street stores using standard moulds to create their rings en-masse.
If you're someone looking for something really personal and precious, do consider going for something that's a bit more "old-fashioned" so that the trade doesn't fade away.