Diamonds are a girl's best friend, so what does that make an engagement ring? While you ponder that, we'll give you another tricky question—how much to spend on an engagement ring in the first place? There are so many common myths and misconceptions about buying engagement rings that it's hard to really know how much to spend when you're shopping for your significant other. While there's no one size fits all answer for ring etiquette (it really varies by couple), we tossed that question the way of our wedding etiquette experts, who helped nail down a price estimate, debunked any widely-held cost-related engagement ring myths, and revealed easy ways to work within your wedding budget.
What's The Average Cost?
Data show that the average engagement ring prices are continuing to increase year by year. Brides' American Wedding Study found that the average engagement ring cost in 2018 is $7,829, up from 2017's standard price point of $5,023. However, some to-be-weds spend a lot less and some spend a whole lot more (Justin Bieber, for example, forked over about half a mil on Hailey Baldwin's rock—hello!). According to Taylor Lanore, diamond consultant and PR director for Ring Concierge, it all depends entirely on your fiancé-to-be's financial situation. "Spend whatever you're comfortable with—there's no reason to go into debt," she says. "It also depends on your partner's preferences. If she wants something very minimal, it's hard to spend a lot. But if she wants a big stone, it's still very doable. There are ways to accomplish any look for any budget."
When it comes to buying the ring itself, prices are going to vary widely due to a number of factors: The size and quality of the center stone, any details (like a halo or stones set in the band), and the type of metal chosen—not to mention mark-ups that can come along with factors like a popular brand name.
Engagement Ring Cost Myths
Spending 3 month's worth of your salary. It's become a suggested engagement ring rule that men should shell out about three months of their salary, but this is the most common (and outdated) engagement ring myth, according to Lanore (phew!). There's actually no set rule on how much you should spend on an engagement ring, and she works with all kinds of budgets.
Finding a cheaper diamond online. Lanore says it's actually riskier to shop for diamonds online because there are far more low quality stones to select from, which isn’t always obvious to the untrained eye. Instead, she recommends going straight to the source. "After 100 incorrect self diagnoses thanks to WebMD, I can safely say it’s best to consult the pros for your needs," says Lanore. "There are a lot of tricks to know for each diamond cut and shape—it is a science, after all! I highly recommend contacting a diamond consultant to assist in center stone selection." These experts can help you work with the "Four C's" to get the best possible diamond for your budget. If you can't find a local consultant, there are plenty of companies you can use remotely.
How Much Is Too Much to Spend?
Although there's truly no set price cap when it comes to buying an engagement ring, still worried your boyfriend will be tempted to go overboard? If you know the proposal's coming, be direct and slip your opinion into a casual conversation. Make up a story, and try something like, "You know, Jen was just telling me the other day that she really wishes her husband had spent less on the engagement ring so they could have had a bigger wedding budget to play with. I think some guys are going a little crazy these days. Honestly, I don't think anyone should spend more than $[fill in the max you want him to spend here], don't you?"
Or, you can pass your concern on to his family and friends, who will relay the message. But, at the end of the day, some guys really just want to go above and beyond and splurge on the engagement ring, which is totally fine (and really sweet!) as long as he has the means to do so.
How to Cut Engagement Ring Costs
If you're working within a budget, you can still treat your S.O. to the ring of her dreams thanks to a few engagement ring shopping hacks.
Ditch the diamond. Diamonds are the most expensive part of an engagement ring, so you can save major dough by using a diamond alternative as the center stone. “Consider a white sapphire, which is hard enough to withstand daily wear and has a similar color,” says Jennifer Gandia, owner of Greenwich St. Jewelers in New York City. “Other traditionally popular gemstones are blue sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Depending on quality, these can be slightly less than a diamond, though truly rare and high-quality stones can sometimes cost more.” Other non-traditional stones that are getting more popular by the minute? Green tourmaline, peachy-pink morganite, and ice blue aquamarine. “These are all great options for clients looking for a lower-priced alternative to a diamond that will still really shine!” says Gandia.
Know your settings. Keep in mind that certain settings can be expensive. Your future bride may (understandably) be obsessed with Meghan Markle's three-stone engagement ring, but said setting, as well as three-row pave rings, can actually cost you a pretty penny and affect the size of the center stone. Instead, if you would rather focus the bulk of your budget on the ring's diamond, consider a classic solitaire setting to make the stone appear more prominent.
Manipulate the "Four C's." Working on the lower end of the color and clarity scales can go a long way in terms of majorly slashing engagement ring costs (especially with brilliant cut diamonds) without sacrificing quality, according to Lanore. As far as clarity goes, "as long as you can't see inclusions to the naked eye, you're in great shape," Lanore says. "Contrary to popular belief, clarity is independent of anything else and doesn't affect the brilliance of the stone." Lanore adds that the color of the diamond remains "purely personal preference," but, "if [diamond] size is your biggest interest, consider working lower here if you're working with a budget."
Go the antique route. "Antique diamonds are truly magical for hiding color, and face up 2-3 colors whiter than their grade indicates," Lanore notes. "There's a real romance with these diamonds."
See more: The 5 Most Popular Engagement Ring Cuts
All in all, to get the most bang for your buck and give your girlfriend the engagement ring she really wants (and deserves), Lanore advises paying close attention to her personal style or any hints she might be dropping. "What I've noticed is that if their partner doesn't request a specific design, a lot of guys tend to pick a round brilliant diamond, which is the most expensive diamond per carat because of their difficulty to cut," says Lanore. Make sure you put your personal preferences aside to truly cater the engagement ring to your significant other. After all, she is the one who will be wearing it every day.