How to Buy Engagement Rings on a Budget

What are Clarity Enhanced Diamonds?
December 2, 2020

How to Buy Engagement Rings on a Budget

The average spend on an engagement ring in the USA is $6,350 and this figure varies drastically all over the world. Over the years, I have watched this average figure peak and trough but one thing remains the same; the national average is unlikely to have much of an impact on how much you spend, nor should it.

I have helped customers on the tightest budgets find beautiful diamonds and knockout engagement rings, so if the average figure seems high to you, rest assured that you can find the right ring without breaking the bank.

Working to a smaller budget requires diamond knowledge, shopping smart and understanding the benefits of a strong trade-up policy; fortunately, this guide will cover all of these factors and more.

Step One: Set Your Budget

This may seem obvious, but being firm on how much you can spend will make the decision much easier. If you’re shopping in a traditional bricks and mortar way, it will help you rebuff any upselling attempts by sales staff, and if you’re buying online it will allow you to filter your search to fit your exact requirements.

Be realistic. Quality diamonds are not cheap and they don’t go on sale and precious metals are advised to ensure durability through every day wear. If your budget is $500 or below, you can still find a nice diamond and a basic setting, but you will need to compromise on the carat weight (more on this later).

Step Two: Get to Know the Four C’s

Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat are words you’re going to get very familiar with throughout your diamond buying journey. A basic understanding of the quality factors of a diamond won’t just help you choose a beautiful one; it was also give you an understanding of what can be compromised to suit your budget. I have detailed pages dedicated to each of the four c’s of diamond buying which is a great place to start.

Cut: My first piece of advice is to prioritize cut quality. Cut is by far the most significant factor in the appearance of a diamond and is the key to unleashing fire, brilliance and scintillation. A superb cut will go a long way and should not be compromised.

Clarity: Secondly, familiarize yourself with the phrase ‘eye-clean’. Eye-clean diamonds are those which have no visible inclusions to the naked eye. Even SI2 grade diamonds can appear eye-clean but offer much better value than the higher grades. The best way to assess a diamond for inclusions is using high-res diamond imaging, which we will look at in closer detail.

Color: Don’t make the mistake of believing that only the top color grades offer a bright white sparkle. I have recommended customers beautiful diamonds right down to a J in color; it is all about context. Warm tone metals such as rose or yellow gold, an excellent cut and viewing your diamond in normal conditions (i.e., set in a ring in every day lighting environments) can all help diamonds with a lower color grade appear an appealing, sparkly white. View and compare diamond images to get an idea of how readily you perceive color, then play with the grades until you’ve reached a sweet spot of beauty and budget.

Carat: Bigger diamonds that are high quality are a rare find and this is reflected in the price. Those working to a smaller budget need to be realistic about carat weight and the possible sacrifices – choose cut quality over carat weight, and playing with color and clarity is the best way to get the most from your budget. The good news is that there are other ways to emphasize carat weight; a good cut, halo settings and elongated diamond shapes such as ovals will all help contribute to a diamond with greater impact.

Step Three: Select a Setting

Let’s take a look at the best way to get value and quality for an engagement ring setting:

a four prong solitaire with a diamond photographed with a pink flower

This Ritani solitaire from Whiteflash is made in 14k gold – at $235 it shows that a simple, quality setting need not break the bank.

a white gold solitaire with filigree details

If you want something more ornate on a small budget, engraving and metal work are a great way to add detail without the addition of diamonds – perfect for pulling back the price. The bead detailing on this James Allen filigree ring gives a twinkling, ornate look for under $600.

a 4 prong solitaire with diamonds on the band

If you’re set on more diamonds, a dainty pave like this benchmark design brings some extra sparkle for under $700.

14k gold is offer the best value for money for an engagement ring setting and is perfect for setting diamonds. Choose from trusted vendors who sell quality settings.

Step Four: Consider the Future

You may have a small budget now, but circumstances change. This is where the important of a good trade-up policy becomes significant. The opportunity to upgrade in the future gives you flexibility for when you have more disposable income. I recommend reading my guide on the best trade-up policies to see what a difference these guarantees can make.

Step Five: Choose a Vendor

These guidelines can only be met if you’re shopping in the right place. Buying online is unequivocally cheaper than a traditional jewelry store and also provides a wider range of choice. It is a must when working to a smaller budget. Here are the key features an online vendor should provide:

The Final Word

There are several vendors who tick the boxes. For a very modest budget, James Allen has a wide collection of competitively priced diamonds, giving a great deal of choice for customers. For the best education, quality and in-stock diamonds, I recommend Whiteflash; their in-stock diamonds can be pulled for closer inspection by their experts at any time, allowing you to truly scrutinize the quality – ideal for those looking for an exquisite diamond on a budget. If you’re looking for an elongated shape to maximise carat weight, I recommend Blue Nile, who hold an excellent collection of fancy shaped diamonds.