One of the most common questions people ask when buying an engagement ring is how much to spend.
You may be familiar with the one-month rule or maybe even the three-month rule. However, we know that these "rules" are not the best advice for everyone.
This article explores how much to spend on an engagement ring, covering different ring budget guidelines and gives you insider tips on making the most of your budget without compromising on the quality of your engagement ring.
1. Spend the average amount
Some people might be tempted to spend the average amount on an engagement ring. In theory, this might seem a sensible way to avoid the risk of looking like you've not spent enough while also preventing the risk of overspending.
The problem is that the right amount to spend is relative to what you can afford. Unless your income is average, you might not want to or be able to afford to spend the average amount.
Another problem with this guidance is that there is no definitive data on the average amount spent on an engagement ring. A quick search through Google shows various articles with wildly different figures. That said, from what we have read, the average amount spent on an engagement ring in the UK is probably around £2000. We also think it varies regionally.
2. Spend a month's salary
During the Great Depression, jewellers found it increasingly challenging to sell diamond engagement rings. De Beers launched a marketing campaign that depicted a man spending one month's salary on an engagement ring. And so it was that the famous "Diamonds are Forever" campaign generated a belief that one month was the appropriate amount to spend on an engagement ring, and diamond sales allegedly rose by 50% as a result!
As diamond prices increased, De Beers' advertising and marketing campaigns took effect. In the US, one month's salary turned into two months and eventually became three months' salary. Perhaps to the relief of some UK engagement ring buyers, the same has not happened, and one month's salary remains the most common guidance you hear.
According to the latest figures from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average gross salary in the UK in 2021 was £25,971 or £21,324 after-tax for a single person. This translates to £2164 per month before tax or £1,777 after tax. Note that this correlates reasonably well with our estimate that the average amount spent is about £2000, suggesting that the UK market, on average, does broadly follow the one-month rule.
3. Spend what you can afford
Ultimately, how much you spend on an engagement ring is not the most important factor.
More important is the thought and effort you put into selecting a ring that:
- your partner will love and cherish
- is of high quality
- is made ethically (conflict-free and made without environmental or human exploitation).
We think the best advice is to set a budget based on how much you can afford and then look for the best engagement ring for that budget.
How to get the best value when buying an engagement ring
When purchasing your dream engagement ring, there are many ways to get the best value for money. And you don't have to choose a low-quality diamond to save money. Here are our top tips to help you save for your engagement ring.
1. Set a budget
Having a budget before shopping for an engagement ring is a good practice. You don't need to have a fixed amount, but focusing on a specific price range with a maximum amount is helpful. That way, you can be sure you don't spend more than you can afford.
It can even help to set two separate budgets: one for your centre stone and one for your ring setting. If selecting a natural diamond for your ring, your stone budget should be higher than if you were choosing a lab grown diamond or a less expensive gemstone.
2. Consider a very slightly smaller stone
Mined diamond prices increase exponentially with size, so a small increase in carat weight can significantly increase the price. Also, prices step up notably at certain "threshold" weights like 1ct. So while a 0.95ct diamond will look almost identical in size to the naked eye, you may find a significant cost saving.
3. Consider a slightly lower colour or clarity grade
The highest diamond colour grades (D and E) and the highest diamond clarity grades (FL, IF, VVS1 and VVS2) can command a significant price premium. However, if you're looking for a very white diamond with no inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, you don't need to have grades that high. Colour grades F and G are colourless or near colourless, respectively, and clarity grades VS1 and VS2 are "eye clean".
4. Consider different diamond shapes
If you don't have a fixed idea of which shape you want for your engagement ring, it is worth being aware that some shapes are priced lower (you get a bigger stone for your money) than others. Amongst the most expensive cuts are round brilliant cuts (also the most popular!), marquise cuts and square cushion cuts.
However, there is a lot to think about when choosing a diamond, and many factors affect the price. For example, some shapes that are priced lower (e.g. emerald cuts) show more colour and inclusions than others, meaning you might want to choose higher quality (more expensive!) stones to compensate for this.
For the best guidance on this, please read our article on the 4Cs of diamonds.
5. Consider alternatives to mined diamonds
In addition to lab grown diamonds becoming increasingly popular and offering a more affordable alternative to mined diamonds, many people are choosing gemstone engagement rings.
In 2022, emeralds were the most popular coloured gemstone for engagement rings, but in addition to emerald engagement rings, other precious gemstones are also receiving attention, like sapphire engagement rings and ruby engagement rings.
6. Consider different setting styles
Some ring settings are more expensive than others. For example, a pavé ring setting with lots of small diamonds set in the band would cost more than a classic solitaire band without the small diamonds. Likewise, a setting with side stones will cost more than solitaire, and depending on the size of the stones, may cost more than a pavé ring too.
7. Consider different precious metals
Platinum is often more expensive than gold (though not always!), and gold comes in various finenesses and colours. 9ct gold should be less costly than 14ct gold, which should be less expensive than 18ct gold. Gold also comes in various colours, and yellow gold is sometimes less expensive than rose gold or white gold.
At Ingle & Rhode, we offer our customers a variety of ring metals for your engagement ring. You can choose from recycled or Fairtrade gold in yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold. We also offer engagement rings crafted in recycled platinum.
Although estimates of the average amount spent on an engagement ring in the UK vary, we believe the average across the UK is about £2000, a little higher than this in London in line with higher average salaries.
Due to a marketing campaign by De Beers in the 1930s, the idea that one month's salary was an appropriate amount to spend on a diamond ring became widely accepted and is still widely used as a guideline today. In our view, it is best to forget guidelines and set yourself an affordable budget. And however much you set as your budget, remember that the most important thing is the thought and effort you put into selecting the perfect ring for your partner. Of course, we all want to ensure that we are getting good value for money, so please follow our top tips above to ensure you get the best ring you can for however much you choose to spend.