In 2020, the average engagement ring cost was $3,756. That was down from $7,829 in 2018, and the 2022 figure will be a different number altogether. In short, average engagement ring cost changes all the time, and has no bearing on how much you should spend yourself. Everyone’s budget is different.
Engagement rings are indescribably important for couples to be wed. They symbolize the life-bond yet to be taken, the love between two people, and the commitment to each other, so finding the right one is a tough task. I’ve experienced it countless times where couples have a specific budget (the most important thing to set out first) but don’t really know what to look for. They have no idea regarding the financials and might have plucked that budget out of thin air.
I’ve decades of knowledge when it comes to diamond jewelry, and making sure people can find the right engagement rings at affordable prices is a personal quest of mine. That’s why I’ve written this short, detailed guide to help couples find the right rings, and make their journey into wedded life that little bit easier.
It’s the age-old question. It’s not like a car, or a television, or even a cup of coffee, where you are more likely to know whether you’re getting a good deal or not. I know that if I’m being charged $9 for a cup of black coffee I’m most likely being ripped off, and so do most people. But because buying an engagement ring is such a rare occurrence, knowing what is the right price to spend can be impossible to tell.
In the past, people have relied on the ‘two-months salary’ or ‘three-months salary’ rule. Advice like this is antiquated and doesn’t take into account the fact that one person’s salary can be drastically different from another. My ultimate piece of advice when it comes to setting a budget for an engagement ring is:
Budget for what you feel comfortable with and what you can afford.
Now, you’ll always see stories of how some people spent more than $20,000 on an engagement ring. You also might find clickbait article titles that state ‘Couple finds perfect engagement ring for $300’. The first stories only exist because some people have that much to spend, and the latter stories exist to sensationalize a process that should be carefully considered.
I’d also advise you to not take stories as the factual data that eventually influences your final decision. On average, most people tend to spend anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000. According to some studies, those spending more than $20,000 on an engagement ring make up less than 2% of all sales.
Ultimately, I’d argue that there’s no such thing as one average cost for engagement rings. There’s an average cost for salary bands, there’s an average cost for geographic location, there’s an average cost for generational spending — but none that applies universally. This is important to remember, as it’s just another piece of information that tells you to listen to the limitations of your current circumstances. There’s no point in bankrupting yourself just to buy a ring.
Remember, consider personal factors over finding absolute perfection.
The prices in 2022 will be different to last year, and 2023 prices will differ as well. It also differs based on what retailers charge, and their prices will vary over time as well. For example, the difference between Whiteflash’s least and most expensive diamond engagement rings is $10,755. That just shows how varied engagement ring prices can be — and those prices are under one house. The price gap between diamonds is even greater at over $1 million.
Geographic location also has a big impact. Those in New York and Los Angeles may find themselves paying more than the national average in general, which sits in the range of $1,000 to $5,000. In addition to this, jewelry tends to cost more in brick and mortar stores, so if you’re looking to save a little money, try finding an engagement ring online.
Again, it comes back to personal preference. The only answer to “How much should an engagement ring cost?” is “There’s no specific amount.”
Budget is what feels appropriate, comfortable, and what can be done. It’s ultimately your decision, and you should take no notice of blogs or businesses that tell you how much to spend. But when setting a budget, here’s several key things to consider:
In most scenarios, when a retailer is selling a diamond engagement ring, they’re just selling the ring itself. The central stone will have to be bought separately. I’ve seen countless couples set back by not realizing this, only to find out the full price of the ring is twice what they planned for.
The cost of a central diamond (or other gemstone) usually makes up around 75% of the total cost. I’ll break it down for you using the great offerings available at James Allen. Here is a gorgeously elegant 14K White Gold Pavé Rope Engagement Ring priced at $1,370.
Image credit: James Allen
It’s a stunning piece, with an organic feeling in its design that is embellished through the use of ornate white gold. Now, let’s pick a diamond. I’ve chosen this 0.97 Carat Round Cut Diamond. It’s an Excellent cut (arguably the most important thing for ensuring it sparkles well), VS2 clarity, and H color grading.
Image credit: James Allen
This diamond is priced at $5,220, which means that the overall price you will pay for this combination is $6,590. This means the central diamond is around 79% of the total cost. However, you could change this percentage difference by altering how much you pay for the setting or the diamond.
For example, imagine you choose the same diamond, but go for this 14k White Gold Ritani 1RZ7286 Knife-Edge Solitaire Engagement Ring available at Whiteflash, which is priced at $350. Your overall spend would be $5,570, and the central stone would take up 93.7% of that.
The way an engagement ring is designed affects its price. If it has smaller diamonds embedded in the shank, the price will go up. If you choose platinum over yellow gold, it will cost more. As many online diamond retailers include a customization feature in their offerings, this is worth getting abreast of. For example, consider:
If possible, it’s worth talking over these features with your partner.
It only takes one poorly-planned investment to get you into financial hot waters, so this might be the most important part of this article. Take a long time to think on what you can reasonably afford when taking into account your own financial situation. Consider:
Be wary of ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes and quick loans, as the interest on these deals will be incredibly high. My general rule is if you can’t pay for it in one payment, you probably shouldn’t be buying it. Overall, avoid financing options.
In the ring buying process, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to find the best ring, or the most expensive ring, or the sparkliest ring. These things really don’t matter. A key thing people forget is ‘thoughtfulness’. Expense doesn’t equal thoughtfulness.
What does equal thoughtfulness is doing your research, designing the ring yourself, and taking what your partner wants into account. Note how these don’t necessarily include finding the largest carat diamond or the best clarity grading.
Again, consider personal factors over finding absolute perfection.
We’ve already recommended Whiteflash as one of the very best diamond jewelry retailers, but there are two others that are more than deserving of a recommendation.
Whiteflash houses one of the biggest ‘in-stock’ inventories of any online diamond retailer. Its emphasis is on the Four Cs, and in particular, the cut of its diamonds. Whiteflash is internationally recognized for its signature line of A CUT ABOVE® diamonds.
Brilliant Earth have tried to capture an essence of elegant, social consciousness that fits comfortably with the emerging, millennial buyer. Their founders believe that their approach is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the world of diamond jewelry.
James Allen take customer service seriously. Even just perusing their site you can see by the use of high-definition imagery and video they want to make sure you’re making the most of your money.
With the largest online inventory of diamonds, Blue Nile comes up time and time again as the place to shop. On their site, you’ll literally be spoilt for choice when it comes to both diamonds and setting designs.
To sum up this short guide, here are my go-to rules for buying an engagement ring.
For more insights on diamonds, head to the Diamond Expert blog.
I’m Louis Jacobs, the creator of Diamond Expert, a platform where I share my lifetime’s knowledge of diamonds. Born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium, the world’s diamond hub, my fascination with these precious gems began at a young age. I spent over three decades in the diamond industry, earning the reputation of a trusted advisor among friends and family for diamond purchases, particularly engagement rings. Now retired, I’m dedicated to providing online guidance to make your diamond buying experience informed and successful.