Deciding to pop the question is undoubtedly the most exciting decision of your life, but also one of the most bewildering.
Rom-coms have a lot to answer for in building up sky-high expectations about the moment you get down on one knee and unveil a ring to the love of your life. After all, this is what your partner’s been dreaming about since they were little, right? No pressure!
With all manner of sizes, shapes and prices, the process of buying an engagement ring can feel confusing and overwhelming.
To take away some of the worries, we’ve done the research on how much you should be spending and ways to get the most bling for your budget. You’re welcome!
Image: Getty Images
Firstly, how much is everyone else spending?
Let’s be realistic – diamonds don’t come cheap. According to our latest 21st Century Bride survey, the average cost of an engagement ring in the UK comes in at £2,084, rising a staggering 17.6% in just the last three years. The ring is typically the fourth most expensive purchase in your wedding budget, following the venue, honeymoon and food.
I heard I need to spend three months’ salary?!
Don’t panic! This silly calculation was dreamt up by the shrewd marketing team at diamond company De Beers, who were the driving force behind diamonds becoming the go-to gem for engagement rings back in the 1930s. Let’s be clear, your devotion to your partner has no correlation to how much money you can spend on an engagement ring. We’re sure they’d rather you paid your rent this month than went one carat bigger with the bling.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Buying an Engagement Ring
Image: Getty Images
So how much should you spend on an engagement ring?
Expert jeweller Lee Buxton from COO Jewellers in Hatton Garden, whose range starts from £500, says the important thing is sticking to an amount you're comfortable parting with.
"Some people like quite chunky jewellery, some people like styles that are more dainty, this is normally the main factor in how much you end up spending. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it is my advice, as you can end up getting carried away. Spend what you can afford comfortably; you will still get a nice ring whatever the budget," he said.
Ok, I want to get the most bang for my buck, what should I do?
There are definite tricks for savvy shoppers but before you start diamond shopping, you need to understand the “4Cs”: cut, colour, clarity, carat and certificate. Each of these five factors affects the price of a diamond and being smart can save you big bucks.
Image: Getty Images
- Of the "4Cs", Lee says the most important is the cut. "This is what makes the diamond sparkle, it's the way the light refracts back to your eyes," he explained. The cuts are graded from excellent down to poor. "Stick with excellent or very good and the rest of the '4Cs' is where you can save yourself some money."
- Round diamonds are by far the most popular shape and therefore the price tends to be higher due to market demand. All other shaped diamonds are called fancy diamonds, and cuts include Princess, Emerald, Marquise, Pear and Heart.
- The average size of an engagement ring is 0.5 to 1 carat. Most of us probably couldn’t tell the difference between a 1 carat and a 0.95 carat so consider opting for a slightly lower carat gem that will look almost exactly the same to an untrained eye.
- One single solitaire diamond is likely to be cheaper than lots of smaller stones.
- Platinum tends to be the most expensive ring metal, although Lee says that the price of platinum and gold is very similar right now. You could opt for white gold which can give the same effect as platinum for less.
READ MORE: Explore Our Wedding Ring Inspiration Gallery
Image: La Belle Bella
And what if a diamond isn’t a dealbreaker?
There's plenty of other gorgeous gemstones, like emerald or ruby, out there that might suit your bride's personality much better.
"Sapphires are a popular alternative," said Lee. "You generally get more for you money - around a 30% bigger stone for the same price. They are also the second hardest precious gem next to diamond, so are durable, and they also don't just come in blue as many people think. Sapphires range in colours like pink, yellow and green, so if your fiance likes a coloured stone over a diamond, it gives you more choice and sapphires come in all the same cuts as diamonds do."
Gemstones often have beautiful sentiments that traditionally accompany them, such as opal for passion and jade for serenity. Birthstones are also a wonderful choice!
Image: La Bella Bella
Can I get a ring cheaper online?
Online research is an excellent place to start: you can get a better understanding of what’s on the market and investigate price points across different shops and boutiques. But if you’re dropping big £££s, most people would probably like to see the ring in person before they make their final decision.
The biggest concern about buying online is the authenticity of the retailer. Sticking to well-known, trusted brands can help you avoid this, and you might find a better deal online than in store. Lee says that most diamonds are certified by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) so make sure to check out the diamond's certification online to guarantee that you're getting what you're paying for.
SEE MORE: Alternative Engagement Rings For Untraditional Couples
And if I want to buy in person?
There are ways to be smart about that too. Avoid high-street jewellers and head to a jewellery quarter such as London’s Hatton Garden where you can go between shops and negotiate.
Their busiest times are naturally Valentine’s Day and the run-up to Christmas so you might be able to haggle for a better deal during a slower month, like August.
Explore our selection of ring retailers and browse our pick of placeholder rings if you still aren't sure what to go for.