Once upon a time, people believed that a man should spend at least a whole month’s salary on an engagement ring. The sole reason for this was a highly successful advertising slogan and, while this notion is still prevalent, it’s total nonsense. If this is a requirement for proposing, your marriage is in trouble before it even began; many women make more than their fiances; and delaying your wedding only because you’re saving for an engagement ring seems like one of the least reasonable and romantic things someone in love can do.
Still, jewelry and money go hand in hand. Getting the first without having the second is kind of difficult, as no one has yet figured out how to buy an engagement ring with no money. Deciding on the best way to save for an engagement ring shouldn’t be the crux of planning your future life together, but it usually can’t be ignored either (if only to keep the in-laws happy).
So, let’s take a look at a couple of ways of getting a ring your partner will love without having to sell your car:
Table of Contents
- 1 Go Second-Hand
- 2 Independent Artists Often Do Better Work, More Cheaply, than Major Stores
- 3 Diamonds Are a Girl’s…Actually, They’re Just Shiny Coal
- 4 Learn How the Design of Jewelry and Money Are Related
- 5 Consider Buying Your Own Stones and Resetting Them
- 6 Get Insurance From Day One
- 7 How to Buy an Engagement Ring With No Money
- 8 The Best Way to Save for an Engagement Ring
- 9 Romance, Commitment, Jewelry, and Money
Most jewelers will encourage you to buy a new ring as part of some kind of “fresh start”. If they could, they’d make you believe that the gold for it will be newly mined in the mountains of Timbuktu by elves or something.
In actual fact, it’s very rare to see truly new jewelry; gold and stones are almost infinitely recycled. Most, sooner or later, end up on the second-hand market anyway. If no customers are interested within a few months, the pieces are sold for the metal value, the gems are removed and the rest melted down. This allows jewelers to charge a higher price for a more modern design made “from scratch”.
Antique rings, or in fact those which are only a couple of years old, offer tremendous variety and are as beautiful as ever. They’re also much cheaper than those in a jewelry store or designer’s studio, often costing around half.
That said, don’t buy an engagement ring from pawnshops or general-purpose websites like Craigslist. Jewelry and money are almost equally easy to steal and dispose of; we shouldn’t encourage thieves to take something with such great sentimental value.
Independent Artists Often Do Better Work, More Cheaply, than Major Stores
Jewelry designers who advertise on Etsy or in your local newspaper rely on word of mouth and referrals. They don’t have the bright lights, expensive décor, and slick salespersons that stores on Main Street or in malls use to draw in customers, nor do they have to carry those overhead costs.
In addition, anyone who chooses to make a career as an independent artist, perhaps growing their business out of a side hustle, tends to be pretty passionate about their job. Instead of following an assembly-line approach, they’re willing to take the time to listen to what their customers want. They’ll typically be happy to produce several concept sketches and spend every minute necessary to create the vision you’ve agreed on.
Assuming that you desire a unique, personalized ring, the only drawback to choosing a small studio is that they’ll often ask for a deposit to pay for materials. If they go out of business or simply disappear, you’ll lose that money. Online jewelry retailers don’t usually give you as much control over how your ring will end up looking, but are more reliable – just remember to check their reviews and a few years of history using the Wayback Machine, as well as ensuring they have a satisfactory return policy.
Diamonds Are a Girl’s…Actually, They’re Just Shiny Coal
The traditional stone for wedding and engagement rings…no, only since a vigorous marketing campaign in the early 1900s. Rare…really not so much; they’re so expensive mainly because of the small number of companies who sell them. Beautiful? In their own way, sure, but there are several better-looking gemstones out there. Linked to child labor, horrible wars, and money laundering? Yeah, those last three are true.
A growing awareness of issues such as these, as well as individual women’s tastes, are leading to a move away from using diamonds, or only diamonds, in many types of jewelry. This may be the best way to save for an engagement ring: while demand for alternative gemstones is still relatively low, many kinds can be had for a song. It’s fine if you still prefer ethically sourced diamonds, but you should at least make an effort to investigate your other choices. Should the size of the stone be most important to you, almost any gem other than diamonds is a good option. (Note that the prices below depend on quality and are per carat; due to various densities, carat-sized gems of different types may differ slightly in size).
If you do choose a diamond, don’t fall for the “carat trap”. A smallish stone will often appear larger when mounted on the setting, and one just under a psychologically significant weight (1 ct, 1.5 ct, 2 ct, etc.) often costs 5% to 10% less. In addition, super-high-grade diamonds, as defined by their color and clarity, are way more expensive than those that can’t be distinguished from their lesser cousins by anyone who isn’t a jeweler. (The quality and type of cut, however, is very important). Don’t rely on jargon you probably can’t even understand: actually take a look at the available diamonds before making your selection.
Learn How the Design of Jewelry and Money Are Related
A ring is a ring is a ring, except that they get prettier the more you pay for it? Not really; the relationship between jewelry and money is a little more complex.
If you want to know how to save for an engagement ring, the first step is to determine a rough budget. What most people don’t realize is that it’s the individual piece that matters, not arbitrary classifications. Most stock-standard rings displayed under glass countertops are designed either to maximize profits, resemble what most customers are looking for, or be easy to make.
There’s still plenty of variety to choose from, but you can probably get something you’ll like much more by doing your own rough sketches and presenting them to a jewelsmith. Jewelry design is harder than it looks, so don’t be dismayed if they suggest modifications, say “nah” or even suppress a giggle.
Even if you’re still saving for an engagement ring, most jewelry workshops will be able to provide you with a rough, non-binding quote. What may surprise you is that, though the materials used always make up the major part of the price of an engagement ring, tweaking the design can lower the cost significantly.
As one example, let’s take two diamonds of equal quality (a complex concept you can read about here) and cut, one weighing half a carat and the other 2 ct – the latter being typical for engagement rings in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. Since larger diamonds are rarer and have a greater psychological appeal, you can actually buy at least ten (and probably many more) ½ ct diamonds for the price of a single 2-carat stone.
In other words, choosing a design utilizing multiple small gemstones rather than a single large one can save you big bucks. One classic example of how this can look is called a halo setting, where a bunch of smaller rocks is used to flesh out one medium-sized one. Bear in mind, however, that mounting each one costs money, so the trade-off may not be worth it.
Consider Buying Your Own Stones and Resetting Them
As with beans, books, beer, and almost any commodity you can think of, jewelry and gems have both a wholesale and retail price. What may surprise you is that the retail price is typically at least 200% of wholesale.
This means that, instead of saving for an engagement ring for months, you need only find a nice band at a good price, even if the gems it holds aren’t even close to what you were hoping for. You can then get new stones directly from a lapidary (a person who cuts and/or deals in gemstones) who can also provide a GIA or AGS certificate of its quality. Gem merchants are also available online.
Though rings typically lose some of their retail value once reset, the process isn’t difficult and usually costs around $50 per jewel. This is also how to save for an engagement ring in two parts: first get the metalwork with a cheap or imitation stone, then purchase a fine gem when you can afford it.
Get Insurance From Day One
Many people think of taking out an insurance policy as equivalent to gambling. It’s true that “the house always wins”, but the basic function of insurance is to reduce uncertainty. Small, predictable losses over time are much easier on your wallet than an unplanned disaster.
Engagement rings are the perfect size for falling down sink drains, being forgotten in obscure places, getting stolen, or just disappearing apparently of their own accord. It’s entirely possible that this will happen to you, perhaps even before you get the chance to present it to your intended.
In this case, you’ll want to replace it as soon as possible, so saying that you can’t afford insurance sounds a little weak. Jewelry insurance comes in various forms, but they all serve the same basic purpose. The best advice here is to shop around and get several quotations.
How to Buy an Engagement Ring With No Money
Since an engagement ring’s value is mostly as a symbol, a twisted-up paperclip should suffice in an emergency. That doesn’t form part of most girls’ dream proposal, though.
Still, many couples have to work with what’s available at the moment they decide to get married. Figuring out how to save for an engagement ring may not be their first priority. If you can avoid it, however, don’t go into debt. As a general rule, it’s a bad idea to finance long-term assets with a short-term loan. Many jewelry stores offer payment plans, though, with respectable interest rates.
Since even a modest wedding can get pretty expensive, some couples decide to buy a plain ring as a placeholder and replace it when they can afford to; one of these can easily be found for under five hundred dollars. Jewelry prices fluctuate along with those of gemstones and precious metals, so waiting a few months or years while your financial situation improves (a common reason for staying engaged for a long time, anyway) may enable you to afford a much more impressive ring once the wedding rolls around.
The Best Way to Save for an Engagement Ring
No matter the extent of your love, it can be difficult to stick to your intention of putting money away every payday for the sole purpose of getting the right bling for your proposal. The national average for an engagement ring is about $5,500, so we’re probably talking about several months unless you already have some cash in your savings account.
The good news is that you don’t need iron self-discipline to start and stick to this habit. There are a variety of automatic savings apps that can transfer money from your paycheck to a high-yield savings account without you having to do a thing, removing the temptation to spend it instead.
These apps typically include a budgeting function as well as the ability to save for multiple goals simultaneously. When you’re planning a wedding, honeymoon, perhaps your first shared home, and all the millions of things that go along with getting hitched, a little digital assistance can go a long way.
Romance, Commitment, Jewelry, and Money
In case you were thinking about selling an organ in order to afford an engagement ring, you should know that the average human body contains about 0.2 milligrams of gold, worth slightly more than one cent. One gemstone carat, meanwhile, is equivalent to only 0.007 of an ounce. It’s no mystery why engagement rings are so expensive!
Fortunately, they’re generally a one-time purchase that lasts a lifetime, unlike a wedding dress that will hardly see the light of day again except possibly at Halloween. Bear in mind that you’ll never be able to sell any piece of jewelry for what you paid for it; that’s just how this market works. It makes sense, therefore, to get the biggest possible bang for your buck. Don’t fall into the trap of getting attached to a beautiful but overpriced ring; there are many, many shiny things out there. A little patience and research are sure to be rewarded when making this potentially life-altering decision.