Deciding to purchase an engagement ring is not only a commitment to your intended, but also one of financial concern. As the costs of engagement rings continue to soar, couples must determine exactly what type of ring they are interested in and how such a purchase fits in their budget before hitting the jewelry case.
Average Engagement Ring Cost
The current average cost of an engagement ring varies depending on the source consulted, but most jewelers and industry experts estimate that couples are spending between $5,130 and $5,392 on an engagement ring in the United States. That figure, however, can fluctuate for many reasons, and over time the average cost is increasing.
Many couples are getting married at an older age than couples a decade ago, which means they are more likely to have completed college and have higher paying jobs when they search for an engagement ring, which in turn can lead to a higher average price. Similarly, changing engagement ring designs now incorporate more diamonds and more expensive precious metals, which also increases average costs.
Variables Affecting Ring Price
In addition to historical trends, several factors can affect engagement ring prices and therefore an average cost. The four Cs of diamond quality have the greatest impact on the stone's price, but couples can also use alternative characteristics to find a less expensive option.
- Quality: Diamond quality is critical for a beautiful ring, but couples should also investigate the quality of the ring's craftsmanship, metal, and accents. Couples today are generally more knowledgeable about diamond quality and therefore choose higher quality, and therefore higher priced, engagement rings.
- Design: There are many types of ring designs to choose from, each of which can have a significant impact on the ring's cost. Modern rings are often larger and more intricate, dramatically increasing the average cost of engagement rings.
- Carat: A carat is a weighting system used by jewelers. The more carats, the heavier the stone, and the more expensive it is. Price jumps drastically as stones increase in size: a .96 carat weight diamond, for example, will be substantially cheaper than a 1.00 carat stone, although the visual difference between the two is virtually indistinguishable. Costs for engagement rings are calculated by the total carat weight of the ring, so a smaller center stone does not necessarily mean a more affordable ring depending on the other stones paired with it.
- Cut: The cut and shape of a stone affects its price depending on the difficulty involved. Emerald and princess cuts are among the least expensive because they follow the crystalline shape of the stone, while heart-shaped, pear, and oval cuts are more expensive. Trademarked cuts such as the Hearts on Fire or Asscher are more exclusive and therefore more expensive.
- Jeweler: When a couple chooses a jeweler, they also begin to choose the price of their engagement ring. Specialty jewelers, artisans, and designers generally have higher prices than mass market engagement ring stores and retail jewelers. Couples may also choose to purchase a loose diamond or a wholesale style for significant savings.
- Customization: Custom engagement rings are typically more expensive than generic designs. This also goes for embellishments such as engagement ring engraving and diamond ring wraps, which in turn raise the average cost.
- Color: Colorless gems are the most rare and expensive type, while cloudy, tinted, or shaded stones decrease in price as the color becomes more noticeable. Stones can be laboratory treated to reduce their color, however, with a far lower price tag than a naturally colorless gem. Couples can also choose a light metal, such as white gold or platinum, to brighten a slightly tinged stones. Fancy colors, such as pink, blue, and yellow, are significantly more expensive than even pure colorless stones because of their rarity.
- Clarity: The clearer a stone is, the more expensive it will be. Truly flawless stones are very rare and sought after and mildly flawed stones may be treated to hide imperfections. Even small flaws and inclusions reduce a gem's price, even though they may not be immediately apparent when set properly or enhanced with additional side or accent stones.
Prices and Ring Characteristics
There are other factors that also aid in selecting the perfect ring for your loved one and your bank account. To make things even easier, check out the price breakdown of rings and what characteristics you can expect to find when opting for certain styles:
Characteristics of rings $500 or less:
- Set in silver, 10k or 14k gold with standard prongs or other frequent styles.
- Typically .25 or lower carat weight.
- Usually few side stones; the small carat weight is more likely concentrated in a solitaire.
- Medium-to-low diamond quality; there may be visible flaws or other defects in the stone.
- Gemstone rings are popular in this price range though diamonds may be used as minute accents.
Characteristics of rings from $500 to $1,000:
- Smaller carat weight stones may be GIA certified.
- Medium quality stones may be up to .66 or .75 carats though the ring is usually comprised of a smaller center stone flanked by accent stones with a total weight of up to .75 carats.
- Settings may be slightly more unusual, including prongs, channels, or bezels, or simple settings may be made of platinum.
- Some standard two ring bridal sets fall in this range.
Characteristics of rings from $1,000 to $2,000:
- Stones up to .5 carats may be certified or a single stone up to .75 carats of a slightly lower quality may be used.
- Total carat weights could reach higher than a full carat.
- Bridal sets may include three rings instead of just two; each is usually embellished.
- Some designer rings can be found in this price range, though their diamond sizes are typically smaller than mainstream styles of similar cost.
- More unusual stone shapes may be used, such as princess or emerald cuts.
Characteristics of rings from $2,000 to $3,500:
- Up to one full carat solitaires may be certified but the settings are simplistic.
- More unusual settings appear in this price range, including flush and tension styles.
- Metals are generally higher quality, typically 18k gold, platinum, or multiple metals.
- More elaborate designs such as filigrees or larger three stone rings are popular options.
- Small colored diamonds with good quality are possible.
- Very unusual cuts such as Asschers are available.
Characteristics of rings from $3,500 to over $5,000:
- Many more exclusive designer options are available in this range, such as Tiffany, Harry Winston, and Chopard designs.
- Rings can be fully customized including mountings, settings, gemstones, and engraving.
- Large carat weights are certified in this price range, even exceeding two or three full carats.
- Superior fancy colored diamonds are available at higher engagement ring prices.
Budgeting for an Engagement Ring
The most common myth is that the engagement ring cost should be the equivalent of two months' salary. In reality, the ring's cost should be what the couple is comfortable affording, whether that means financing the ring for a year or buying a small but meaningful ring. For many couples, discussing the price of the engagement ring is the first step toward financial planning for a life together, and the choice to spend a large sum on a piece of jewelry is one that must be carefully considered.
What Really Matters
The average engagement ring cost may be several thousands of dollars, but couples do not need to spend that much to show their love for one another. Regardless of whether a couple has a large or a small budget for their engagement ring, they should be comfortable with the price and be sure it shows an above average commitment to their relationship. Love is what really matters, and the feeling of joy as that glittering ring is slipped onto the bride-to-be's finger.