Choosing an engagement ring is an exceptional step in any relationship. It not only is a reflection of the love and commitment between two people, but it’s an investment in that ring lasting for a lifetime together. There is no “right amount” to spend on an engagement ring, and the meaning of “affordable” is subjective. While affordable may sound like settling, you may be surprised at all the ways affordable diamond engagement rings can still tick all your boxes.
Affordable Engagement Rings
How to Budget for Your Ring
When focusing on an affordable diamond engagement ring for your choice, it’s best to start with a budget that is comfortable for you and your partner. The budget is going to guide your priorities where the ring is concerned and help guarantee that you end up with something you love that feels good for your circumstances. (Read our guide for more on how to budget for your ring).
All that said, the average amount spent on an engagement ring has consistently hovered around $6,000 for years. According to Wedding Wire, around 40 percent of couples will spend under $5,000 and about 20 percent spend more than $10,000. So clearly, the cost of an engagement ring really varies and there can be wonderful selections in every range.
The most popular size diamond for an engagement ring is a 1 carat diamond. On average, a good quality 1 carat diamond might cost about $5,000 (for a natural, mined diamond). A lab grown diamond would cost on average about 30% less.
A typical setting with a strong metal and some stylistic elements like milgrain, a halo, or side stones may cost around $2,000. So when you break it down, the center stone accounts for about 70% of the overall cost while the setting accounts for about 25% of the cost.
Tip: Focusing your effort on lowering the cost of the center stone will result in bigger drops in price for the overall ring.
Saving Money with Your Center Stone
Once you have a budget nailed down, now it’s time to get the most value for your money. And to do that, you’ll want to start with the center stone: whether it’s a diamond or non-diamond gemstone.
Smaller Center Stone, Bigger Visual Impact
Going with a smaller center stone will automatically set you up to achieve an affordable engagement ring. But just because you’re opting for a smaller center stone does not mean that it can’t still have a big visual impact.
To maximize the look of your smaller center stone, look to settings that really accentuate that stone. That means trying out halo or hidden halo settings, cluster settings, split shank bands and any other styles that bring some drama and impact alongside the smaller center stone.
Selecting a Diamond: Balancing the Diamond 4Cs
When it comes to diamond engagement rings, the place you always want to start is by understanding the diamond 4Cs. We cover this topic extensively in our Guide to Diamond 4Cs article, but for the purposes of balancing the 4Cs for an affordable diamond ring, our main focus will be practical factors.
An affordable diamond ring does not mean you’ll have to settle for a poor quality diamond. It does mean that you’ll need to determine which of the 4Cs are most important to you so that you focus your budget in those areas. Also, the more diamonds you look at, the better understanding you’ll have as to what you actually notice about a diamond in person.
Go For Eye-Clean Diamonds
Diamonds are graded for their clarity on a scale that assesses the amount and location of inclusions and imperfections in the stone. This is done by viewing a diamond under 10x magnification by gemstone experts. Needless to say, this is not the typical real life scenario of how diamonds are viewed.
To save in this area, don’t bother with diamonds that have perfect clarity – it’s a feature you’ll be paying for that you’ll never notice. Instead, choose a diamond that is eye-clean. This means the diamond appears free of imperfections when viewed with the naked eye. The money you save here can go towards a larger stone or a higher quality cut – much more noticeable features.
Choose an Excellent Cut Diamond
Diamonds are all cut to specific shapes with differing amounts of facets. The cut quality refers to how well this cut and polish is done. The better the cut quality, the more beautiful the diamond will look and it will exhibit strong sparkle when exposed to light.
This is one area in particular it will be important to apply your budget. A poorly cut diamond will save you money, but in the long run, is a bad investment. It will have very limited brilliance, and will lack sparkle even when exposed to lots of light.
Explore Different Diamond Shapes
The most popular diamond shape for engagement rings – the round brilliant cut diamond – is also the most expensive. There are many reasons why this is the case, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a better cut than any of the other ones.
Fancy-shaped diamonds are available as an oval cut, pear cut, princess cut, marquise cut, cushion cut… the list goes on. Many of these shapes have features perfect for affordable engagement rings, the first being they’re anywhere from 15-30% less expensive than the round brilliant cut. Some, like the oval and marquise cuts, will even appear larger than a similar carat weight round brilliant cut.
Consider Lab-Grown Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds are physically, chemically, and optically exactly the same as mined diamonds. The only difference is that they were grown in a lab over several months using highly specialized equipment and a precise process while mined diamonds were shaped in the earth’s crust over millions of years.
The cost of lab-grown diamonds is substantially lower than mined diamonds. There’s also just as much variety with lab diamonds as mined diamonds when considering carat weight and the diamond’s shape.
Shop “Just Shy” Diamonds
Diamonds are priced by carat weight with a significant increase at every full carat size. So you can make your engagement ring significantly more affordable by buying “just shy” of standard carat weights.
For example, if you’re looking to purchase a 1 carat round brilliant cut diamond, consider buying one in the 0.90-0.99 carat weight range. You can still prioritize the other features of cut and clarity, but save a nice amount on an imperceptible difference in carat weight.
Consider Non-Diamond Gemstones
There are many other options besides a traditional diamond center stone that can add up to a lot of savings. Staying within the diamond arena, salt and pepper diamonds and rough or rustic diamonds are a unique and interesting choice for an engagement ring and cost in the range of $500-$1,500 per carat as opposed to traditional diamonds being upwards of $5,000 for 1 carat (for a naturally mined diamond).
Colored gemstones like sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are another option for an engagement ring that can save you big on the overall cost. It may be harder to find some of these gemstones, but well worth the effort if you love the look of color in your engagement ring and want to save 25-50% off what a similar size diamond engagement ring would cost.
Marquise diamond rings
Cluster sapphire + diamond ring
Saving Money with Your Setting
Now that you have the best tips for saving money on your diamond, you’ll next want to think about the style of the setting and how to keep it affordable.
Stick With 14K Gold
The most common golds used for engagement rings are 18K and 14K gold. The karat number for gold is based on the purity level of the gold used. 24K gold is pure gold, but it’s so soft and easily scratched or bent that it’s never used for engagement rings. Both 18K and 14K gold offer beautiful color, strong durability, and resistance to scratches due to their alloy metal compositions.
18K gold has a higher gold purity level than 14K gold, so it will always be more expensive. Sticking with 14K yellow, white, or rose gold will free up some of your budget while providing a lovely, strong metal. The cost also varies between gold colors with rose gold typically being the least expensive due to the copper metal that is alloyed with the gold.
Look to Simpler & Non-Traditional Settings
Outside of the diamond itself, the setting style can have a substantial impact on the cost of an engagement ring. Thicker bands require more metal and intricate settings that include side stones, pavé bands and halo settings can quickly add to the cost of the overall ring.
Instead, consider simpler settings that can add intrigue: setting a diamond in an east-west orientation instead of the typical north-south; incorporate sculptural or nature-inspired elements like a twisted band or leaf prongs; or try a gorgeous and unexpected cluster ring.
Think Less Metal
The more metal used to create your ring will quickly drive up the cost. So unless your heart is absolutely set on a particular style or ring characteristic, it helps to make decisions for the setting that require less metal.
Choosing a thinner band, a low-profile basket (so the stone sits closer to your finger), and eliminating things like filigree or milgrain will all keep the cost of the metal down. Halo and bezel settings also require more metal, as well as intricate bands like a split shank or twisted band.
0.70 carat halo engagement ring, approx $3,400
Split shank 1.0 ct lab grown diamond ring, approximately $3,900
Affordable Diamond Engagement Ring Inspiration
There are a lot of options out there for affordable diamond engagement rings and no limit to the design styles you can expect to find. We’ve pulled together some of our favorites for a little inspiration!
Our Pembroke is one of our bestselling designs and with a .90ct lab grown diamond, costs approximately $2,740 (price as of 2022). Leaf prongs, leaf accents on the split shank setting frame the diamond and add visual interest without adding much cost.
For another nature-inspired look but with more sparkle, our Adamaris with a 0.90 lab grown diamond rings in at $2,840 (price as of 2022). Her center stone is set in a sculptural, nature-inspired setting of bright 14k white gold. Four marquise diamonds flank the center stone in an unconventional and exquisite split shank setting.
Cluster rings and halo add visual heft without the big budget. Along that line, our Twila is a delicate yet fiery engagement ring featuring a cluster of luminous and sparkly round brilliant cut diamonds in a flower formation (approximately $2,100). The fiery diamonds are offset by a shiny, polished yellow gold band.
Aurelia's bold halo style delivers vintage flare and maximum shine, but with a small center stone (approximately $2,200). In an elegant Edwardian style, 0.33 carats of brilliant white diamonds are set in handcrafted filigree and milgrain with a surprising ornate basket to round out the vintage appeal.
Rachael is a vintage-inspired halo ring with a split shank band and tons of sparkle. With a 1.00 carat oval diamond, she is priced around $4,750. A delicate halo showcases the oval diamond perfectly and is flanked by small round diamonds accentuated with milgrain, all in 14k yellow gold.
Lauren is a vintage-inspired pear ring and is priced around $4,600 for a 1.2 carat lab-grown pear diamond. Mixed metal adds visual interest with platinum prongs atop a thin 1.4mm pavé diamond band made of yellow gold.
Permelia is a classic three-stone engagement ring set, and with a 1.00 carat lab grown diamond is priced around $4,150. Flanking the center diamond are two brilliant, lab-grown pear cut diamonds reaching into a simply polished 14k white gold band.
It’s entirely possible to find gorgeous diamond engagement rings that are affordable and fulfill all your desired features. Just follow the tips and recommendations above and you’ll stay true to your budget while walking away with a ring to love for a lifetime.
Lauren pear diamond mixed metal ring
Permelia three-stone ring