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Here's How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

Forget about the three month salary "rule."
person holding engagement ring box with diamond ring
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sarah hanlon assistant editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon assistant editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Assistant Editor, Digital
  • Sarah is an Assistant Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Dec 18, 2020
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Ready to start looking for an engagement ring? When it's time to take your commitment to the next level, you'll want to make sure to get it right with a special ring and a heartfelt proposal. After all, this is one moment you'll remember (and that you've both been excited about) for a long time. At first glance, buying an engagement ring may not seem all that difficult. Simply find a jewelry store and remember to bring your wallet, right? But as you stare at the rows of rings in different shapes, sizes and prices, you'll find that doing some research goes a long way when it comes to choosing and deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring. Here, we'll take you through the average engagement ring cost in 2020, cut through the myths surrounding how much to spend on an engagement ring, and highlight the factors to consider when selecting the best ring for your partner and your budget.

In this article:

Average Engagement Ring Cost

If anything is certain, it's that diamonds remain a serious investment. According to The Knot 2020 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is currently $5,500. If you're deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring, there are several factors to consider. While $5,500 is the national average cost of a ring, the spend per couple varies. Our study found that one-fourth of all respondents are spending between $1,000 to $3,000 on their engagement ring. In fact, 11% of ring shoppers are spending under $1,000.

It's important to keep in mind that $5,500 is a national average taken from respondents all over the country and is influenced by a multitude of factors. One is region. 

The Mid-Atlantic, for example, has the highest average spend, coming in at $7,600. Western dwellers were behind, averaging $5,400 on their engagement rings. In areas like the Southeast, the Midwest and the Northeast, the average spend was generally on par with the national average at $5,2500, $5,400 and $6,000, respectively. The Southeast had the lowest average cost of an engagement ring. 

The Most Popular Engagement Ring Types

Emeralds and sapphires may bear historical significance, but our study found that diamonds still reign supreme. Couples are overwhelmingly still opting diamonds with 86% of ring shoppers requesting this as their center stone. 

But alternative stones are still a popular choice for couples. Moissanite, for instance, continues to increase in popularity. In 2020, 26% of those who bought an alternative ring with a precious stone opted for moissanite (up 7% from 2019). In total, about two-thirds of all engagement rings have a centerstone between a half carat and one-and-a-half carats.  In line with previous years' data, 43%  of all rings were round cut. About 58% of rings included a diamond center stone with side accents, while 25% had a singular solitaire diamond. 

However, engagement rings aren't just about the stones. The choice of metal matters to couples too. White gold is overwhelmingly the most popular metal setting among ring shoppers with 48% of respondents choosing this material. Yellow gold was the second most popular option as 16% opted for the trendy metal, while rose gold rounded out the top three at 13%.

Engagement Ring Budgets

Engagement ring prices are clearly nothing to shrug off—so how should you even begin determining how much to spend on an engagement ring for your partner? The answer is both multi-faceted and highly subjective. "Setting a comfortable budget is an important first step," says jeweler Katherine Kane. "From there, establish priorities (like size or quality) to help you find the perfect ring. Since this is a purchase you'll look at every day for the rest of your life, it's worth setting a budget for."

One of the easiest ways to avoid spending too much on a ring is by setting a budget. Our study found that nearly 82%  of ring shoppers set a budget for the purchase. A fair amount of to-be-weds (15% to be exact) consulted their significant other about the budget, but ultimately the proposer made the decision on their own. Just 10% of all couples determined a budget together, according to our study.

Sticking to a budget was slightly challenging for some—67% of ring shoppers adhered to their number, while 20% went over their spending limit.

The Knot 2020 Jewelry and Engagement Study also found that nearly all those who proposed (91%) bought the ring on their own. Just 2% of respondents said their parents contributed to the ring, while 3% said their partner paid or contributed. The same percent bought the ring with their fiance with their joint bank account or by splitting the cost.

In addition to the price of the engagement ring, it's also important to take the cost of insurance into consideration. Our study found that 68% of buyers also purchased ring insurance. We'll always recommend couples insure their rings, as it's such a high-cost and high-value purchase.

The Average Cost of Wedding Bands

While the biggest jewelry cost is typically the engagement ring, wedding bands are also a budgetary factor to consider. Our study found that the average cost of a female wedding band in 2020 is $900. Meanwhile, the average cost of a men's wedding band is $500. White gold is the most popular wedding band material, while rose gold, yellow gold and sterling silver were also top favorites. 

Where People are Buying Rings

While consumers enjoy shopping online for clothes, food and home goods, our study shows that to-be-weds prefer a brick-and-mortar experience when it comes to wedding rings, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. Our study found that 63% of proposers bought their engagement ring in a store. Of those respondents, 51% said they opted for a local/independent retailer, while 33%  reported going to a national/regional jewelry chain.

Twenty-nine percent of those who opted for a chain store shopped at Kay Jewelers. Zales was second-most popular, as 17% of respondents reported heading to the chain to get their engagement ring. Close behind in popularity was Jared, with 13% of the pool choosing to buy with the brand. Of those who purchased a ring from an online-only retailer, 21% chose Brilliant Earth, while 19% went to Blue Nile and 17% opted for James Allen

"Rules" for How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring (That You're Welcome to Ignore)

The One/Two/Three-Month Salary Rule

You've probably heard the "one month salary" rule, which says you should spend one month's gross income on an engagement ring. Few people realize that this "guideline" began as a marketing initiative that diamond marketers used to enhance sales around the start of World War II. Over time, this notion grew to two and even three month's salary. It's highly unrealistic, especially since it considers gross income rather than net or inflation, and doesn't look at debt load (at an all-time high for young adults due to student loans). Despite what jewelry ads may want you to spend, it's never a good feeling to spend the first several years of your marriage paying off the engagement ring. Translation: Feel free to ignore this outdated "rule."

Engagement Ring Calculators 

Engagement ring calculators attempt to help you decide how much to spend on an engagement ring by gathering information about your income, lifestyle and debt-to-asset ratio. If you'd like to use an engagement ring calculator to determine a ballpark budget, go right ahead, but steer clear of hokey versions. Better yet, read on for some helpful (and legit) tips to determine how much money you should spend on the right engagement ring.

How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring (Realistically)

Shannon Delaney, director of communications for online diamond retailer James Allen, encourages every person looking to purchase an engagement ring to develop a budget first. "This will guide all of your decisions going forward, and it's important to have a handle on how much you're looking to spend," Delaney says. "From there, we recommend thinking about priorities. Are you looking for a high-quality diamond? Are you willing to sacrifice a bit on quality in order to make it a larger diamond? Are you planning for a simple band which will be cheaper, or something with a lot of smaller diamonds that will take more of your budget?"

In keeping with this advice, here are some important factors you'll want to consider as you determine how much to spend on an engagement ring:

  • Financial Situation: Determine what price you're comfortable with, especially if you'll have ring payments going forward. Evaluate your current financial situation to dictate what you can afford. 
  • Partner's Expectations: Your goal is to purchase a ring your S.O. will love, regardless of the price tag. You could ask your partner outright for ring options, or go "window shopping" together to figure out what they really want. If you want your proposal to be a complete surprise, try asking friends or family for guidance. Consider their style, hobbies and overall lifestyle, along with gifts you've given in the past to help choose a ring.
  • Meaningfulness of Ring: A thoughtful ring that speaks to your partner's individual personality will be much more meaningful than the biggest you can find. Perhaps your partner would prefer an heirloom over a ring, or maybe they'd like to break with tradition and skip a diamond altogether.

The Best Ways to Save Money on an Engagement Ring

When you're finally ready to whip out your wallet be sure you're getting the biggest bang for your buck—here's how.

Shop Online

Delaney advocates shopping online in order to ensure you're getting a good price and product. "Go with an online retailer like James Allen. The total savings come in at 30% to 50% versus a regular store. Also, thanks to the tremendous selection, you can ensure that you get exactly the diamond and ring that suits you and your budget and not be pressured into something the store has in their jewelry case," Delaney says. Shopping online not only offers substantial savings on the engagement ring cost, but it also allows you to customize the ring, ensuring your partner gets exactly what they want. See below for additional tips on buying an engagement ring online.

Give Up a Fraction of Carat Size

"Go with an under-size diamond," Delaney says. "These are diamonds whose carat weights are slightly below traditional cut-off points. For example, a 0.97 carat diamond is identical to a 1.0-carat diamond to the naked eye, but has a much smaller price tag."

Skip the Solitaire Center Stone

To give the illusion of a larger carat size, purchase a ring that's made of several smaller diamonds rather than a solitaire. "Multiple-stone rings give a larger size impression on a smaller budget than purchasing one diamond of the same overall size," advises Kane. "Side stones can really make a huge difference." A multi-stone engagement ring is a great way to find a stunning ring without going over your budget. And you're in luck if you go this route—the halo ring, a setting that encircles a center gemstone is on-trend, and it makes even a small center diamond look stunning (and huge). 

How to Buy an Engagement Ring from an Online Diamond Retailer

Yes, it's possible to buy an engagement ring online, where the average engagement ring cost is much lower. It's not just possible, it's also somewhat popular among couples. Eleven percent of respondents in our study bought their engagement ring online. While there are plenty of benefits to shopping online, there are some risks to be aware of. It's important to recognize the difference between bogus diamond websites and those of professional jewelers. Tom Shane, CEO of Shane Co., and customer service representatives at reputable retailers should be more than happy to disclose this information.

Note that despite the lower engagement ring prices, you'll want to do your research before purchasing an engagement ring from an online retailer. Make sure you fully understand the company's payment and shipping methods, and the return policy. It's also a good idea to read through the reviews on the company's website. Finally, requesting certification on any diamond is always a good idea. There are a number of ways to verify the authenticity of a diamond, like GIA's Report Check, and customer service representatives at reputable retailers should be more than happy to disclose this information. Interested in buying an engagement ring online but not sure which stores to look at? Start here, where we break down everything to know about buying an engagement ring online

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