Here's How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

Hint: You can forget about the three-months' salary "rule."
by Angela Guzman & Christin Perry
person holding engagement ring box with diamond ring
Getty Images

Ready to start looking for an engagement ring? When you’re ready to take your commitment to the next level, you’ll want to make sure to get it right with a special ring and 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 (and don't forget about the 4Cs), 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 2019, 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 2019 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is currently $5,900. If you’re deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring, there are several factors to consider. While $5,900 is the national average cost of a ring, the spend per couple varies. Our study found that one-third of all respondents are spending between $1,000 to $3,000 on their engagement ring. In fact, 10 percent of ring shoppers are spending under $1,000.

It’s important to keep in mind that $5,900 is a national average taken from 8,882 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 $7,500. New England dwellers were close behind, averaging $6,900 on their engagement rings. In areas like the Southwest, the West and the South, the average spend was on par with the national average at $5,600, $5,500 and $5,400, respectively. The Midwest had the lowest average cost of an engagement ring with couples spending about $5,300. 

The Most Popular Engagement Ring Types

So, what types of rings are couples purchasing  these days? Our study found that the vast majority of proposers were purchasing new rings (85 percent to be exact) and 45 percent of those buyers opted for custom designs. 

Emeralds and sapphires may bear historical significance, but our study found that diamonds still reign supreme. Couples are overwhelmingly still requesting diamonds with 83 percent of ring shoppers requesting this gemstone as their center stone of choice. 

But alternative stones are still a popular choice for couples. Moissanite, interestingly enough, has nearly doubled in popularity among precious gemstones since 2017. In total, about 50 percent of engagement rings are between one and two carats. In line with previous years’ data, 50 percent of all rings were round cut, while one-fourth featured a halo.

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 among ring shoppers with 54 percent of respondents choosing this material. Rose gold was the second most popular option as 14 percent opted for the trending metal.

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. In other words, there's no one-size-fits-all rule to follow and no "right" answer. But don't worry, this isn't where we leave you—we'll take you through a few important determining factors (and some old-school myths) to consider before you spend money on an engagement ring. And if you take anything away from this, it's that you should never go into major debt for the ring of your partner's dreams.

One of the easiest ways to avoid spending too much on a ring is by setting a budget. Our study found that nearly 80 percent of ring shoppers set a budget for the purchase A fair amount of to-be-weds (13 percent to be exact) consulted their significant other about the budget, but ultimately the proposer made the decision on their own. Just six percent of all couples determined a budget together, according to our study.

Our study found that sticking to a budget was slightly challenging for some with 70 percent of ring shoppers adhering to their number, while 23 percent went over their spending limit.

The Knot Jewelry and Engagement Study also found that nearly all those who proposed (94 percent) bought the ring on their own. Three percent of respondents said their parents contributed to the ring, while six percent said their partner paid or contributed. Three 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 three out of four 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 2019 is $1,100. Meanwhile, the average cost of a men’s wedding band is $510. White gold is the most popular wedding band material for women, while tungsten was a favorite for men.

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. Seventy percent of respondents reported going to a store to buy their engagement rings. Forty percent of those shoppers said they opted for a local/independent retailer, while 30 percent reported going to a national/regional jewelry chain.

Twenty-eight percent of those who opted for a chain store shopped at Kay Jewelers. Zales was second-most popular, as 20 percent of respondents reported heading to the chain to get their engagement ring. Close behind in popularity was Jared’s, with 14 percent of the pool choosing to buy with the brand.

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

The One/Two/Three-Month’s Salary Rule

You’ve probably heard the "one month’s 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, 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 out-dated "rule."

Engagement Ring Calculators 

From downright silly to only marginally helpful, 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. And of course, there’s one that wants to know how attractive your significant other is in order to make its determination. 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 personally should you 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: Whether you’ve saved for a down payment or plan to finance the entire cost of the ring, figure out what you’re comfortable with if you’ll have monthly payments going forward. Think about your current bills and your current income—and determine whether either will change (for better or worse!) in the foreseeable future.
  • Partner’s Expectations: By now you should have some idea of what type of engagement ring your significant other is dreaming of, but if you don’t, now’s the time to find out. Your main goal is to purchase a ring they'll love and feel proud of, 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, consider asking friends, or check around for hints they may be leaving you. Finally, consider their individual style, hobbies and overall lifestyle, along with gifts you’ve given in the past they'ved loved.
  • Meaningfulness of Ring: In most cases, a well thought out ring that speaks to your partner's individual personality will be much more meaningful than the biggest ring you can find—and that maxes out several credit cards. Got a family heirloom on your hands? Perhaps your partner would prefer the heirloom over a ring at any price since it’s so special to you. 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 percent 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 she wants. 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: Purchase a ring that’s made of several smaller diamonds rather than a solitaire. This is a fantastic way to find a stunning ring without spending that three month’s salary we talked about. And you’re in luck if you go this route—the halo ring, a setting that encircles a center gemstone is totally on trend right now, 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. The number one reason they reported doing so? There was better pricing online. The convenience and lower price can’t be beat, but there are definitely 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? Our study found three retailers that stand out as the most popular among ring shoppers. Nineteen percent of shoppers bought their rings at BlueNile.com, while BrilliantEarth.com and JamesAllen.com both had 18 percent of all respondents as customers.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

Updated October 2019

Up Next
Wedding Vendor Contact List - The Knot
Welcome to The Knot - From the perfect dress to an awesome exit.