A sparkling engagement ring
In the tapestry of life's milestones, few gestures are as laden with tradition and expectation as the engagement ring. This ring, a symbol of love and commitment, has for generations been the centrepiece of romantic proposals. But in today's diverse and ever-evolving society, the question of how much to spend on this emblematic piece of jewellery invites a broad spectrum of opinions and feelings. The journey to selecting the perfect ring can be as nuanced and varied as the relationships they represent. As we navigate a world where personal style, financial acumen, and a desire for meaningful expression intersect, the old paradigms of engagement ring purchasing are being gently rewritten. This modern approach favours a more personalised and financially conscious decision-making process over adhering to rigid, traditional spending rules. Our guide aims to illuminate this path with practical wisdom, helping couples to celebrate their union with a choice that feels right in every sense – emotionally, aesthetically, and economically.
Understanding Traditional Guidelines
The traditions around how much an engagement ring should cost, or how much you should spend on a ring are rather contentious. In the United Kingdom, the average cost of an engagement ring in 2022 is £2100.
You will often hear from family members or read in gossip magazines that “a man should spend 3 months salary on the engagement ring”. The idea is that it proves you value your fiance and demonstrates that you are able to provide financially for her. However, this isn’t an ancient tradition, and is actually a product of infamous marketing that has been ingrained within our increasingly commercial culture.
The “tradition” of prescribing that you should spend a percentage of your salary on an engagement ring was spurred by an advertising campaign made by the De Beers diamond cartel in the 1930’s. The leading diamond company at the time, De Beers, was struggling to sell their diamonds during the Great Depression. As a way to create demand for their diamonds, they successfully created a selection of adverts that stated any good or worthy man should be willing to prove his love and devotion for his future wife by spending a month’s salary on a diamond solitaire ring. This advertising campaign combined glitz to draw in women, and also shamed men into spending their money, unless they wanted to receive claims of being inadequate. The campaign was incredibly successful, and helped De Beers survive the Great Depression and continue to lead the diamond market.
As the American economy improved during the Reagan era, De Beers updated their suggested spend to 2 months salary on an engagement ring.
De Beers / Their “2 months salary” advertising campaign from the 1980’s
The three month salary tradition that is popularised today comes as a spin off from this campaign. As De Beers was trying to break into the Japanese market, they were struggling to find people in Japan who wanted to buy diamonds. Diamonds were not popular in Japan, practically unheard of as a jewellery choice there before World War Two.
Until 1959, it was illegal for diamonds to be imported into Japan. In the 60’s when it was legal, and when De Beer’s started trying to sell its products in Japan, only 5 percent of Japanese brides received diamond rings. In 14 years, that percentage rose to 60 percent.
Pinterest / De Beers distinctive Ginza building in Japan, looming over Tokyo
To create a demand for their engagement rings, similar to their campaign based around male worth during the Great Depression, De Beer’s targeted Japanese men. Prior to the post-war American controlled Japanese government, most marriages were arranged and there was no act of engagement or gift giving of jewellery to demonstrate your love. De Beers associated the act of choosing your own bride and giving a woman an engagement ring with a move into modernity and towards western values.
Japanese men were urged to spend three months' salary on engagement rings by De Beers, and this was a stroke of genius because it linked spending money with a Japanese sense of honour. Honour is one of the most treasured things in Japanese society, so this expectation of proving your honour by spending 3 months salary on a De Beers diamond ring soon became widespread. From there, the three month idea spread back to the western world and has been taken as “tradition”.
But just because this has become “tradition”, it doesn’t mean you should follow said guidelines, especially if it would be a bad financial decision.
Assessing Your Financial Landscape
Before you step into the dazzling world of diamonds (or other gemstones), take a moment to realistically assess your financial situation. It's crucial to consider your income, expenses, and savings goals. Setting a budget that doesn’t put you in a precarious financial position is wise. Remember, an engagement ring is a symbol of love, not a measure of it. Financial health and planning for your future together should take precedence over a flashy ring.
Personalisation Over Price Tag
In recent times, there has been a delightful shift in how couples approach the selection of an engagement ring, steering away from the traditional focus on the price tag and moving towards a more personalised choice. This change reflects a deeper understanding that the value of an engagement ring is rooted not in its cost, but in its significance and alignment with the couple's unique story and style.
The trend of personalization allows couples to express their individuality and the uniqueness of their bond. For some, this may mean opting for a ring with a design that holds personal meaning – perhaps a style that echoes the architecture of the place where they first met or a setting that mirrors the intricacy of a favourite piece of art. It’s about finding a ring that resonates with their personal narrative, one that will continue to tell their story for years to come.
Additionally, the choice of gemstones and materials plays a significant role in this personalised approach. While diamonds remain popular, there’s growing interest in coloured gemstones like rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, which can add a distinctive touch to an engagement ring. These stones not only offer a spectrum of colours and aesthetics but often come at different price points, catering to a broader range of budgets.
Custom design is another avenue where personalization shines. Working with a jeweller to create a custom ring allows couples to be involved in every step of the design process, ensuring that the final piece is as unique as their relationship. This process can be incredibly meaningful, as it often involves selecting each element of the ring – from the type of metal to the specific cut of the stone.
Furthermore, personalization also encompasses the growing interest in sustainable and ethically sourced materials. For many modern couples, the story behind the ring includes how it was made and where the materials came from. Ethical sourcing and sustainability have become significant factors in their decision-making process, reflecting their values and worldview.
In this era of personalization, the engagement ring becomes more than just a piece of jewellery; it becomes a symbol of the couple’s unique journey, tastes, and values. It’s a shift that highlights the importance of the connection and commitment the ring represents, rather than its monetary value. This approach not only makes the selection process more meaningful but also ensures that the ring truly resonates with the couple’s individual story and style.
Exploring Alternative Options
The landscape of engagement ring choices has dramatically expanded, breaking free from the diamond-dominated tradition. Today, alternative gemstones are not just acceptable but are often celebrated for their uniqueness and personal significance. Sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and even less traditional stones like opal or turquoise are making their way into the hearts of modern couples. These choices offer a vibrant spectrum of colours and meanings, allowing for a deeper personal connection to the piece.
Additionally, the rise of moissanite, a stone with a brilliance and hardness rivalling that of diamonds, provides an option for those seeking the diamond aesthetic without the traditional cost. Moissanite is also appreciated for its ethical and sustainable attributes, catering to environmentally conscious consumers.
Lab-grown diamonds are another fascinating option. These stones are identical to natural diamonds in composition and appearance but are created in controlled environments. They often come at a lower price point and without the environmental and ethical concerns associated with traditional diamond mining.
The allure of vintage and antique rings is also growing. These rings not only carry a unique history and charm but are often considered a more sustainable choice. They can be a way to connect with the past, bringing a story and depth to your engagement that new rings might not offer.
Exploring these alternatives means you can often get more "ring" for your budget, allowing for larger stones or more intricate designs than what the same budget might afford in a traditional diamond ring. But beyond budget, it's about finding a piece that resonates with your personal story and values. Whether it’s the ethical sourcing of a lab-grown diamond, the unique history of a vintage piece, or the colourful personality of a lesser-known gemstone, the ring you choose can be as unique as your love story.
Consulting with a Professional
Venturing into the selection of an engagement ring without expert advice can be akin to navigating a maze without a map. This is where the invaluable expertise of a professional jeweller comes into play. Regardless of your budget, seeking the counsel of a knowledgeable jeweller can significantly enhance your purchasing experience and outcome. Here at London DE our professionals bring a wealth of insight into not only the quality and value of an engagement ring, but also into how to find a ring that matches your personal preferences and financial considerations.
During a consultation with one of our professionals, we would walk you through the essentials of ring selection. This includes an education on the four C's - cut, colour, clarity, and carat weight, particularly if you're considering a diamond ring. Understanding these elements is crucial in making an informed decision, as they significantly affect the ring's appearance and value.
Beyond the basics, jewellers can offer guidance on the nuances of ring design and style. They can help you balance aesthetic preferences with practical considerations, such as the durability of certain gemstones or metals, especially if the ring will be worn daily. For those with specific designs in mind, London DE can assist in customising rings, ensuring that the final piece is as unique as the bond it symbolises.
A custom ring, created by London De
Importantly, a professional jeweller from London DE will respect your budget. They understand that value doesn't solely lie in the price but in the satisfaction and happiness of their clients. Whether you're looking to spend a modest amount or a substantial sum, a reputable jeweller will strive to find the best possible option within your financial framework. They can suggest cost-effective alternatives, like opting for a slightly lower carat weight without compromising the ring's appearance or choosing a less traditional gemstone that offers more bang for your buck.
Deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring is a deeply personal choice, reflective of your unique relationship, financial situation, and values. In this modern era, let go of the pressure to conform to traditional spending rules. Focus instead on what feels right for you as a couple. Whether it’s a grand diamond or a modest, bespoke design, the true value of an engagement ring lies in the love and commitment it symbolises, not the price tag attached to it. After all, it’s not just a ring; it’s a testament to your journey together.