Whether you’re shopping for an engagement ring, a car, a TV or anything that can’t be bought with the loose change in your pocket, you will usually have a limit to the amount you want to spend. The key is knowing how flexible that budget is.
It sounds odd to talk about a flexible budget, but it really isn’t. The sensible way to do things is to have a budget slightly less than you can afford, to build in some degree of flexibility, albeit a manufactured version of it. The last thing you want is your engagement ring to leave you with feelings of buyer’s remorse. Choosing and buying an engagement ring should be a joyous occasion, so let’s try and keep it that way.
The first question to ask, if your preferred ring is over your budget, is why?
If it’s because you saw it and just have to have it, then consider taking a step back and doing a bit of browsing first. There’s a good chance that you will find something very similar, which may be at a lower price and will suit your budget a little better. By far the biggest contributor to any engagement ring are the stones used, and this contributes to the opinion that you simply must have the diamond with the highest Four C grading that you can find. But this isn’t necessarily the case.
Diamonds, in particular, quickly start to look identical to the untrained eye, once you get past a certain grade. What might have a hint of yellow coloring to a diamond grader’s eye will look perfectly colorless to you. Similarly, inclusions that are seen through a 10x loupe may well be invisible to the naked eye. Unless you, your family or friends are in the habit of carrying a jeweler’s loupe and inspecting every diamond ring they see, the choice you make could save you up to 25% with absolutely no visible difference whatsoever.
Jewelers are, in the main, good people with a passion for what they do. They understand not everybody has $50,000 to spend, and they will maintain their stock levels with that in mind. They will also offer the best advice you can get, but you will need to know a little about the subject to be able to open the discussion about grading and their respective prices. As an example, a VVS (very, very slightly) included 1 carat diamond at color F may well look no different to you than a VS (very slightly) included example at color G, but the latter could be up to $2,000 lower in price despite being only a single (usually undetectable) grade lower on both color and clarity. The advice is to know your subject and don’t be afraid to explore all your options.
Diamonds are, of course, the classic engagement ring symbol, but sapphires, emeralds and rubies are fast gaining popularity as alternatives to a diamond. They are also cheaper (relatively), per carat, than diamonds, and are simply stunning. Even if you haven’t thought about anything other than diamonds, open your mind to the possibility and you will almost certainly get more stone for your dollars.
An alternative to buying a ring for cash, of course, is using a credit card or through a payment plan. It’s a big commitment, putting any major purchase on a credit card, and the high interest rates charged by banks will add considerably to the cost if you don’t pay the amount of quickly. We’re not saying don’t, but we are saying don’t do it just to be able to spend more money than you have. Better to save, even if it’s only half the purchase cost with the rest put on a card.
Payment plans are often available directly with the jeweler. Some may even offer interest free plans over a short period of a few months but, if not, interest rates are usually lower than the major banks offer on their credit cards.
Finally, if the ring you want is just a little way over your budget, haggle! All prices are negotiable, especially today. Some of the very highest-end boutiques will refuse to consider a discount, but most will be happy to revise the price downwards rather than let you walk away. As long as your request isn’t silly, you will probably find a middle ground that works for both parties. Okay, it may feel a little uncomfortable to negotiate over something as emotionally important as an engagement ring, but it might just mean the difference between getting your first or second choice.