engagement ring
Michael Jacobs Photo

If you’re planning to pop the question in the coming months, you’ve probably already asked the question “how much does an engagement ring cost?” Well, the short answer is: It depends. What’s certain is that Americans no longer look to the old “three months’ salary” adage to figure out how much to spend on a ring (fun fact: The three months’ salary rule was a marketing ploy created by jewelry companies in the 1980s). These days, there are a wide range of engagement rings on the market at a variety of different price points—and engagement rings don’t have to feature diamonds to be desirable and stunning (morganite, we’re looking at you!). 

Wondering how much an engagement ring costs? We asked thousands of couples to spill on how much they spent on this very special piece of jewelry.

Average Cost of an Engagement Ring

According to the 2020 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, the average proposer spent $5,900 on an engagement ring, which is a $900 increase from the previous two years. However, the study found that roughly half of couples will spend under $5,000 on the engagement ring—though 20 percent spend more than $10,000! All this to say that the cost of an engagement ring really varies, depending on factors such as the stone type, size, setting, and metal. 

Where you live may also have an impact on how much you’ll spend on an engagement ring. According to the Newlywed Report, proposers in the Mid-Atlantic region spent the most on an engagement ring, at $6,300, while those in the Midwest spent the least, at $4.900. 

Factors That Affect Engagement Ring Cost

If you’re choosing a diamond engagement ring (87 percent of proposers do!), it’s essential to learn about the 4 C’s—color, cut, clarity, and carat—which can all greatly affect the price of a ring.

  • Color: It’s not a diamond’s color that gives it a higher value, it’s the lack of color. The more crystal-clear and colorless a diamond is, the more valuable it is. 
  • Cut: A diamond’s cut, or shape, can affect its price. Round diamonds, for example, are more labor-intensive to create, and therefore cost more—but they’re also the most popular cut! Other cuts, like emerald and cushion, tend to be less expensive. 
  • Clarity: While a diamond may look perfect, most diamonds have inclusions and blemishes that may or may not be visible to the naked eye. The less obvious a diamond’s imperfections are, the more valuable it will be. 
  • Carat: According to the WeddingWire study, 50 percent of engagement ring diamonds are between one and two carats. Even a diamond that’s slightly smaller than one carat can make a major difference in terms of price. 

Another important part of selecting an engagement ring is choosing the metal. Platinum is the most expensive metal, but it’s extremely durable and requires little maintenance. Yellow gold is more affordable, but can be scratched relatively easily. White gold is another more affordable option—and its the most popular metal for engagement rings, according to our study.  

An engagement ring’s setting can also impact its price. A simple, unadorned band will likely cost less than a band covered in stones. However, according to the WeddingWire study, 71 percent of couples chose engagement rings with side stones. 

Saving Money on an Engagement Ring

When thinking about how much engagement rings cost, it’s easy to get sticker shock. However, there are ways to save money if you think creatively. 

  • Set a budget: Knowing that the average proposer spends $5,900 on an engagement ring, decide what you reasonably afford to spend before visiting a store or checking out rings online. Having a budget in mind will help you narrow down the options. 
  • Consider lab-grown diamonds: Though these diamonds are man-made, rather than mined, they are real. Not only are they less expensive than mined diamonds, they’re conflict-free. 
  • Check out popular diamond alternatives: If you have a more unique style, why not opt for a non-diamond engagement ring? Morganite, a pink gemstone, is trending right now. 
  • Go vintage: A family heirloom ring has a special history—and, if you don’t plan on revamping it too much, can be much more affordable than a brand-new piece of jewelry. 
  • Shop around: Whether you choose to buy an engagement ring from a local jewelry store, a national retailer, or online, don’t be afraid to check out several places and compare prices and styles. On average, proposers visit three jewelry stores and look at 15 rings before making a final decision. 

When to Buy an Engagement Ring

Our best advice? Don’t wait until the last minute. According to the Newlywed Report, nearly half of proposers started researching and shopping for an engagement ring more than five months ahead of the proposal—and we think that’s a good rule of thumb. Giving yourself plenty of time allows you to be a more educated consumer, and find the best ring for your money—you’re more likely to overspend if you rush the process. 

When it comes to actually buying the ring, 71 percent of respondents made their final purchase two months before the proposal. Of course, you’ll have to hide the ring during this time if you’re planning a surprise proposal, so make sure you have a good secret spot picked out! 

Where to Buy an Engagement Ring

From visiting a local jewelry store to shopping online, there are lots of options when it comes to where to purchase your engagement ring. According to the WeddingWire study, 40 percent of proposers bought an engagement ring at a local jewelry retailer, 30 percent at a national chain, and 10 percent chose an online retailer, like James Allen or Blue Nile. Again, it’s all about finding a ring that fits your partner’s style and is within budget—so feel free to take your time and look around! 

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