How to source your dream engagement ring on a thrifty budget

While the prospect of getting engaged can set happy butterflies bumbling around your stomach, the feeling often gets tempered by the thought of having to pay for all that this entails. Here's how to save money on your engagement...

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Photo by Claire Lacey Photography

The good news is that even if you’re limited in terms of budget, or you want to put as much cash as possible towards the wedding rather than the engagement ring, you can still get the jewellery of your dreams if you’re savvy.

I remember when my now-husband and I got engaged, funds were extremely tight. We were very young at the time and were working in our first jobs – part-time hours around studying at university. So, with a budget to stick to, we thought that the options for an engagement ring and our wedding rings would be limited.

Luckily, we were wrong. It WAS possible to find my dream engagement ring even though money was scarce at the time, and we both have lovely wedding rings that we’ve been exceptionally happy to wear for almost 20 years now!

Even if you don’t have limited funds, it’s still a good idea to explore alternative, lower-cost options. Some are more eco-friendly in the way that they are manufactured and reusing an existing item rather than buying new is always a more sustainable choice. Plus, cutting the cost of the rings can give you more funds to spend on the big day, too.

Here are six ideas to help you cut the cost of your wedding jewellery, from the engagement ring to the wedding bands.

1 Embracing lab-grown diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds are a spectacular and cost-effective option when you’ve got a budget to stick to for your engagement ring. These dazzling alternatives provide the same beauty as mined diamonds but are priced significantly lower. This allows you to go for a larger, higher-quality diamond without breaking the bank.

One solution to add sparkle into your life while being financially conscious is to choose your dream ring from VRAI, which is a supplier of exquisite lab-grown diamond jewellery. Offering an extensive collection of settings and lab-created diamonds cut to order in over 30 shapes, they ensure that each customer can find the perfect match that meets their aesthetic preferences and budget.

Aside from being easier on your bank balance, lab-grown diamond engagement rings are also more appealing from an environmental perspective. Those available from VRAI are made in a foundry that produces zero net emissions, so your eco-conscience can rest easy.

2 Exploring alternative gems

If you’re open to veering away from diamonds for your engagement ring, various alternative gem options present unique styles and won’t put too much stress on your savings. These visually captivating alternatives capture not only the essence of love but also allow couples to showcase their distinct personalities.

For instance, sapphires come in diverse hues like royal blue or mesmerizing pink, adding a bold touch of colour while still being incredibly durable. Similarly, rubies with their fiery red colour symbolise passion and express an unmistakable elegance when paired with your preferred metal band.

When searching for these eye-catching options, or even lesser-known gems like morganite or aquamarine, don’t limit yourself. Why not go for your favourite colour – you have to wear it every day, after all! You never know what non-diamond ring might catch your eye and win you over out of the blue.

3 Pre-owned rings:

Delving into the world of pre-owned engagement rings opens doors to unique and sometimes antique designs at pocket-positive prices. Beyond reflecting exceptional craftsmanship, these rings also carry within them stories from bygone eras, and will also suit anyone who’s already into vintage fashion.

Exploring reputable jewellery dealers specializing in vintage or second-hand pieces might help you get a deal that’ll preserve your budget. Alternatively, consider family heirlooms, as passing down an engagement ring from one generation to another adds sentimental value that you won’t get from an off-the-peg product.

Before finalizing any purchase involving pre-owned items, consult trusted gemologists or appraisers to ensure you’re getting a fair price, or check up on equivalent pieces available elsewhere to verify this for yourself if an expert isn’t easy to source.

4 Opting for lower-karat gold or mixed metals

Choosing the right metal band for your engagement ring is a crucial aspect of finding that dream piece without overspending. Opting for lower-karat gold options, such as 9K or 14K instead of 18K, significantly reduces costs while still maintaining an appearance that mirrors higher-karat counterparts.

When my husband and I were looking for our wedding bands we knew what style we wanted but weren’t fussed about the karat of the gold, so mine is 9K and it still looks as good as it did when it first went on my finger nearly 20 years ago. It’s durable and still super-shiny. What it represents is considerably more important than the price we paid for it.

Mixed-metal bands, which blend different metals like white and yellow gold or platinum with rose gold, can also result in cost savings while embracing contemporary style statements. Such innovative and diverse designs offer customizable versatility, enabling couples to create unique pieces affordably.

Bear in mind that some metals don’t play well together, and others aren’t suited to everyday wear because of their comparative fragility. The more you know going into this decision, the less challenging it will be to pick out an engagement ring that looks good and also fits your lifestyle.

5 Timing your purchase

One overlooked aspect when selecting the ideal engagement ring on a budget is exploring potential savings during certain times of the year. Seasonal sales, holidays, or inventory clearances provide golden opportunities for significant discounts, granting you access to dream-worthy pieces at surprisingly low prices.

The festive season, Valentine’s Day, Black Friday and end-of-season transitions are some instances where jewellery retailers often present markdowns on specific items, sometimes even including custom design options or additional perks like free resizing services.

To make the most out of these promotional periods without feeling overwhelmed, plan ahead sensibly. Methodically research ideal designs so you know what you’re looking for, while also establishing a realistic budget based on your financial circumstances. That way, once an appealing sale finally emerges, you’re ready not only to seize it but also savour every moment with absolute confidence.

5 Customise an inexpensive ring

When budget constraints limit the options for selecting a perfect engagement ring, don’t let that curb your imagination. Instead, consider selecting an affordable base design and customize it with personal touches that mean something to you both.

By adding intimate details such as engravings of significant dates, shared symbols, or even elements inspired by locations that hold a special significance in the story of your relationship so far, you can elevate a modestly-priced ring into an irreplaceable masterpiece. Keep in mind that some customizations entail additional costs, so consult local jewellers who can accommodate creative ideas while sticking to what you’re willing to spend.

Ultimately it’s not the price of your engagement ring that matters, but what it represents. A dream ring doesn’t have to leave you in debt, and being clever with your budgeting (and knowing where and when to buy) will put you in a strong position to find the right ring at the right price.

Let me know if you managed to make savings on your engagement in the comments below. I’d love to hear your tips for getting a great deal on special jewellery.

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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