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How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

Our Jewelry Value Experts Help You Make this Big Decision

How much should I spend on an engagement ring
How much should you spend?

You may have heard the rule of thumb that you should spend three months’ salary on the engagement ring. This could be extreme overkill, or it could be too small to meet the goal of exceeding her expectations. We will help explain some of the issues involved in deciding how much to spend, so you can make the right decision. First, let’s consider how the three month rule came about.

Where did the three months’ salary rule come from?

Old De Beers Ad
Marketing has shaped our culture’s view of engagement rings

The simple answer is: marketing. In much the same way that the Hallmark Company influenced our culture to make giving cards for the Holidays a social norm, the diamond and jewelry industry influenced culture to provide guidelines on the amount to spend on an engagement ring.

In the 1930s, it started with one months’ salary to buy a diamond engagement ring. By the way, only about 10% of the engagement rings at that time were diamond engagement rings. By the end of the 20th Century, over 80% of people gave diamond engagement rings. Diamond prices increased in that time frame due to simple supply and demand.

The two months’ salary rule began in the 1980s. The famous De Beers ad asked: “How else could two months’ salary last forever?” Another ad campaign had the following statement, “Two months’ salary showed the future Mrs. Smith what the future would be like.” This type of ad began to tie the success of a person and even their feelings for their future wife in with the engagement ring. In other words, a lady can judge how successful a man will be or how much he loves her by how expensive the diamond engagement ring he gives her is (more on this later).

Around the same time, the marketing push in Japan was for three months’ salary. In the 1970s, a Japanese ad stated, “A diamond engagement ring: worth three months’ salary.” With the increased globalization of the economy, the three months’ salary rule has spread around the world to become the de facto standard today.

The two main things to take away from all of this are:

  1. The three months’ salary came from a marketing plan by the diamond and jewelry trade.
  2. It evolved over time from one month to three months.

This is all interesting history, but it does not answer the big question: “What should I spend on an engagement ring?”

Some unfair truths about engagement rings

In order to answer that question, we have to consider some cultural realities surrounding the engagement ring. The first is that, like it or not, a large segment of our society will judge a man by the amount he spends on an engagement ring. Whenever your fiancé shows the ring, her friends, family, and complete strangers will judge how successful you are by the amount they think you spent on the ring.

Most the people who see the ring will not say this out loud, of course. But, a few people who are either too honest or too obnoxious will blurt out something like: “Mmm, too bad he’s a cheap skate” or “Wow! He’s got money; you landed a winner.”

try to get a feeling for what her expectations are so you can use them as a guide

The next unfair fact is that many will judge how much you love her by the price of the ring. Remember the ad campaigns we discussed before. These ads have connected many things in our culture with the engagement ring. It may demonstrate how committed you are to her. It may show how valuable you think she is. It could even be tied into how beautiful you think she is. How much she is worth is tied into how much the diamond is worth.

Of course, this is not a blanket statement that applies to everyone. But, it is a sentiment that is out there in our society, and you may want to be aware of it when deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring.

Another thing to remember is that she has expectations of what the ring should be like. These expectations can be very specific ideas or vague impressions that she may not even realize she has. You can either exceed these expectations or underwhelm her. You may want to try to get a feeling for what her expectations are so you can use them as a guide when shopping for an engagement ring. Some girls will expect more, and some will expect less. Knowing what your girl expects can be the single most important factor in deciding how much you should spend.

The final fact you should consider in deciding how much to spend is that a sense of style is very important to many people. Not demonstrating style with an engagement ring can have a big impact in someone’s social status. Taking into account how your lady is viewed by friends and her social group is an important thing to do when choosing an engagement ring. You want her to feel proud to add the ring to her daily look.

So, how much should I spend?

As you may have guessed at this point, no one can give you a universal rule of how much you should spend. The three month’s salary rule is not something that many people wind up using. In fact, current buying habits show men spend much closer to three weeks’ salary for a diamond engagement ring than three months’ salary.

Instead of focusing on general rules of thumb, ask yourself some questions. What kind of look will exceed her expectations? How much is a symbol of love worth? How practical can buying a symbol of love be? How will people perceive you based on the ring? How important to you are these perceptions? What is most important to her in an engagement ring? These are all personal questions to be answered in the amount of money you choose to spend on the ring for woman of your dreams.

However much you decide to spend, Arden Jewelers was built on the idea of giving you a bigger, better, cleaner, brighter engagement ring for your money than anyone else, and we would love the chance to demonstrate that for you.