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How to Save 50% on Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands

Getting married? The engagement ring and wedding rings you select for your fiancée and yourself will be symbols of your love and commitment for the rest of your life. Of course, the diamond industry knows this and does a brilliant job coercing us to spend a small fortune on engagement rings. Although quality engagement rings and wedding bands (like all fine jewelery) comes at a cost, there is no reason you should pay what the mainstream jewelry industry asks you to pay for these rings. It is very possible to save money on an engagement ring.

The Golden Rule: Do Not Buy an Engagement Ring from a Chain Jeweler

If you want to save money on an engagement ring or wedding rings, do not buy them from a chain jeweler. Sadly, this is what most people do (including myself, before I knew better). It’s easy to understand why: Major jewelers like Kay, Zales, Jared, Tiffany’s, etc. spend millions on advertising, are easily accessible nationwide, and give most diamond-buyers peace of mind that they’re dealing with a reputable company. (I would venture to guess than when buying diamonds, many people would rather overpay than risk spending hundreds or thousands on a gem that is not the indicated quality or isn’t even genuine.)

There’s nothing wrong with shopping at these chain jewelers to get a sense for what kind of rings you want, but the simple fact is that these stores mark up diamonds to double their cost…or more. If you do have your heart set on an engagement ring from one of these stores, always try negotiating. Early in my ring-buying experience I had a chain jeweler manager slashing the price of one ring by hundreds of dollars before I even asked. On the flip side, some of the higher-end jewelers with brands to protect will absolutely not negotiate their prices. But you never know until you ask.

Buying Engagement Rings Online

I recommend that you buy your engagement ring online.

During my ring-buying experience, I was blown away by online diamond stores like James Allen. The site lets you search through over 25,000 diamonds to find those in your price, size, and quality specifications and match your chosen gem with dozens of setting options. Prices seem to be nearly half of comparable rings in retail stores, and the site has an impeccable online reputation. They also offer free shipping and free returns.

To give you an idea of how much you can save: A simple 4mm platinum comfort fit men’s wedding band is $780 on James Allen compared to $1,450 at a local Jared the Galleria of Jewelry store. It’s almost half the price!

eBay is also rife with some incredible diamond deals, although buying through an online auction is a bit riskier than through a reputable online dealer. If you decide to buy an engagement ring on eBay, make sure you’re well-versed in diamond values and eBay transactions. Only purchase a ring if the seller agrees to use an escrow account for payment and allows you to take the ring to a jeweler for appraisal once you receive it.

Local, Independent Jewelers

If buying a diamond online isn’t for you, check out your local jewelers. Although rings at these stores will be significantly more than rings online, you’ll get more bang for your buck than at chain jewelers, as well as better craftsmanship and, most likely, a ring that is more unique. Although I purchased my fiancée’s engagement ring at a chain jeweler after being unable to find the style ring I wanted online, we’re having a local jeweler design a new ring for the diamond after my fiancée discovered the ring’s setting was too high and she was banging it around. We’ve gotten top-notch service from this jeweler, and his custom-designed setting will end up costing less than many of the generic settings available in the chain stores.

Diamond Wholesalers

For the truly brave, the absolute cheapest way to buy a diamond engagement ring is to buy a loose stone from a diamond wholesaler. To do this, you’ll have to live in or travel to a major city like New York and visit the diamond district in person. You’ll need to know what you’re doing, because these dealers are used to dealing with professional jewelers, and may try to take advantage of a naïve buyer. That said, if you negotiate correctly you can get your rock at wholesale prices and then have a jeweler design a setting. One final caution: These dealers only accept cold hard cash. I had a colleague at SmartMoney magazine buy his fiancée’s diamond this way and I recall him recounting how strange it was to walk through New York with thousands of dollars in his pocket.

Finally: It Doesn’t Have to Be a Diamond!

Although this post is mostly about saving money on a diamond engagement ring, there is no rule saying that an engagement ring has to be a diamond. It’s just a tradition that has been successfully propagated by a powerful diamond lobby keen on profit. You can find beautiful, unique, handcrafted rings with other stones for a tenth of the cost of a diamond. For ideas, check out the jewelry section of Etsy.com, an online marketplace for handmade products.

Did you save big money on your engagement ring? Get ripped off? Opted out of a diamond or an engagement ring altogether? Let us know!

Shop for diamond engagement rings now at JamesAllen.com, our recommended online jeweler »

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. >>> I will caution any suitors out there currently ring shopping
    >>> that you should have a sense of whether the ring’s origin will
    >>> be a deal-breaker for your honey…and act accordingly.

    By “act accordingly” I’m going to assume you mean “dump her” I mean COME ON ladies.

  2. I used Blue Nile for the engagement ring but we did shop around at several chain stores first. I believe I got an amazing deal at Blue Nile. I’m thinking about purchasing her band from there, but honestly, I might consider eBay for the band becuase it is not as large of a purchase but is still pretty pricey even on Blue Nile.

  3. Used my grandmother’s ring. Although the jeweler who altered it to fit my hand seemed amused that I didn’t want it “updated” to a more modern setting, I *love* wearing a constant reminder of my grandmother’s elegance, serving as a reminder that my marriage is in a sense a part of some larger tradition that I want to live up to.

  4. Annie Tran says:

    We purchased my engagement ring at Ben Bridge and his ring at a local independent jeweler. We shopped around quite a bit and with Ben Bridge we negotiated with the saleswoman and was able to get about 15% off their asking price. In addition, they made an error in the diamond they gave us, it wasn’t what they had promised (per GIA/AGS paperwork) and so they were obligated to give us a better diamond for the same price. They even waived the fees for GIA/AGS certification.

    As a side note, when we were shopping at BB, we saw a great Rolex which I wanted to get for my fiancé as an engagement present. BB offered 10% off since we’d just purchased the ring. However we went to an independent family jeweler, Finell’s, who then offered 18% discount knowing we were getting 10% from BB. Unfortunately, Finell’s then went out of business 6 months later. So now if we need to do any repairs on the watch, we won’t have the help of the jeweler and will have to deal directly with Rolex. So the small guys do run the risk of going out of business.