Cheapo Engagement Ring
February 21, 2014 6:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering a really cheap engagement ring - under $100, with non-precious stones, nickel-plated silver, and cubic zirconia. I'm the recipient. Is this a bad idea?

After much searching, I found a really cheap engagement ring (under $100) that I like. Non-precious stones, cubic zirconia, nickel-plated silver. I bought it and have been trying it out for a few days and I'm happy with it so far. (I'm the recipient, if that matters.)

Money is not an issue (and the fiance has said he would be happy to buy me a regular fancy engagement ring). But I like the idea of something cheap that I don't have to worry about breaking or losing and spending the money on something practical instead.

I don't wear any other jewelry so I don't really know how this will play out in the long term. I really like colored stones, so even if I had something fancier, it wouldn't be the traditional big diamond.

I'm wondering:
- How often will I have to replace it?
- Does it look strange to others? Will they be able to tell that it's really cheap? What are the tip-offs?
- Does it make sense to have the same ring "re-made" with high-quality materials (platinum instead of nickel-plated silver, small diamonds instead of small cubic zirconia, etc.)?
- What else should I be thinking about? Did you regret getting a really cheap ring?
posted by 3491again to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (56 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been married for twelve years now with nary an engagement ring. WHO CARES what other people think - if you like the ring, you like the ring, and that's what matters. If it's not going to hold up, make a tradition of every five, three, whatever years getting a new cheap ring to replace it. If other people judge, that's their issue, not yours.
posted by Ruki at 6:40 PM on February 21, 2014 [16 favorites]

I wear a lot of non-expensive jewelry and the main thing that you will possibly have to deal with is metal discoloration (oxidation?), especially if you get sweaty and/or wear the ring while washing your hands. You will probably start noticing wear and tear within a year if you wear it all the time.

If you don't want to deal with replacing it regularly or being careful to take it off during the above conditions, you might want to consider getting a duplicate made with a higher quality metal. You can still do cubic zirconia and non-precious stones - those will hold up well, as long as the jeweler gives them a solid setting.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:41 PM on February 21, 2014

Married 11ish years, I can't recall seeing my wife's engagement ring in at least the last 8-9 years. Buy whatever you like, no one will mind.
posted by sanka at 6:43 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a white gold and hand cut CZ ring that was $200 from Ebay. I LOVE it!

I would suggest that you might try to find a stronger metal (stainless steel, titanium, or gold) just so it will last longer and you won't have issues with tarnishing as much. No one knows my ring is CZ unless I tell them. I am a huge fan of it though because it's still gold, so it's strong, and the CZs would be cheap to replace if I lost one, plus they are super clear. (Memail me and I can try to find the vendor on Ebay again.) Oh, and my wedding band is just titanium and I love that too.

Really though, how much your ring costs is your own business. If someone asks just say "I love it" and move on. Screw them. I would just be concerned with it lasting so you don't have to fuss with replacing it.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:44 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

What else should I be thinking about?

Little stones in costume jewelry fall out, that's one issue that comes to mind. (Not to discourage you; I am not in any way a fan of expensive jewelry.)
posted by cairdeas at 6:45 PM on February 21, 2014

I'd maybe reconsider the nickel since it can irritate skin. I prefer CZ or Moissanite to diamonds and I'd only be concerned about good craftsmanship and a solid setting. If you like non-traditional designs, Etsy can be a good place to shop. Otherwise, Crystalinne's vendor sounds good.

Don't let anyone shame you for your choice. If they do, consider showing them this.
posted by quince at 6:52 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd avoid nickel due to the possibility of nickel allergy.
posted by goshling at 6:54 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I do this, though I usually get rhodium-plated when I can find it. They don't last forever, but I also don't especially care.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:13 PM on February 21, 2014

My spouse bought me a $350 plain band from Tiffany. No rock, nothing flashy, just classic, pretty and I don't have to worry about it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:15 PM on February 21, 2014

I got mine for $65 on Etsy, Scroll down to see it. It's held up beautifully and it's rare a day goes by that someone doesn't compliment me on it. So go for it! You have to wear and look at it everyday, so get what you want.
posted by stormygrey at 7:19 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did this, and the one thing I regret about it, is that people always ask you lots of questions about an engagement ring. "Are those real diamonds?" "Is that platinum?" "How many karats?" etc. And I feel stupid and bad lying about it, especially because I'm NOT ashamed, but I hate the look of pity that crosses people's faces when I tell them the truth (which I always do: it's silver plated, cubic zirconias, and I think expensive rings are a waste of money.)

I actually stopped wearing it because every interaction about it left me feeling grumpy and defensive.

I don't wear a wedding ring at all, for similar reasons.
posted by lollusc at 7:20 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

My ring cost $100. Still using it as a wedding ring. Mine is brass, though, with a silver lining, hand-forged by a heavy-metal singer.

Obligatory link
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 7:20 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

My engagement ring is in the $150-$200 range- white gold, with a small sapphire and teeny-tiny diamonds on the side. Husband and I were students, and we thought spending $1000+ on a ring was silly, and still do, so we have no plans to "upgrade" or anything like that.

Main problem was people not realizing it was an engagement ring (even *after* Kate Middleton went ahead and copied me with the sapphire thing), but you'd probably not have that problem with CZ because it at least sort of looks like a diamond.

I say go for it; some others are suggesting replacing the band with white gold, but keep in mind that you need to get that replated every so often (every year or two), as the rhodium will wear off and it'll start getting yellowish.
posted by damayanti at 7:21 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I go to pawn shops and I look at rings that are 14K gold and have colored stones, because they sell them for just above scrap metal prices and not including the price of the stone.

In this way, I have gotten a Ceylon cornflower blue sapphire from the 1950's, surrounded by old mine cut diamonds, valued at $16,000, for $150, and a pair of emerald earrings for $50, a pink sapphire ring for $60, and many more things.

If you want a special ring, and you like colored stones, I would say pick out the color you like, research it, and do the pawn shop thing, rule being 14K gold (or white gold, which is harder to find at pawn shops). If you are friendly, they will give you an opinion, but buyer beware. I lucked out on the sapphire because the salesman thought all sapphires were dark. The jeweler down the street couldn't believe it, and he had to call in a gemologist to verify it.

I've also bought and sold items this way. But still, the #1 rule in jewelry is how you feel about it. Obviously you are feeling some doubts about your choice. That's okay! We all do it! Why not go out and look around at some pawn shops or vintage shops to see if there is something else that will feed your desire? It's not like you are buying a blood diamond. And looking never hurts, unless it hurts your wallet :-) Get yourself a sparkly that you truly love and then go back and get another one next year, dear. Because diamonds are a girl's best friend.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:33 PM on February 21, 2014 [12 favorites]

I have one ring, it cost less than $80, and it served as a promise ring, engagement ring, and wedding ring. Never regretted a thing. So what if you have to replace it? So what if people notice it's a non-traditional ring, they'll assume you're a non-traditional person. Remake it with high quality materials if that matters to you, but I don't know why it should. Really, if you want this ring, get this ring.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:35 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I bought a 35 dollar stainless steel band with a lovely etched design. I do it because I like it, and I work in a fairly dangerous areas robbery wise. I would rather just give it up and buy a new one than fret with an insurance claim. I also love how heavy the band is.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:35 PM on February 21, 2014

Get what feels right to you. And you're certainly not alone in your preference to forego the expensive diamond ring, as others in this thread can attest. If I ever get married again and if my partner and I decide to exchange rings, I don't plan on anything fancier than a semiprecious stone in silver. (And I say this as someone who had a sizable diamond set in gold the first time around. It was lovely, but it just wasn't ever quite me. I wish we'd spent the money on a trip instead.)
posted by scody at 7:36 PM on February 21, 2014

Just to note: I have also had expensive jewelry store diamonds and semi-precious stones from the same. And now I am like, Gadzooks! when I think about it. What Scody said. And none of it meant so much to me as those things I have hunted down in resale shops and my husband goes, Oh well, here ya go. And it makes us both feel good but the best part is the hunting. For me. As I am a rock hunter.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:42 PM on February 21, 2014

Husband and I have titanium wedding rings. I love them, but if your weight fluctuates, they can't be resized, which is how I lost mine while out shopping after losing a bunch of weight (it's been replaced with a smaller one, but still).
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:56 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm on my third wedding ring. The first one fell between the slats of the deck at Kerbey Lane restaurant in Austin, Texas. The second is somewhere in California. The third one is on my finger as I type this note.

This is why I have a $35 silver wedding band. Total cost, so far: $105. I like having a wedding ring, because I like to look at it and remember when I first started wearing it. But what I really like is having a wife who is patient with a man clumsy enough to lose the ring she put on my finger and then lose the replacement ring she bought me.

She has the same one, but she's only on her second ring. We think the first one is in the mountains somewhere. We celebrate 20 years next month.

Rings are nice, but don't lose any sleep over which one you want. If you want it, then get it.

Oh, and congratulations!
posted by math at 7:56 PM on February 21, 2014 [12 favorites]

Who gives a damn about what outsiders think. It needs to be a ring you enjoy wearing if it's something you plan to have on every day for the foreseeable future, that's all that matters. As for the price, that's your business and no one else's. If someone were to inquire as to the materials or the cost, I would laugh at them and ask them why they feel that is relevant.

I love the idea of skipping out on the overpriced blood diamonds most people feel pressured to buy and going with whatever you like, something affordable. Check out Etsy, I love some of the handmade rings on there.

As others have stated, cheaper alloys are going to tarnish quickly and may even warp or come apart with time. I would go with a metal that will last.
posted by OneHermit at 8:00 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The engagement ring I chose was a $25 silver one. I regretted that because it tarnished too easily, and people are looking at it and remarking upon it all the time and I felt like I had to keep polishing it. For my wedding ring I chose a $75 titanium band that never needs polishing and is awesome. If I had it to do over I'd get titanium for the engagement too. If you really love the ring, you should get it regardless because for the short duration of the engagement maybe it is worth it or won't tarnish so easily as mine did, but I would recommend a different material for the wedding ring since you'll presumably be wearing it for life.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:05 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I should add that I was only engaged for 3 months before I got married and by that time I was already sick of polishing up the tarnish.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:06 PM on February 21, 2014

Congratulations! I actually don't have an engagement ring, because I really didn't want one. I had a few people raise eyebrows, but most people just accepted it. I know many women in the long term who settled on only wearing their wedding band anyways.

There's a lot of history behind why diamonds are preferred, and it has a lot to do with the de Beers company in the early 1900s having a ton of diamonds and needing a way to get rid of/make money from them. Diamonds as engagement rings have a lot less to do with tradition and a lot more to do with advertising and marketing. In addition, there can be human rights issues with a lot of diamonds. Cubic zirconia, on the other hand, is man made in a lab, presumably with fewer human rights issues.

Many of the married people I know chose wedding bands with something other than diamonds because they preferred other stones. Long term, you'd like to have a hard wearing stone in a ring you plan to wear daily, and cubic zirconia fits that with a mohs hardness of 8. As long as the stone isn't ZOMG huge, it shouldn't be obvious that it is CZ and not diamond.

As long as you don't have a nickel allergy, it should be ok. I prefer rhodium because it stays nicely shiny, but if you are happy, that's what's important. I think being excited about your engagement and saying things like, "I love the ring, I picked it out!" will go a long ways towards encouraging people to not say anything negative. To be honest, most people really just want to say, "Oh, what a lovely ring, congratulations!" and move on... and those that don't, most likely just want to make sure YOU'RE happy with what you have.

Think of it this way. Everyone has an opinion on how a wedding should be "done", and you'll be amazed to find out how many conflicting recommendations you'll receive. Answering any questions about your ring is good practice in saying, "I'm so happy with how we've chosen to move forward" in a serene and graceful way. :)
posted by RogueTech at 8:08 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have a gold ring with sapphires from our engagement and rarely wear it. I wear sterling silver almost exclusively. The wedding band I choose to wear was bought a couple years in and is a wide SS band with a basket weave pattern. It was under $100.

We just had our 20th anniversary and I chose this for a right hand ring.

Wear what you love!
posted by michellenoel at 8:11 PM on February 21, 2014

I've been married 24 years and I had the traditional engagement ring. I haven't worn in it in about 17 years. It was a pain - always catching on stuff and I scratched my newborn a couple of times. Now I wear a plain gold band with another etched gold band I bought for myself. Wear what you want. Your tastes will change as you age and you can always get another band or whatever later. The ring makes no difference.
posted by lasamana at 8:12 PM on February 21, 2014

I'd be wary of the nickel-plated silver because plating can wear off. I'm totally with you on the cheap rings though - mine is white gold and moissanite, and I got it off ebay for about $300. That was a year and a half ago and I don't regret it - although I sometimes wish I had something more unusual looking, and without prongs to get caught on things.

It's pretty nice being able to wear it while travelling without freaking out about it getting lost or stolen. But get whatever you like! You could also have multiple (cheap) rings and switch them out as the mood takes you - example one, two.
posted by escapepod at 8:40 PM on February 21, 2014

You don't want a ring that you're planning on wearing all the time to turn your finger black. So you might think about something that will tarnish less than silver.

My engagement ring ---which I love to pieces and was not particularly cheap---has a ruby set in a half-bezel, because I didn't want a diamond and I didn't want something that was going to poke and scratch me. I initially wanted garnet, but the concern was that garnets aren't very durable and might chip or wear down. The dark ruby has held up very well.

So if you plan on wearing your engagement ring all the time, you might think a tiny bit about durability.

But other than that, if you're choosing, wear what makes you happy.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:00 PM on February 21, 2014

I have an $8 silver engagement ring, plain band, from Pike Place Market. The vendor gave us half off because we bought mr.beeswax's at the same time and told her they were engagement rings and she was ridiculously excited for us so between the two we paid $16 for engagement rings we have worn for the last 20 years or so. We have plain gold bands for our wedding rings, I think mine was ~$100, and his was maybe ~$200 (difference in size) bought from a real jewelry store who were significantly less enchanted by our pragmatic approach and lack of interest in the more costly options.

The only question I seem to be answering here is the one about regretting a cheap ring. My husband is awesome, the rings are incidental, and I've never had any regret or second thoughts about them (and I've never noticed tarnish on my finger or ring... Except that time I lost it for a year or so... And since I react to nickel, but am ok with sterling, I assume it is as claimed).
posted by susanbeeswax at 9:17 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

To be fair, we only got the $8 bands after the ones from the 25ยข vending machine next to the gumballs in the grocery store broke... So durability was a consideration...
posted by susanbeeswax at 9:20 PM on February 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't have an engagement ring. We were students and didn't have the money. When we did have the money I didn't have the least interest in wearing something expensive. My wedding band is my grandmother's, for whom I was named and who died just before I was born.

My mum never had an engagement ring, either. What she did have was a cheapo brooch my dad bought her in their courting days, that she loved so much she named it in her will to pass to me. If idiots asked her if the brooch was "real", she smiled and said it had enormous sentimental value.

You should get and wear what you love and if someone crass asks about its cost (that's what the questions about the stones are really about), you could respond innocently, "Why do you ask?" to see if they'll admit that they want to know what it cost. Or perhaps my mum's response that the ring's sentimental value far outweighs any monetary value will serve.
posted by angiep at 9:40 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel shamed with angiep's answer. I do go after jewels, it's true. But you should do what's best for you. I never meant to encourage jewel seeking, that's my own geas. And trust me, it's a geas.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:54 PM on February 21, 2014

I have a maybe $30? "engagement" ring, that was actually used as the wedding ring for our first (somewhat unexpected) wedding. I'm also currently wearing it and my wedding ring on my index finger because I lost weight and they don't fit on my ring finger any more. I am perfectly happy with all of this. Well, in a perfect world I'd like to get the rings resized, but I'm fine with the current arrangement until then.

The only thing about the cheap ring I've ever regretted was when I got contact dermatitis on one finger and had to change fingers until it healed up.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:55 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you don't normally wear jewelry, you may be surprised by your skin's reaction to nickel. It gives me contact dermatitis very quickly--within hours! I would recommend sterling silver or stainless steel for a cheaper silver-colored metal.

I know others in this thread have said their sterling rings have tarnished, but I've worn one every day for the last 15 years through showers, swimming pools, and a hideous amount of handwashing, and it still looks great and has nary a scratch. The enamel "stone" in it is a little worse for wear, though--I agree with other who say to consider the hardness of the stone you choose.
posted by assenav at 9:59 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I asked my wife to marry me, we had not yet picked out a ring so I got $3 in quarters and went to the vending machine at the grocery store and put in quarters twisting the handle hoping a ring would come out instead of the tattoo or the key chain. I got a 25 cent ring with a huge plastic purple "stone" and asked her to marry me with that. She wore it proudly and did not pick out a replacement until it finally came apart.

Wear whatever you think makes you happiest.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:01 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

> I'm considering a really cheap engagement ring - under $100, with non-precious stones, nickel-plated silver, and cubic zirconia. I'm the recipient. Is this a bad idea?

Cheap: thumbs up
Non-precious stones: thumbs up
CZ: wouldn't be my choice when there are so many pretty real stones, but okay
Nickel-plated silver: Whoa there. Hell no.

I'm not being a snob about nickel-plated silver because it's inexpensive. There are plenty of options for well-made rings out of less-expensive metals. Nickel-plated silver isn't really associated with that category, though. noted upthread, it's notorious for making skin angry with prolonged wear, and the plating will wear off and look crappy.
posted by desuetude at 11:13 PM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

I told my wife that when we got engaged, I would expect a kayak of similar value as her ring - since why should she get all the fun of an engagement present ?

She found a ring she likes for 120 dollars. I however have not found a kayak I like for that same money despite being married now for 8 years.

I think I got scammed. :-) Congrats to you, though! The ring don't matter - are you happy ?

Then you are happy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:19 AM on February 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

As long as it doesn't squirt water, you're fine. It's the meaning that matters, not the cost.
posted by VikingSword at 12:52 AM on February 22, 2014

- Does it make sense to have the same ring "re-made" with high-quality materials (platinum instead of nickel-plated silver, small diamonds instead of small cubic zirconia, etc.)?

For what it's worth, I'm a jewelry hound but I hate the diamond industry and the three-months' salary De Beers bullshit that people seem to buy into. Lay people can't tell the difference between high quality diamond simulants and real diamonds, so I would consider buying a loose simulant and having it set in a high quality metal setting. The reason I suggest the high quality setting is two-fold: One, it reduces the risk that you will develop an allergic reaction, end up with green fingers, etc., and two, the ring will last longer and show less wear and tear. It's tempting when buying simulants to get a giant stone because they're so cheap, but I think 1 carat and smaller are much more believable, more practical, and don't overwhelm the wedding ring to be added later. So I guess my suggestion is something of a hybrid between the CZ/nickel-plated silver ring you like the looks of and the "re-made but real" idea you put forward. Stick with the simulant, spend the real money on the metal and setting.
posted by xyzzy at 2:23 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Forget what other people think. People will find ways to be personally offended by your engagement ring no matter what you have (gurl, I could tell you some STORIES about responses to my extremely conventional .2 carat diamond ring).

I would, however, choose a better metal. I think xyzzy's idea is an excellent one, so you can get exactly the kind of ring you want in a long lasting metal. I'd also look into other stones like moissanite and white topaz.
posted by nerdfish at 3:03 AM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Buying a cheap ring doesn't mean you don't have to baby it; it actually means you have to baby it more.

It's good advice to get a ring in a more durable metal. No one has mentioned palladium yet; it's a less expensive alternative to platinum. The downside is some jewelers do not work in the metal yet, so you may have to take more time to hunt one down. I've had a palladium ring and it was beautiful and very durable; Mr. Payoto's wedding band is also palladium.

As for stones, CZs are not particularly durable and also tend to cloud over time. Moissanite is a fantastic. It's very hard and actually sparkles more than diamond. I have moissanite earrings and they are really beautiful, and indistinguishable from diamonds in the size that I have (4.5 mm round stones). You might also look into white sapphire (corundum) which is also a very hard stone. These tend to have an icier look rather than the fireball sparkle of diamond or moissanite. They should not be expensive, particularly if they are lab-created.
posted by payoto at 4:59 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did you regret getting a really cheap ring?

Our engagement rings ran $50.50 total for the two of them (link) and they're awesome. I don't regret at all not spending the money on something more expensive (our engagement dinner cost more, and was also worth every penny). Neither of us wanted stones, and we wanted something a little different, and I required something durable (I am clumsy as all get out), and they fit the bill nicely. We haven't gotten any negative reactions, either - so far, everyone we've run into have thought they were really cool.

I would add that they were inexpensive, not cheap - this ring may well outlive me. It's also heavy as hell, which has taken some getting used to for someone who's never worn jewelry. I am not having any tarnish or discoloration issues so far.

So I think other commenters' concerns about whether the specific ring you're considering is going to fall apart eventually are valid. If you're ok with that, then excellent (maybe picking out something new periodically will be fun). If not, take a poke around Etsy - there's so much amazing and relatively inexpensive work and I bet you could find something you love that might hold up better, if you determine that that is a concern.
posted by joycehealy at 5:31 AM on February 22, 2014

It's not unheard of to buy a new ring, like an anniversary ring down the road in a much different style and budget. People change and often prefer other styles later in life. You will always have your first ring, but don't think that is the end of it. My MIL got a surprise 3 karat diamond from her husband after her mastectomy at the age of 50. She's 91 now and says she went into the hospital with breasts and came out with a big diamond, she's a cutie pie (and still married).
posted by waving at 6:00 AM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

My grandparents got married right after WWII and a ring wasn't high on their priority list; they just got inexpensive wedding rings and called it a day. When my mom was about 12 years old, she went with my grandfather to advise him on the purchase of a 20-years-late "engagement ring" for her mom, because he wanted her to have a diamond like all her friends did, even though she'd been saying for 20 years that it didn't matter. They were married 54 years.

Get the ring you like. You can always change your mind later. You can always have the same ring replicated in finer materials if you like, or get something different, or decide you're not comfortable wearing a ring all the time, or whatever. (Like a lot of women, I quit wearing my engagement ring when I had babies because, first, my fingers swelled up like WHOA and second, as a couple people mentioned up-thread, they are baby-pokers. My kids are still little, and I just haven't gotten back in the habit of wearing it yet. Another friend stopped wearing hers because she has bad carpal tunnel and wearing a ring flares it up. Another friend stopped wearing his wedding ring after the third one in a row got lost and his wife was like "JUST GET A TATTOO FOR GOD'S SAKE.")

Engagement rings are beautiful symbolism, but don't feel obligated to follow specific rules about it because they are, after all, just one of many symbols available of love, marriage, and commitment. (The joke in our house is "why do we need to share a last name? We share a MORTGAGE!")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:21 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a maybe $30? "engagement" ring, that was actually used as the wedding ring for our first (somewhat unexpected) wedding.

Did they cost as much as $30?!

I still have mine, too, and wear it. Except for the last couple of days that it's spent sitting in the little dish in the bathroom where we keep stuff like that, because it was angrifying my finger.

Spend more money on the metal than the stone, is my advice. And ignore anyone who gets snooty at you for having a ring you like just because it didn't cost a couple of arms.
posted by rtha at 7:30 AM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Presumably you'll be wearing the engagement ring for the rest of your life. That means it should be something you a) like and b) can't wreck.

It sounds like a) is true in your case but not b). The point of precious metals and stones (apart from opals, for example) is that they're difficult to wreck.

If I had a ring I wanted to wear permanently, I would pick platinum or gold, because they're very resistant to water and other chemicals so I would be able to wash my hands, etc., without taking off the rings first; the more you have to take off a ring, the more likely you are to lose it. Palladium is mmmmmayyybe an alternative, though it's brittle and if nickel reaction is a concern, palladium reaction probably would be too.

So I would suggest it's worth looking for something in gold or platinum for the sake of durability and ergonomics.

I'm not nutz about engagement rings nor about precious jewellery, and whether or not people will sneer at your ring is kind of a distraction TBH. But I think if you want a ring that's fit for purpose, gold or platinum is the way to go.
posted by tel3path at 9:30 AM on February 22, 2014

To nth the sentiment, buying something of quality that will endure like I'm sure your marriage will does not necessarily entail blood diamonds or ostentation. There are lots of vintage and estate sales that have amazing pieces of well-crafted jewelry for short money.

It absolutely doesn't have to be like everybody else's engagement ring (or wedding band), but having an object of great quality and craftsmanship on my finger is a nice way to remind myself of the work and rewards involved in my wonderful marriage.

I guess the point is, you should choose your hardware to match the kind of marriage you hope to have, not anybody else's ideal.
posted by joedanger at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

My wife and I went to one of those jewelry classes where you hammer some designs into a strip of silver and then shape it and seal it shut. Cost was $50 or so each. I wear mine everyday with pride. My wedding ring is slightly more traditional in that it is (recycled) white gold and has a gemstone (tourmaline from a local mine). I haven't regretted anything we've done. The joy and sentiment of what we've done is important, not the cost. I'm happy with the ethics of the decisions we made. I never thought I would wear either ring everyday, but I do. At the time, it felt like a really unusual decision, but it really wasn't. People choose to forgo expensive and/or diamond rings all of the time.

It is true that we will have to replace our rings at some point (because the stone is not very durable), as will you. How do you feel about retiring your ring at some point and getting a replacement? I was fine with the idea, and hope to tie any replacement with a sentimental occasion (i.e. this isn't my wedding ring, it is my 5th anniversary ring). Everyday I get a little bit more attached, though, so that will still be sad for me when that day comes.
posted by studioaudience at 10:45 AM on February 22, 2014

Your happiness is all that matters. I would suggest getting a stronger metal if possible, such as tungsten carbide, since it will last forever and won't scratch.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

To directly answer your question, no it's not a bad idea to get an inexpensive engagement ring, especially one that you like. It's not just not a bad idea, it's a great idea!

I paid $25 total for both our rings. We used them as both engagement rings and wedding rings. I got plain stainless steel bands with a dark coating because I wanted something unusual and non-traditional.

It's been 5 years so far and though the coating on mine has worn down a little (my ring experiences more manual labor than my partner's), the ring itself is in perfect shape. I definitely don't regret it. Spending the money on other things (and not contributing to the conflict mineral/jewel trade) was much more important to us.

You may want to rethink the nickel-plating just because you might be allergic and not know it, or you may develop an allergy to it later that makes it unwearable.
posted by i feel possessed at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2014

My original engagement ring (a seafoam tourmaline in white gold, about $350) is now a bit too small for my finger. I don't have a jeweler I trust, and I'm putting off getting it re-sized. For a few weeks I've been wearing a nickel plated copper ring with a cz. The cz is great, but the plating is wearing off and you can see the copper coming through.

Since discovering what they've got on Etsy, I'm all for alternative metals and stones. There are some incredible brass, bronze and even copper rings on that site, with a range of exciting stones that don't cost as much as a car. (Copper is fine when it's intentional!) And I recently discovered a metal called silvadium (a mix of silver and palladium) that's reasonably priced, here.

Raw stones are a gorgeous too, and since they're high-set they'll work well next to any wedding band. Crystals, diamonds, Herkimer diamonds, black diamonds, sapphires, apatites (with an amazing neon blue-green color), rubies and citrines look super interesting in a claw setting, and have a luxe feel that's anything but generic. Try Etsy's search feature and discover what you come up with.

I was considering a black diamond as well - I love how they look in a white gold or silver setting. There are some black-spinel diamond lookalikes on Etsy from a number of artisans, and I found some genuine black diamonds in silver settings under $100.

Have fun!
posted by cartoonella at 1:31 AM on February 23, 2014

I have a $50 engagement ring and a $20 wedding band, both from Etsy. I love them both and get nothing but compliments on them. The stone in the engagement ring is a pearl and I love it and people have actually congratulated me on NOT having a diamond.

I worry about losing these rings and to quell my anxiety, my husband told me he'd happily replace them if anything happened to them. I have no idea how people don't freak out all the time about losing their super-expensive rings! People replace their wedding rings all the time. A friend of our has several copies of his wedding band in case he loses one. Some people never wear them at all (I thought my husband would never wear his, but he's surprised me.)

You should have the ring you want, for whatever reason you want it. No one has said anything critical to me about have somewhat nontraditional wedding jewelry.
posted by Aquifer at 8:35 AM on February 23, 2014

nthing "Your ring, your choice."

My wedding ring (gold band with pattern on it) doesn't fit anymore, and it can't be resized. Just realized I can wear it on my pinky on my left hand, so I will from now on. I bought a $10 band to wear in its place a few years ago that's showing its age. I may replace it if I find something cheap that I like, but it's not a priority.
posted by luckynerd at 4:01 PM on February 23, 2014

I think you should absolutely get whatever ring you want. I went through a weird "what should I get for an engagement ring, what will people say!" question as well (only my question was around gemstone vs. diamond). (ps - if you go with a coloured stone, I so so so stronly recommend sapphires. I ADORE my sapphire ring, so much more than I thought I would, and it is so eyecatching and different from most people's!) Not for one second have I regretted going with the ring Mr.McSockerson and I loved. Seriously, get what you want. You are the one that is going to wear it. Similarly, my husband's wedding band only cost $150 (titanium with a carbon fiber inlay, similar to this). It looks fantastic and he and I both love it. It isn't that he is cheap or didn't want to spend money on the wedding band. It was just that that band was exactly what he wanted. If it had cost 1000$ he would have bought it, but it only cost 150$. WIN! Meanwhile he has a 4,000$ Omega watch that he bought on our honeymoon, which also looks amazing and actually matches his wedding band perfectly! So get what MEANS something and that has value to YOU.

My only suggestion is to decide NOW how you are going to answer people's questions about the ring. I suggest when people do the whole "Is that gold? Is that diamond?" questions just answer, "Oh god, I have no idea, and frankly don't care! ha ha All I know is that I LOVE it, it is perfect, and I am so excited!!" (I should say, though, that not one person asked me any of those sorts of questions. All I got was "What a beautiful ring!" and "Congrats!". So maybe you don't need to worry about what other people will say as much as you think.)

I got married last September and I can assure you that marriage rocks huge amounts of ass when it is to the right person! Super huge congrats to you and your fiance!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:15 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am not engaged or married, but I would just caution you against nickel-plated silver. Nickel allergies are really common, if you don't have one now, you could develop one. You might want to keep in mind what is going to be most durable and least likely to irritate your skin, if you are planning on wearing it for years.
posted by inertia at 10:26 AM on February 24, 2014

You still might want to get gold, because it will probably look nicer, people usually don't have allergies to it, etc, etc. I'm not sure if nickel plater stuff will tarnish funny / faster.

Beyond that though, yeah, buying an expensive engagement ring for the sake of having an expensive ring is stupid. My wife doesn't even wear her's anymore, it's in a lockbox. She just wears her wedding band.
posted by chunking express at 12:44 PM on February 25, 2014

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