Help me engagement ring.
January 11, 2019 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I've been tasked with making a short list of engagement rings, which is very exciting, but incredibly daunting because I've never thought about an engagement ring before. After looking through Etsy and Pinterest, I've settled on some Art Deco rings that I like a lot; my problem is that the price range swings from a little less than $1000 to $2500. My boyfriend and I will be financing most of our wedding on our own and to me, spending money on a ring isn't the best use of our savings. How did you make a decision on an engagement ring? Did you regret the choice you made? Are there other factors I should consider when choosing a ring?
posted by orangesky4 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (41 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want an engagement ring? It's okay not to have one. You and your boyfriend make the rules.
posted by TORunner at 8:39 AM on January 11, 2019 [20 favorites]

The easiest way to save money is to not buy a diamond. It’s a manufactured tradition and even if you ignore the ethical concerns, it’s a price-fixed market and that means you can get far more pretty and good quality non-diamond gems for the same price.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:40 AM on January 11, 2019 [9 favorites]

I wanted to have a debt-free wedding more than I wanted an engagement ring so I skipped it. I don't regret my decision at all! I have a wedding ring and it's very nice; that's all I needed. You do you--it's your wedding!
posted by epanalepsis at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I recommend two things: keeping an open mind, and physically trying on the rings. The engagement ring I ended up with looks nothing like the rings I favorited in Etsy and Pinterist and web searches. Some of them seemed impractical for daily wear, or they didn't look "right" on my hand. I didn't actually buy my ring in a store, though, so we got a comparatively better deal.

I made a short ranked list so and my (soon to be) husband had some input on the process. I have no regrets about my ring.
posted by sm1tten at 8:46 AM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Fellow art deco ring on a tight budget fan here, get thee to Ebay - example 1, example 2.

I wouldn't search just in wedding and engagement rings section either.

Do you have any antique stores nearby that carry jewelry? Try there too but be sure to negotiate hard on the ticket price.
posted by humph at 8:53 AM on January 11, 2019 [9 favorites]

Seconding consider just skipping the engagement ring. My mom never had one, didn’t care, and was happily married for 40 years.
posted by amro at 8:53 AM on January 11, 2019

I had a white sapphire engagement ring, and it was beautiful, but in very plain setting - we had the same considerations as you - didn't want to spend too much on the ring because it really wasn't the best use of our money at the time, and the ring wasn't really a very important thing to me.

Unfortunately, the original ring got damaged over the years, so I put it away in my jewelry box and I have replaced it with an absolutely lovely Swarovski crystal ring with a much more intricate setting. I get SO MANY compliments on this ring. Plus, it cost less than $100, so I don't have to worry too much about it, and if I decide it no longer suits my personal style, I can replace it again.

My husband and I are not sentimental about our rings, though. Some people attach a great deal of meaning to their rings, which is absolutely fine and understandable, we are just not those people.
posted by erst at 9:00 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I originally didn't want an engagement ring, because I'm such a klutz, so my now-husband got me a cheap (less than $5) ring off ebay that was a replica of a ring worn by a couple we used to cosplay. Much to my surprise, I fell compeltely in love with it, and so we set out to find a non-plastic version of the same thing. We found it on Etsy for under $200. I still wear it every day, and still absolutely love it. It's sterling silver and peridot, so it's far from a "traditional" ring. Added bonus: it made Tinkerbell squee when we met her at our Disney honeymoon, because it's green. :D

(Our wedding rings also came from Etsy; they were only about $500 total for the pair, made of titanium and dinosaur bone.)

My point, though, is figure out what you actually want and how much you actually want to spend. Screw tradition.
posted by okayokayigive at 9:20 AM on January 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

In my experience, it’s hard to find durable, everyday wear rings for much less than 1k. Typically, you want an engagement ring to last decades with daily wear, which means some cheaper metals aren’t that great for use in engagement rings. If you’re okay with the trade off though, you can find rings for cheaper in eg silver, but even then metalwork will get into the $600+ range if it’s at all elaborate.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:21 AM on January 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

You could buy a setting you like with a small centre stone and upgrade/replace the centre stone later when you have the funds. My engagement ring was $500 and I did the makeover 5 years later, I was happy with the results.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:24 AM on January 11, 2019

Adding that different center stones also have different durability. Some of the cheaper or “non-engagement” stones are surprisingly delicate, like opals mentioned above. And with vintage rings the settings are sometimes not particularly secure. Again, this trade off may be okay with you, but it’s worth noting that not all “this is an engagement ring / this isn’t an engagement ring” distinctions are hype or marketing.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I recommend finding antique jewelry stores or estate jewelry stores in your area. They will have "real" Art Deco rings, at a lower cost than "new" rings, plus you will be able to try them on and see how they work with your hands. Tell them your budget, they will be happy to work with you.
posted by Hypatia at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I had a rather inexpensive engagement ring, still we could barely afford it at the time. 2 years later, I left it on the bathroom counter and our cat toted it off somewhere and hid it. I guess she thought it was a glittery milk ring. I never found it.
Never missed the ring really, the meaning was in the relationship..not the ring.

Cat however was missed quite a lot when she was no longer with us, even though she was a cranky Bi***
posted by ReiFlinx at 9:29 AM on January 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

When I asked a similar question three years ago, I got a number of posts praising the alleged virtues of the experience of going to a local jeweler and custom designing a ring together. That was pretty much the exact opposite of what my now-wife and I wanted. Ultimately we bought a .91 caret factory-made emerald for from Etsy and bought a ring from Gemvara that allowed you to bring your own stone -- total cost ~$650. Seems to be working out ok so far, though that price might still be a bit high for your taste.
posted by crazy with stars at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

my wife and I didn't do an engagement ring because she wasn't into rings and wanted to save money. but that sort of kicked the can down the road on ring stuff because she and I *did* want wedding rings.

We went to a jeweller in person to get sized and to have her talk through some of the aesthetic things that frequently come up. this was reassuring for us because it helped facilitate a conversation about how my wife really didn't want anything flashy ringwise. You don't have to pay for anything in person, obviously (and ours was very good about not trying to give us the hard sell!)

in general, your ring(s), especially if you and your part are paying for them, are your business and to hell with anyone who tells you that it has to be x, y, or z. we went with cheap, tungsten carbide bands that we like the look of and which are durable. The cheapness was nice when I lost mine during a float trip a month after the wedding and needed to replace it. this is not to say we're morally superior for cheap rings, just that there's a lot of range out there and you should do what you want.
posted by dismas at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

We got a second-hand ring with tiny chips of diamond in it - very inexpensive but tiny and pretty. I quite like the recycling aspect of a second-hand ring, although it's completely understandable that people would want something brand new in the circumstances.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 9:35 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was the engagement ring recipient. I did some shopping online but eventually decided I needed to try things on in person, and I’m really glad I did - rings look different on your hand vs. on the screen. It was also kind of fun to shop with my partner - we each learned a lot about our own and each others’ jewelry preferences during that time, as jewelry hadn’t been a big part of my life. I knew I wanted the diamond look without the diamond price, so we found a shop that sold Moissanite stones and limited our shopping to that place, which was a useful constraint for us (too overwhelming otherwise). I was a bit wishywashy about wanting the engagement ring and the whole concept, but as soon as I received it (despite having chosen it myself!!) I was smitten with it. I still think it’s the most beautiful thing I own and I really treasure it.

Oh, and get ring insurance. I wasn’t used to wearing any jewelry before I got engaged, so I actually lost my ring after 2 months because I hadn’t gotten used to good jewelry safe-keeping practices. I was devestated. State Farm paid for an exact replacement, no questions asked. Woohoo!
posted by samthemander at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I opted out or did a different twist for pretty much every wedding tradition; there was no proposal but simply me saying 'yeah if we're gonna move in together lets just get married at the same time because people are graduating and moving away and it will be more fun to have the party while everyone is still around'. My engagement ring was a $5 silver knot ring from a booth at an SCA event, bought only because everyone we told about our plans immediately checked my finger. It looked a lot like this and I really loved it both because I love knots/knotwork and for how small and out of the way it was.

Husband-to-be felt like it was not engagementy enough and that people were judging him as the unemployed student he was, so about a month later found something similarly cheap with a tiny pink stone that sparkled, because he knew I disliked diamonds but forgot I also dislike pink. Actually I really just don't like faceted sparkle stones at all, I prefer semi-precious stones with different colors like labradorite, jasper, and tiger's eye.

His mother was so worried about the wrongness of my ring situation that she made an appointment at a jeweller and paid for us to get a set, I think she was still very upset that I did not get two rings made for me in order to have a 'proper' set. But she actually passed away before the rings were done so I'm not sure.

What we did was show them the silver knot ring, and ask them to make a more substantial version for each of us with one half white gold and one half yellow gold. This was a compromise because I didn't much like gold but he felt gold was the only real wedding ring color.

I wore both the engagement rings together for a year or so until we got married, the pink one was loose and the knot ring kept it from slipping off. But neither of them fit right on my finger with the wedding ring so I wore them on the other hand for about a year until one day I was moving things around in the (very overstuffed) paper file archives at work all day, and at the end of the day I no longer had my engagement rings. I was surprisingly sad about it and always hoped they would be found someday, even though they were already getting misshapen with weird bent corners and such.
posted by buildmyworld at 10:26 AM on January 11, 2019

I really wanted a ring but we,d just put a downpayment on a house and both felt that spending $$$$ or $$$$$ on a ring would be foolish. I did not want a diamond anyway, I wanted my birthstone. We got a beautiful ring that we both love for $$$. If you look outside the 'traditional' options you can find something lovely that is truly within your budget. Congratulations!
posted by supermedusa at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2019

One thing to consider if you go vintage is that you may need to get a custom wedding band to go with it. We picked out a vintage engagement ring from an antique store for like $300. The band tapers down the side (similar to this), which means that a standard band doesn't fit flush to it. It probably had a matching band at some point that got separated from it. I ended up not wanting to deal with designing a custom wedding band and actually just used my engagement ring as a wedding ring and haven't thought twice since. That's not to say that getting a custom band would have been terribly difficult or expensive, I just didn't do it. You can also find vintage sets. Or you could skip the engagement ring and just get a lovely vintage wedding band!
posted by radioamy at 10:49 AM on January 11, 2019

My first ring was a $60 opal from a pawn shop, that my husband picked out to surprise me. A friend was cleaning it for me and dropped it down his kitchen drain, where it was washed away.

My second was a used ring with tanzanite, from a friend who sold used rings on Ebay, and had stopped doing that so had a lot of extra rings. It was $125. It got stolen by some teenage friends of my son's, never did find out which one.

My third ring was a manufactured pin cushion cut ruby from Kay Jewelers. It was around $300 and I still wear it, but not to do dishes and such, usually just when I go out. I like it a lot, it's very pretty.

I've also gotten other rings at pawn shops in the past, the most I have paid at one is $150 for a 5-carat sapphire surrounded by diamonds. If I wanted a new ring, I'd start by looking at pawn shops (we have a chain in the area that has a lot of jewelry inventory). I try to stay with rings that are 14K gold and higher, as I feel they are more likely to have an authentic stone, as the only ones that they test are diamonds and I like colored stones over diamonds. Sometimes the 10K ones are from places like Home Shopping Network, and are manufactured fancy cuts and those aren't my style.

You can also get manufactured stones at most big department stores.

My next ring, which will be a (late) 10-year anniversary ring, will be made by this guy, who is in Ireland, but used to work for places like Tiffany in the U.S. I love his designs, and he is active on Twitter also, so you can get a gander at the type of stuff he is doing on a daily basis. The stone is going to be a natural tourmaline that I found at a digging-for-gems place, but he has a choice of stones on his site. It's still going to be reasonable, especially for a custom piece that I am getting.

So I'd go with either Etsy or a pawn shop, and pick what you love, within your budget.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

This lady went with a rose quartz, which I think looks lovely, and allowed her to spend a little more on getting a custom setting made.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:05 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

So, we happened to have the money to pay for an engagement ring, and the wedding that we wanted before we decided to get married. I wanted an engagement ring, and wanted something reasonably traditional. I also specifically wanted the experience of going in to a jewellers and trying on rings and choosing one. So we did that.

I like the ring that I have very much. I prioritised the metal of the setting, and the kind of design that I wanted, and did not care as much about the stone (so I have whatever diamond was in that setting in the shop). We had a budget in mind which we stuck to.

Spending money on a ring isn't the best use of your savings by some measures, but if you intend to wear it every day then it is worth spending enough money that you get something robust, that is intended to be worn daily and that you really like. My engagement ring is by a long way my most expensive piece of jewellery. It will probably be the second cheapest on a cost per wear basis, and cheaper on a cost per wear basis than any pair of shoes I have ever owned.
posted by plonkee at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

In my experience, it’s hard to find durable, everyday wear rings for much less than 1k.

This is definitely not true. There are [very high numbers] of vintage rings out there that were worn for decades that can be had for less than $1000.

Vintage rings. Vintage rings. Particularly if you like Art Deco. Find a couple of places locally that sell vintage rings (sometimes called "estate jewelry") and go try them on. You'll give a new home to somone's beloved ring, and have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece.
posted by anastasiav at 11:59 AM on January 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

In my experience, it’s hard to find durable, everyday wear rings for much less than 1k.

I have to second anastasiav - I've worn an antique ring (1920) on my finger for twenty odd years and it's as pretty now as it was when worn by the first owner (I'm left handed too so it gets more of a battering than if I were right handed).

I had a similar ring on my right hand which would have lasted as long but I stupidly lost it by throwing a stick in the river for the dogs - I'd lost weight, forgot that the ring was loose and off it went with the stick. So loss and theft is a far more likely problem with antique/vintage rings than durability - they were made to last!
posted by humph at 12:16 PM on January 11, 2019

I can’t speak for Art Deco rings in particular but I want to second the suggestion to try them on in real life. I was able to choose my own ring and I did a lot of internet research to narrow down styles, but for that much money, seeing it in person on my finger was crucial. I actually ended up with a smaller carat because the bigger one looked almost costume jewellery on my relatively slim finger. So at least make sure you can return the ring if you do end up buying online.

(And damn Metafilter is annoying about engagement rings sometimes. The OP has said they are excited about this, why y’all busting their bubble and telling them they don’t need one.)
posted by like_neon at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2019 [15 favorites]

How did you make a decision on an engagement ring? Did you regret the choice you made?

My wife and I, both women, both wore engagement rings. We were having a quick engagement and didn't want to spend much, but we wanted something (yes, I was that person walking up to my coworkers going "LOOK WHAT HAPPENED OVER BREAK"). We went with silver spoon rings from this Etsy seller. It was the perfect decision for us, because they were inexpensive and durable. They don't stack with our wedding rings (and she has a diamond ring from her GF which stacks on the wedding band, anyhow), but I wore mine on my left hand and she wore hers on her right. She wears her class ring there now, and I alternate mine with my mom's class ring on my right hand. It lives on my keychain when I'm not wearing it, and it will likely outlive both of us. We don't regret our choice at all.

But, you know, if you want something shiny, you should get something shiny. :) It is a lot of money, but if you're going to love it and it's going to make you happy and y'all can swing it, then go for it. It's also hard to know what your tastes are going to be like in 10/20/50 years, and impossible to know what the future will bring - so all you can do is pick what you think fits best now.

(Preemptive congratulations and much happiness!)
posted by joycehealy at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2019

Really not sure why anyone would read this question and think that "just don't buy one!" is a helpful answer. It sounds like you want a pretty engagement ring but don't want to spend a thousand plus on one. I get my engagement and wedding rings cleaned at local shop near my office that specializes in jewelry repairs, fixing settings, and things like that. He also has a very magical-looking trove of beautiful rings that he keeps in a little case by his register and sells them for a fraction of what you would spend on etsy or at one of the more popular antique engagement ring dealers. See if there is a place like this local to you, and have fun!
posted by cakelite at 12:55 PM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh man, I don’t disagree about vintage rings which can be fantastic. My experience is that people have caught on to the vintage thing and the prices reflect that, and that often deals on older rings = not as likely to be durable or suitable for long term everyday wear. For example, a lot of older rings are in really small sizes and resizing them is iffy. Or the setting is a bit loose and it’ll take a lot of labor to fix it. These kinds of issues were typical of more affordable vintage rings IME.

I base this on an incredibly long and thorough personal shopping mission for an engagement ring, for which I strongly preferred vintage, undertaken last year. I found that new was basically always cheaper for the same quality of materials, although the designs weren’t nearly as good. This makes sense because there are only so many vintage rings to go around. (Used rings that are newer, like 90s+ are another story and some pawn shops have sort-of deals but they’re used and the styling is...not vintage, just out of date.)

Anyway that’s not to say that vintage can’t work, but to be aware that cheaper vintage is often cheaper for an (important) reason, so make sure you’re aware of the trade offs and willing to put up with them. (If you have a good local dealer you trust that would be ideal).

If I were to want to go affordable and planned to wear it forever, instead of vintage I’d consider getting a men’s band with a small diamond in it. They make those in the cheaper metals (like tungsten) because Dudes. Although it’s basically the opposite design wise of Art Deco they tend to be well-balanced and wearable.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:00 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

How did you make a decision on an engagement ring? Did you regret the choice you made?

Buy a ring you want to look at every day. Buy a ring you want to wear when you're 80.

We paid for our wedding ourselves--because we were in our forties and it was my second. I wanted something I could wear every day and only need to remove for post-shower activities like applying lotion and hair products. I don't like rings that have stones that stick way up off the hand, and I wanted just one ring, not two. So, a band.

We went to local jewelry stores and I tried on different types of bands with and without stones to get a sense of what looks good on my hand. It was enlightening. The wide bands with stones I thought I liked looked terrible on my tiny hands.

We settled on a $750 eternity band from Gemvara that resembles a wreath wrapping around my finger, including tiny stones all around that resemble berries. (We got married in December. ) Gemvara sold it in four metal choices with customization in at least a dozen stone color options. I chose diamonds not because I love diamonds (I don't give a hoot) but because it's a neutral color I'd never regret choosing. They didn't have other white stone options at the time.

Eight years later and I still wear it all day every day. I'm sentimental about very few things, but I adore this ring. My only caution is that if you anticipate EVER needing to resize your ring, do not get an eternity band. (Stones all the way around.) Also, even though I ordered a size 6, and it fit me well at the time, years later I measured it and it's a 5.75. And as I age my knuckles are getting bigger. If my knuckles ever get so big the ring can't pass over them, I'll have to replace the ring entirely.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:07 PM on January 11, 2019

Buy a ring you want to look at every day. Buy a ring you want to wear when you're 80.

This is good advice. When I was picking out a wedding band, I initially bought one that had pink stones (I forget which actual gem) all around it. But after getting it home and trying it on a few times, I ended up exchanging it for one with more neutral (white) stones because that felt more comfortable to me to see every day on my hand.
posted by JenMarie at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2019

Seconding Ebay! I saw a ring that I liked on the very pricey Lang Antiques website (it was the cheapest one there at the time, but still over $1,000). Then I found the same ring on Ebay for $200. I will say that if you want it to be authentically from the 1930s or whatever, and an authentic stone, Ebay may be risky.
posted by pinochiette at 2:21 PM on January 11, 2019

I had the same sort of hesitation as you after I got engaged, and decided that instead of a single-stone ring I'd look for a relatively inexpensive "eternity" ring, channel set with small diamonds, as they are much less expensive than larger stones. The ring I selected has 7 diamonds across the top and partway down the side of my finger, but the diamonds don't go all the way around the ring. This reduced the cost.

I thought people might assume it was a wedding ring when I wore it alone, but have loved it for all these years (over 30) because I paired it with a simple gold band, and it is so low-set that it never interfered with wearing gloves. I wore a lot of gloves over the years as a nurse, and this was a benefit that had never occurred to me when ring-shopping.
posted by citygirl at 2:41 PM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

but the diamonds don't go all the way around the ring. This reduced the cost.

This is also a practical style because it can be resized if your finger changes size over the years.
posted by JenMarie at 3:15 PM on January 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

My ring is similar to citygirl’s, but deco style, with 3 rows of tiny diamonds, making shapes. I bought mine at Costco, which surprisingly has wonderful jewellery, especially diamonds.

They come in one size, so I got mine sized at a proper jewler. My ring cost $700CAD 6 years ago, and I learned later it was a knockoff of a designer ring which retails for $2500.

I also only have the one ring, as we didn’t have a formal engagement, but it’s wide and pretty and flat, and I love it. So consider Costco.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 5:06 PM on January 11, 2019

Orleans Counterfeit Diamonds. When my second husband and I got engaged, he didn't have a ring and I didn't care. I DID want one, however, but I refuse to spend a ton of money on a rock (yet I wanted a NICE rock, lol). So we found gorgeous cubic zirconia, in real gold bands, and no one could tell the difference. I still love the ring (the marriage didn't last, sadly) and if I ever consider marriage again, I'd go the same route.
posted by annieb at 5:14 PM on January 11, 2019

BTW, just so you're aware that first Ebay listing in your best answer (1 Ct Diamond Vintage Edwardian Antique Engagement Art Deco Cluster Ring Era 1925) is a cubic zirconia in sterling silver. The materials are worth about 10 bucks. Be wary of what you buy on Ebay.

Quite honestly, if you want a stone, I agree with everyone saying buy vintage second hand. The diamond market is very soft right now and likely to get softer as lab grown diamonds become more prevalent. Because second hand diamonds aren't worth a whole lot unless they are of significant caret and clarity and it is a lot of work shopping those stones to buyers, you can often get better value than buying new.
And if you spend money on gold you're more likely to retain value than any money spent on stones of any kind (if future value is part of your equation).

Source: I work in a shop that buys and sells investment grade precious metals.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:42 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

It depends on what you want.

For our engagement, my partner and I both wanted to wear engagement rings. We also knew that neither of us wanted to keep wearing the engagement rings after we were married. Apart from that, I find stones annoying. (just a personal thing - they catch on things).

So we found plain silver rings we liked for $6 each. (We were prepared to pay up to $50 or so, we just lucked out).

If you wish to have rings but not wear them that long, there are a lot of options (like sterling silver) which are not so long lasting but look nice and are much cheaper.
posted by jb at 9:03 PM on January 11, 2019

I encourage you to go to in person stores and try rings on. You won't be able to really tell how comfortable a ring is on your hand until you actually try it on. My engagement ring I picked online, and eventually discovered that the way it fits (thick band pushes fingers apart and super tall stone catches on everything) makes it unwearable in everyday life. I haven't worn it in over a decade.
posted by AliceBlue at 6:53 AM on January 12, 2019

I went out and bought my wife's engagement ring by myself at a local jeweler's store (which I found by searching online), using money I got as a sort of bonus from my job at the time. I certainly wouldn't have gone in to debt or taken on a second job or anything like that to buy it. There was a (IIRC) 30-day return policy, so if my wife hadn't liked the ring* or had turned down my proposal I would have been able to take it back.

* I was surprised to learn that apparently not very many people choose an engagement ring by themselves, but I wanted the proposal to be a surprise and was confident that I knew my wife's tastes well enough to choose something she'd like
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:50 AM on January 12, 2019

Oh, we didn’t use Costco, but I have friends who did and said positive things. Check out Costco.
posted by samthemander at 12:15 PM on January 12, 2019

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