The myths surrounding how much a man or woman should pay for an engagement ring are bountiful. Should you spend a month’s salary or three? Should you spend thousands or hundreds? Is it important that there are diamonds involved?
As with so many wedding traditions, the notion of spending an expected certain amount on an engagement ring is increasingly outdated.
It’s not easy to work out how much people spend on average. In 2016, This Is Money reported that, in the UK, those proposing to their partners forked out £573 on a ring to give to their betrothed, but Hitched‘s most recent National Wedding Survey revealed that the figure was higher at £2,419.
At Tiffany & Co, shoppers spend between $1,500 (£1,210) and $1,000,000 (£806,760), typically on a ring with the classic and highly sought-after Tiffany Setting. Cartier’s most popular engagement styles are the 1895, 1995 paved and the Cartier Destinée, which start at around £2,000 and stretch into the millions.
Round brilliant rings make up the majority of De Beers engagement sales, while the independent jewellery designer Jessica McCormack says her customers favour her signature styles, which reference Victorian and Georgian designs, starting at £4,500.
“When men ask me how much should they should spend on a diamond engagement ring, I always reply with the same answer,” said the De Beers Institute of Diamonds president Andrew Coxon. “Quite simply, I say ‘do your best’. Best includes spending time together in-store choosing the special diamond that she never wants to let go of. In my experience, the memory of the day you spent together will always be remembered fondly, long after the cost is forgotten.”
McCormack, whose jewellery is worn by Rihanna, Lily James and Emma Watson, echoes Coxon.
“It should be about getting a ring that is loved by the wearer and symbolises something special and unique to the relationship it stands for,” she told us. “I truly believe it shouldn’t be decided on monetary value.”
It would seem that the aged tradition of parting with one or several months’ salary for your betrothed has passed its sell-by date. Now, there are no rules.
The tradition doesn’t go back as far as you might think. Along with the help of the advertising agency NW Ayer, De Beers coined the term “diamonds are forever”, linking diamonds with engagement in the 1930s. The brand had suffered under the Depression and the slogan widely boosted sales. Later came a De Beers campaign that read, “Two months’ salary showed the future Mrs Smith what the future would be like.”
And so, two of the biggest engagement-ring traditions were born. In the late 1930s, less than 10 per cent of women wore engagement rings with diamonds. By the end of the 20th century, 80 per cent of engagement rings came adorned with diamonds. So yes, today’s biggest engagement-ring traditions all stemmed from one very influential ad campaign.
“In my view, all of the old rules of engagement have already fallen by the wayside and now advice and times have changed for the better,” says Coxon. “Engagement rings, like wedding rings, are personal; no one can tell you how much you should spend. Diamond engagement rings are no longer always traditional; they can be whatever you love to wear every day.”
There’s no doubt about it, choosing an engagement ring is daunting, and several brands including De Beers, Jessica McCormack and Tiffany & Co aim to demystify the process with various in-store services where shoppers can seek expert advice. But one thing’s clear – expenditure is no longer as rigid as it once was. The only key component is choosing a style that reflects your fiancée’s tastes and finding something so beautiful that they’ll never want to take it off.
“Go with your intuition and choose a diamond or a ring that speaks to you personally rather than choosing it for its size or value,” said McCormack. “An engagement ring is something that says a lot about the wearer, in the hope that it is to be worn for a very long time.”
From Harper’s Bazaar UK