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How to Buy an Engagement Ring on a Budget in 5 Simple Steps

How to Buy an Engagement Ring on a Budget in 5 Simple Steps

It’s not always possible to spend thousands on a diamond ring. But it is possible to get a beautiful, low-cost engagement ring without going into debt or selling your grandma. You just have to know where you can cut corners - and where you shouldn't.

If you’re on a budget, these five simple steps won’t just help you find a diamond ring you can afford - they’ll help you find an affordable diamond ring that you’ll love.

Step 1 - Set a realistic budget

An obvious one, this, yet it’s not as easy as it sounds. Forget the age-old wisdom of needing to spend two months salary (clearly those people didn't pay rent, or eat). Instead, choose a realistic budget that you can truly afford.

What’s a realistic budget? Well, diamonds are like cars. You can spend £100k on a car or just a few hundred: either way you’ll get a car. Similarly, a diamond that costs thousands of pounds isn’t more of a diamond than one that costs £500. It just has more “features”.

Save up for a few months if you need to but don’t go into debt on an engagement ring. That’s what the wedding is for!

The bottom line: a good quality, low-budget diamond ring will cost at least £500. If you’re offered a diamond (or a car) for less than that, there’s a good chance it’s an old banger.

Step 2 - Choose the setting first

Unlike diamonds, ring settings tend to have a fixed price - i.e. this setting style in this metal costs this much. By choosing the setting first, you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend on the diamond.

The cheapest ring setting style is a solitaire with no side stones, like this one: 

a classic solitaire setting - without side stones 

The solitaire is still the most popular engagement ring style but if you’re worried it may be too plain, there are plenty of designs with a difference, such as this “tension” setting:

a contemporary twist solitaire setting

If you've got your heart set on a ring with side stones, get it. There’s no point spending any amount of money on a diamond ring that you (or she) won’t love. Just be aware that side stones could add as much as £500 to the price of your ring.

The bottom line: Unless you’re really keen on side stones, avoid them. Saving money on the setting will allow you to buy a bigger, sparklier diamond.

Step 3 - Get pally with palladium

If recent trends are to be believed, platinum engagement rings are the bees knees. But if you’re buying a diamond ring on a budget, palladium is your friend. Whereas platinum is all hoity-toity rare and expensive, palladium is…. Well, let’s not beat around the bush: palladium is cheap. It’s also attractive, long-lasting, and looks just like platinum. And because of that, it’s a brilliant buy when you’re looking to spend less.

For example, this Four-Claw Cross-Over Twist Solitaire Setting costs £595 in platinum but only £315 in palladium. That’s a huge saving - and one that will make a BIG difference to the diamond you can afford to put in it.

A four claw twist solitaire ring

If palladium’s not for you, there’s always 18K white or yellow gold - both of which are less expensive than platinum. The same setting in 18K white gold comes in at the happy medium of £395.

The bottom line: Choosing a cheaper metal for your engagement ring has a knock-on effect. You can get your wedding rings in the same metal and save on those too!

Step 4 - Study the Four C’s… and then ignore three of them (but only if you are buying a round diamond!)

The Four C’s are a diamond’s vital statistics, namely Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight. Out of these, Cut is the most important and really the only one you should care about if you’re on a tight budget. Here’s why:

Cut Grade

The Cut Grade determines how well a diamond handles light. Well-cut diamonds are sparklier, healthier and, yes, probably happier than diamonds with poorer cut. An Excellent or Very Good cut grade will do nicely and yes, it is worth blowing your diamond budget on a better cut. Always, always, always buy the best cut you can afford.

Colour Grade

The Colour Grade tells you how colourless a diamond is. As you can probably guess, an absolutely colourless D-grade diamond is considered better than a near-colourless J-grade. In reality though, there’s barely any difference between them - they are literally different shades of colourless.

The truth is you need to buy a diamond graded K or lower to get into “faint yellow” territory but as reputable jewellers like us don’t sell those, you’re essentially fine with whatever colour grade you get. An H or I colour diamond is a perfectly acceptable budget buy. The only exception to this is if your diamond is going to sit directly next to one that’s more colourless (e.g. in a setting with side stones) as then the slight colour tint will stand out.

Clarity Grade

Like colour, Clarity Grades are very finely sliced. Sure, Flawless is the créme de la créme but there’s certainly no shame in a Very Slight Included or even a Slightly Included diamond - both of which mean: “There’s a imperfection in this diamond…hand me my microscope so I can find it.”

If you’re buying your diamond sight-unseen (i.e. over the internet) ask the seller to check that it’s “eye-clean”. If you’re viewing before you buy, even better. Many flaws (which are usually mineral specks or microscopic feathers) are hidden once the diamond is mounted in a setting, so opting for an SI1 or SI2 clarity grade can get you a diamond that’s excellent value for money.

Carat Weight

Diamonds are priced by Carat Weight so naturally diamonds that weigh more, cost more. This means if you want a big diamond but you’re on a tight budget you’re going to have to sacrifice on quality, which we really don’t recommend. A high quality diamond will always be more stunning than a lower quality diamond chosen for its size. But if size really matters to you, be sure to read this post:

How to supersize your diamond without breaking the bank

The bottom line: If you’re on a budget, don’t worry too much about Colour, Clarity or Carat weight. But do buy the best Cut Grade you can. And remember, a reputable jeweller won’t sell you a poor quality diamond so if in doubt, discuss it with them.

Step 5 - Shop around

Once you've found a beautiful ring that suits your budget, it can be difficult not to click the buy button straight away. But why not take another half hour to make sure you've found the absolute best deal you can? Some jewellers price match (we do). If you can get the same quality diamond for a lower price - or even a higher quality diamond for the same price, it’ll be worth the extra effort.

One note about comparing diamonds from different jewellers: make sure you really are comparing like with like. Questions you should be asking are:

  • Is the diamond independently certified? Uncertified diamonds are always cheaper but are a riskier buy.
  • Is the metal in the setting hallmarked? Hallmarking guarantees the precious metal content.
  • Are the Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weights the same or better?
  • Is the ring hand-crafted or mass-produced? Is it made in the UK or overseas?
  • Does the price include extras such as insured shipping, resizing if the ring doesn't fit, and free returns?


The bottom line: It’s not just about getting the best possible deal. It’s also about getting the best possible quality diamond ring - one that will be as stunning in fifty years as it is now.

BONUS STEP - TALK ABOUT IT

It can be tricky finding the perfect ring. It can be even harder on a budget. Luckily, we have oodles of experience in this very area. Tell us what you want and how much you have to spend, and we’ll help you find the most stunning - but affordable - diamond ring imaginable. Call us on 0800 999 5040 or email sales@qualitydiamonds.co.uk.

Related post:

How to Save £4620 on a Gorgeous Diamond Engagement Ring