Save Money When Buying a Diamond Ring & Avoid Going into Jewelry Debt

June 9, 2008

Saving money on diamonds and shopping around for deals is not something the jewelry industry likes us consumers to think about. Their emphasis is on the “quality” of the diamonds. 

I remember when I was shopping for an engagement ring one of the sales ladies said something along the lines of, “if you really love her, why not buy this one.”  Of course that didn’t go over well with me, that was the end of my trip to that store.  The way I see it, someone’s love for another person has nothing to do with the size of a shiny pebble that was dug out of the ground.

Have you ever heard the commercial that says “Diamonds are forever”? What you don’t know is that they actually cut off part of the slogan. It actually reads

“Diamonds are forever on your credit card”. 

I had a reader email me concerned about this.  He’s looking to buy an engagement ring but is worried about going into debt to pay for it.  He asked for some ways to save money on a diamond ring.  It’s been awhile since I’ve shopped around for one but this is what I was able to turn up.

Shop for Diamonds Online
– Do your pricing research online at websites like or

– If you’re comfortable spending that much money online, buy the diamond from discounters on the Internet to save some cash. My cousin bought an engagement ring online and I know both he and his fiance, now wife, were very pleased with it.

– Make sure you buy from a credible source, for example, you can check out buying a diamond ring on

Buy a Cheaper Band
Although the diamond is the most expensive part of a ring, you can save some money by buying a less expensive band.  There are several ways you can do this, for example:
– White gold is cheaper than Platinum
– 14K gold is cheaper than 18K gold
– Buy a plain band without accent diamonds

Buy a Loose Diamond
I had a college friend who was friends with a jeweler.  They helped him buy a diamond online and then they put it in a setting for him.  The jeweler gave him a deal on the band since they were friends but the main savings came from the lower price he was able to get on the individual diamond.  Even after paying for the band he was able to save hundreds of dollars.

Buy a Lower Quality Diamond
As you start to shop for a diamond you’ll learn that the industry values them based on the stone’s clarity, color, carat, and cut.  Depending on what combination of these you choose, you could either spend a lot or save a lot of money.

Clarity – In terms of price, the higher the clarity, the higher the cost.  Here’s an example of the clarity scale, from best quality to worst:

(most $$$)FL, IF, VVS1 – VVS2, VS1-VS2, SI1-SI2, I1-I3 (cheapest)

Color – The diamond color is measured on a scale ranging from D (no color) to Z (a lot of color). In general, the less color, the more expensive the diamond.

Carat – The carat measures the weight of the diamond and is the measurement people are most familiar with.  The larger the carat, the more money you’ll pay for the diamond. Some of the typical carat sizes are
0.25, 0.50, 0.75, 1.00, 1.50, 2.00, …. and up

Buying a diamond with lower clarity and color ratings and a smaller carat can significantly reduce the overall price.

Pay Cash for the Ring
Buying a ring with cash has two advantages.  Remember the quote we learned earlier, “Diamonds are forever on your credit card”.  Retail jewelry stores like Zales or Helzberg offer their own credit cards you can use to buy diamonds on credit. Kind of like a car salesman, a jewelry retailer might talk you into buying a bigger ring than you can afford by talking about the low monthly payments.

Of course as we all know, the downside of monthly payments is that you’re borrowing the full purchase price and have to pay interest on the balance.  The monthly interest charges are guaranteed to add more onto the price of the diamond ring than you’d like to pay.

Credit Card Fees
Of course, credit cards cut both ways.  If you’re not shopping at a big retail jeweler that offers their own credit cards, you might get a discount for paying with cash.  The merchant has to pay a percentage of each sale to the credit card company for processing the payment.  When you’re talking expensive diamond rings those fees can add up. 

The store might be willing to knock a little off the price if you pay in cash.  It won’t be a lot but every little bit helps when you’re buying expensive jewelry.  You can put the savings towards paying your sales tax! 

Saving on Diamonds Summary
Shopping and buying online gives you access to some of the lowest prices on diamonds, just make sure you research the website and diamond before making a purchase.

Buying a lower end diamond with lower clarity / color ratings and a smaller carat will save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

Only buy what you can afford and pay cash for the ring.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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18 Responses to Save Money When Buying a Diamond Ring & Avoid Going into Jewelry Debt

  • Kristen

    I wholeheartedly agree with buying online to save. From my research – carat by carat – the online jewelers have traditional retailers beat.

    Surprisingly, the best prices can be found on where many reputable jewelers sell online. The best part is that you can read customer reviews on each ring and see overall feedback on each jeweler. They also have a very good return policy – just in case!

  • Erica

    I just got a composite stone in by E ring and it looks like one big stone but is really 6 smaller ones. I actually tried it on just for fun thinking it was three or four carats and way out of my $5500 price range. We ended up getting a ring that looks to be three carats for $5600! and because it is really six smaller diamonds set together we could afford a very good color and clarity of each of the diamonds. I also got the designers name and all the dealers who can order from them so I could compare estimates and insure my PERFECT ring. I also got my ring with bigger stones then it came with and set in platinum. All of my friends and family’s jaws dropped at the sight of my ring and no one knows! Def the way to go if on a budget!

    • Cindy

      Great information!
      My future sister in-law found a Jeweler in Scottsdale, AZ that specializes in Pre-Owned Diamond Engagement Wedding Rings and Sets.
      Her Wedding Set looks like new. She can’t be more pleased!
      My brother was able to spend up to his budget and get 2-3 times MORE Ring than what he would have gotten at a Mall Jewelry Store.
      You can now purchase from them on-line and they give a $ back guaranty – No Questions Asked. I will be telling all my friends!

  • brian

    GIA Bribery Scandal Court Update – Beware:GIA Diamond Grading Reports

  • Jennifer

    There is a great article on Bloomberg News today regarding diamonds. Check it out:

  • Connie

    It was mentioned in the article, but I wanted to throw my two cents in – runs frequent sales, and many times they have diamond rings up to 70% off.

    They also have a beautiful line of CZ rings – I know this has not been mentioned here, and I’m not looking to start a fight with all these ladies that are set on the real thing, but CZ set into real gold is dirt cheap, and personally I’d rather have a realistic fake than a cloudy yellow diamond any day of the week – jewelry is just for show anyway, why go into debt over it?

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  • Ren

    If it’s price you are concerned about, ask at your local jeweller about Moissanite.
    Costs 10 times less than a diamond and tests as a diamond.

    Also, check out these links:

    Again, it all depends on the lady…but I’ve made I’ve made it VERY clear to my boyfriend that when the time comes, I’d rather have a large moissanite, than a small diamond. Besides, who has to know? 😉

  • Potato

    In my experience, the small independent diamond merchants on Dundas St. in Toronto were quite a bit less expensive than retail/mall locations, and most of their work was custom. Buying the diamond first and then matching the setting seemed to work quite well. For us, cut seemed to be the most bang-for-the-buck since it’s what makes the diamond “sparkly”. While we could tell the difference in colour when compared to other diamonds, on its own next to a skin-coloured hand everything up to an “I” or “J” appeared perfectly white. A yellow gold (vs. white gold or platinum) band will also make it more difficult to subjectively tell what the colour is (though YMMV).

    Two other things to mention in addition to what you have. First off is that there is a bit of a psychological importance to round numbers, so there are often price breaks to getting a diamond just below 0.5 or 0.75 or 1 carat. Since many guys will just ask for a half carat or what have you, it can sometimes be hard to find a good cut below that since if a diamond cutter is given a rough stone that they can cut perfectly to 0.48 carats, or cut a little rougher to 0.5 carats, they’ll often choose a poorer cut to get to the psychologically important number. Another measure of diamond quality is its fluorescence. Ideally, a diamond shouldn’t fluoresce under UV light, and one that doesn’t will cost a bit more, all else being equal. However, if you go clubbing a lot and want a neat fluorescence, or want one to look whiter under sunlight than artificial lighting, then you can go for one that fluoresces (just be sure to try to talk them into a discount for it! 🙂

    I was going to pay cash for the ring, but they would only give me 2% off for doing so. I figured that by using the card, I get about 1% back in reward points as well as some insurance from theft (I think) or poor workmanship, and since it was going to take a few weeks for the custom ring, with a card # I wouldn’t actually get charged until it was ready, so I could wrangle nearly an extra month of interest on the cash (ok, that doesn’t total another 1%, but I like using the card).

    Personally, I think the whole thing is a terrible tradition of throwing money away, but try telling that to a magpie girl.

  • Angie

    I love all the comments. Very helpful as we are looking into rings over the next couple weeks. Any comments on the best value for color? Trying not to overspend but find something I like! Also thanks for the reminder of basing carats to hand size! I have very small hands and its hard to place a concept like that when I am primariily looking online.

    I appreciate any other comments/recommendations people might have! This is stressful for someone who is just trying to pull their finances together.

  • Betty

    Dreamy1 – so now we know to look for a VVS2 clarity… what about color? Is H really that much better than I ? Thanks!

  • Ben

    ben, I think the amount you spend on a ring really depends on your personal situation. Figure out how much you can afford to spend and how much the details of the 4 C’s mean to her. Although I think diamonds are a huge rip-off, your bride to be may not think so. Keep in mind she’ll be wearing it for the rest of your married life. If she’s going to be reminding you of how small or flawed the diamond is the rest of your life, it might be worth it to spend a little extra 🙂

    No Debt Plan, thanks for your feedback on BlueNile, good to hear a recommendation.

    Lisa, I agree with you. Why blow all your money on the engagement ring and wedding if it starts your married life out in debt?

    Dreamy1, thanks for noticing that, I fixed it. Nice catch! Thanks for the tips, sounds like focusing on the color and carat may be the way to go.

  • Dreamy1

    FYI, the flawless diamond is going to cost a buttload more than a I1-I3. Your scale is off if you are intending to lead the reader to the most expensive to the least expensive. The chart should flow right to left for cheapest to most $$$.

    As a former jeweler, I’d like to say that the normal eye can’t see flaws unless they are 10x magnified, which is VS1-VS2. That should be sufficient. Carbon flecks are completely normal. The color, is most important. The closest you can get to size and color you want, the less obvious a flaw will be. Cut is only important to the buyer and wearer.

    All in my opinion, of course.

  • Lisa Miller

    I find it difficult to fathom the wisdom of spending any amount for a tiny piece of shiny rock to wear on one’s body for no apparent purpose.

    My husband and I married 4+ years ago and I’m always proud to brag that we had “rings and flowers by Wal-Mart”. The size, shape and shine of my jewelry would make me no more or less married or happy.

    Take a look at our wedding pictures, it was a wonderful afternoon and we got home early *grin*. We feel as though we’re still on our honeymoon. Our wedding cost less than $1000 (including gas).

    A year later we had the ability to become self-employed in order to care for his mother who required constant supervision. Needless to say, we would have been even more stressed had we spent too much or acquired any debt.

    That’s peace of mind, and it’s priceless.

  • No Debt Plan

    The 2 months thing is nothing but stupid marketing… stupid, effective marketing.

    I went through BlueNile for all of our rings — engagement and wedding bands. Absolutely FANTASTIC customer service experience. I am really hard to please with customer service, and I loved these guys.

    My wife is 5’1″ and thus as smaller hands. You need to consider that a 1.5 carat diamond may look gaudy on her hand. We got her a very high quality 0.51 carat. Remember, quality is key. A 2 carat poor quality diamond will look like garbage next to our diamond — nearly perfect cut. Lots of flash when light hits it.

    I found a tool online that would help determine based off of the angles of the cut how reflective it should be… can’t remember what it was called…

    Ah! I still have it bookmarked:

    Use it. It was right on with ours.

  • Ben

    Do people still consider the two months salary rule viable? I have lately heard on a personal finance blog that one month is now acceptable. Just wondering where everyone stands on this issue.

    I actually had heard three months one time as well. Obviously, I don’t want to break the bank, but I don’t want to cheapen the moment/gift either.


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