“Dense as they are, diamonds represent the greatest worth in the smallest volume” – Coco Chanel.

Diamonds are expensive.

And the single most expensive way to get a diamond ring is… to buy a single diamond.

The larger the diamond, the more expensive it will be. Wait, that’s an understatement. Every small increase in weight brings an exponential increase in price. For example, you will find a step change between the prices of diamonds just under 1 carat and just over 1 carat.

CataventoProd via PixabayNow, there is a reason why people still splurge on big diamonds. The bigger the stone and the better its quality, the more fire and brilliance it will have, and the more beautiful it will look. A solitaire stone in a raised setting (held up by little prongs, such as the so-called ‘Tiffany setting’) is optimally positioned for the light to penetrate the diamond along its full length, allowing the most light to be captured and reflected by the stones.

But if your budget simply does not have the space for it… Don’t buy a solitaire diamond ring.

Beware of ‘good deals’. Diamonds can have flaws, bad cuts – or, heck, they could even be imitations. Be skeptical. As they say, be a little wary, so you don’t have to be very afraid (or – in this case – angry).

Diamonds of different quality tend to command a particular price range (which will be different for mined diamonds and lab diamonds, by the way – see below). The key is to understand the price range that a certain quality diamond tends to command, and to grow suspicious when you see a significantly lower price. All too often it is a worthless stone that you’re being asked to overpay for.

Ask for a grading report, verify that it is from a certified laboratory with international credentials, and check that the information has not been altered.

There is a reason reputable jewelers stay in business!

Affordable diamond options.

Less sparkly options.

Nicholas Deloitte Media via PixabayIt is possible to find relatively affordable diamonds – perhaps 10-15% cheaper than regular diamonds – and they tend to be:

  • champagne or off-color diamonds (they tend to sparkle differently)
  • oddly shaped diamonds (they tend to sparkle less)
  • vintage cuts (they tend to sparkle less)

Stones like this, though, would make an excellent starting point for a custom designed ring.

Lab diamonds.

As mentioned above, though, natural diamonds have their more affordable cousins. Lab-made diamonds (also called synthetic diamonds) can be bought at 10-15% cheaper than regular diamonds. Synthetic diamonds are real diamonds, they look much the same as natural diamonds, are just a tough and just as sparkly. Chemically, they are the same thing. Don’t confuse them with ‘simulated’ diamonds, though, which are imitation diamonds.

The difference is that, instead of mined, they were grown in a lab around a tiny crystal of a natural diamond, under similar conditions to those of natural diamonds (such as extreme heat and pressure). Lab diamonds can have flaws and color differences, just like natural diamonds, so remember to still check its report. And the good news is, you don’t have to worry about blood lab diamonds! Unless the next episode of Elementary proves me wrong…

Multiple-diamond rings.
vdvyver via pixabay

Three-stone settings are a beautiful, meaningful way to present diamonds in an engagement ring. Past, present and future. You, your spouse, and your child.

There is no reason why the center stone should be bigger than others, so consider getting all three stones of the same size to avoid paying for the extra diamond weight. Three smaller diamonds, combined, can cost less than one bigger diamond.

Rings with a halo setting circle many small diamonds (so-called accent diamonds) around a larger diamond in a way that it is difficult to see them as different stones. The diamond looks big, but the ring is actually quite affordable.

Pashminu via PixabayPavé settings are even more striking. Many small diamonds (so-called accent diamonds) are positioned very closely together to create an illusion of an unbroken expanse of sparkle… at a fraction of the price!

When you are looking into this option, you may have jewelers describe rings in terms ‘combined weight’ – all the diamonds weighed together. If this is presented to you as a special bargain, this is quite misleading. 10 stones that together weigh 2 carat are nowhere near as expensive as a single stone of that weight, and do not produce the same visual effects. It is a great idea for jewelers to cluster diamonds and make the ring more affordable – but it is something altogether different to mislead the consumer about the real value of what they are buying.

Non-diamond options.

Colored gemstones.

The world and our lives are vibrant with color. Why should the symbol of your love… pale in comparison?

SaraKGraves via PixabayMany couples refuse to get pulled into the diamond fever. Diamonds are small and dormant until they come alive in movement –  gemstones are big and immediately noticeable. Diamonds are expensive – gemstones are quite affordable. Diamonds have too-often been associated with blood and war – while gemstones are sometimes believed to have healing abilities. While diamonds are all about light, gemstones are all about the color.

Precious gemstones don’t pretend to be diamonds. They have personality. They don’t blend in & wait to be noticed. They wear their color proudly and unapologetically. Everybody better expand their preconceived notions of what an engagement ring should look like, because here come rubies, sapphires, amethysts, opals, and many more!

As you are selecting a gemstone, consider:

  • its color. Once it makes its way to the engagement ring, it will be worn daily. Will it go with most of the wearer’s wardrobe? Does its hue echo the color of their eyes?
  • its hardness. Gemstones – like just about anything else in the world – are more fragile than diamonds. Certain gemstones require a more solid setting to keep it safe.
  • the design of the ring. What setting will best protect the stone from scratching or chipping? What setting will help keep it clean and shiny?
Imitation diamonds.

Sometimes called diamond simulants, these stones can look like real diamonds, but they won’t have the same properties. They will be more fragile – so they could chip or scratch more easily. They will be less sparkly – or have a different sparkle than a diamond. However, modern imitation diamonds are well worth looking into.Cygig via Pixabay

One of the best available imitation diamond is called moissanite. Actually a very romantic stone, it first came to us from the stars. Moissanite was first discovered in a meteorite, but today we they are grown artificially in labs.

It is almost as hard as a diamond itself – 9.25 points on the Moh’s scale compared to diamond’s 10. Incredibly, moissanite has double the fire of an average diamond. The stone generally has a subtle color – just like most diamonds – so the purest stones can be compared to diamonds of color F-G. It pairs well with natural diamond accents. For those who have concerns about the ethics of diamond mining, moissanite production occurs in a lab and thus involves no mining, complete traceability, and smaller carbon footprint. A one-carat of moissanite can cost around $1,000 USD or less.

Cubic zirconia is another well-known imitation diamond, commonly used by Swarovski. It is less tough than moissanite but still fairly durable (8.5 on the Mohs scale), and is almost as brilliant as a diamond. Supremely affordable imitation diamond, a one-carat cubic zirconia can cost $20 USD.

There are other minerals that can be used as a colorless stone, but most are not as good as substitutes. Options include colorless varieties of sapphire (it is fairly durable but not as bright or fiery), topaz, beryl, quartz, and modern stones gadolinium gallium garnet (it is very vulnerable but very fiery) and rutile (quite vulnerable but very sparkly).

Stoneless rings.

It’s not just diamonds that stand the test of time – so do symbols.


You can have a ring with an engraving or shape that speaks to your heart.

Claddagh, fede, lover’s knot – whatever your culture or background, it will have a symbol that expresses love and connection.

It’s a bit of a radical thought, but a ring truly does not have to be sparkly to be meaningful.


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