Yesterday I wrote about the reasons engagement rings are a marketing scam that aims to exploit people’s insecurities. Today, I’d like to present a few great alternatives to giving in to that peer pressure by spending thousands of dollars on an engagement ring.
These alternatives present options ranging from the most minimalist approach (not getting a ring at all), all the way to using a few tricks to get a conventional diamond ring without dishing out 3-months’ salary to the major diamond companies. You’ll see that the question of saving money doesn’t always have to be about how to BUY a ring on-the cheap, and sometimes rather about WHETHER to buy one at all.
Here is the list, which gradually eases you from the most conventional choices to the most minimalist:
1. Upcycle an existing family ring
This option isn’t for everyone, of course – only for those who are lucky enough to inherit a ring from a family member, like a great-grandparent or a grand-parent. Although this may seem like a no-brainer if this is your situation, some people can still feel hesitant about choosing this option. I’ve seen some evidence of this in discussion threads on the topic, where women can be gripped by the peer pressure of needing a ring that is unique to them, tailored to their personality and specific preferences, and can feel uneasy about letting their partner off without putting in any money or effort. This is exactly what the marketing guys want you to feel and think. I say, please let all of that go.
You can and will learn to love that ring. You will also save your new family thousands of dollars. You can spend that money on a kick-ass honeymoon, instead. It can feel much more fulfilling to know that your ring has your family history contained within, and it’s not a brand new, mass-produced one that thousands of other women will eventually buy.
2. Recycle other family jewelry into a new ring
If you haven’t inherited a ready-to-wear engagement ring, but have inherited other jewelry, you might be able to ‘construct’ your own ring! This is actually the path I took, which turned out great after a lot of googling and some effort. What you need is some jewelry pieces that contain gold (that can be melted down), and some other jewelry pieces that contain some stones (diamonds, or other gems).
You can then approach a few different jewelers in your local area to see if they have the ability and know-how to melt down the gold to create a band, design a setting and put your stones in. Of course, the cost and feasibility of this depends on whether there are such jewelers in your area, how much they charge, and how sophisticated of a design you might want. I was quoted prices ranging from a minimum of $1,200 to a range of $100-250. So shop around! The prices will be lower at less established, smaller shops, than at high-end bespoke jewelry designers specializing in engagements.
But if you go this route, you’re only going to be paying for the labour (rather than the materials). You will also avoid contributing to the degradation of our environment by not requiring yet more resources to be dug up from the ground.
If you want to save some serious dough, you can look at getting this done abroad – in a country with lower labour costs and greater abundance of artisan jewelers. But of course, make sure you work with a jeweler that you trust!
Here are the before and after photos of my jewelry:
The design is basic, and the three-stone option isn’t something I would’ve otherwise gone for. But I find that imperfection can be beautiful – it can tell its own story. And it feels so great to be giving new life to my beloved grandmother’s old Soviet era wedding band and some 19-th century stones. We spent a whopping $200 on the entire thing with this Russian jeweler, which even included a gold upgrade, to make the band more yellow and higher quality.
3. Buy vintage
If you don’t have existing jewelry to work with, you can look into buying a vintage (pre-owned) ring. These typically are much more unique than what’s available on the mass market and come at a lower cost.
This article rightly points out the ridiculousness of dismissing vintage rings because they allegedly come with some kind of bad aura. Let’s be for real. If you have a great relationship, no ‘ring aura’ will affect it. If you’re worried that a ring’s previous ownership might ruin your marriage, maybe you should reconsider getting wed altogether?
4. Get a minimalist ring
Minimalist and dainty rings are actually already becoming more and more popular these days (and I’m a huge fan!). Opting for one allows you to own a beautiful piece of jewelry that sends the message that you don’t need the size of the rock to represent your level of commitment to your significant other. For example, check out this slideshow of beautiful and tiny engagement-appropriate rings. Here’s another juicy search results page from Etsy that can help you get a unique and beautiful ring for under $300.
And if anyone comments on the size, just tell them that your relationship doesn’t like to give in to peer pressure ;).
5. Get a ring with a colorful gemstone
Who said that only diamonds are appropriate stones for engagement rings? (Ok, I think it was De Beers..) So why not decide to be a little bit different and get a much less expensive, yet equally beautiful ring, by using one of the many gem stone options available to you. Common options include sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.
I remember one of my colleagues at an old job wore a beautiful colored ring, which always intrigued me. I couldn’t help but view her as being more confident and an independent thinker, simply because of this small detail.
6. Don’t get a ring at all
Ok, so we all saw this one coming. This choice isn’t for everyone. But the tides are shifting, and who said a woman has to wear an engagement ring at all? In some cultures men don’t even commonly wear wedding rings, so what? If you don’t like the idea of being ‘labelled’ as taken, or have much more important financial goals you and your partner would rather achieve quicker, or simply are not a jewellery person – why not go sans ring, altogether?
I’ve recently met a couple of women who don’t wear a ring, but are married. And they seem perfectly happy and normal.
Do you have any tips to add to this list? How do you approach the engagement ring issue?