How Do You Shop For An Engagement Ring?

You want me to spend WHAT?!

Call me unromantic, but I've never really understood the point of a huge engagement ring: Who, exactly, is determining that I should spend 15% of our yearly income on a ring? And why? To prove how much money I make, or how valuable I'd be as a life mate? It strikes me as the precise opposite of love to declare it with something that can be pawned. And the diamond itself is a ridiculous thing: Why are they valuable? Simply because other people say so?

Okay! Now that I have that off my chest, I can write, with a somewhat clearer conscience, about this infographic, detailing the basics of buying an engagement ring. The entire enterprise is bullshit--but hey.

Engagement-Ring-Infographic

[Click to enlarge]

Maybe the two most ridiculous stats in this entire thing are that the average engagement ring costs $5,500 and the industry as a whole is growing at an 8.6% growth rate. Given that inflation these days is close to zero, that means that -- despite all this dreadful economic news, despite the financial crisis, despite the calamitous debt levels carried by American households -- we're spending more and more on metal bands with shiny rocks attached to them. (Not to mention luxury goods.) And how is all this growth happening when marriage, as an institution, is becoming more and more irrelevant?!

Of course, income isn't actually growing these days, so if the engagement ring industry is growing so fast, it makes sense that the rule of thumb for how much you spend on a ring must have changed a bit. Where you used to hear about two months' salary all the time, now this infographic is saying it's 1.5 months:

Engagement-Ring-Infographic-2

My bad: I just threw up in my mouth.

[Top image by I Love Butter]

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10 Comments

  • Alicia Hanson

    Cliff,
    I am a graphic designer, jewelry designer and silversmith.  I am married, and do not wear diamonds.  I do create custom made engagement bands and anniversary rings that are unique and affordable (without diamonds or any stones typically).  I think the whole diamond industry is corrupt, and I think the you must spend 15% of your year salary is a marketing gimmick created by the jewelry industry to validate and create a demand for a controlled substance aka diamonds.  My recommendation is put some of your creativity into working with a local artisan to create a unique piece that your bride will cherish.  If the diamond demand is not there the inflated price drop.  And the true symbolism of a wedding band will shine through.  The ring is of course a
    circle and this was the symbol of eternity for the Egyptians as well as
    many other ancient cultures. It had no beginning and no end, like time. It returned to itself, like life; and the shape was worshiped in the form of the Sun and the Moon. The hole in the center of the ring is not just space either; it is important in its own right as the symbol of the gateway, or door; leading to things and events both known and unknown.

    By the way, nice work on the info graphic.

  • karen wyon

    your calculations may work for you, but where does it say only a diamond will suffice? white sapphire is a natural gem and quite beautiful. think outside of the box even in the case of engagement rings. it takes strength to do this.

  • asbestos arem

    This is the most bullshit article/info-graphic that only tries to give credence to the bogus ideas spread by the diamond industry for it's own benefits. Diamonds are pricey only because the diamond industry wants them to be. Spending two months salary on a stone is obviously the most idiotic thing anyone can do after reading such baseless info-graphics. Go travel with that money instead. Symbol of love and life is not a stone (which is not very precious anyway) but your words, feelings and your positive actions towards your partner. Expressing such feelings should be done, but in innovative ways

    In any case Codesign should not be publishing such asinine articles.

  • MJ Meylor

    Thanks for creating and posting this infographic, as depressing as it is. I think a great follow-up graphic would speak more to the evolution of this industry historically and culturally (at least in the US). –– given that only recently has it been such a huge burden and expectation on people. I remember my mom telling me how when she and my dad were engaged, that there was no engagement ring (this was the 70s), and that this was completely normal at the time. Maybe seeing this evolution in popularity/custom would help people wake up and realize the insanity of it all.

    (however, I do agree with Genevieve's sentiment on the ring being the "only thing that you are meant to wear for the rest of your life")

  • Genevieve Ennis Hume

    Great infographic.  &   (of no relation :) raise important points around transparency and accountability in the supply chain. 

    For us, the design of your ring is important because it is the only thing that you are meant to wear for the rest of your life. But this should never be at the expense of someone else. 

    We are passionate about supporting small-scale and artisanal miners by using certified Fairtrade gold and working with the Diamond Development Initiative. 
    Buying an engagement ring should not be about keeping up with the Jones, it should be about being creatively engaged in the design process to best reflect your story, and asking your jeweller difficult questions about how they are supporting mining communities in an effective and sustainable manner. 

  • Tom Julian Hume

    I think Flora makes a very good point. There's an irony if a symbol of love & life has been mined as a tool for war & death. Anyway - are there ways of securing a 'blood free diamond' in stores?

  • Gregory Tada

    Who decided that you should spend 2 months salary? DeBeers? My wife and I decided that we would take the 2 months salary and save it for a down payment on a house instead. That shows more commitment than a silly rock.

  • Flora

    And how do you buy an engagement ring for the fiancee who won't wear diamonds? Interesting to note not one bit of the infographic deals with the controversy over where diamonds come from, and how to ensure you're not wearing a diamond which has financed a war on your finger.