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Bottom Line Recommendation:
Although you won’t be able to buy a large diamond or an ornate setting, a budget in the $1,000 to $2,500 range is definitely enough to buy a beautiful engagement ring.
For the best value for money, we recommend sticking with diamonds in the 0.45 to 0.90 carat range. You can often get a larger diamond for your money by choosing a fancy shape, as the round brilliant cut is almost always the most expensive diamond shape per carat.
For settings, it’s best to stick to solitaire rings, as these offer the best value for money. When it comes to metals, 14K gold is the best choice, offering durability and good looks at a lower price than 18K gold, platinum or palladium.
Finally, make sure you buy your ring from a trusted online vendor. We recommend James Allen and Blue Nile for their extremely competitive pricing, great images, a huge selection of diamonds and excellent customer service.
Looking for an engagement ring for $2,500 or less? If you’ve made the decision to propose to your fiancé-to-be, you now face what can often seem like an impossible process — finding and buying the right engagement ring, all without getting ripped off or going over your budget.
As we’ve frequently covered on this website, juggling all of the information that’s presented to you as a would-be diamond engagement ring buyer can be incredibly difficult.
Luckily, once you learn the key features to look for in a diamond, as well as the best places to shop for an engagement ring, the process becomes significantly easier, letting you find a ring that matches your fiancé-to-be’s tastes without exceeding your budget.
Below, we’ve covered everything you need to know about buying a diamond engagement ring with a budget in the $1,000 to $2,500 range.
Our guide looks at both the qualitative factors that go into a diamond engagement ring, such as clarity, color, cut and carat weight, and practical factors such as where you’ll find the best value for money.
To make things easier, we’ve also provided our expert advice and recommendations for buying an engagement ring at three common price levels — $1,000, $2,000 and $2,500.
Before we get into the specific details of buying an engagement ring, it’s important to clear one thing up.
While an engagement ring budget of $1,000 to $2,500 isn’t high, it’s enough to buy a beautiful, high-quality diamond ring that your fiancé-to-be will love and appreciate.
With this said, it’s important to have realistic expectations. With a budget in this range, it’s very possible to find a gorgeous, elegant diamond. However, you will need to make compromises in terms of some of the diamond’s characteristics, particularly its carat weight.
As we’ve explained in more detail in our guide to diamond carat weight, diamonds increase in price exponentially as they become larger. This means that a 1 carat diamond, for example, is much more than twice the price of a 0.50 carat diamond.
The key to getting the best value for money in a diamond engagement ring is to spend as much as possible on the factors that have the biggest impact on the diamond’s appearance, all while spending as little as possible on those that don’t.
With this in mind, to help you get the best value for money and avoid going over your budget, all of the diamonds we’ve recommended in this guide are below 1 carat.
This size range is quite a sweet spot when it comes to value for money. By choosing a diamond that’s smaller than 1 carat, you’ll be able to spend more of your budget on things like cut quality and a beautiful setting for the diamond.
The result is a more beautiful engagement ring, all at a reasonable price that doesn’t break the bank.
Before you start shopping for rings, there are several things you should do to make sure you get the best possible deal.
First, we recommend that you only shop for engagement rings online. As we’ve explained in our guide to the evolution of the diamond market, the basic economics of the jewelry industry mean that you’ll always overpay if you buy an engagement ring from a brick-and-mortar store.
We’ve traveled around the world and reviewed jewelry stores in the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, Asia, and several other countries. In our experience, diamonds are priced about 30-40% cheaper online than they are in physical stores, or, in some cases, as much as 100% cheaper.
This means that even if you find an engagement ring on sale in a local store, you’ll probably still be able to get an equivalent quality ring for less online.
As for online vendors, we recommend Blue Nile and James Allen. We’ve gone into more detail on why these two vendors are good further down the page — for now, just know that they have large selections of diamonds and settings, all with very competitive prices and great service.
All diamonds are cut into a specific shape. The quality of a diamond’s cut refers to how well it’s cut and polished. The better the cut quality, the more beautiful the diamond will appear and the stronger it will sparkle when exposed to light.
While choosing an average or poorly cut diamond might seem like an easy way to save money, it’s not. Yes, you’ll pay less. However, you’ll also end up with a diamond that will have almost no brilliance, meaning it will barely sparkle even when exposed to lots of light.
All diamonds used for engagement rings and other jewelry are graded for their clarity and color. These grades refer to how colorless and free of inclusions a diamond appears when it’s viewed under magnification in a gemological grading lab.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need and shouldn’t look for a diamond with perfect color or clarity. Diamonds with very good color and clarity grades are extremely expensive, meaning you will end up paying more for features that you won’t ever notice in real life.
Instead, we recommend choosing a diamond that’s eye-clean, meaning it has the lowest clarity and color grades that still look perfect when viewed with the naked eye.
You can learn more about this in our guides to color and clarity. Then, using the money you’ve saved by not choosing a diamond with flawless color or clarity, you’ll be able to afford a larger stone with a higher quality cut.
Finally, we only recommend buying diamonds that are certified by the GIA or AGS. These are the two most reliable grading entities in the industry, meaning you can trust their certificates to accurately state a diamond’s cut quality, color, clarity and other characteristics.
Most online engagement ring vendors, such as James Allen and Blue Nile, offer their settings in a range of metals. For a typical setting, you’ll usually be able to choose from 14K or 18K white, rose or yellow gold, as well as metals such as platinum and palladium.
If your budget for an engagement ring is in the $1,000 to $2,500 range, you’ll generally want to limit your search to 14K gold rings only.
14K gold offers the best value of the engagement ring metals. For example, this solitaire setting is priced at $240 in 14K white gold and $480 in 14K yellow gold. Switch to 18K gold and the price increases to $580. For platinum, it’s even more expensive at $820.
Our 14K vs. 18K gold comparison explains the differences between these two types of gold in more detail. In this case, sticking to 14K gold frees up more of your budget to spend on a more impressive and beautiful center diamond.
As we’ve covered in our guide to the best times to buy an engagement ring, you can often get a small discount on your setting by shopping at the right time. This can often reduce the total price of your fiancé-to-be’s by several hundred dollars — a lot if you have a tight budget.
Now, let’s get to the practical side of buying an engagement ring. If you have a $1,000 budget for an engagement ring, your selection of diamonds and settings will be quite limited.
However, if you shop strategically, you’ll still be able to purchase a beautiful ring that will look gorgeous on your fiancé-to-be’s finger.
For example, this beautiful 0.43 carat, J color, SI1 clarity, excellent cut round diamond is only $582. Pair it with this elegant white gold solitaire ring and you have a stylish engagement ring for only $832.
The key to this process, as we’ve mentioned before, is to focus on the parts of a diamond that have the biggest impact on its appearance and price, all while minimizing those that cost more but don’t have a huge impact on its looks.
Let’s start with the setting. With a $1,000 budget, almost all pavé, halo and side-stone settings will be prohibitively expensive. For example, this knife edge pavé setting costs $850 on its own, giving you only $150 to spend on a diamond.
Because of this, we recommend sticking to solitaire settings. The solitaire setting looks elegant and beautiful. Because it has a fairly simple design, it’s largely immune to trends, meaning it’s a timeless option that will look just as good in 20 years as it does today.
Choosing a solitaire setting means you’ll be able to allocate more of your budget towards buying a high-quality diamond. By selecting a simple solitaire setting with a relatively thin band, you can also make a modestly-sized diamond look slightly larger than it really is.
With a $1,000 budget, you’ll find the best pricing when you look for diamonds in the 0.45 carat range. Many of these diamonds are significantly cheaper than half-carat diamonds, with little to no difference in appearance.
For example, this 0.45 carat, I color, SI1 clarity, round diamond costs $716 and measures 4.89 by 4.86mm. This 0.50 carat diamond of the same color and clarity grades costs $150 more and measures 5.03 by 5.10mm.
The difference in size between these diamonds is tiny. By saving $150 for a diamond that’s ever so slightly smaller, you’ll be able to buy a more beautiful setting without going over your $1,000 total budget.
You can also often save money by choosing a non-round diamond. Shapes like the princess cut and radiant cut offer better value for money, allowing you to size up without spending very much more on your center stone — a topic we’ve covered in our guide to diamond shapes and pricing.
Clarity and color can both add a significant amount to a diamond’s price, all without very much of a difference in its appearance.
In this price range, you’ll generally want to stick to the H to J color range for round diamonds in white gold settings, or the K to M range for yellow or rose gold.
When it comes to clarity, buying a diamond under the 1 carat mark is actually an advantage, as the smaller surface of the diamond makes inclusions difficult to see. Most of the time, a VS2 or SI1 (or even SI2) clarity grade will be enough to give you an eye-clean diamond of this size.
Need some inspiration? Below, we’ve put together a selection of engagement rings available for $1,000 using James Allen and Blue Nile’s range of loose diamonds and solitaire settings:
With a $2,000 budget, you’ll be able to buy a significantly larger diamond and choose from a far more diverse range of engagement ring settings.
At this price range, options such as pavé and halo settings become more possible. You can also stick with a simple solitaire setting and opt for a larger, more impressive diamond that stands out on your fiancé-to-be’s finger.
With a total budget of $2,000, you’ll be able to afford a good quality round diamond in the 0.65 to 0.75 carat range, provided you’re willing to opt for a solitaire setting.
For example, this 0.65 carat, I color, VS2 clarity, ideal cut round diamond is $1,633. If you opt for a non-round diamond, you can even buy this beautiful 0.75 carat, I color, VS2 princess cut diamond for $1,638.
Both of these diamonds look great and would be a perfect match for a solitaire setting, allowing you to stay within your $2,000 budget.
Fancy shape diamonds can also offer excellent value for money in the $2,000 range. This 0.73 carat, H color, VS2 clarity cushion cut diamond is only $1,530, making it easy to pair it with a solitaire setting without spending more than $2,000 in total.
These settings can all enhance the beauty of your fiancé-to-be’s engagement ring. Some, such as halo settings, can also create the illusion of a larger center diamond with a brighter and more dramatic sparkle.
Because these settings cost more than a simple solitaire setting, you may need to pick a slightly smaller center diamond in order to come in under $2,000. If you’re willing to stretch your budget a little further, both of these setting styles are definitely worth considering.
With an extra $500 to spend, you’ll be able to upsize your choice of center diamond or choose from a wider range of settings. In this price range, diamonds in the 0.80 to 0.90 carat range are affordable, as are a large selection of halo, pavé and side stone settings.
Although a $2,500 budget generally isn’t enough to buy a high quality 1 carat diamond, you will be able to afford a good quality diamond that’s close to 1 carat in size, provided you’re willing to stick to a simple solitaire setting.
For example, this 0.92 carat, I color, VS1 clarity cushion cut diamond from Blue Nile is available for $2,054, allowing you to pair it with a simple but elegant solitaire setting in yellow gold while not spending even $2,500 in total.
This 0.80 carat, J color, SI1 round diamond from James Allen comes in at $2,100, giving you a reasonable selection of solitaire settings to choose from without exceeding your budget.
Another option is to stick with a diamond in the 0.65 to 0.75 carat range, as we recommended above for a $2,000 budget, then spend the extra $500 upgrading to a more elaborate, elegant pavé, halo or side stone setting.
For example, this beautiful beaded bezel set engagement ring, this elegant petite tapered pave adorned crown ring and this stunning pavé halo ring are all available for less than $1,000 each, giving you $1,500 to spend on a beautiful diamond.
This is a good choice if you’re looking to buy a more elaborate, eye-catching engagement ring and don’t necessarily need a larger diamond.
We’ve been fans of James Allen for years. Their selection of diamonds is vast, their prices are some of the best in the industry and their customer service is excellent, meaning you can shop with total peace of mind that you’ll be treated fairly.
James Allen provides a 30-day return policy and a lifetime warranty. As we’ve covered in our full review of James Allen, the buying process is easy, stress-free and offers great value.
Blue Nile is another fantastic option for buying an engagement ring. Their diamond inventory is absolutely massive, their prices are excellent, their selection of settings is very good and their customer service is some of the best in the industry.
Like James Allen, Blue Nile offers a 30-day return policy and a lifetime warranty. As we’ve talked about in more detail in our full Blue Nile review, we think they’re a great place to buy a diamond engagement ring.
It’s very possible to buy a gorgeous, elegant engagement ring if you have a budget of $1,000 to $2,500.
Use the tips and recommendations above and you’ll be able to find a diamond and setting that look great together, all without going over budget. If you need any help, feel free to contact us for personalized advice on the best options for your preferences and budget.
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