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Expert tips on how to find a $12000 engagement ring

by Willyou.net * Mar 17, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Finding a perfect engagement ring should be no trouble with a budget of $12,000.
  • It is far more than what the majority of shoppers would spend, but you should not get too carried away. It is still important to focus on how you can break the budget down and get the best ring for you.
  • This budget will allow you to shop within the 1 to 1.5 carat range.
  • You should ensure that the diamond has a good eye cleanliness, but spending more for a ring with no visible inclusions is not necessary.
  • At the end of the day, $12,000 is still a limited number to work with when you’re venturing into the world of diamonds. Make sure to slow down and treat things with caution. That way, you will be able to walk out of the jewelers with something truly special.
round halo pave engagrmnt ring

It doesn’t take a long-time industry expert to realize that, when it comes to budgeting for an engagement ring, $12,000 will open plenty of doors for you. Sure, it’s not blow-everything-out-of-the-water extravagant, but it’s significantly more than what the majority of shoppers have to play with in the months leading up to their proposals.

It’s not a competition, but knowing what the rest are doing is one of the easiest ways to ‘center’ yourself in this new world.

But, beyond centering yourself, you’ve also got to figure out how to break down a $12,000 budget and, more importantly, how to get the very most out of it. While it’s true that this will open plenty of doors in terms of the diamond and ring design, there are also some doors that, put simply, you don’t need opened. Being smart about your money means ultimately winding up with more, rather than less, what you bargained for.

So, where to start? Here’s our guide to spending $12,000 on an engagement ring the right way.

The Diamond

We’re generally big proponents of shoppers sticking to the 80:20 rule for engagement rings. That is, spending 80 – 83% of the budget – in your case, $9,600 – $10,000 – on the diamond, and reserving the other 20% for the ring design. This doesn’t always pan out. For instance, if you’re looking at a diamond solitaire design, you probably only need to set aside around $1,000 for the design, but keep $10,000 as a rough, ballpark figure until you talk through the specifics with your jeweler.

$10,000 is an excellent budget for a diamond. Consider the fact that the average spend (within the US) on an engagement ring is around $6,000 – meaning that around $4,800 – $5,000 of that budget is paid toward the diamond. So, in other words, with a budget of $10,000, you’ve got around twice as much to spend on your diamond as the average shopper.

How Big of a Diamond Will $10,000 Buy?

A diamond budget of $10,000 will be enough for you to comfortably shop the 1 to 1.5 carat range, without having to make any major sacrifices regarding your diamond’s quality.

Remember that diamond value increases exponentially with carat weight. While the ‘average’ budget of $6,000 is enough to accommodate a 1 carat diamond, that’s certainly not a guarantee that, at $10,000, you’ll find a 2 carat diamond worth investing into.

The typical price range for a 1.5 carat diamond is $5,000 – $36,000. Try not to get caught up on either extreme, since a $5,000 1.5 carat diamond will be of the lowest quality (too low to be worth the investment), while a $36,000 1.5 carat diamond will be of an unnecessarily high quality (for instance, FL clarity and D color).

$10,000 is a pretty strong position for 1.5 carat diamonds, since it doesn’t leave you at the very low end of this price range.

The average price range for a 2 carat diamond is between $8,500 and $58,000. The same rules apply here but, as you can probably tell, there is less scope for finding a worthwhile investment here. Sure, it’s not impossible, but ticking every box in terms of quality will mean that, for the most part, 2 carats is out of your price range.

After all, that’s the key thing to remember: not all diamonds priced within your range will be worth investing into. In fact, a substantial number of the diamonds priced within your range will represent terrible investments – wastes of your money – and a disappointment waiting to happen for your engagement ring.

You’ve still got to be smart about this, and accept that there are a number of non-negotiables any shopper of any budget can afford to follow during their search…

The Non-Negotiables of Diamonds

Personal preferences like shape, size, fluorescence, and setting aside, you should always return to this list before pushing your money in any direction.

  • Certification
    We talk a lot about diamond certification at WillYou.Net and, beyond our own site, you will find a similar story across the board. Why? Because diamond certification – a process that takes place before your diamond makes its way into the jewelry store – is what enables sellers to determine the value of the diamond.
    There is no ‘set price’ for 1 carat, 2 carat, or 10 carat diamonds. Every diamond on sale today is a unique, natural gemstone with its own characteristics, flaws, and attributes.
    Many different labs offer diamond certification for vendors and jewelers, but we only recommend diamonds graded by the GIA or AGS as worthwhile investments. Ultimately, however, the bottom line is this: do not waste your time or money on any jeweler who does not sell certified diamonds.
  • Jeweler
    It’s obvious that, whether you’re spending $2,000 or $200,000, finding a reputable jeweler is one of the most important initial steps you will take. There are way too many opportunities for first-time buyers to make a mistake or misstep, or to fall afoul of one of the many diamond scams out there – or, even more commonly, to invest their money into something that they haven’t had the opportunity to see or experience in person.
    Beyond that, however, an investment of this magnitude warrants the expertise and creative guidance only a jeweler can bring to the table. Your own concept for the diamond and the ring can only take you so far; a jeweler who has tirelessly grown and maintained their standing in the local communities is the only person who can take you the rest of the way.
  • Eye cleanliness
    First of all, you do not want to waste your money on a diamond that is brought down by any visible inclusions. If you can see them without magnification then, even if you think they’re minor now, they will seem all too obvious when you and the wearer are looking at the diamond every single day.
    But there’s more to the eye cleanliness debate than that. The most obvious solution to ensuring your diamond doesn’t have any visible inclusions is to make sure it doesn’t have any inclusions at all but, even on a large budget, this is a poor investment.
    Diamonds further down the clarity scale are significantly less expensive, but many of them are still eye clean. For 1 carat diamonds, a clarity grade of VS2 or SI1 is generally the best option; if your diamond is slightly larger, take a look at VS1 and VS2 diamonds for the best value for money.
  • No visible color
    The GIA’s color scale runs from D through Z. While D color diamonds are totally free from color, the higher grades (around E through I or J) tend to appear free from color, even though a skilled gemologist is able to detect some hints of yellow or brown under magnification.
    Like clarity, there is no specific ‘best grade’ for shoppers. The best color grade will be one that offers the appearance of colorlessness, but the value of a diamond not graded at the very top of the scale.
    Larger diamonds tend to show off color more than smaller diamonds. If you’re looking at the 1 – 1.5 carat range, then stick to the color grades G, H, and I. These are part of the Near Colorless category of color grades, and offer the best value for money (provided you check the diamond in person, too).
  • Cut and proportion
    More than any other aspect of diamond quality, strong grades for Cut (applicable for Round Brilliant diamonds), Symmetry and Polish are absolutely paramount. No shopper, when looking to get the best value for money possible, should consider sacrificing the cut quality of their diamond, since cut quality influences a diamond’s sparkle more than any other feature.
    A flawless, colorless diamond with a poor cut will appear dull, lifeless, and second-rate compared with a slightly included, near colorless diamond with an Excellent or Very Good cut grade.
    Disregard any diamond that has been graded Good, Fair, or Poor in these categories.
    Beyond those grades, however, you’ll want to take a look at the diamond’s unique measurements and proportions. These are included in any GIA report and, while the GIA does not stipulate any ideal proportions for diamond cuts, our guide to diamond proportion details the right parameters for your chosen shape. These parameters are standard across the industry, and diamonds cut outside of those proportions will be significantly less valuable to you. These diamonds can appear too flat, too wide, overly elongated, unattractively shallow, or deep or, worse still, dull and lacking any strong sparkle.
  • Enhancements
    Diamonds that have gone artificial enhancements are seen as a second-rate choice across most of the industry. This isn’t just because the natural beauty and uniqueness of the diamond is being ‘overridden’ by artificial processes, but also because these enhancements can undermine the diamond’s strength and beauty pretty significantly.
    Many jewelers don’t even sell enhanced diamonds but, if you’re concerned, it’s always worth asking the question.
  • Durability (no major inclusions)
    Even if the diamond you’re looking at is eye clean, you’ll want to pay close attention to the type, size, and nature of the inclusions noted within the stone’s GIA report. There are some inclusions all shoppers will want to avoid, primarily because they make the diamond vulnerable to getting damaged further down the line.
    Diamonds are incredibly strong. In fact, they’re the strongest natural substance out there. But cracks and holes – particularly when they’re located at thin edges or points – naturally make them susceptible to breaking.
    Don’t invest into any diamond with a significant inclusion near the girdle, culet, or any of the shape’s corners or points. The right diamond will be capable of lasting through generations of wear – not a few years.

The Ring

A budget of around $2,000 is a great amount to have on your side as you design a suitable setting for your diamond. It means that the higher quality materials like platinum and 18K gold are well within your reach, as are diamond accents and, of course, your jeweler’s creative expertise.

If you’ve picked out a diamond around the 1.5 carat range, then the obvious choice to show off the size and beauty of your stone is a solitaire or cathedral setting. If you’re worried about missing out on making any creative decisions, then don’t be – you’ll still want to consider the types of prong settings that complement your diamond the best, whether you’ll want to go minimalistic with four prongs or bolder with six or eight prongs, the shape of your ring’s shank (for instance, knife-edge or tapered), and, of course, the metal.

The great thing about a diamond of this weight, however, is that you don’t need to worry about overwhelming it with additional design details like halos, pavé, accent stones, filigree or milgrain.

Even with a more substantial budget, we wouldn’t tend to recommend you go for the big, designer names of the engagement ring world. Most of these designers work directly with jewelers, creating ‘affiliates’ through which shoppers can place an order. We have reviewed a few of these big names in the past, and tend to find ourselves reaching the same conclusion: that going for a big name means sacrificing that direct, personal line of contact between you and the person making it, and often means your ring will be mass produced, rather than designed and hand-crafted in situ.

Working directly with your jeweler means seeing the entire process through. From that initial consultation, when your jeweler will draw up a rough sketch, through to the final design and, of course, the big reveal a few weeks down the line, everything is handled between you and your jeweler.

Our Summary

One of the first things we would urge any shopper on a $12,000 budget to do is slow down, take stock, and recognize that even a strong, robust budget needs to be treated to the same caution and understanding a shopper with a budget half the size needs to exercise.

Why? Because, on the grand scheme of things, $12,000 is still a limited number to work with. There are engagement rings two, five, ten times the value you’ve got to spend, and it would be all too easy for you to invest a portion of that money into a diamond that you don’t gain the most possible benefit from.

We’re not trying to downplay your budget, but to ensure that, as you move into this process, you’re ready to spend it as wisely as anyone else, and not to assume that everything available to you at that price point is worth paying for.

Take your time, but enjoy the process – and, most importantly, make sure you walk out of the jewelry store with something to be proud of.