How to Spend Your $10,000 Budget Wisely

by Willyou.net * Aug 16, 2021
engagement ring double halo twisted - How to Spend Your 10,000 Budget Wisely

There is no ‘correct’ budget for any budding fiancé – but, if there were, it’s pretty safe to say that $10,000 would be well within the green. Far from modest, this five figure sum ensures a wide playing field for you to navigate, explore, and, eventually, bag that perfect ring.

Nevertheless, it’s an unwritten law of the world of engagement ring shopping that the more choice you have, the more likely it is you will encounter moments of extreme indecisiveness, self-doubt, hesitation and ‘choice overload’. It’s probably also the case that, not being an avid diamond collector, you’re not going into this process knowing a whole lot about how to make a strong investment with your money.

In the end, giving yourself so much choice can start to feel more like a curse than a blessing – but it doesn’t need to, provided you go into the process prepared.

So, just what can you expect from a $10,000 engagement ring? And, more importantly, which features should you be channeling most of your money into?

  • The Rundown
  • The Diamond
    • How Big of a Diamond Can You Get for $10,000?
    • Should I Spend More on the Diamond or Setting?
    • Is Clarity More Important than Cut?
    • What Type of Diamond Cut is the Most Expensive?
    • Which Diamond Cut Holds its Value?
  • The Ring Itself
    • Is it More Expensive to Design Your Own Engagement Ring?
    • Should You Spend More for a Higher Karat Gold?
    • Do You Need to Include a Matching Wedding Band in Your $10,000 Budget?
    • Should You Consult with Your Girlfriend Before Choosing a Ring?
  • Our Summary

The Rundown: Is $10,000 a Lot for an Engagement Ring?

Yes and no. $10,000 means you can go into the buying process with a pretty strong hand. It’s inevitable that, unless you’re able to drop an unlimited amount, there will always be rings out of your budget. With five figures, however, you will certainly have more than enough to choose from – and plenty to invest into a remarkable diamond.

As of 2020, the national average fell in at around $5,500. Statistically speaking, then, $10,000 dollars puts you at a significant advantage, and will certainly widen the parameters when the time comes for you to begin browsing your choices.

When it comes to splitting your budget between the individual aspects of the ring, chances are that the diamond will fall at the top of your list of priorities. This is the ‘star turn’ – the pièce de résistance – although we’re guessing you figured out that much on your own. Diamonds vary hugely in market value, and it would be easy to spend your entire budget (five hundred times over) on the diamond alone, so, even with $10,000, you will need to be slightly conservative.

You will, of course, also need to consider the setting. With your budget, you’ll pretty much have free reign over the designs available to shoppers, but will still need to budget for the precious metals – and any accent gemstones.

So, to rephrase our initial answer: setting your sights on a $10,000 engagement ring is more than enough to bag yourself a knock-out diamond and, according to the national average, it is a lot of money. Given the vertigo-inducing heights some budgets can run to, it’s not going to give you the world – but, when you start to look at the choices on offer, we doubt that will matter.

The Diamond

Does the significance of the diamond need any further introduction? Not when it comes to creating your mental ‘To Do’ list prior to the proposal. Still, for anyone who has never purchased a diamond before, stepping into this world of carats, clarity, cut and color can be a challenge – even when you’ve got 10K at your disposal.

How Big of a Diamond Can You Get for $10,000?

Anywhere between 0.5 and 2 carats – maybe more, if you’re willing to sacrifice a little on the diamond’s cut, color, or clarity, although this isn’t something we recommend.

While they may say ‘go big or go home’, it’s important for any first-time diamond buyer to note that a diamond’s value is determined by more than size alone. This is why our initial answer shows so much discrepancy in size – there’s a big difference between a 0.5 and 2 carat diamond, but, provided they cost the same amount, there will also be a considerable difference in quality.

A diamond’s cut and clarity are the two most significant factors behind its light performance – in other words, the way it sparkles. For this reason alone, we would always recommend curbing your enthusiasm for size alone, and channeling your investment into all of the four Cs.

Yes, finding a good sized diamond is important, but, with the right setting and plenty of sparkle, it’ll stand out regardless of a couple hundred milligrams.

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Should I Spend More on the Diamond or Setting?

Without a doubt, we think you should set aside the bulk of your budget for the diamond. Not only is it the most vital part of the ring, but a good diamond will retain its value for decades to come.

There is, however, a very bit but – and you can’t leave this one to chance…

It is no good dropping 90% of your budget on a remarkable diamond, then scraping together whatever’s left in your wallet for a mediocre setting. It is vital that the ring itself is capable of keeping the diamond safe, secure, and protected now, and for many years to come.

This is one area that only a respected and experienced jeweler can assist with – and a prime example of why buying online is such a major risk. It may look and feel secure to you, but trust us when we say this is not your call to make.

So, yes, spend more on the diamond – but don’t hand over a single dollar until you have talked your options through with your jeweler, and prepared yourself for the additional cost of the ring itself.

Is Clarity More Important than Cut?

In our opinion, no – unless you’re spending so much on cut that you can’t budget for an eye clean diamond. Cut is likely to be the first thing she notices; it determines the ring’s overall appearance, and is probably the feature she has the strongest opinions on. Clarity also impacts the diamond’s appearance, but only if you dip below a certain point on the grading scale.

Take a look at the filters on our diamond search engine. We’re going to assume that, when you filter for a different cut, you’ll instantly notice a much more tangible difference between results than you do when you filter for a different clarity grade.

As we mentioned above, your bride-to-be likely knows what she wants when it comes to shape. She may lean toward the more contemporary princess or radiant styles (the fancy cuts), or closer to the simplistic shapes of the emerald (a classic step cut). Unless her ‘hints’ have been more or less explicit, this is yet another area where your jeweler will prove invaluable – for now, you can check out our guide to the diamond cuts with the most sparkle.

Still, when you’re investing thousands into a diamond, you want to make sure that it’s eye clean, at the very least. For this, you’re going to want to aim for a diamond graded between VVS and SI – a parameter that comes with a premium price tag.

What Type of Diamond Cut is the Most Expensive?

As the most popular cut – not to mention the most precise – an expertly cut round brilliant typically goes for the highest price.

The round brilliant cut is, as the name suggests, designed specifically to create the most sparkle possible. Its many facets (sides) must be perfectly proportioned, meaning that the process of cutting the rough gemstone is painstaking, and that the diamond cutter must sacrifice a lot of excess diamond to achieve the perfect shape.

A round brilliant also looks right at home within any setting, and, by virtue of its shape, can look larger than other cuts of the same carat weight. A 1.5 carat round brilliant diamond, for instance, can fetch a price of between $3,300 and $25,000 (depending on quality), while a 1.5 carat Asscher cut of similar quality could sell for between 30-45% less.

The round brilliant will always remain a classic choice, but other shapes are continually being brought to the height of popularity, too. Each season brings new diamond jewelry looks and trends to the forefront, and these shapes will go for a higher price if they see a surge in popularity among buyers. 

Which Diamond Cut Holds its Value?

Again, the round brilliant will certainly hold its value over the years. Any well-cut (and well looked after) diamond will, however, hold its market value very well.

Diamond cutting is a laborious craft that requires years’ worth of commitment to perfect. For this reason, cut quality can vary significantly and will undoubtedly impact the diamond’s value in the years to come.

Some cuts, like the pear, are incredibly difficult to get right, and should definitely be carefully appraised by the jeweler prior to purchase. Others are a little ‘simpler’, but may not sparkle as much as you and your bride-to-be would like.

The minute differences between a perfect and an imperfect cut are, however, not something that any non-expert will find easy to spot. This is why shopping online proves such a fatal error for so many buyers, and another reason why your jeweler will prove invaluable. Their expertise and years in the business will have made them far more attuned to the subtle differences in cut quality, and they will spot things that remain invisible in a digital image alone.

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The Ring Itself

No diamond is complete without the perfect setting. Whether simple and plain or intricate and sparkly – and whether you choose to buy a pre-designed ring, or tailor yours to your own specifications – the setting quite literally frames your diamond (or diamonds) and turns a beautiful gemstone into the definitive symbol of your commitment.

Is it More Expensive to Design Your Own Engagement Ring?

Generally speaking, it is more expensive to create a unique ring based off your unique choices. Still, if you have the budget – and the vision – to pull it off, then we certainly recommend adding that final, personal touch to your proposal by working with a professional jeweler to put together something never seen before.

One area where it is (supposedly) cheaper to DIY your ring is via online-only businesses which enable shoppers to mix and match design features. These sites are often predicated on the claim that this is a great way to get a better deal – and a one of a kind ring. But one of the main reasons why we urge our readers to take the traditional route and visit a brick-and-mortar jewelers is because these online ‘ring builders’ are incapable of replacing the eye for detail an experienced jeweler can bring to the table.

Unless you are a professional jewelry maker – in which case, why would you even be on one of these sites anyway? – understanding the level of detail and artistry required to make a truly unique ring is something that will prove impossible to improvise or make up as you go along.

So, the long-winded answer is this: tailoring a ring to fit with your own vision – and doing so with the expertise of a professional jeweler – is probably going to work out more expensive than purchasing a pre-made design (or, of course, a mix-and-match piece from the web).

In our opinion – and in spite of the slightly higher cost – this is an excellent way of making the very most of your $10,000 budget, and giving your bride-to-be something that represents you.

Should I Spend More on a Higher Karat Gold?

Once again, we’ll have to hedge our bets and say yes and no. Many jewelers recommend sticking to the 14k mark for gold and, in our opinion, it’s definitely worth paying that premium. Paying more for a higher purity, however, has its own pitfalls.

Gold is a surprisingly soft metal. At 24 karats (99% pure gold), it can bend or show signs of damage incredibly quickly – and probably won’t be capable of gripping your diamond as securely as it needs to. Lower karat golds are ‘alloyed’ with other, stronger metals, ensuring that they are strong enough to be worn on a regular basis.

So, don’t be lured in by the apparent prestige of ‘pure gold’. If your heart is set on a gold ring, then talk to your jeweler about balancing strength, cost, and beauty together, so that it can last well beyond that initial wear. 

Furthermore, the trend of mixed metal engagement rings has risen to popularity recently, and offers a great alternative to designing a band and setting entirely from gold.

Are Engagement Rings Cheaper Online?

No, not if they were to offer a like-for-like match in terms of quality, craftmanship, and the expert, personalized service available from a real, local jeweler. The lower costs advertised by large online retailers are available to buyers from a reason…

We can tell you everything you need to know about spending a $10,000 budget wisely, but it’s all just theory until you actually step through the doors of the jeweler’s shop and feel the weight of a ring in your hand, see the diamond in person, and actually start on the road to investment.

There is a reason why our GIA Diamond Lookup connects you with a local jeweler, rather than directing you straight to a digital store. Even when it is accompanied by the most universally-recognized certification, a diamond remains something of a mystery until you are no longer looking at it through a screen.

It’s a case of knowing what you and your bride-to-be want – and what features you’re dropping the biggest investment on – before you take the plunge.

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Do You Need to Include a Matching Wedding Band in your $10,000 Budget?

Not necessarily. While the wedding band is traditionally the same width as the engagement ring band, there are no rules dictating that they need to match – or that you need to pay for them at the same time.

Increasingly, many brides have chosen to make more of a statement with the two separate rings, although there remain plenty of women who would still prefer to keep everything coordinating with an elegant bridal set.

Provided you choose a local jeweler, you can simply return to the shop when you begin preparing for your wedding in order to have your original design translated into a new, matching wedding band. There’s no time limit for this, and it gives you a lot more freedom to coordinate each band than you would have browsing readymade designs.

So, provided you are confident that the $10,000 is for the engagement ring and not the entire wedding, you can simply defer thinking about the wedding band until you start budgeting for the wedding itself. It doesn’t need to be handled all at once.

Should You Consult with Your Girlfriend Before Choosing a Ring?

Maybe. But, then again, maybe not. While this ring no doubt represents a major moment for your finances, there’s no rule stating that your girlfriend needs to be brought in on the decision. You know her best, which means only you know whether or not she would prefer to be brought in on the secret.

There’s no skirting around the fact that $10,000 is a lot of money. Whether you’ve gone the traditional route, and followed that age-old advice which dictates two months’ worth of your salary should go toward the ring, or simply have a healthy saving’s account ready to be used, spending $10,000 on a single purchase is a big deal.

These days, plenty of couples – and, according to some statistics, the overwhelming majority of couples – take a more collaborative approach to picking out a ring, even if it’s just a couple images and her ring size. This can help to allay any fears you might have in dropping 10K on a ring, but may not be what your girlfriend wants.

Remember that it is possible to pull this off on your own. You can find your feet by reading our guide to finding the perfect ring for her, then taking that fresh information straight to your jeweler, who can introduce you to the styles best suited to your girlfriend’s style.

Our Summary: How Do You Get the Most Out of Your $10,000 Engagement Ring Budget?

Whether you’re planning on purchasing a ready-made ring from your jeweler, or working alongside them to design something around your chosen diamond – and, of course, your bride-to-be’s style – your priorities should remain the same: do your research, prepare your expectations according to your budget, then find a jeweler you can trust to bring your vision to life.

A $10,000 budget gives you a great amount of wiggle room. At almost twice the national average (as of 2020) you will certainly be able to factor a larger, better quality diamond – and, of course, a fitting band and setting.

One key takeaway that we would like to stress on all our readers is the fact that it is all too easy (not to mention common) for buyers to be drawn into the spiel of the online sellers, and to think that the best way to maximize their budget is to shop via an online store promising ‘more bang for your buck’.

But, if you’ve set aside $10,000 – or anywhere close, for that matter – then there is no need to restrict yourself to the shortfalls of the online jewelry store. A substantial investment does not necessarily equal a good investment – for that, you need to be able to follow the guidance of someone who has been working within the business for decades already.