The Best Tips for Buying a Cheap Engagement Ring

cheap engagement rings

Buying an engagement ring is one of life’s most exciting and rewarding experiences. It can also be one of the most nerve-racking, stressful, and — gulp — expensive. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Plenty of options exist today for you to get a beautiful, sparkly diamond engagement ring without spending your entire life savings in the process.

Before buying an engagement ring, it is incredibly important to consider all the possibilities at your disposal. From setting your own expectations while shopping online, as well as being diamond savvy and looking at alternatives to mined gems, you can essentially have your cake and eat it, too.No matter what your budget is, you can easily find the perfect affordable engagement ring for you and your significant other with endorsed online diamond retailers and, for some, lab-grown diamonds.

TL:DR; Buy online. Buy a Lab-grown Diamond 🙂

1. Shop for an Affordable Diamond Engagement Ring Online

From Brick & Mortar Stores…

It’s no surprise that jewelry stores abound. If you’ve been to a mall in the last thirty years, you know that they’re basically on every corner. They display their brightly lit gems for all the world to see. From Zale’s and Jared to Tiffany & Co. and Cartier, brick and mortar jewelry stores are certainly not hard to find (though a little harder to avoid!).

These retailers do a fine job in many ways, but at the same time, they spend a significant amount of money on TV, digital, and print advertising. To make up for it, their diamond and engagement ring prices are often hiked up to as much as twice their actual cost, if not more.

You can certainly start your diamond engagement ring search at one of these physical locations to get a sense of style and a solid understanding of diamond basics. But, if you want to make the most of your budget (whatever that might be), you probably won’t want to actually make your purchase here, for a number of reasons.

…To Online Diamond Shopping

Instead, like most things nowadays, you can get much more bang for your buck by simply shopping for a diamond engagement ring online. It might seem scary at first — such an important purchase! — but it’s actually very safe, incredibly secure, and far more affordable in nearly all cases than shopping at a big box diamond store.

You might wonder how online diamond retailers are able to sell their gems for lower prices. It’s a good question, and it has a very straightforward answer. There are several reasons that online jewelry stores can offer brilliant diamonds and engagement rings at much lower sales prices, and, importantly, not a single one of them has to do with lower quality.

Why Online Diamonds Are So Much Less Expensive

For one, due to the manner in which diamonds are sourced and circulated, online retailers are able to purchase them at a cost below that of big chains. They can purchase specific diamonds or larger quantities whenever necessary.

Additionally, online retailers often have the ability to pull different diamonds from a wide range of distributors and other sources. This, in turn, gives them the ability to keep a much lower inventory level and thus save money on warehousing and distribution, all without also having to pay rent on physical locations around the country. They can then pass all these savings on to you, a budgeting, mindful, and conscientious consumer.

Another reason that shoppers tend to spend more when they buy at a brick-and-mortar jewelry store location is not exactly nice to hear, but it’s the truth nonetheless. The salespeople at these retailers often have to work on commission. What’s more, they usually deal with individuals who don’t know a whole lot about diamonds, rings, or the jewelry business in general.

Tricks of Brick & Mortar Salesmen

Due to all these reasons, diamond salesmen and saleswomen can use slick language and a bunch of industry jargon during their interactions. They do this to trick people into believing that they should fork over more money for their shiny jewelry, when in fact nothing much substantial is being communicated.

Of course, not all salespeople in every chain jewelry store will do this, but it does happen often enough that you should be more than a little wary whenever one of them strikes up a conversation with you over at the fancy glass counter.

The Built-In Costs of Advertising

Finally, as we mentioned earlier, big box stores spend an inordinate amount of money on television, online, and magazine advertising. Naturally, this forces them to make up that expenditure somewhere else.

Unfortunately for engagement ring shoppers, this primarily comes in the form of diamonds and other gems at a significant markup to customers.

How Much Cheaper Are Online Diamond Engagement Rings?

With all this in mind, you can easily see how the savings add up — and quickly! — by shopping away from traditional diamond retailers. Even so, you probably also want to know exactly how much actual money you might save by shopping at an online jewelry store instead.

Estimates vary from one retailer to the next, and prices will always run the full spectrum of personal budgets and preferences. That being said, most online diamond stores can offer prices at up to a full 50% OFF of the “normal” retail price when it comes to mined diamonds and gems.

Again, these numbers will differ depending on the website in question, but you can legitimately save up to half of what you were originally planning to spend, simply by shopping online instead of in a physical store. And it’s more convenient too! Talk about a win-win!

2. Less Expensive Alternatives to Mined Diamonds

In addition to shopping online for a diamond engagement ring, you can also save an enormous amount of money by opting for an alternative gemstone, something that looks great on a ring but at the same time isn’t an earth-grown diamond.

This might immediately conjure up images of cubic zirconia (or CZ, for short). But the truth is actually much different, and much better. These days, a ton of options exist outside of “traditional” earth-grown diamonds:

  • Amethyst
  • Aquamarine
  • Emerald
  • Moissanite
  • Morganite
  • Ruby
  • Sapphire
  • Lab-grown diamonds (also referred to as “lab-created” or “man-made”)

Some of these do not look at all like the clear image of a diamond you probably have in mind (mainly due to their color, of course). However, your significant other might actually want something a little off the beaten path. If they do, then these differently colored options could be a great fit and stand out from the crowd at the same time!

If you and your fiancé-to-be have ultimately decided on a diamond look for the engagement ring, then two of the above choices could be absolutely perfect for you: moissanite and lab-grown diamonds. Let’s take a look at each one to see how they’re similar to mined diamonds and how they compare in quality in overall cost.


Moissanite is called a diamond simulant. It looks and feels just like a diamond mined from the ground, but it’s actually made of a completely different material, so it costs a whole lot less than “the real thing”. The chemical structure is entirely different, even though the appearance shines and sparkles just like the diamonds we’re all used to.

To make it even more interesting, the original unearthing of moissanite actually came all the way back in 1893 by a French scientist named Moissan (hence the gem’s moniker, moissanite). Mssr. Moissan discovered the substance in the crater of a meteorite in Arizona, and even he thought it was a diamond at first!

Back in the lab, he determined that its composition was chemically distinct from that of diamonds. Eventually, he would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. If it can fool him, it can fool anybody.

Because of the (literal) otherworldly origin of moissanite, nearly all of the material today is actually made in a lab. Which brings us to the next option…

See also: Which is Better a Diamond or Moissanite Engagement Ring?

Lab-Grown Diamonds (our favorite pick)

The real winner in modern-day diamond shopping comes by way of a laboratory as well. Instead of being mined from the ground in (usually) expensive, (often) environmentally destructive, and (sometimes) ethically dubious circumstances, these diamonds are literally created inside of a lab. (Read Also: What Are Lab Grown Diamonds?)

Now, most people probably start envisioning CZ rings again (there’s nothing wrong with those, of course), but lab-grown diamonds could not be more different.

Even if the general look is roughly akin, cubic zirconia stones have a completely distinct chemical makeup from that of real diamonds. The only legitimate crossovers are in the fact that they are both made in a lab and both are intended to look generally the same. Truthfully, the similarity very much ends right there.

Lab-grown diamonds are fully and completely real diamonds in every possible and conceivable way. Here’s why…

Diamonds have a specific chemical structure. The ones that come from the ground and those “grown” in a lab are in every physical way the exact same. Not even a trained jeweler can tell any difference under a microscope. The only distinction that can be made between lab-grown and mined diamonds is this: they do not come from the ground. That’s it, and that’s all.

In other words, nothing distinguishes lab-grown diamonds from the more “traditional” variety other than their origin, where they come from. They are just as beautiful and clean and every bit as sparkly as mined diamonds, but, since they don’t technically come out of the earth, lab-grown diamonds also come with a significant advantage: they are much less expensive.

How Much Do Lab-Grown Diamonds Cost?

Again, the actual prices will vary across retailers and online shopping environments. That said, you can expect to pay as much as 60% LESS than you would for a mined diamond with equivalent specifications.

What does this mean for you? Well, for starters, you can afford to purchase a diamond with the exact same carat (and/or clarity, color, cut) of a diamond from the ground while spending up to 60% less than you would have otherwise. Whichever of the 4 C’s is important to you, you can have it.

Here are a few examples:

Lab grown vs Mined

From the above chart, you can easily see the difference at a glance, in both dollar amounts and overall percentages. The least amount saved for a lab-grown diamond — given these numbers — still runs at almost a full one-third off of the retail price of an earth-grown diamond.

Consider the quality here as well. With one exception, we’re only dealing with Excellent quality diamonds in this chart. This speaks volumes about what you can expect to get (as well as save) if you decide to opt for a lab-grown diamond over its earth-grown counterpart.

The most expensive diamond on this chart (third row from the bottom) has the following qualities: Excellent, G-color, VS1-clarity. The mined version of this diamond costs nearly $6,000. The lab-grown version of this exact same diamond costs only $2,898. That’s a savings of half the original price, and this is just one example among many. Even more, you can often even get a 30% bigger diamond for the same price.

Keep in mind, we aren’t comparing a “real diamond” with a “fake diamond”. The cost comparison here is simply between a real diamond that comes from the ground and a real diamond that comes from a lab. That’s the only difference, but the cost-savings are huge.

Summary of Affordable Diamond Shopping

With all this information, it’s pretty easy to see the widespread appeal of shopping online instead of in a store, as well as the incredible benefits of buying lab-grown diamonds.

Online retailers can provide exactly what you’re looking for without headaches and at a much lower cost. Lab-grown diamonds give you everything that you want and more.

Remember that they are identical in chemical composition (which really means identical in every way), and because of this they naturally look the same and feel the same as any earth-grown diamond. On top of all this, they’re also environmentally and ethically conscious, meaning you can buy them without any undue pain to your budget or stress to your conscience.

And the ultimate prize? Well, they cost a whole lot less.


Is a lab-created diamond better than an earth-grown diamond?
This will really depend on your taste and preferences. Both can be conflict-free and will range widely in terms of grading and the 4 C’s. Lab-grown gems do allow you to get the most out of your budget, giving up to 30% more size for the same cost. Mined diamonds are naturally occurring, rarer by definition, and often seen as more traditional.

Where do lab-created diamonds actually come from?
Using modern, highly advanced technology, these diamonds are “grown” from a tiny sliver into a full diamond.

Are they any different from earth-grown diamonds?
Surprisingly to many people, they are identical in both chemical and optical composition. More importantly for some, the sparkle factor is also the same. The only difference is where they come from.

Which one has a higher quality?
Neither one. Because they’re the same in every way, it just depends on the actual grading. Color, cut, carat, and clarity may vary, but the quality of earth-grown and lab-grown is the same across the board.

How are lab-grown diamonds made?
Chemists begin with a very tiny sliver of chemicals (called a diamond seed). Then, they heat it up and pressurize it, which causes it to grow and become a fully-formed diamond for engagement rings or other uses.

Can I still get an appraisal and lab certificate?
Absolutely. All diamonds can come with an appraisal and certificate, regardless of their origin.

Can a diamond expert tell the difference between earth and lab diamonds?
No. Even using a loupe, a professional and trained diamond expert cannot tell any “difference” between lab and earth diamonds, because no such difference exists. They are the same in optics and chemical structure.

Carl Jones

Carl has been involved in the jewelry business since his youth. Growing up in South Africa his parents were jewelers who worked in the industry for decades.

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