Buying Guide for $4000 Engagement Rings

People like to debate about how much you should save to buy an engagement ring. They used to say three months of your salary, but no one follows that anymore. Most people either have an exact budget or a general price range. Today, that budget number is $4,000.

Is $4000 enough to buy a natural diamond engagement ring? Yes. You can buy a high-quality engagement ring for under $4,000. My recommendations for the best diamond grades to keep your engagement ring 4,000 or under are the following:

  • Center Carat Weight: .93-1.07 carats
  • Clarity Grades: VS1, SI1, SI2
  • Color Grades: H, I, J
  • Cut Grade: Very Good or Ideal
  • Diamond Shape: Cushion Cut, Radiant, Emerald, Asscher
  • Ring Setting: 2mm Solitaire, Bezel, Side-stone
  • Ring Metal: 14K Gold

This buying guide will guide you on how to keep your engagement ring cost down. Read on to learn how to buy an engagement ring with a $4,000 budget.

How Big of a Diamond Can I Get for $4,000?

The biggest carat weight you’ll be able to get with a budget of $4,000 is going to be around 1 carat. The prices on a 1.5 and a 2 carat will be well over $4,000.

But carats aren’t about size. That’s why it’s called carat “weight”. Carat weight distributes differently in diamond shapes.

A 1 carat round diamond has a diameter of 6.5mm. Most of its weight is in the pavilion of the diamond, not the crown. The pavilion is the underside of the diamond. The crown is the top of the diamond. The table is what you see when looking at it from face-up.

Visual size in diamonds doesn’t happen because of carat weight. You can have a big one carat diamond. All you have to do is pick a shape that’s bigger than a circle. Cushions, Asschers, and princess cut diamonds don’t make much of a visual size difference.

Marquise-shaped diamonds look the biggest due to their skinny and elongated shape. They’re not the widest, but the length makes it look larger. For a wider look, I’d go with a radiant or an emerald. They’re elongated and both are cheaper diamond shapes.

Is $4000 Cheap to Spend on an Engagement Ring? Or Is It Too Much?

You shouldn’t worry about $4000 being too much or too little to spend on a diamond engagement ring. In December 2020, the average amount spent on an engagement ring was $5,500. 10% of those surveyed said they spent less than $1000.

You can get a gorgeous ring for $4,000. Why pay more when you can have high quality for less? A $4000 engagement ring is a great budget to work with. It’s not far from the average.

You’d have to sacrifice your diamond grades to keep under $3,000. With $4000, you can get an affordable ring setting under $1,000 and have $3000 to work with on your diamond. Most of the rings you’ll see today cost more than $3,000 but less than $4,000.

What Kind of Engagement Ring Can You Get Under $4,000?

Engagement ring settings come in a bunch of different styles. You’ll want to spend the bulk of your $4,000 budget on using the money saving tips you got from me above to buy a diamond.

The most affordable  ring settings no matter where you shop are solitaire ring settings. Solitaire settings have two classic styles: Tiffany-style and cathedral style.

A Tiffany style ring follows the same idea. You can think of it like the generic brand of a Tiffany ring. It can have 4 or 6 prongs. The prongs come up from the band like a claw. Sometimes, the prongs are in line with the band.

6 Prong Tiffany Style Setting From James Allen

A cathedral ring setting has more metal and a tall profile. I’ve seen cathedral rings with low profiles but they’re not as common. Higher profile cathedrals are popular.

Cathedral settings look like a bridge. The two sides of the ring shape curve in a diagonal direction toward the ring head. A bar sits underneath the ring head connecting the two sides. The metal is usually high-polished. Some solitaire cathedral settings have carved detailing on the side.

Tiffany style solitaire settings are less expensive than the average cathedral setting. That’s because cathedrals have more metal. It requires more gold or platinum to make cathedral settings.

https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/petite-cathedral-solitaire-in-14k-yellow-gold_60429

Solitaire ring settings cost under $1100 on average. James Allen and Blue Nile both offer solitaire ring settings under $500.

Solitaires aren’t only inexpensive. They can be helpful when picking a color grade for your diamonds. Remember how I said some people notice the yellow in a diamond more than others? The effectiveness of this tip will depend on what looks colorless enough for you.

Warmer color grades are near colorless to faint. That includes GHIJ and KLM color grades. By choosing a yellow gold ring setting, your K diamond might look like an H or I.

The bright yellow of the yellow gold band can offset the way the color of your diamond looks. It makes it brighter. It can only work with single-stone ring settings. If your ring setting has smaller diamonds in it, it’s likely you’ll notice the warmth regardless. Color is usually higher in small diamonds.

I’ve broken down the 4 following engagement rings from James Allen and Blue Nile into two parts. That’s setting cost and diamond cost. I’ve chosen to spend under $1000 on a ring setting. That leaves me at least $3000 to spend on a loose diamond.

The Best $4000 Engagement Rings

#1. Ring Setting Price: $390

Diamond Grades and Price: 1.05 Radiant, SI1 Clarity, J color: $2830

Total Price: $2830

https://www.bluenile.com/diamond-details/LD17327367?refTab=DIAMONDS&track=viewDiamondDetails&catalogView=true

#2.

Ring Setting Price: $490

Diamond Grades and Price: 1.20 Cushion, SI1 clarity, J color: $2740

Total Price: $3320

https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/cushion-cut/1.20-carat-j-color-si1-clarity-sku-11404143

https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/14k-white-gold-cable-solitaire-engagement-ring-item-9315

 

#3

https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/diamond-details/LD16145237?refTab=DIAMONDS&track=viewDiamondDetails&catalogView=true&offerId=77797

Ring Setting Price: $550

Diamond Grades and Price: 1.07 carats, Emerald, SI2 clarity, I color: $2400

Total Price: $2834

 

#4

https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/14k-white-gold-engraved-solitaire-engagement-ring-item-53077

https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/asscher-cut/0.90-carat-i-color-si1-clarity-sku-5773028

Ring Setting Price: $850

Diamond Grades and Price: .90 carats Asscher, SI1  clarity, I color: $2010

Total Price: $2860

Other types of ring settings that may cost less than $1000 are bezel settings and side stone settings. Most retailers have solitaire settings as their lowest-priced ring setting.

 

Where to Buy Engagement Rings Online Under $4,000?

Trying to stay under $4000 for an engagement ring will prove to be difficult if your heart is set on buying local. Retail chain stores overcharge for their standard solitaire settings. They might not separate diamond cost from the ring setting like online retailers.

Most of what they’ll carry will be preset and the diamond grades already set in stone. They’ll also charge 1-3x more for both diamonds and ring settings. If you go to their website, you’ll still be selected for pre-determined diamond grades.

There are many online diamond retailers on the web, but not every option is a good one. Both James Allen and Blue Nile are the top-rated online retailers.

James Allen

Jamesallen.com is the best online diamond retailer for a few reasons. The biggest is their diamond prices. They’re the ones to beat for affordability. You can narrow your diamond grades using the filter provided.

In addition to the 4Cs, you can filter grading labs for certifications. Diamond grading labs are important because they confirm that your diamond is the grades they’re being advertised as. The best grading labs are GIA and AGS. James Allen also has IGI graded diamonds, but this lab isn’t as reliable as the others.

Leaving $1000 for a ring setting, here’s a few GIA graded diamonds from James Allen under $3000:

Round Brilliant: Excellent Cut, H Color, I1 Clarity, 1.05 carats $2210

https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.05-carat-h-color-i1-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-13048901

Marquise: J Color, SI1 Clarity, .1 carat $2770

https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/marquise-cut/1.00-carat-j-color-si1-clarity-sku-12978113

Oval: I color, SI1 clarity, 1.01 carats: $2520

https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/oval-cut/1.01-carat-i-color-si1-clarity-sku-13058761

Blue Nile

Blue Nile is my other recommendation for engagement rings under $4,000. They’re more expensive than James Allen, so it’s a little harder to stay within your budget. It’s still doable.

Like James Allen, they have 360˚ video and all of their loose diamonds are GIA or AGS graded. No IGI diamonds here. They don’t have 360˚ on every diamond, but it’s enough to find one within your $4,000 budget.

Still keeping $1000 for a setting, here are a few diamonds from Blue Nile under $3,000:

Princess: J Color,  SI2 Clarity, 1.01 carats, $2,531

https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/diamond-details/LD16534673?refTab=DIAMONDS&track=viewDiamondDetails&catalogView=true&offerId=60427

Pear: J Color, SI2 Clarity, .96 carats, $2293

https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/diamond-details/LD16887209?refTab=DIAMONDS&track=viewDiamondDetails&catalogView=true&offerId=60427

Heart: I Color, SI2 Clarity, .96 carats $2770

https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/diamond-details/LD16887209?refTab=DIAMONDS&track=viewDiamondDetails&catalogView=true&offerId=60427

Buying an Engagement Ring Online for $4,000.

Step 1: Shop Online

Online retailers like James Allen and Blue Nile are going to be your best option to buy engagement rings under $4,000. They both have controllable 360˚ viewers to look at their catalogs of over 200,000 loose diamonds. You can save over 40% on an engagement ring by choosing an online retailer over a physical retail jewelry store.

Most engagement ring buyers buy from chain jewelry stores. Buying from brick-and-mortar retailers like this won’t keep you within $4000. The best way to shop for engagement rings is to buy from an online diamond retailer.

Almost all online engagement ring retailers have the same basic setup. They have an inventory of loose diamonds to choose from and a bunch of empty ring settings you can combine with. You pick your diamond, right down to the exact cut, clarity, carat, and color grades.

You can’t do this at most physical engagement ring stores. It costs a lot to bring in loose stones and most of them can only bring in one at a time. Online, you have access to thousands.

Different diamond vendors appeal to reliable online diamond retailers. They don’t pay for the diamond until it’s bought and the vendor sends it to the retailer. That’s how the business model works for online diamond retailers. There’s no middle-man to pay.

The downside to buying online is a diamond you have in your cart could be gone the next day. Vendors appeal the same diamonds to different retailers. Some retailers also carry in-house diamonds that belong to them only.

One of the biggest reasons customers stick to brick-and-mortar retailers is because they can see the diamond in person. Many are skeptical about buying online. They’re even more skeptical to find how much cheaper it is. But once you’ve learned the business model, it’s understandable.

Some online retailers have a try-on program, where you can try it on at home or at a partner store before buying. Very few offer this. If they do, often you’ll have to put a deposit down. It doesn’t cost you anything to look at thousands of loose diamonds through a 360˚ viewer online.

Step #2: Choose a Color Grade

Buying a diamond with GHIJ color grades can save you an average of $200-$600 on your engagement ring. Buying a diamond with KLM color grades can save you around $400-$800.

The next way to keep your engagement ring under $4,000 is to be flexible with your diamond grades. Let’s talk about diamond color.

Your diamond color is how tinted your diamond is. Nitrogen causes a yellow tint in diamonds. Tinted yellow diamonds are different from fancy yellow diamonds.

The GIA grades colorless diamonds as DEF. It’s said that most people can’t tell alternate letter grades apart. An example would be the difference between a D-graded diamond and an F-graded diamond. You may notice a slight difference between D and F.

I notice the diamond color right away and it bothers me. But a lot of people can’t tell the difference between a near-colorless diamond and a faint yellow one. Near colorless diamond grades are GHIJ. Faint yellow diamond color grades are as KLM. N-Z color grades are fancy colored yellow diamonds.

Step #3: Choose a Clarity Grade

Buying an VS2 or SI1 clarity diamond can save you between $500-$4,000.

Diamond clarity is a little harder of the 4Cs to work with when budgeting for $4,000, but still doable.

I’m assuming you took my advice and went with an online retailer. I hope you picked James Allen. They offer more options in clarity grades.

Now, you need to make sure they have a clear 360˚ viewer. A 360˚ viewer can help you select a less expensive clarity grade and still be eye-clean.

Lower clarity grades have more inclusions. The clarity grades created by the GIA have different tiers. The goal is to have an eye-clean diamond. “Eye-clean” describes diamonds that don’t have visible inclusions to the naked eye.

Diamonds with F, IF, VVS, and VS clarity are eye-clean clarity grades. The lower clarity grades tiers are SI and I clarity diamonds. These may have obvious inclusions under 10x magnification or with the naked eye.

Too many inclusions impact the brilliance of your diamond. A 360˚ viewer lets you narrow your search to diamonds that aren’t usually eye-clean. Don’t pick blind. You can only hope you don’t get a diamond with a dark inclusion in the center.

You can find an I diamond with an obvious inclusion located near the edge of the diamond. Inclusions like these don’t impact the beauty much because of the angle of the crown of the diamond. A lot of times, bench jewelers will mount the diamond so the prong is closer to detract from an inclusion.

With time and patience, you can find a diamond with SI or I clarity that is eye-clean. Most people don’t know that.

Step #4: Choose a Carat Weight

Choose your carat points and stay away from popular “dream sizes”. You can save $100-$500 by avoiding popular carat weights. Select .93 to 1.07 for 1 carat diamonds.

The average carat weight for engagement rings bought is between 1 carat and 1.20 carats.

Carat weight is difficult to work with when trying to save money. It’s the easiest way to watch a diamond price skyrocket.

It’s going to be hard to find a 1.2 carat diamond for under $4000. You’d have to sacrifice other diamond grades to keep to the budget. My suggested option is to learn to do what I do.

Most retail chain jewelry stores carry engagement rings with carat weights already mounted. At chain jewelry retailers, you can only pick from selected “dream sizes”.

Dream sizes are popular carat weight sizes advertised. Dream sizes are ¼, ⅓, ½, ¾ 1, 1½ and 2 carats. The industry charges more for dream carat sizes because they’re popular. That’s why they’re pushed in retail stores.

There are 100 carat points in a 1-carat diamond. The carat point system follows a .7 rule. Diamonds that are .93 carats up to 1.07 qualify as a 1-carat diamond. The same rule applies to all other carat weights. A .43 carat diamond up to a .57 qualifies as a half-carat diamond.

Online retailers like James Allen and Blue Nile let you narrow your carat weight to the exact point.

Step #5: Choose a Cut Grade

Avoid diamond shapes with Good, Fair, and Poor cuts. Choose an ideal or excellent cut for the best round diamonds. For other diamond shapes, choose a Very Good or Ideal cut if the retailer has one. Always stick to the recommended measurements for your shape when buying diamonds.

Cut grade is the only one of the 4Cs you should want the best in. Choose ideal-cut and excellent cut diamonds for round diamonds. They’re more expensive, but I say they’re worth it. You can still buy an ideal cut diamond and stay within a $4,000 budget.

1.07, H color, SI2 clarity, Excellent Cut round diamond, GIA certificate: $3,200

Very Good cut round diamonds are acceptable but aren’t as bright. They will still hold up fine, but the brilliance suffers.

Diamond shapes other than round don’t have official cut grades. Many online retailers will sort them into grades in their filters anyway. Instead of an exact grade, it’s more like a general category.

Some retailers may have other shapes classified as ideal cuts. That means the proportions of that diamond are the best for its shape. There’s a small range for them, but round diamonds are the only real ideal cut.

Step #5: Choose a Diamond Shape

Choose a fancy shaped diamond instead of a round brilliant. By choosing a cushion, emerald, radiant or Asscher, you can save up to an average of $500-1000.

The International Gem Society lists cushion cut diamonds as the cheapest shape. Emerald cut, radiant cut, and Asscher cut diamonds are also cheaper.

Round cut diamonds only keep 40% of the diamond rough they’re cut from. The rest of it gets thrown away. Other shapes keep more diamond rough, making it cheaper to make and to sell.

Choosing a fancy diamond shape instead of a round can allow you to spend more on a ring setting. You’ll still be under $4,000.

Here are some examples of 1 carat fancy diamond shapes under $4,000 from James Allen:

Oval:1 carat, J color SI1 clarity, GIA report: 2370
https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/oval-cut/1.00-carat-j-color-si1-clarity-sku-10580435

Emerald: 1 carat, J color, SI1 clarity, GIA report $2130
https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/emerald-cut/1.00-carat-j-color-si2-clarity-sku-12924439

Cushion: 1.2  carats, J color, SI2 clarity, GIA report $2844
https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/diamond-details/LD14125199?refTab=DIAMONDS&track=viewDiamondDetails&catalogView=true&offerId=60427

Radiant: .93 carats, I color SI1 clarity, GIA report $2605
https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/diamond-details/LD17327367?refTab=DIAMONDS&track=viewDiamondDetails&catalogView=true&offerId=60427

 

Step #5: Choose a Ring Setting and Metal

Buy a 14K gold ring instead of 18K or platinum. The majority of 14K gold single-stone settings are under $1000. There are 18K ring settings under $1000, but they usually stay in the $700-1200 range. Choose a ring setting with few or no stones, like a solitaire, bezel, or side-stone ring.

Most high-quality engagement ring retailers have four options for their engagement ring settings. That’s white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum.

Platinum is the most expensive of the precious metals. A simple platinum solitaire ring setting can cost between $700 and $1400.

Engagement ring buyers usually buy gold engagement rings and wedding bands. You don’t tend to find diamond engagement rings set in sterling silver. You shouldn’t have an engagement ring in silver because it doesn’t hold up as well for everyday wear.

Gold is wearable. It’s very soft on its own. It’s mixed with harder metals called an alloy. The alloys make gold durable enough for engagement rings.

Jewelry stores generally sell 14K and 18K gold ring settings. Some popular chain retailers will sell 10K gold ring settings. How low your karat gold determines its durability and cost.

Karat gold tells you how many parts of that ring metal is real gold. Pure gold is 24 karats. Never buy an engagement ring in 24K gold. That doesn’t work for engagement rings you’ll wear every day. It’s too soft and will dent easily.

Stick to 14K gold when choosing a metal for your engagement ring. You’ll usually have the choice of yellow, white, or rose gold. Only the karat of gold changes the price. The color doesn’t matter.

18K is still durable enough for an engagement ring, but you’ll have a harder time staying under $4,000.

Jamesallen.com has the lowest prices for ring settings. There are around 78 choices for ring settings under $1,000. They have 5 ring settings under $500. Here’s four of them:

14K Knife-Edge Solitaire Setting: $240
https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/14k-white-gold-2mm-knife-edge-solitaire-engagement-ring-item-7115

14K Two-Tone Twist Cathedral Setting: $500
https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/14k-gold-two-tone-18mm-comfort-fit-modern-twisted-solitaire-engagement-ring-item-64336

14K Comfort-Fit Tiffany-Style Setting: $490
https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/14k-white-gold-2mm-comfort-fit-solitaire-engagement-ring-item-7086

14K Presentation 6 Prong Solitaire: $240
https://www.jamesallen.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/14k-white-gold-presentation-solitaire-six-prong-item-7990

Blue Nile has ring settings under $1000 too. They carry about 45 ring settings for under $1000. They carry 5 settings under $500. A lot of their rings are special orders. Take note that special-ordered ring settings aren’t able to be returned. Here are 4 ring settings under $500 at Blue Nile.

Classic Simple Solitaire: 240
https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/braid-halo-solitaire-diamond-engagement-ring_70843

Classic 6 Prong Simple Solitaire: $390
https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/solitaire-engagement-ring-white-gold_19787

Braid Halo Solitaire: $455
https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/braid-halo-solitaire-diamond-engagement-ring_70843

Petite Solitaire: 490
https://www.bluenile.com/build-your-own-ring/14k-white-gold-engagement-ring_20315

 

Tips for getting the Best Ring!

So, can you buy an engagement ring for under $4,000? Yes. These are the best diamond grades to choose to keep your engagement ring under 4,000:

  •  Center Carat Weight: .93-1.07 carats
  • Clarity Grades: VS2, SI1, SI2
  • Color Grades: H, I, J
  • Cut Grade: Very Good or Ideal
  • Diamond Shape: Cushion Cut, Radiant, Emerald, Asscher
  • Ring Setting: 2mm Solitaire, Bezel, Side-stone
  • Ring Metal: 14K Gold

You’ll have no problem finding a high-quality engagement ring under $4,000. Follow these buying tips and you’ll have options.

1. Buy from an online retailer instead of a chain jewelry store to keep under $4,000. Online diamonds can be over 40% less expensive than at a famous chain store.

The best online retailers on the web are James Allen and Blue Nile. They have the largest inventories with over 200,000 loose diamonds.  Both of these retailers will let you build-your-own engagement rings and choose your diamond grades. You can buy a GIA or AGS graded diamond and still keep under $4,000.

2. Choose near colorless grades like GHIJ. The warmth in lower grades won’t be detected as much in a 1 carat diamond. Choosing a lower color grade can save you $100-500.

3. Look for diamonds with VS2 clarity or SI1 clarity. You’ll spend a lot of time finding an eye-clean SI1 clarity diamond, but it’s doable. There are many eye-clean SI1 or SI2 diamonds. Choosing an SI1 clarity instead of VS1 can save you $200-$1000.

4. Don’t buy from pre-selected carat weights. Narrow your online diamond filters to .93 and 1.07. There’s not much visual difference between a .93 and a 1.0.Choosing carat points instead of popular carat weights, you can save $100-500.

5. Pick a diamond shape with a larger face-up appearance. This can make your diamond appear bigger than a round diamond of the same carat weight. The biggest looking diamond shapes are marquise cut, radiant cut, emerald cut, oval cut, and Asscher cut diamonds.

6. Choose a fancy diamond shape instead of a round-cut diamond. The least expensive shapes are cushion cut, emerald cut, radiant cut, and Asscher cut diamonds. Round cut diamonds are the most expensive.

7. Stay away from lower cut grades like Good, Fair, and Poor cut diamonds. Excellent/Ideal and Very Good diamonds are more expensive, but it’s worth it. Your cut determines its vulnerability to chipping and its brilliance.

8. Choose a 14K gold engagement ring instead of 18K or platinum. Platinum is the most expensive engagement ring metal. You can keep your cost under $4000 with 18K, but they’re more expensive. 14K gold is less expensive and more durable than 18K.

9. Choose a Single Stone Setting. The best type of ring setting to leave enough of a $4,000 budget is single-stone ring settings. Solitaires are the least expensive online and in-store. Bezel setting and small side-stone ring setting will also fall under $1,000.

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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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