Sunday, January 31, 2010

Engagement ring series: How much to budget for the ring?

"How much should I budget for the ring?"

It’s highly individual. There’s nothing that's too little or too much, contrary to a very savvy, sly marketing idea that an engagement ring should be at least three months of a man’s salary.

However, having said that, there are some practical considerations you might want to take into account especially if you’d like a diamond solitaire as a main stone. Most of my clients tell me that they want a diamond that is at least 1.0 carat and assuming that you want a reasonably colourless (without any tint of yellow), eye-clean, with high luster and brilliance, a loose diamond solitaire would put you back at least 7000 sgd (approximately 5000 usd). It can go up considerably if you’d like better specifications but a 7000-10000 sgd budget for a very good, >1.0 ct diamond would be a fair price.

I have another group of clients who tell me that they don’t want a diamond solitaire, preferring to go for a significantly large and beautiful gemstone instead. These gemstones typically (although not always) are cheaper than diamonds. Unlike diamonds which has the Rapaport to provide some structure on pricing, these gemstones very rarely have a clear price range and thus advising clients on how much to budget for a non-diamond can get a little murky sometimes.

How we’ve gotten around this is to basically give a ballpark range for the main stone, and based on some broad sweeps of the clients’ requirements, we start the search. The search is a lot less clean than the diamond one, because it actively requires me to go down and sieve through hundreds of loose stones, judging it by eye (as opposed to analysing the specifications off a certificate). I’d say, based on my own anecdotal research, most good, fancy-coloured sapphires are approximately 600-800 usd/carat although a quick search online would show that that this figure is a “trade” price rather than a retail one. Sometimes we get even luckier and find something below that price point, but generally, a safe ballpark would be in that range.

Separate from the main stone is the precious metal and other gemstones that we use as embellishments and accents. Like the main stone, there’s quite a bit of price variation regarding this part of the project. On one end of the spectrum, there are many jewellers out there who actually give this part of the project free of charge, especially if the client picks out a diamond solitaire of considerable value. This happens for two reasons primarily: a) a significant amount of mark-up has been made to the solitaire, and therefore the jeweller gives the setting free as good will; b) the setting is a simple pre-cast one and the stone is simply plopped in and set into the claws.

Mid-way, we would see jewellers having a ready-to-wear series of classic pre-cast settings and clients simply pick from the existing ones. A quick search on the internet typically clues one in to how much one would expect to pay – two sites I often send my clients to include: and

Then there are those who really want something that’s unorthodox – pieces that are quite distinct from the classic, generic pieces that you see everywhere, even the big luxury brands. In those cases, there isn’t any fixed market rate, because the services offered really depends on how much the designer quantifies his/her expertise as well as the complexity of the design. In those cases, a private query would be needed to get a sense of budgeting.

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