Cheap engagement rings are growing in popularity. While mined diamond is still a popular gemstone choice for engagement rings it doesn’t come cheap. Spending the big bucks on a diamond engagement may not be a reality for you, and that’s okay.
In recent years affordable engagement rings have become increasingly sought after. These inexpensive engagement rings still use precious metals but frequently use diamond alternatives.
In this blog post we aim to answer a number of questions. These questions include are cheap engagement rings bad? How engagement rings have changed over time and what industry trends are we witnessing? On average how much do Americans spend on engagement rings and what options exist for cheap engagement rings?
This blog specifically takes a look at affordable engagement rings under $100. Options for cheap engagement rings under $100 include synthetic gemstone, natural semi-precious gemstones and diamond simulant rings. We look at various options available and share our thoughts including pros and cons.
Read on to learn more!
Are Cheap engagement rings bad?
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room – the perception that inexpensive engagement rings are bad.
Cheap engagement rings are typically code for non-diamond engagement rings. However, the reality is that the linkage between diamonds and engagement rings really came about as a result of clever marketing. De Beers unforgettable tagline from the 1940’s “a diamond is forever” still resonates today. When the marketing campaign was shown to the chairman of the De Beers Company, he predicted, “The diamond industry would prosper as long as men are foolish and women are vain.”
That said, the tagline changed public attitudes about diamonds, giving the impression that diamonds are reserved for the rich and convincing people that no marriage is complete without a diamond ring.
PHOTO: Clever marketing started by the De Beers Company in the 1930’s convinced people that no marriage is complete without a diamond ring. Nonetheless, attitudes have changed with time and non-diamond engagement rings like the Luxuria VITTORIA (above) have become increasingly popular.
Many don’t realise this – but diamond hasn’t always been the go-to choice for engagement rings. Only in the last century did diamonds become readily available. Prior to that, ruby and sapphire were the most popular gems, especially for engagement rings.
But the world has moved on since the early 1900s. For one thing diamond is no longer a rare gemstone. According to the International Gem Society (IGS) of which Luxuria Diamonds is a professional member, current knowledge of gem formations indicates that diamonds are likely among the most common gem in nature!
Further, diamonds are not the most valuable gemstones either. By carat top quality sapphires, rubies and emeralds are vastly more valuable than diamond.
PHOTO: Kate Middleton’s Engagement Ring dates back to the 19th century. Sapphire can be rarer than diamond, though dark sapphires are abundant and never reach very high values. Prior to the 20th century non-diamond engagement rings were more popular than diamond ones. [Photo credit: GETTY IMAGES]
What’s our point? Our point is that cheap engagement rings are typically non-diamond engagement rings. The reason some feel inexpensive engagement rings are bad is because they don’t include diamond. However, diamond isn’t the only choice for engagement rings and diamond is not rare.
Moreover, in the 21st century we are witnessing a transition.
How Engagement rings have changed over time
As earlier mentioned, prior to diamond becoming readily available ruby and sapphire were the most popular gemstones especially for engagement rings. Colored stones have always held an illustrious position in engagement rings. Long before the DeBeers marketing campaign launched diamonds into the forefront of the engagement ring race, sapphire reigned supreme.
PHOTO: Engagement ring trends. Stones used in engagement rings have changed over time. Until the twentieth century, sapphires were more popular than diamonds as a featured gem in engagement rings. Today there is an evolution towards cheaper engagement rings by millennial and Gen Z buyers. These buyers prefer affordable engagement rings with more sustainable and environmentally friendly lab created stones or simulants.
Millennials are Disrupting the Diamonds Market
Just as the popularity of sapphire give way to diamond; natural diamond now in-turn is losing ground to synthetic (or man made diamond) and diamond simulants. The reason? In a word Millennials.
Millennials are big believers in climate change and saving the planet from the impacts that businesses have on it. The diamond market does not come out well when you examine its environmental impact; poor conditions, child labour, corruption and emissions.
The first generation to have grown up with internet in the home, millennials are well informed and often more knowledgeable about a wider range of topics and world issues compared to their parents. Millennials learn for example that the difference in carbon emissions between lab-grown and mined diamonds is staggering.
According to Clean Origin traditionally mined diamond produces more than 125 pounds of carbon for every single carat. In contrast, grown diamonds emit just 6 pounds of carbon – a mere 4.8 percent of what mined diamonds produce.
PHOTO: Diamond mines are open-cut or underground. An estimated 250 tonnes of earth is shifted for every single carat of diamond. Indeed, some mines are now so huge they can be seen from space using Nasa’s Terra satellite. Millennials ask whether one ring is worth the destruction? [Photo credit: Alamy]
Moreover according to Geoscience Australia typically 250 tonnes of ore must be dug from the ground to produce a one carat (200 milligram) polished diamond of gem quality. Is one ring worth the destruction millennials ask? The answer is increasingly no and alternatives are looked into with interest.
Furthermore, millennials are also pro-social and cause driven. By in large, Millennials have expressed outrage on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine in late February 2022. This presents a problem for the diamond industry. The world’s largest diamond mining company is Alrosa. According to IGS, the Russian government owns 33% of Alrosa, with the Russian Republic of Sakha owning another 33%, with the remaining falling under public ownership — making it a direct tool for Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Alrosa is now subject to UK and US sanctions and several major diamond retailers have ceased purchasing Alrosa diamonds while the war in Ukraine continues. We anticipate that these actions may push millennials further towards natural diamond substitute engagement rings using lab grown diamond.
PHOTO: Major jewellers are ditching Russian diamonds after facing increased scrutiny over how Russia’s state-controlled diamond monopoly could fund Putin’s war on Ukraine. In response, pro-social and cause driven millennials may opt for cheaper engagement rings using lab grown diamond.
According to TheStreet, Lab-grown diamonds have been a growth sector for the jewelry industry in recent years. As concerns about “blood diamonds,” or diamonds mined in a war zone to fund conflict, have led many consumers to look for an alternative. Nearly 70% of millennials have considered buying a lab-grown diamond according to them.
Cheap Engagement Rings – What are the alternatives?
Synthetic diamond is growing in popularity with customers looking for cheaper engagement rings but still using diamond – albeit lab created diamond.
The rapidly growing man-made or synthetic diamonds industry is on a course to disrupt the mined-diamond business. Ethical and cruelty-free engagement rings set with diamonds can be created in a laboratory with less environmental impact.
The benefit of synthetic diamond is that they offer the same clarity and quality as mined diamonds. Further, they’re created in a way that’s more sustainable, more eco-friendly and better in the long-term for the environment.
Chemically, synthetic diamond is identical to mined diamond. The only thing that makes a lab-created diamond different from a natural diamond is its origin. A lab-created diamond is “grown” inside a lab using cutting-edge technology that replicates the natural diamond growing process. Lab diamonds can only be distinguished from natural diamonds using specialized equipment that can detect the minor differences in trace elements and crystal growth. Another benefit is pricing.
According to DiamondPro the cost of lab diamonds is still in a constant flux. Just 3-4 years ago, we found lab diamonds on average 23-25% more expensive than natural diamonds.
PHOTO: A low grade natural diamond. Lab-grown or synthetic diamonds are formed in laboratories in weeks, but have the same properties as natural diamonds. Lab created diamond makes it possible to offer cheaper engagement rings which are optically superior to lower grade natural diamond.
Today, lab diamonds are coming in significantly cheaper than natural diamonds and can be 50% cheaper, or even more in some cases.
For example, a natural 1.01-carat G color VS1 clarity round ideal cut diamond, may cost $6,440. In comparison a lab-created 1.02-carat G color VS1 round ideal cut diamond is just $2,400. Despite nearly identical grades, the lab-created diamond is less than 40% of the price.
But what if you need a really cheap engagement ring – something that’s hundreds rather than thousands of dollars? Is it possible to buy an engagement ring for less than US$100?
The Median Wedding & Engagement Ring Budget
A study by BRIDES magazine entitled By the Numbers: What Weddings in America Cost Today (2021) indicates that sticker shock is still in play.
According to their research “The median budget for jewelry and the venue is $3,000 each, and catering is $2,000. The other biggest expenses budgeted for are travel, wedding planner ($2,000), wedding attire ($2,000), and alcohol ($1,500).” Other additional costs include a photographer / videographer and a DJ or band with median budgets of $1000 each.
Brides’ American Wedding Study found that the average couples spent on an engagement ring in 2020 was $3,756, which is less than the $7,829 average couples spent in 2018.
GRAPH 1: U.S. Median wedding budgets. The median budget for jewelry is US$3000. 41% of couples use credit card / loans to pay for the wedding. Some couples are choosing cheaper engagement rings in order to avoid going into debt. [Source: Brides & Investopedia Study, 2021]
According to the BRIDES survey, the average U.S. wedding budget is $20,000. Most respondents (74 percent) plan on using savings to pay for their wedding, with $7,250 being the median amount contributed from savings. The remaining budget tends to be financed, borrowed, or funded by financial products.
Understandably not everyone has this kind of budget or desires to get into credit card or other debt to fund shortfalls. To address this cut backs are necessary with jewelry and wedding attire budgets being targeted for pruning.
Rather than spending an average of $3800 on an engagement ring some couples are taking the approach that it’s more romantic to buy a modest ring this year and use the extra cash to build a joint savings account that puts you on-track for the future.
Cheap engagement rings may even equate to stronger marriages if the focus is love and not friction caused by going into debt to buy a ring which typically loses 50% of its value just by leaving the jewelry store.
So let’s now look at options for affordable engagement rings under $100.
Affordable engagement rings under $100
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they can also be your bank account’s worst enemy. In any case for all of their durability and beauty, diamonds aren’t the best choice for everyone. If you’re looking for a less expensive or more unique engagement ring, you might want to consider a diamond alternative instead.
The good news is that alternative (non-diamond) options exist and that affordable engagement rings can be found for under US$100. You just have to widen the search net.
PHOTO: Affordable engagement rings for women can be purchased for less than US$100. Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. The above cushion cut fake engagement ring uses top grade diamond simulant set in precious metal (925 silver) and plated in another precious metal (rhodium). [Source: Luxuria Diamonds]
Furthermore, cheap does not necessarily mean low quality – but it does mean alternative materials. For example instead of a platinum band, a silver band may be used. Silver is still a precious metal and will last a lifetime if looked after. Higher quality silver engagement rings will be plated in rhodium which is another precious metal. Rhodium is one of the rarest metals on earth, which also makes it one of the most expensive. It is an extremely durable element that has a gorgeous pure silver-white color that is highly reflective. Another benefit of rhodium is that it’s hypoallergenic. This reduces the chances of skin allergies, reactions or irritations.
Similarly diamond may be substituted with other natural gemstones, synthetic gemstones or simulants. You won’t find synthetic diamond in cheap engagement rings under $100, but other synthetic gemstones are possible.
Inexpensive Engagement Rings with Synthetic gemstones
Affordable engagement rings under 100 may include synthetic sapphire, ruby and emerald gemstones. As with synthetic diamond, other synthetic stones look exactly like their natural counterparts.
PHOTO: Options for affordable engagement rings under 100 include rings with synthetic gemstones. Seen above are engagement rings with (left to right), synthetic sapphire, emerald and ruby. [Source: Luxuria Diamonds]
For example synthetic sapphire, chemically and physically speaking has the same material and atomic structure as natural sapphire. Lab-created sapphires are also comparatively more durable than natural ones and less prone to scratching and chipping.
Synthetic sapphire is one of the hardest diamond alternative stones and is ideal for everyday wear. Sapphire remains popular. Today, numerous celebrities and royalty alike (who can forget Princess Diana’s ring), have chosen sapphire engagement rings, for a more unique and personal approach.
In the same fashion synthetic ruby has the same internal atomic structure as natural ruby. Synthetic ruby also has the same optical properties, hardness, and chemical composition as natural ruby. The only significant difference between this material and natural ruby is the place of origin, a laboratory, rather than deep within the earth. In fact, the only way to tell if ruby is natural or synthetic is by checking for inclusions under a microscope.
PHOTO: A synthetic emerald gemstone engagement ring from Luxuria. Lab emeralds used in cheaper engagement rings can sometimes be more durable than natural emerald. Seen above is a sterling silver emerald ring. [Source: Luxuria Diamonds]
Finally, another option for cheap engagement rings is synthetic emerald. Emeralds are the gems of royalty and are the most well-known and highly prized of green gemstones. Whilst not as hard as lab created sapphire or ruby, some find the seductive green color of emerald irresistible. Lab created emerald is typically a lot more brilliant and clearer than natural emeralds. Mined emerald tends to have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. With fewer inclusions, lab emeralds are also slightly more durable than naturally mined emeralds.
Affordable engagement rings with natural gemstones
Cheap engagement rings under 100 dollars are also available with natural gemstones. Looking for a gem that will make a big impression on your finger but not your bank account? Natural semi-precious gemstones are a great choice.
One advantage of an affordable engagement ring with a natural gemstone is that your ring is less likely to look like everyone else’s! This is especially true if your ring has a semi-precious gem with a unique or vibrant color. Colored engagement rings are on trend and below are some great choices.
Infused with sunny hues, Peridot is a colourful and optimistic stone option for affordable engagement rings. Peridots are often considered a token of love. Napoleon famously gifted his first wife Josephine with one with that symbolism of his admiration. According to IGS Peridots occur only in one color: olive green. However, their shades may vary somewhat from yellowish to brownish green, though pure green appears occasionally.
PHOTO: An interesting and colourful option for cheap engagement rings under 100 includes Peridot gemstone. The above peridot halo ring is an example of a unique choice and ideal if you’re after a non-traditional and affordable engagement ring.
The modern August birthstone, peridot has some extreme birthplaces. This gem forms under extremely high pressure and temperature in the Earth’s mantle, like most diamonds. Peridots have also been found in meteorites formed during the solar system’s birth. Space probes have even recovered them from comet dust. This means some peridots are extremely ancient!
Peridot is the official birthstone for the month of August. If your wedding, engagement or birthday falls in August, there’s an added layer of symbolism in choosing Peridot. Be aware though that Peridot is a softer gemstone and requires more maintenance than traditional stones such as diamond.
With their symbolic associations with wealth, health and love, Topaz is a wonderful choice for affordable engagement rings. Topaz also comes in variety of colors including white, blue, pink, yellow, medium reddish orange to orange-red and more.
PHOTO: Topaz is quickly becoming a popular alternative to the traditional diamond engagement ring among modern brides-to-be. Some cheaper engagement rings use topaz as the central stone and surround it with a halo. The halo may use small natural or simulated diamonds. [Source: Luxuria Diamonds]
Topaz, like Peridot is also a birthstone. Some feel it’s quite touching to have a birthstone engagement ring i.e. a ring that symbolises the month of birth and the engagement. Topaz is a relatively hard gemstone being 8 on the Mohs hardness scale and thus quite durable.
Be aware that Topaz is a softer gemstone and requires more maintenance than traditional stones such as diamond.
Amethyst is another interesting option for affordable engagement rings. According to IGS this February birthstone has a rich body of folklore. Amethyst can supposedly prevent drunkenness and also represents wisdom and mature love. Amethyst is the most well-known of all purple stones and can range in color from violet to reddish purple.
PHOTO: No article on cheap engagement rings under $100 would be complete without mentioning amethyst. For many people, the most appealing thing about an amethyst engagement ring over a classic diamond is the bright purple hue. Seen above is 4 carat cushion cut amethyst engagement ring from Luxuria Diamonds.
A member of the quartz family, amethyst was once considered the equal of ruby, emerald, and sapphire in rarity and value. Because of its rarity, the color purple has also long been associated with royalty and wealth. However, nowadays large deposits of amethyst discovered in Brazil have made this gemstone highly affordable.
Being a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness some care is needed for everyday wear. It’s not a bad idea to look for affordable engagement ring designs which offers more security. Examples include amethyst engagement rings with bezel or halo settings. Amethyst in engagement rings can look particularly stunning when surrounded by a halo of diamond simulants.
First found in Ancient Greece and was used as jewelry at the outset. Throughout history, the yellow gem has invoked beliefs of protection and prosperity. Being 7 on the mohs hardness scale, Citrine can be used in cheap engagement rings and birthstone rings.
PHOTO: Citrine is a November birthstone and the 13th anniversary gem. With cheap engagement rings make sure the citrine stone is eye clean and doesn’t have a cloudy appearance.
According to IGS, citrine is the yellow to red-orange variety of crystalline quartz. In general, citrine gets a little more expensive as its color gets more saturated. So, a bright, eye-popping yellow or orange will cost more than a pale or brownish stone. Although most citrines have excellent clarity, make sure to check your stone. Avoid any citrines with eye-visible imperfections.
Clever marketing and the rise of “earth tone” fashions have made this durable and readily available gem a popular jewelry stone in recent years. Natural yellow citrine is rare and accordingly prized. Virtually all natural citrines come from Brazil.
Diamond Simulant Engagement Rings
Another option for affordable engagement rings for women are rings which use diamond simulants. In an article written by us which explains the differences between diamond simulants and diamond synthetics we provide important definitions.
In a nutshell, a diamond simulant is a stone that looks similar to real diamond and shares some of its characteristics. Although simulants are used as diamond imitations, they have a different chemical structure from real diamonds. Some simulants occur naturally, while others are created artificially. Examples of popular created diamond simulants include cubic zirconia, moissanite, rhinestone or crystal.
Of the above diamond simulants the most commonly used one for engagement rings costing less than $100 is cubic zirconia. Because of its low cost, durability, and close visual likeness to diamond, CZ is an excellent diamond look alike.
PHOTO: Low cost engagement rings typically use diamond simulants. The most popular diamond simulant is cubic zirconia. Most diamond simulants are a sustainable option because they are lab grown and require no new mining. Photo above and below is of a striking 3 sided pave diamond simulant engagement ring from Luxuria Diamonds.
PHOTO: To the naked eye, high quality cubic zirconia is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. There’s no obvious way for casual shoppers to tell them apart. Visually cheaper engagement rings are not a compromise so long has high grade CZ is used. [Source: Luxuria Diamonds]
Low Cost Engagement rings with Cubic Zirconia
To the untrained eye, cubic zirconia looks very similar to a good quality diamond. However, CZ has slightly less brilliance or sparkle than a diamond and more fire or flashes of color. That said, the overall visual effect is so similar that to the naked eye, CZ can sometimes even fool a jeweller. A jeweller can however use various tests to differentiate a cubic zirconia from diamond. One of the most significant physical differences between cubic zirconia and diamond is weight. Cubic zirconia is about 60% heavier than diamond. A piece of CZ the same size as a one carat diamond weighs about 1.6 carats.
The beauty of CZ engagement rings is that if they use high-quality cubic zirconia they can mimic the look of a diamond beautifully and even sparkle like one.
PHOTO: For bargain hunters cheap engagement ring sets are an attractive option. The cheap engagement ring sets typically combine a plain 925 wedding band with a matching engagement ring. These cubic zirconia wedding sets are perfect for use as placeholder or temporary engagement rings to make a surprise marriage proposal with. Many also purchase for use as travel rings. [Source: Luxuria Diamonds]
CZ engagement rings offer many benefits. They are perfect for a surprise marriage proposal because they are affordable and yet visually closely resemble natural diamond. Furthermore CZ engagement rings also make great travel companions. Don’t risk heart-breaking loss or damage to a natural diamond ring while on vacation! Use diamond substitute engagement rings instead for vacations or travel.
CZ Engagement Rings – A Pro Tip
Here’s a pro tip for those wanting high quality cubic zirconia engagement rings. The secret is selecting high quality cubic zirconia. There’s a common misconception that all Cubic Zirconia (CZ) stones are the same. This is not true. As with natural diamond there are a number of quality levels. Accordingly, there is a range of price points for these beautiful substitute diamonds.
Like diamond, cubic zirconia stones are graded according to carat, color, clarity and cut. A grading scale from A to AAAAAA is used. Grade A is the lowest and grade AAAAAA (or Grade 6A CZ) is the highest.
PHOTO: Affordable engagement ring sets are readily available. These sets are typically set in 925 silver and come with 2 or more bands. Where cubic zirconia is used insist in grade 5A or 6A. This is because 6A Cubic Zirconia is colourless and its precision cut possesses a brighter fire. Photo above is of the Luxuria DPromesso ring set. [Source: Luxuria Diamonds]
For the most realistic diamond simulant look for high quality cubic zirconia of Grade 5A or 6A. Furthermore, for round cut CZ search out stones which feature a precision Hearts and Arrows (H&A) pattern. IGS of which Luxuria® is a professional member notes that stones with high symmetry, almost always have excellent light performance.
You should be aware that not all suppliers declare the CZ grade. Always look for more details on CZ grade and cut in product descriptions. Sometimes product knowledge or FAQ sections of websites have more details. If no information is available on the grade of CZ used it’s likely the CZ engagement ring is using a low grade CZ. Avoid if possible. If you are buying from a physical jewelry store always ask them what grade of CZ is used. If they are unable to answer avoid purchasing there.
Cheap engagement rings under $100 – Summary
Spending the big bucks on a diamond engagement may not be a reality for you, and that’s okay. It’s not uncommon for Americans to drop $ 3,500 on a one-carat diamond in a basic setting. Higher quality diamonds of the same carat weight can exceed US$ 10,000. That money may be better spent elsewhere – a down payment on a house for example.
PHOTO: Getting married is a huge and lifelong commitment. Finances can very easily become a source of stress and worry within a marriage. Discuss spending. When it comes to engagement rings consider buying what you can afford today without going into debt. Low cost engagement rings can always be upgraded later when finances allow.
There are no rules when it comes to selecting a gemstone for your engagement ring. What matters is that you and your partner love it – and can afford it! The good news is that lots of equally eye catching non-diamond alternatives are readily available. In fact, there are numerous options for cheap engagement rings that look expensive.
Options for cheap engagement rings under 100 dollars can include synthetic gemstones such as sapphire, emerald or ruby. To the naked eye, synthetic gemstones usually look identical to their natural counterparts. No one outside of a jeweller with appropriate equipment can differentiate a natural mined sapphire from a lab created sapphire. Sometimes lab-grown gemstones possess an even better, near-perfect quality compared to their natural counterparts. That’s a bonus!
Another option for affordable engagement rings includes rings using natural semi-precious gemstones. Affordable gemstone engagement rings include rings with natural amethyst, peridot, citrine and topaz gems to name a few. One advantage of this option is that your ring is less likely to look like everyone else’s! This is particularly true if you choose a semi-precious gem with a unique or vibrant color. Many semi-precious gemstones are also birthstones. A birthstone engagement ring adds an extra level of personalisation and is something she may really connect with.
A third option for inexpensive engagement rings are rings that make use of diamond simulants. For engagement rings under $100 the best option is cubic zirconia. Cubic zirconia is an affordable alternative to traditional diamond or gemstone engagement rings. The sparkle and shine of a cubic zirconia stone mimic that of a diamond, and to the untrained eye, it looks incredibly similar. CZ engagement rings are hardy and even if they get damaged they are cheap to repair. In sum, for couples who are on a budget but love the classic look of a colorless dazzling diamond, CZ engagement rings are the way to go.
PHOTO: Some affordable engagement rings under 100 dollars include diamond simulants like cubic zirconia. Good quality CZ is colorless and looks remarkably like diamond to the untrained eye. Photo of a 2 carat solitaire princess cut diamond simulant ring from Luxuria.
Finally, in order to ensure the affordable engagement ring is still of high quality purchase from a reputable brand. Additionally, search online for independent product reviews.
If you are looking for a place to start the search check out some of the fake engagement rings that look real from Luxuria®
Want to learn more?
There is a rapidly growing trend in the USA and elsewhere of proposing with cheap engagement rings. Learn more about – What are the cheapest wedding ring sets and Why we love fake engagement rings and you should too!
Semi-precious gemstone rings can make great low cost engagement ring alternatives. Check out this Amethyst engagement ring buying guide and our Blue topaz engagement ring buying guide. The great news is that affordable engagement rings for women can still use quality materials including precious metals and semi-precious gemstones.
The Luxuria Jewellery brand strives to offer affordable and accessible luxury. Our jewellery evokes feelings of indulgence, sensuality, hope and happiness. Luxuria® Diamonds is a professional member of the International Gemmological Society (IGS), USA.