The Frugal Engagement Ring

This is a guest post by Elizabeth, who writes for Confessions from a Work at Home Mom. Her engagement ring story is awesome (is her engagement story as good as mine? We’ll have to wait for that post).

This April 9th will mark eight years since the love of my life slipped the perfect engagement ring on my finger, asking me to do him the honor of becoming his wife. Today, for the first time, I’m going to share a secret about that ring known only to my now-husband of almost seven years and our parents.

It all started when my then-boyfriend’s brother proposed to his long-time girlfriend. When she joyfully showed me the new bling on her left hand, I threw up in my own mouth a little. It was hideous. Knowing she liked unique jewelry, my boyfriend’s brother had decided to build a ring on his own, without consulting a professional jeweler first. First of all, no diamond smaller than half a carat should ever be cut into a pear shape. Ever. And while vintage-inspired jewelry is a lovely trend, combining that diamond dust with an ornate band made the ring look mismatched, not antique.

Knowing the kind of taste my boyfriend’s family had in engagement rings, I vowed that – when the time came – I would take the decision out of my boyfriend’s hands entirely. That’s when I began the slow process of orchestrating my entire engagement.

I started my engagement ring shopping – where else? – at Jared. Yes, the Galleria of Jewelers had it all – except a ring my boyfriend could afford. At the time, he was on football scholarship at a major East Coast university, and while his monthly stipend for living expenses supplied him with a lot of hamburgers, beer, and ice cream, it didn’t exactly cover the standard two-months salary of an average engagement ring. I tried visiting smaller jewelers, but continued to find nothing but disappointment behind those glass display cases.

“You don’t need an engagement ring to get engaged,” I told myself and anybody who would listen to my plight. I started urging my boyfriend to propose without a ring; I’d be ok with it, I promised him, and said we could buy a ring for an anniversary down the road, once we were on more stable financial ground.

One day, I meandered into my mother’s favorite jewelry store. The locally-owned small business was way out of my price range – perfect for window shopping and little else. As I lamented my situation to the owner, he said something that would change everything:

“You know,” he started, “You don’t have to buy an actual diamond engagement ring.” Blasphemy! Seeing the obvious shock on my face, the jeweler quickly continued. “There are plenty of diamond substitutes these days that look just like the real thing; we’re not talking about the cheap cubic zirconia of a generation ago.”

From behind the counter, he quickly produced a stunning engagement ring. “How much do you think this ring costs?” he asked me. I knew from the size of the stone alone – easily a carat and a half – that the ring must cost at least $10,000. “Go lower,” he encouraged me. I slashed my estimate in half. “Lower,” he repeated. I continued to cut my guesses until I came to $1,500.

“Bingo,” he said.

I was floored.

And two weeks later, I was engaged.

That’s right, folks. If you’ve read between the lines, you’ve already figured it out: my engagement ring is a fraud. A fake. A faux.

While it looks like a carat and a half, grade E (meaning it’s virtually colorless), flawless princess cut diamond is actually Moissanite, a naturally occurring gemstone first discovered by Dr. Henri Moissan more than a century ago. Today, just about all Moissanite jewelry is man-made in a laboratory. It looks just like a diamond; in fact, because of how it is engineered, it looks better than most diamonds – especially the diamonds my husband could have afforded at the time.

Although I’ve worn my engagement proudly every day in the eight years since, taking it off during the final days of my two pregnancies when my ring finger grew too swollen for it to fit, I’ve never come clean about exactly what it is. When people gush over the brilliance of my ring – with good reason, since a Moissanite has 2.4 times the fire of a diamond – I let them think it was the real thing. When people asked me how much it cost, I coyly replied, “A real lady never tells!” In some ways, I was ashamed that my husband and I were too thrifty to buy an actual diamond.

Over the past year, however, as I’ve become increasingly frugal – and proud of it – I’ve come to embrace my ring’s unique story. I’ve realized that my decision to go with Moissanite wasn’t me being cheap; it was me being frugal, and there’s a crucial difference. I was able to get a ring that looks exactly like I’d always dreamed for exactly the price my husband could afford back in his younger days; how many couples can say that?

So guess what? My ring is not a real diamond. And I don’t care who knows it.

13 Responses to The Frugal Engagement Ring

  1. :) My mom lost her diamond and replaced it with a cubic zirconia. When my husband bought my engagement ring he spent $1000 on it which was a lot of money for us at the time. I had picked out cheaper rings but he was embarrassed because he comes from a family that knows their precious metals and gems since they own and run mines. He doesn’t care anymore but he was young and impressionable at the time. Even so- obviously $1000 isn’t much but it was certainly the absolute most we could afford at the time and my ring is gorgeous. He got a deal on it too. For my wedding ring- we went to a jewellery store that was closing and got a ring for 50% off. I got an $800 band with diamonds for $400.

  2. That is totally awesome, good for you!

    I definitely think that the ring should be about what you like and what is meaningful to you, not how much it cost.

    My engagement ring cost my husband $300, and it does have real diamonds in it, they are just tiny (and I’m sure low quality) but the design is gorgeous and I couldn’t be happier with it!

  3. Your ring definitely has a unique story. Who cares what anyone else thinks about it! As long as you love it, nothing else should matter. Stay young and thrifty =)

  4. My sister in law has a Scott Kay setting…she never put a real diamond in it. She just kept the fake one. Looks great!

  5. I was at a Jared-type engagement ring store with my then-girlfriend, and we found a diamond that she really liked. At the time, I didn’t have cash for the stone, so I asked about financing. They ran my numbers, and, at the time, my credit was so bad that I was actually denied credit for the ring.

    While it was embarrassing at the time, it actually worked out well. I didn’t have to go further into debt to get the ring, and I was able to buy a ring for much less than the actual value (much less “engagement ring store” value) off of eBay.

  6. My fiancee and I each have an engagement ring, and we decided early on that the classic diamond was not for either of us. My major points of concern were to have something durable (I hardly ever remove jewelry); affordable (we’re on a tight budget for the wedding, and we try to be frugal in general); without sharp corners or anything that would damage me, others, furniture, or the ring itself if I were careless (I’m a bit of a klutz, to be fair). She wanted something with all of the previous factors, and also not too frilly or girly.

    We each have a band that works well for us, and the two complement each other and will fit with our wedding bands. We didn’t have to deal with insurance or safety deposit boxes or any of that hassle, because the rings were inexpensive. And the best part is that when she lost hers after doing a lot of Thanksgiving baking, and we couldn’t find it after a couple weeks of searching, it was no trouble at all for me to order a replacement. That peace of mind only underscores our commitment to each other.

  7. Elizabeth,

    You. simply. rock. It’s not about the ring, it’s about the marriage, right? And I’m sure your ring sparkles and shines just beautifully!

  8. Your story is beautiful and very inspiring. My fiancé hasn’t been able to afford a real diamond so we decided on a missioners as well and I absolutely love it!

  9. What a great story. My boyfriend (now husband) bought my ring at jeweler where my mom used to work. He was able to get a significant discount. But we ended up having issues with the stone. Evidently the onsite appraiser missed a major flaw that reared it’s ugly head after I bumped my ring. We had to wait 6 MONTHS for a replacement stone!!!! Probably not something you run into with Moissanite.