Blingin' On A Budget - How To Shop For An Engagement Ring While On A Budget

So you want to pop the question to your significant other, but don't want to spend your entire life savings on an engagement ring? Big box jewelers might lead you to believe you have to spend $5K-$10K+ on a ring, but this simply is not the case! There are many alternative and high-quality options that will only run you a fraction of the cost. 

Choosing a Metal Type

A quick note on engagement ring metal types - while silver is a very affordable metal type, it is also very soft and prone to damage over time. It bends easier, meaning that gemstones held by silver prongs may fall out if the prongs bend or break. They're more likely to require repairs and constant polishing, and over time it can be very expensive to maintain. In addition, silver tarnishes very quickly and can look dingy or dirty. Instead, we recommend going with 14K white, rose, or yellow gold. 14K gold contains gold in addition to other metal alloys that help make the metal stronger and more resistant to damage. 14K gold is also a soft metal, but overall it holds up better long-term compared to silver and will have zero to minimal tarnish. 

Traditional Diamond Alternatives

Love the look of a traditional diamond ring but hate the giant price tag? There are several more affordable options that still give the classic and timeless look of a diamond: 

  • Lab-grown diamond
  • Moissanite
  • White sapphire
  • Salt and pepper diamond

Lab-Grown Diamond

Lab-grown diamond is exactly what it sounds like - a diamond that has been created in a controlled lab setting. These stones are chemically and physically identical to that of natural diamonds, but come at a lower cost both to the environment and your wallet. Natural diamonds that have minimal to no inclusions demand very high price tags, but this clarity is normal and expected for lab-grown stones. Lab-grown diamonds offer the same durability and look as natural diamonds and make a fantastic alternative. 

Lab-Grown Diamond


Moissanite is a lab-grown stone that comes in several color options, most often colorless. Most people cannot tell the difference between diamond and moissanite just by the naked eye. However, there is one way to help distinguish them if you have a trained eye - dispersion. Dispersion refers to the amount of sparkle and rainbows of color a stone has. Diamond has high dispersion, sitting at 0.044, but it doesn't hold a flame to the blinding 0.104 dispersion of moissanite - that's 2.4 times that of diamond! And while diamond is the hardest gemstone, sitting at a ten out of ten on the Moh's scale, moissanite comes in at a close second with a nine and a half out of ten on the scale. A one carat moissanite will typically run around one to two thousand dollars, while a diamond of the same size typically starts at five to ten thousand dollars. Moissanite provides great bang for your buck when it comes to sparkle, cost, and durability!


Moissanite lab-grown stone



While many people think of a royal blue gemstone when the word "sapphire" is mentioned, sapphire is actually a stone of many colors - even colorless. While sapphire does not have nearly as high dispersion as diamond, it does have great luster and durability (9 out of 10 on Moh's scale) and will be difficult to distinguish to the untrained naked eye. It's also a great option if your partner has a September birthday as sapphire is the birthstone for September. 

sapphire gemstone for custom ring

Salt and Pepper Diamond

This one starts to veer more into the more unique and non-traditional realm of gemstones, but is still a beautiful option worthy of mention. Salt and pepper diamonds are natural diamonds that contain inclusions of elements and minerals like carbon, nitrogen, etc. These inclusions give these diamonds a seasoned look, hence the name "salt and pepper" diamond. In the past, jewelers thought of these inclusions as undesirable, and therefore these stones were almost always overlooked and used only for industrial purposes. However, many jewelers, gem enthusiasts, and engagement ring customers have come to appreciate and love the unique look of these diamonds. Salt and pepper diamonds are more plentiful than pristine diamonds, and are therefore relatively much less expensive. They are a great option for someone who still wants a diamond but wants something a bit more unique and/or affordable.


custom salt and pepper diamond ring


Other Alternative Gemstones

Lab-Grown Gemstones

Lab-grown alternatives of gemstones are almost always more affordable than their natural counterparts. Mining is very expensive and precious gemstones, especially stones with good clarity and size, are very rare. Luckily, modern technology has allowed us to speed up the gemstone creation process and create beautiful and high quality gemstones. Lab-grown stones are the same physically and chemically as their natural counterparts, but come at a lower cost. We proudly offer lab-created alexandrite, emerald, sapphire, ruby, diamond, and opal gemstone options for our custom ring designs. 

Lab-Created Gemstone Engagement Rings By Staghead Designs

Semi-Precious Stones

There are a plethora of incredibly unique and beautiful semi-precious gemstones on the market that are very affordable. These stones are often more common than precious gemstones, but still have unique properties and characteristics that can fulfill a variety of needs and wants. There are hundreds of semi-precious stones, but some of our favorites include: 

  • Feldspar family stones (moonstone, sunstone, rainbow lattice sunstone, labradorite, etc.)
  • Quartz family stones (citrine, amethyst, rose quartz, smoky quartz, rutilated quartz, ametrine, etc.)
  • Beryl family stones (morganite, aquamarine, etc.)
  • Turquoise
  • Opal
  • Tourmaline
  • Spinel
  • Garnet
  • Topaz, etc.


semi-precious gem stones

One thing to keep in mind with gemstones is their durability. The Moh's scale indicates how resistant a stone is against scratching, but is not an overall indicator of durability. Also take into consideration things like cleavage, whether a stone is stable against light and heat, and how brittle a stone is. Our other blog posts provide information on some stones, or a simple Google search such as "moss agate durability" also yields results. Luckily, many semi-precious stones like moss agate are abundant, and therefore very inexpensive to replace if damage does occur. Stones over a seven on the Moh's scale have the best chance of lasting longer. 

Choosing a Budget-Friendly Design

The cost of a ring depends on the type of materials, amount of materials, and the intensity of labor the design requires. Therefore, the most affordable setting for our engagement rings is a simple solitaire. Solitaires are solid gold bands with a single center stone and no accent stones. Solitaire settings highlight and keep the focus on the center stone and are great for those looking for a minimalistic look. Tracer and stacking bands can always be added later to add some extra sparkle! Solitaire rings can even have designs or other minor elements on the band that add a more unique touch. Our "Artemis", "Ella", and "Hope" designs are great examples of this.

budget friendly custom ring design

Other relatively affordable ring design options are dainty designs and designs with minimal accent stones. Here is just a sample of our designs that fall into this category:

custom handmade rings with gemstones

Even with a limited budget, we offer plenty of beautiful custom and high-quality ring options! You can browse all of our engagement rings here, which can be filtered by price range or sorted from lowest to highest price. You can also work with our designers to design your own ring for something more personal! Custom designs do not necessarily cost more, and the cost of the ring will be based on the type and amount of materials used and intensity of labor - just like any other ring. So if you are shopping for an engagement ring on a limited budget - no worries! We're here to help you find or design your perfect wedding rings that won't break the bank!