A Woman’s Perspective on Engagement Rings

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As a woman who has been dating her boyfriend for the past 7 years, bought a home and moved in together for the past 1.5 years, my perspective on an engagement ring is simple.

I think I just want one.

I'm not trying to sound desperate but it does cross my mind sometimes.  The ring symbolizes a lot in our culture and our society. Whether we like it or not, the engagement ring and weddings are symbols of life transitions and moving from one area (young adulthood) into another area of your life (cohabitation and possibly children). These symbolic meanings can't be easily brushed aside, especially when you have your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, your cousins, your friends all breathing down your neck and wondering when he is going to propose and when you are going to get married. It also symbolizes that someone wants you enough to want to settle down with you and get married. I know that I sound like an hypocrite feminist out there, but things like these are so ingrained in us even while growing up that it's hard to just shake off.

No, the ring doesn't have to be 3 months gross or net salary or whatever the stupid De Beers marketing rule is (because that would be ridiculously expensive for a ring), nor does it have to be a minimum sized 1 carat ring (I know a few people who are expecting a “ring upgrade” when they hit the 10 year marriage mark). It doesn't even have to be a Tiffany ring (though some girls I know may beg to differ).

The Salary Rule

engagement ringObviously the salary rule meant something different back then when it was prevalent than it does now. If men followed the salary rule, they would obviously be broke and unable to afford their rent or mortgage. Honestly. Inflation did something funny to our cost of living and I doubt that any woman out there expects their future fiance to pop the question with a diamond that cost three months salary.

To be honest, I know zero women who are engaged who have received rings that were 3 months gross or net salary. Believe me, I know a girlfriend who has a rock the size of her iris (read: 2 carat and up) out there, but it still didn't cost three months of her husband's salary. It might have cost the price of a mid-size car but not three months of her husbands salary.

Does Size Matter?

Size matters for a lot of things (wink wink) but I don't really think it matters for a ring (for most reasonable women that is). The aforementioned girlfriend with the ring the size of your iris? She was annoyed that her fiance spent so much money on her and would have rather preferred they put more money into their down payment.

As long as it's not the size of a promise ring (read: the size of a constricted pupil) then any engagement ring will really do.

Most women would rather see the money spent on something more practical, like putting money towards a down payment or a trip or a car.  We all are well aware that the resale values of diamonds aren't anywhere near as high as what you paid for it.

That being said, I know women compare sizes of rings. They really do. But it will be a silent, passive aggressive catty way where no one will realize they are comparing diamond ring sizes with you.

Non-Diamond Rings?

I know another girl who accepted a cubic zirconia ring with a promise that he will buy her a real diamond ring when he graduates from grad school and gets a real job (he has a part-time job but still no ring and not paying mortgage payments). She made sure not to tell her parents because she knew they would be pissed. The last thing that any parent wants to see is that their daughter is not worth a real diamond ring.

The parents can't help it. It's the societal-culture thing. Ingrained in most of us, remember?

Another guy friend of mine (he's kind of a jerk) bought a cubic zirconia ring that is a knock off of a Tiffany and Co. ring and proposed to her with that.  Yeah, kind of a jerk eh?

Well, What Really Matters Then?

What really matters then? That you put some thought into proposing. That you don't just dump the ring box on the table. That you make sure that the diamond you buy isn't tainted with blood and sweat from a child in Africa. No, it doesn't matter if you bought it on Amazon or even Costco, if you get more bang for your buck, then so be it!

Frankly, I don't think it's simply just about consumer culture. It's about family culture in general.  It's about feeling wanted, feeling valued, and feeling like we actually mean something to you men.  As cliche as it may sound, it really is the thought that counts.

I know many women out there may disagree with me.  Ladies out in the blogosphere, what are your thoughts?

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.


  1. Emily @ evolvingPF on October 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I agree with your “what really matters” paragraph as far as it goes but to me what really mattered was getting married. I have an engagement ring that I love that is very stereotypical (diamond solitaire) and beautiful that we put a lot of thought into, etc., and my husband executed what I consider the best proposal ever… Yes, all of that is amazing. But I just really wanted to get married! For a while I thought the ring-buying itself was holding up the engagement process (lies, as it turns out) and I kept telling my husband that I didn’t care about having a ring and that we should just move forward without one. I am glad that he did it the way he wanted, the traditional way with the ring and my parents’ permission and surprise proposal and everything. I think that says a lot to everyone else and it gave us some great memories. But to me it was all about becoming one in marriage.

  2. Vanessa on October 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I’ve been engaged twice. The first time was with a poor-student-I’ll-buy-one-when-I-get-a-job kind of guy. The second time I got a real ring which I went to the store and picked out myself and came to a grand total of $345. It was 1/10 of a carat or something but I loved how it was completely non-flashy and simple

  3. Steph on October 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    I don’t think wanting an engagement ring makes you a bad feminist, as long as you realize that in the end it’s a piece of jewelry (which I think you do). I wasn’t particular about it at all, but in the end I’m glad I have one because it reminds me of someone I love.

    Mine actually isn’t a diamond- for me there were too many ethical issues with that particular stone, plus I think they are overpriced. My fiance designed me a lovely aquamarine ring which I adore- to me the thought he put into it meant 10000 times more than the price tag.

  4. nicoleandmaggie on October 14, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    My husband made an engagement ring for me out of a slice of dowel rod. We got married right out of college and had no money.

  5. Sustainable PF on October 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Mrs. SPF was thrilled to receive the ring my great grandmother worse in the early 1920s. We re-used the resources and the family value is un-measureable. It is a small rock in a petite band but it works very well for Mrs. SPF as she has slender fingers. It is a symbol of us, our promise, our value of family and our ethos re: sustainability.

    The Sustainable Wedding Series Mrs. SPF didn’t get a lot of attention but I think it should have gotten a bit more than it did. Frugal, Green, Wedding.


  6. Teacher Man on October 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    I definitely zipped over to check it out SPF, thanks for sharing!

  7. Teacher Man on October 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    I think that is pretty damn romantic in a young and crazy way!

  8. Young on October 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    @Emily- Oh man watching proposals on Youtube gets me going (tissues please!) every time. I am glad you and your husband are married and he gave you good memories with his proposal! 🙂

  9. Young on October 14, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    @Vanvessa- Awe! How did you get engaged the first time when he didn’t get you a ring yet?

  10. Young on October 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    @Steph- Yes, designing a ring = put a lot of thought into it. Anything with a lot of thought (rather than just grabbing whatever is pushed onto them by the jeweler) deserves brownie points 🙂 Thank you for validating me! (I was worried I would be a bad feminist lol).

  11. Young on October 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    @nicoleandmaggie- He made it himself- that’s sweet!

  12. Young on October 14, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    @SPF- Thanks for sharing! “it is a symbol of us, our promise, our value of family and our ethos: sustainability” —> love it!

  13. geekymath on October 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    The one that I’m getting (it has already been bought. Just waiting) was bought from a jewelry pawn shop. The guy who owns the pawn shop is a pro jeweler so the rings are real and a good deal. He’ll even size it!

  14. Little Miss Moneybags on October 14, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    I proudly wore* my engagement ring of amethyst and white topaz, which I picked out on Etsy. I am not a diamond person, and CZ didn’t seem right either (I did get a CZ wedding band, though). Since I figured my engagement ring would be the piece of jewelry I would wear the longest, I wanted to get something I really loved, and I really love purple. So it had to be an amethyst. I also figured that I would much rather he spend money on a house that we could both enjoy, so my ring cost a whopping $60, and my wedding band about $22. Two years later, I have absolutely zero regrets and I haven’t had any wayward comments about either choice.

    *I don’t wear any rings right now while my daughter’s in the hospital due to risk of infection. I’ll wear them again someday!

  15. Fiona on October 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    I pretty much agree with all of your points! I would be lying if I said I didn’t want a diamond ring but I’m also not so unreasonable that I’ll only accept Tiffany/the biggest/most expensive ring out there. My bf and I are pretty good with our money and saving up for the future is so much more important than an expensive ring. As long as it suits my taste and is proportional to the size of my hand (honestly I have small fingers anyway so I won’t need a huge rock; it’ll look out of place), and is not a conflict diamond, I’ll be satisfied. I’m also not opposed to a vintage / heirloom ring, but unfortunately we don’t have anything like that in our families.

  16. GPS on October 15, 2012 at 4:30 am

    I totally agree about women silently comparing but not even knowing it! My best friend just got engaged. She’s into expensive things and I silently was comparing and asking her about it.

    She said her ring was the same cost of a small car. It makes me feel small, like she was loved more than me (which is absolutely ridiculous). and I HATE that the first thing girlfriends ask after the engagement announcement is “Let’s look at the ring!”.

    I think it’s something that can be a real tension of values among women.. Yes we want to have the money put into something more practical… but we also want to be able to show it off!

  17. Leigh on October 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I hear you on the size, Young! I definitely do not want a ring that costs three months of my salary – that would be way too big and fancy. Honestly, I see myself being someone who only wears a wedding band after the wedding day and not the engagement ring every day. I don’t care much for jewellery or for rings in general, so I really think something under $1,000 is sufficient and it’s the thought that counts. A ring the cost of a mid-size car? No thank you.

  18. Koala on October 15, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I had a few requirements that my husband knew about just based on problem’s he had seen with my friends.
    1. It had to actually be gold. I have allergies and sometimes work near very strong magnets. Stores like Walmart are quite bad for the metal not being what they say it is which is dangerous near magnets!
    2. I wanted it to be from a chain store. When you’re newly engaged but can’t wear the ring because you’re out of province and smaller diamonds have slid out that threaten the security of the rest in the ring you want to be able to get it fixed ASAP. It’s also nice to have a life-long warranty, free cleaning services, etc.

    My husband and I did get a chuckle from a couple in a Tiffany store once. Her entire outfit consisted of high-end designer clothing; Coach would probably be slumming it for her. As far as we could tell, they were arguing about the engagement ring and the guy looked pretty disappointed.

  19. Vanessa on October 15, 2012 at 8:12 am

    He asked me to marry him… Proposals don’t need to come with rings…

  20. Steve on October 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

    I remember taking my GF to dinner on our one year anniversary. We had a nice dinner and at the end she looked very excited and nervous at the same time. I asked her whats wrong and she blurted out, “Aren’t you going to ask me something?!?”

    Turns out she was expecting me to propose and was very disappointed. I told her that I hadn’t planned on proposing for A LONG TIME. The truth is I had the ring and surprised her a month later. It was burning a hole in my pocket and couldn’t wait to give it to her.

    When you meet the right one, you just know. I wanted her to have a nice ring that represented the same type of commitment I was willing to give her for the rest of my life. I think I spent $5000 which was about a month and a half of my salary back then. No need to upgrade it later when prices inflate, and the ring is guaranteed for life as long as it’s brought in and inspected free of charge every 6 months. It will be 5 years this May and it was the best decision of my life 🙂

  21. Money Beagle on October 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

    The ‘3 month’ gimmick was simply a commercial and campaign made up by DeBeers to sell more rings. Very annoying if you ask me. That said, I like your approach and thought. I surprised my wife with our engagement. We’d looked at rings so she was sort of in the know that it was coming, but I surprised her with the when, the where and the how, and made a scrapbook of our time together that culminated with a page imploring her to ‘Say Yes’ where, by that point, I had pulled out the ring and asked her to marry me.

  22. lee on October 15, 2012 at 10:43 am

    As a recently engaged uber-practical (would rather put the $ to the downpayment/mortgage/etc…) lass, I was actually quite surprised with how my views have changed now that I am engaged. Before I would have said I didn’t care about the jewelry, but now I can’t wait to have something on my finger to remind me of our commitment to each other. Before I would have said that diamond’s are a waste of money, but I adore the vintage heirloom rock that is still awaiting its setting. I am still struggling with the “we have to pay how much to get the setting that I want for this?!?” issue (even if the rock was gifted to us). And don’t even get me started on the “weddings cost how much?!” train. Ludicrous (even for a moderately sized no-frills pragmatic affair). The only way that I have been able to justify spending all the money is to ensure that we are putting our dollars into local independent young and small businesses and organizations (see young caterers/photographers just starting out, independent eco-dress fabricators, Parks and Rec venues) that truly need our support (and of course fit our budget).

  23. mike@finance-falcon on October 15, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Well said Young, its great to know that from your point of view.

  24. Liquid on October 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    “The three rings of marriage are the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.”
    ~Unknown Author

  25. Teacher Man on October 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Haha! Nice.

  26. Teacher Man on October 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    That guy sounds like he is about to be disappointed by a lot of things!

  27. Sustainable PF on October 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    And for the Frugal type, saved us a bundle 😉
    The wedding band and engagement ring were welded together by a gold smith / jeweller friend of mine – she wears the rings daily and they don’t stick out as some status symbol.

  28. Liquid on October 15, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Haha, your wife is hilarious.

  29. Shovellicious on October 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    When I was 20, I met really great guy. I loved him so much like young girl can love somebody who is a real example of prince you don’t expect to meet in your life. After few months of really great relationship, I found out he was going to buy a ring for me (don’t ask how I did it, long story, nothing spectacular). And then something strange happened: I didn’t want that. I knew he-was-that-guy-a-father-of-our-children-in-the-future BUT I didn’t want that then. Not yet. I wasn’t party-girl, crazy chick (ok, maybe I was a little) but I wasn’t ready for this kind of serious decisions. I didn’t need an engagement ring to be sure I loved him and he loved me. One year later we broke up. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t want make decision like that and I started feeling like he was going to keep me in a gold cage. After some time I met somebody else. We have been together for around 5 years. We live together. We have ups and down but I feel he is that guy I want to race with on our wheelchairs when we will be 100years old 😉 But seriously… from one side I don’t need this ring but from the other… even when he feels the same way about racing (and few other things) and he’s not “family guy” I think this could be great one day… to be asked this magical question… just to feel you’re loved by somebody in such a way he knows he wants to spend the rest of your life with you 🙂

  30. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:35 am

    @Liquid- haah I’ve heard of that one before 🙂

  31. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

    @lee- Awe you go girl! 🙂

  32. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

    @MoneyBeagle- I think you just made me cry 🙂

  33. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:38 am

    @Steve- Awe Steve!! Your girlfriend sounds exactly like me. I’m trying hard not to be a blubbing idiot on every occasion lol. Awe congratulations on your beautiful 5 year anniversary!!

  34. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:39 am

    @Koala- Your 2nd requirement is very practical! Haha “Coach would probably be slumming it for her” lol. She sounds like a lot of women I know.

  35. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:39 am

    @Leigh- Leigh we are so much alike!! Lol… I might be that type too I’m not sure. I don’t want something to big and obnoxious that I would be embarrassed to wear.

  36. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:41 am

    @GPS- I know, I had those same thoughts too. It’s very juvenile but we can’t help but think it. We need to repeat after ourselves “The size of the diamond is not indicative of his love for me” lol. That being said…. I have another friend who’s fiance proposed to her with a “small-ish” ring but a few weeks before that, bought himself an Audi TT for his own grad present.

  37. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:43 am

    @Fiona- One of my friends posted her Tiffany ring box and made it her facebook profile page when she got engaged. Unreasonable much?

  38. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:44 am

    @LMM- Awe- speedy recovery for your daughter! Thanks for your perspective, they sound lovely!

  39. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

    @Shovellicious- Awe that’s sweet! 🙂 Yes I always love it when I see older adults holding hands. My heart always skips a beat.

  40. Young on October 17, 2012 at 10:55 am

    @geekymath- Whhhhhaaatt! I didn’t know you were getting engaged!! You don’t tweet about it? Congrats!

  41. GPS on October 18, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Your friend whose finance proposed with a “small-ish” ring and got himself a really nice car! THAT would piss me off! Don’t know why. It just does.

  42. Dominique Brown on October 19, 2012 at 10:03 am

    When I proposed to my wife a few years ago, I also did not buy a ring that is worth my 3-months salary. I got her a beautiful diamond ring that I bought for a decent price. However, size does matter! I bought her higher quality and larger size than her immediate friends.. 3 month salary would be ridiculous! Also, I’m glad I got married young.. if I was to do it all over again.. the ring would have to much closer to my 3 month salary mark to keep up with her friends.

  43. Teacher Man on October 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    If you don’t mind me asking Dom, what were the 4 Cs at three months salary?

  44. Amanda on October 22, 2012 at 8:16 am

    I really didn’t expect a ring from my husband. I didn’t even really expect a traditional proposal as we had been together 6 years and had bought a home together where we decided we’d like to raise our children – not exactly iffy on whether we’d spend the rest of our lives together, so getting engaged or married seemed not all that important. I was less interested in having some symbol to show everyone else how committed we were than putting our resources toward our home and savings.

    But he likes that sort of thing, so he spent about half a month’s net wages for a traditional diamond ring. Truthfully, I just like pretty things, so it didn’t need to be real diamonds or have a stone at all, just be nice-looking. It is a very simple, elegant piece, thankfully. When we first started dating he gave me a horribly gaudy necklace that I wore once or twice to please him, then “forgot” I had it. That trick would be harder to pull off with an engagement ring.

  45. Char on October 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    My engagement ring is 1.3 carats, very expensive. My marriage lasted ~2 years. My mom and I were comparing rings some years after my divorce and I commented that my rock was bigger than her whole setting. (We have teased her forever about the “diamond dust” in her ring.) She looked at me and said, “yes, but mine took” – she and my dad just celebrated 57 years. So I’m thinking the ring is really not all that important! If I ever try it again, I think I’d go with something other than a diamond anyway. They really are overrated and overpriced.

  46. Teacher Man on October 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    That is a very revealing insight Char. Maybe I should use that logic to explain things to my gf 😉

  47. Young on October 25, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    @Char- Awe great story! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Congrats to your mom and dad!

  48. Young on October 25, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    @Amanda- LOL 🙂 You sound like every man’s dream!

  49. Young on October 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    @DB- haha good point!!

  50. crunchycon on November 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    My DH of 22 years really lucked out, as he bought neither a wedding ring nor a diamond (boy were we poor, having just finished grad school). We did buy his ring, and my mom, who had been married long enough to upgrade her own ring, gave me her original, which I wear proudly to this day. As the only granddaughter, I inherited a nice diamond solitaire from my grandmother which stands in for an engagement ring next to my wedding band.

    The guy is still a keeper – they’re just rings, and the marriage that they symbolize is what counts.

  51. Teacher Man on November 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Sounds like you’re a pretty good catch too!

  52. Julia Borchers on November 14, 2012 at 10:39 am

    This is very well written and made me laugh! Women do compare diamond sizes whether we want to admit it or not. Is there a term for that? Diamond envy? I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about what really matters. That men put some thought in to how they are going to propose. It is a story a woman will tell many times throughout her life and it is important. Best of luck with your coming engagement!

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