Even at the best of times, jewellery and gemstones are a total mystery to your average man. Add in the pressure of the jewellery in question being a South African engagement ring, and the poor man can’t help but feel over-whelmed.

“Do I need permission from her father? What’s her ring size? What does she like? How much do I need to spend?”

Of all the questions churning around in your head, we’d like to help with the last one, “How much do I need to spend on a South African engagement ring?”.

South African couple shopping for ring

Where did it all start?

Over the years, diamond companies such as De Beers have suggested that men spend anywhere from 1 to 3 month’s salary on an engagement ring. For decades this was accepted as the norm, until consumers realized it was nothing more than some clever marketing to get them to spend more in a jewellery store.

So, in 2018, exactly how much should you be spending on an engagement ring?

Before we get into that though, let’s dismantle the old adage of using monthly salary as a bench-mark.

When the “2-3 months salary marketing campaign” was put together, it was the 1950’s. Typically, women didn’t go to college or university and definitely weren’t considering a career. This was the era of the “stay-at-home” mom and couples often married in their early 20’s. Couples got married with virtually no debt and it was often easy for a young man to save up two month’s salary, given that he still lived with his parents, and had no general expenses to speak of.

Fast forward to 2018 and we live in a totally different era. Men and women are both graduating from university not just with degrees, but with significant student debt too. As societal expectations have softened, couples are often living together first and marrying at an older average age, and frequently have already had children together.

When you combine the elements of debt, spiraling costs of living and the expense of raising children, two month’s salary isn’t just impractical, it’s virtually impossible.

Spend what you can afford

We return then to our original question, “How much should I spend on an engagement ring?

The short answer is, of course, spend only what you can afford.

We live in a materialistic era of quick and instant gratification; an era of being able to brag about your bling on Instagram and Facebook and have friends swoon with jealousy, wanting to know just how big your rock is. People buy things they can’t afford, to impress people they don’t know, getting into debt they can’t get out of.

Diamond engagement ring on plate

A ring is symbolic and as is the case with all symbols, bigger and more expensive doesn’t mean more significant – the symbolism stays the same. One of the main causes of divorce nowadays are the financial challenges that couples face.

We can trace history of the engagement ring can be traced back to at least 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy. Five hundred years later, an engagement ring still has the same symbolism – that of a formal agreement to a future marriage.

South African engagement ring on finger

When you think logically about it, it doesn’t make any sense to get into debt simply for an engagement ring; a symbol of love shouldn’t put financial strain on your relationship, ever. What makes more sense is to take an amount you can afford, and get the most you can for your budget by learning a few simple facts about gemstones and jewellery. Whether you’re looking to buy a uniquely South African engagement ring, or a ring with some international flair, stick to your target budget as much as possible.

Although diamonds are viewed as a “traditional” engagement ring stone, a diamond isn’t necessary, and there are many other options on gemstones that are more affordable, and will give you more bang for your buck. Rubies and sapphires are both beautiful and practical engagement ring stones and in South Africa, Morganite is a very affordable gem growing in popularity.

Our next blog post will look at how you can maximize your engagement ring budget, and how to get the best you can afford – no matter how much that amount is.