Image: Her World Brides December 2017 - February 2018
#1 Skip that 2-month salary notion
While the proposal ring is a significant piece of jewellery and one you'll be cherishing forever, there's no hard and fast rule on how much dough you should spend on it. The money saved on the ring could go towards furnishing your new home, or even going on a longer/further honeymoon trip - wouldn't shared moments and memories be more meaningful than splurging on a ring?
Plus, the real focus should be on the person you're getting married to, not how much the engagement ring actually costs.
#2 Clarity isn't everything
The clarity of a diamond refers to how clean or clear it is, and is graded from FL (flawless) to P2 and 3 (Imperfect). The price of a diamond goes up depending on how clean or clear it is, but there's no need to put so much emphasis on the clarity - as long as it's clean to the naked eye. Unless under the microscope, you won't be able to tell the difference between perfect and a near colourless "eye clean" but there can be a dramatic difference in prices - think from VS1 or VS2 (Very Slightly Included) clarity grades. Likewise for for the colour.
Image: American Gem Society
#3 What matters? The cut
If you want a sparkly rock, the cut is one of the most important factors. Not to be confused with the shape, the cut refers to the facet arrangement of a diamond. A well-cut diamond has facets perfectly positioned to reflect maximum light. A poorly cut stone can look dull regardless of colour or clarity.
#4 Get a bigger-looking diamond for less
If you're a non-conventional bride or not big on shine, consider the emerald cut. With lesser facets, it'll look considerably less sparkly than say, the brilliant cut. But its shape looks bigger than the round brilliant-cut diamond since round diamonds are cut deeper. (Here's how you can make your engagement ring look bigger than it is)
#5 Buy shy of the carat marks
Purchasing a diamond that weighs just shy of the carat weight you desire might not be visually noticeable, but there will be a marked difference in its price. This is because diamond prices escalate in tiers of carat weight - for example, a diamond weighing a full carat can very well be disproportionately higher than one at 0.99 or 0.8.
Image: Christopher Yates/123rf.com
#6 Pave settings
Pave diamonds are tiny diamonds held in place with tiny metal beads or prongs. If your budget doesn't allow for a flashy bigger rock, a halo setting (the centre stone is encircled by round pave diamonds) can boost the appearance of a smaller stone, plus amp up the overall sparkle, too.
A moissanite ring.
#7 Skip the diamond altogether
Aside from the diamond, there are plenty of other beautiful gems that look equally stunning but cost significantly lesser - think amethyst, sapphire (it's the third hardest mineral, if you are looking for durability.), or even pearls. Want something that looks like a diamond without the hefty price tag? Moissanite (2nd hardest after diamonds) is a popular alternative when it comes to engagement rings.