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Finding a frugal wedding ring that’s still beautiful and durable is often a real challenge, but it can be done!

Is finding affordable wedding rings for under $500 possible? $500 is a reasonable wedding ring budget if you shop carefully. There are two main options: buy used, and potentially get a much more valuable ring at a modest cost, or shop for stone and metal combinations that ultimately give you the look and durability that you want, for the price that you need.

Again, there are two primary avenues for finding your perfect ring while nailing your ring budget at the same time. I’ll outline both below.

Cheap Places to Buy Expensive Rings

When you drive a new car off the lot at a dealership, it’s value instantly plummets. You can’t resell a used car for as much as a new car—you just can’t. If a buyer was willing to pay new car prices, they’d buy from the new car lot instead of spending the same amount of money to buy from you. This same reality plays out with diamond rings everyday.

Why would someone sell a diamond ring for way less than they originally paid (sometimes just days earlier)? There are a number of scenarios that create sellers anxious to offload a beautiful diamond ring for a loss. Sometimes the proposal didn’t go as planned. The other party said ‘no,’ or may have even originally said ‘yes,’ but later changed their mind. Breakups can originate with either party, but regardless, they result in a situation were a lovely ring isn’t going to be used, and therefore, needs to be resold.

If they take the ring to a pawn shop, they’re likely to get low-balled. They’ll probably get pennies on the dollar. Pawn shops attract bargain shoppers. They have to buy it for a low enough price to allow them to resell at bargain prices while still making a healthy margin.

Jewelers typically aren’t motivated to pay much either, simply because their suppliers usually offer attractive terms that allow them to secure inventory now, but pay later. Pulling cash out of the register to buy a diamond ring (that will only fit a certain segment of their shoppers) isn’t very attractive most of the time.

Unlike Pawn shops or jewelers, you aren’t planning to reselling the ring, and therefore, won’t need to build in a profit margin. You can afford to give the seller a little more money for their ring (helping them out), and still walk away with a fantastic value for your money. Rings might resell for only 50-70% of their original value, so you stand to get a great value. It’s only rough guideline, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to anticipate that you could buy a ring worth $1000 to $1,500 or so for $500 in cash.

You wouldn’t normally be able to buy a diamond ring from a traditional jeweler for $500, but you could potentially buy a diamond ring, used, off someone for $500. It’s going to be important to make SURE you know what you’re buying throughout this whole process. This isn’t a time to be trusting. If you’re told that a particular ring is diamond, find out what documentation they have on their ring. They might be able to produce a grading report and receipt. Ultimately, you could even take the ring to a local jeweler or gemologist for testing.

Used rings, featuring lab grown diamonds could be a really interesting option too if you can find them. Lab created diamonds are physically, chemically, and visually the same as earth created diamonds. They’re equally durable and equally beautiful—but they AREN’T equally expensive. Since Lab grown diamonds cost less at retail, they should cost less at resale too. You should be able to buy a better color, clarity, and size with your $500 budget.

So far, our focus has been on the gem, or stone, but another major contributor to the overall cost of a given ring is the metal band that the diamond is mounted to. If you purchase a used ring, you’re more likely to get a higher quality metal than you could otherwise afford on a $500 budget, paying retail prices.

Gold and Platinum are possible for a used ring in this price range, but you would certainly need to sacrifice quantity or quality, to some extent, if you were paying retail prices for a new ring. At retail, you might even have to go with a gold or platinum plated (or coated) ring in order to meet your budgetary constraints.

You can find used wedding rings by checking for local listings on sites like Craigslist or other local classified ad sites. Bulletin boards, and again,  local classified sites around college campuses have also been good sources for used rings. Pawnshops can also be the source of some good values at times.

The Most Important Features of Your Ring

You certainly have options for very pretty frugal rings with a $500 budget. You’ll be able to select from several different stone and metal combinations. They all have a unique set of characteristics. You can decide if it’s the appearance or durability of each component that’s most important, and choose materials based on those preferences.

Getting the ideal wedding ring, while still hitting your budget, requires a series of trade-offs. It’s not that your ring can ONLY be pretty but not durable…or only durable, but not pretty. The materials you choose will hopefully give you a good blend of benefits. You’ll need to sacrifice a little in one area to get more in another. That’s why it’s important to determine the features that are most important to you. You’ll also begin to notice the characteristics that are least important. That’s also really valuable information. Once you have some idea regarding what you want most in your ring, you can explore the following considerations that influence cost.

Sparkle:

Different types of stones gather and refract light in unique ways. Those differences affect the way various stones sparkle. Even when cut, color and clarity of each stone type is very similar, some are naturally going to sparkle far more than others.

The quantity of sparkle isn’t the only distinction. You also will notice different qualities in the sparkle of various types of gems. Some send more colorful light flashes back to your eye, others reflect more frequent flashes of brilliant white light, with very few colorful sparkles.When discussing sparkle, jewelers and gemologists refer to the colorful flashes as ‘fire’ and the flashes of white light as ‘brilliance.’ Some stone types are naturally more fiery than others.

Stone TypeHardness Rating (Mohs Scale) Stone ColorPrice Per Carat
White Topaz8Colorless$15
Moissanite9.5Colorless or slight hue$500
White Sapphire9Colorless$800
Cubic Zirconia8.5Colorless$15
Aquamarine8Blue-green$150
Tanzanite7Blue$250
Morganite8Peachy-pink$300
Garnet7.5Red$500
Sapphire9Many colors$600

Moissanite is probably the stone that most closely resembles diamond. In terms of sparkle, it does have more fire (colored sparkle) than diamond, but it’s still a really beautiful stone that many women find they actually like MORE than their diamonds.

Stone Durability:

How important is durability for the gem or stone you choose for your ring? If you know that your ring is just temporary, and that you’ll be replacing it with a more permanent ring within the next 12 months anyway, then durability probably isn’t super important. On the other hand, if you plan to wear the same ring your entire life, and maybe even pass it on to your children someday too, you’ll we’ll want to choose materials that can stand the test of time. You’ll want to make durability a priority.

Band Durability:

The metal that your stone is set on (or in), is another major contributor to the overall cost of the ring. Do you know what you want? What color do you want your ring to be? White or Yellow gold should be cheaper than Platinum. Silver is another option that’s far less expensive than both gold or Platinum. You can even buy a silver ring that’s coated in something like gold or Rhodium (which is a metal from the Platinum family, that looks very much like Platinum) if you’d like to bring cost down further, while still having a more expensive look to your ring.

Overall Ring Cost:

Is your $500 cost target pretty firm, or is there room to go a little higher if needed to find the right ring? Either answer is fine, you just need to know the elements that are most important. If you have a little price flexibility, it just means that you could have the option of paying a little more in order to get a few more of your other preferences. If the absolute top end of your budget is $500, then you’ll just give up a little on stone size, metal type, or some other factor, if needed, to make the price-point work.

What to Buy if You Want a Cheap Ring that Looks Expensive

If you’re buying a brand new wedding ring for less than $500, you’ll need to decide on the metal that’s the ideal balance between your desired look and your need for durability. You’ll also need to balance the cost of the metal you choose with the cost of the stone that you buy. If you want a larger and more expensive stone, you’ll need to choose a less expensive metal. If you want to splurge on a more expensive metal, you’ll need to choose a less expensive stone.

Here are some common metal options that you could consider for rings in the $500 price range. They’re arranged in the list that follows from least expensive to most expensive. If you decide to go with something like Platinum (the most expensive option), you may need to either get something like Silver (as a base metal) that’s Platinum plated (coated in layers of Platinum) or perhaps a very thin Platinum band, that’s going to be less expensive because less of the metal was required to make it. The thin band can also provide a really elegant look when paired with the right gem.

Metal TypeRelative Hardness ( Mohs Scale of Hardness)Hypoallergenic?
Stainless Steel5.5Yes
Sterling Silver2.5-3.0No
Titanium6.0Yes
White Gold2.5-3.0No
Yellow Gold2.5-3.0No
Platinum4.0-4.5Yes

Again cheaper metals plated in something like Rhodium can provide you with a high-end look, but a low-end price tag. While the price might be attractive, you need to understand that plating typically isn’t permanent because it can wear through over time. The thicker the coating, the longer it will last.

The plating on a quality ring could last 10 years or more before it needs to be reapplied. Once you’ve worn through the Rhodium or gold plating on you ring, you’d need to take it to a local jeweler to have plating reapplied. The total cost should be somewhere in the $50 to $200 range, depending on the metal used and how thick you ask them to apply the coating. The complexity of your ring design could also impact price a little, because it impacts their application method.

It would be nice not to have to worry about the hassle or expense of re-plating the ring down the road, but in reality, an investment of $200 (or less) after several years of solid use isn’t bad—especially when the new plating makes your ring look brand new again and sets you up for perhaps another 10 years .

Keeping it Simple

Many couples are going minimalistic with their rings. They keep things simple by just wearing metal bands without any kind of gem or stone adorning them. These simple rings can certainly have an elegance to them. In this case, simple leads to savings! Simple metal wedding bands are much less expensive, since you get to skip the cost of a gem altogether.

For couples that like to coordinate the look of their rings, it’s much easier to do when you’re both just wearing wedding bands. Bands also have the benefit of being low profile, so they don’t accidentally snag sweaters or scratch things. Wedding bands alone, aren’t right for everyone, but it’s at least an option that’s worth considering.

What you Probably Want to Avoid

If possible, avoid rings that have copper, brass, or some mystery alloy as their base, even if the exterior is plated in something else. My wife recently got a ring that looked and felt really nice. The ring was made of copper, but was plated with Rhodium (according to the seller).

Within about a month, most of the plating had worn away on both the interior and exterior of the ring. That left dark copper exposed and easily visible around most of the ring. It was essentially worthless and ready to throw away within a month. The plating may not have actually been Rhodium. If it was, it was an ultra-thin layer that was applied for the sake of initial impression—not durability.

Copper is one of those metals that turns your finger green…so not only does your ring start looking shabby when the plating wears through, but you finger starts to display the natural green tattooing effect of a cheap ring too.

That’s frustrating for any ring that you purchase, but especially a wedding ring that needs to be durable. By the same token, if something seems too cheap to believe, be careful, the manufacturer may have cut corners on quality. It’s worth paying a little more to buy from a known and trusted seller. Someone that has a reputation for quality and a return policy ideally.

I would suggest that you avoid buying a wedding ring on eBay. They have many good and honest sellers, but there’s also so much low quality, and fake, jewelry offered there. I’ve heard from several people that unknowingly purchased pieces of glass that were supposed to be Morganite through the site. It’s just too hard to know who you can trust, and what you’ll ultimately get. What makes the problem far harder, is that sellers often source their products from China. They trust the manufacturer’s claims about the product, which means they’re sometimes ignorantly selling fake stones.

If you get clarity on the features that are most important to you and shop in the right places, you’ll be able to get a ring that you LOVE, and a ring that lasts with your $500 budget. Best of all, you’ll avoid the ring debt that many couples fall into when they purchase rings that are way beyond the realm of what they can actually afford. A frugal ring is a really smart and caring way to start your married life. If you shop carefully, you’ll love your $500 ring just as much as you’d love a ring was ten times the price.

Related Questions:

How Can You Avoid Getting Ripped Off When Buying a Used Ring?

Verify the seller’s claims about their gem before buying. You could get the ring appraised or check the seller’s records. If they have a receipt and/or grading report, it would help a lot. You could also check with a local jeweler or gemologist to see if they could test the ring for you. That may cost something, but it’s probably worth doing, so you can be sure you know what you’re getting.

Should I Mention it if The Diamond I Buy is Man Made?

Man-made diamonds are real diamonds (just from a different source). I personally don’t feel like you need to mention that a man-made diamond is ‘man-made’ when you’re proposing. I also don’t feel like that fact needs to be intentionally hidden. It’s something you could talk about later. It’s really best if you’ve discussed ring preferences and budget realities prior to purchasing the ring.

Which Ring Metals Are Best for People with Sensitive Skin?

Avoid rings with lead, copper, or nickel. They’re metals that frequently cause reactions for people that have sensitive skin or known metal allergies. Gold (both yellow and white), is another metal that some people have allergic reactions to. In reality, it isn’t the gold they’re bodies react to, it’s the additives (impurities) that have been mixed into the gold. Nickel, for example, is a common additive to gold. Gold is a very soft metal by itself. Mixing in additives makes it more durable, and allows for popular colors like white and rose gold. Safer choices, would be Nickel-free Stainless Steel, Titanium, or Platinum. All three of those metals are considered to be hypoallergenic—meaning that they won’t cause skin reactions.

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