Kirk Kara was one of a handful of companies that introduced a lower-priced, more delicately styled line of engagement rings at JCK Las Vegas earlier this year. Pictured here are a 14-karat white gold wedding band (top) with diamonds and blue sapphires ($970) and a matching engagement ring with a half-carat rose-cut center stone and blue sapphire accents ($2,890), both from the “Dahlia” collection.
New York—Couples are spending about 7 to 9 percent less on their engagement rings than they did two years ago, data collected from multiple sources shows.

According to The Knot’s 2019 Jewelry & Engagement Study released last week, the national average spend on an engagement ring in the United States stands at $5,900.

By region, the average cost is: $7,500 in the Mid-Atlantic states; $6,900 in New England; $5,600 in the Southwest; $5,500 in the West; $5,400 in the Southeast; and $5,300 in the Midwest.

The figures released by The Knot in its report—which comes out every two years and is the company’s deep-dive into engagements and the jewelry that accompanies them—consistently come in above the averages documented by industry sources.

Analyst Edahn Golan said his data, which is collected from hundreds of stores across the United States that vary by geography, size, type and positioning, shows the average expenditure on diamond engagement rings today is about $3,200.

Golan’s figure is on par with that of De Beers Group, which has U.S. engagement ring expenditure averaging $3,400 in its latest Diamond Insight Report, released last week.

While The Knot’s number comes in above the figures provided by Golan and De Beers, all three data sets show spending on engagement rings going in the same direction: down.

The Knot’s $5,900 average is down 7 percent from $6,351 in 2017, the last time it conducted its jewelry and engagement study.

Golan’s $3,200 figure represents a nearly 9 percent decline from the $3,500 he said couples were spending just a couple years ago.

And De Beers’ average has dropped too, from $3,700 in 2013 to $3,400 in 2017.

Golan said the primary driver behind the decline in engagement ring expenditure is the shift to smaller center stones, which is part of a wider change in taste and fashion. Many consumers today are opting for daintier styles in engagement rings (as well as in jewelry in general) even if cost is not an issue for them.

“This is the larger driver [of the trend],” he said. “Economic drivers are there too, but they are largely secondary.”

The Knot saw the same when conducting its jewelry study, with the size of the stone declining in importance when compared to the piece’s cost and overall quality.

Worldwide Senior Director of Insights Lauren Goodson said when The Knot asked couples which engagement ring features are most important to them, price ranked second among proposers (higher than in 2017), behind only style/setting.

The size of the ring, meanwhile, dropped two slots in importance for proposers and three spots for proposees, ranking second to last this year (out of eight) for all, compared to fifth for proposers and fourth for proposees in 2017, she said.

Diamonds Vs. Other Gemstones
In addition to price, The Knot’s study, which included both engaged and recently married couples, delved into questions of ring style, center stone choice and proposal procedures.

Overall, the survey showed exchanging a ring of some sort remains the overwhelming custom in the U.S., with 97 percent of couples doing so when they get engaged.

And the most popular center stone remains a colorless or near-colorless diamond, purchased by 86 percent of respondents. (Golan said this has been the case historically, with diamonds holding about an 85-90 percent market share for engagement rings.)

20191106 Omi sapphire ringThis 18-karat rose gold ring from Omi Privé features a 2.73-carat emerald-cut pink sapphire accented by pink sapphire trapezoids (0.78 carat total weight) and round diamonds ($19,200). Sapphires were popular among survey respondents who picked something other than a diamond for their engagement ring.

According to The Knot, 10 percent of survey-takers chose a non-diamond center stone, with moissanite ranking as the most popular non-diamond choice at 19 percent (up from 10 percent in 2017), followed by sapphire (18 percent), morganite (12 percent) and aquamarine (6 percent).

Accounting for the remaining 4 percent of responses to the center stone question were colored diamonds (3 percent) and couples who said they exchanged rings with no center stones (1 percent).

The Knot did ask survey-takers the lab-grown question, with 15 percent of proposees stating they prefer to have a lab-grown stone and 12 percent reporting they actually have one.

Goodson confirmed the study did not specify which kind of lab-grown stone, however, so it cannot be assumed they are all man-made diamonds.

Style Profile
It will come as no surprise to jewelers that customization also emerged as a big trend in The Knot’s survey, with nearly half (45 percent) of new rings purchased for an engagement including some custom details.

This includes taking an existing design and adding personal touches (51 percent) or designing a ring from scratch (31 percent).

Round diamonds still remain the most popular, retaining nearly 50 percent market share.

Ovals tied square/princess cuts for second place at 14 percent each, followed by the cushion cut at 9 percent. Rounding out the top five most popular cuts was the pear at 5 percent.

More than half of respondents picked white gold for their setting, followed by rose gold (14 percent), platinum (13 percent), yellow gold (13 percent) and sterling silver (7 percent).

20191106 Tacori princess cut ringA solitaire style from Tacori’s “Coastal Crescent” collection set with a princess-cut diamond ($1,490 in 14-karat white gold, excluding center stone). The princess tied with the oval for the second most popular diamond shape in The Knot’s 2019 Jewelry & Engagement Study.

When it comes to wedding bands, the average men’s band costs $510, and the top materials are tungsten (23 percent) and white gold (21 percent), according to The Knot. For women, $1,100 is being spent on average, and white gold (52 percent) and rose gold (15 percent) are the most popular metals.

Other findings from the survey include the following.
— Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of those surveyed met online, up from 5 percent in 2017. The most popular platforms were Tinder (30 percent), OkCupid (14 percent) and Bumble (13 percent).

— A total of 65 percent of survey-takers are at least 25 years old when they propose. Thirty-eight percent are 25 to 29, while 27 percent are between 30 and 34 years old.

— When people start looking for their engagement rings, social media (79 percent) and jewelry designers’ websites (25 percent) are their go-to sources for inspiration.

— A small percentage of couples (7 percent) do a dual proposal and another 7 percent report giving each other rings.
RELATED CONTENT: Propose Too: A Platform That Wants Women to Pop the Question
— Right after they get engaged, a whopping 92 percent of happy couples take to social media to share the news (and, presumably, the ring). Three-quarters of survey-takers said they call family and friends and 72 percent send them photos of the ring.

— While members of younger generations are widely touted as breaking with tradition to make everything “their own,” The Knot’s study shows there are quite a few long-standing proposal customs that are still widely used.

Nearly 90 percent of proposers have the ring in hand when they pop the question, 87 percent say, “will you marry me?”, 84 percent ask on bended knee and 71 percent ask permission from their partner’s parent(s) before proposing.

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