Wedding ring shopping advice for all budgets

Forget the old rules about how much you’re supposed to spend on rings. Whether modest or extravagant, every budget can stretch to something marvellous

A few weeks ago, I received a silent call from my big brother. “Well…?” I waited with bated breath for what felt like a decade, before he finally announced: “She said yes!”

With just 14 months of an age gap between us, he and I have hit almost every milestone together, but this time the swine has beaten me to it: he’s getting married. Over a family dinner soon after the wonderful news, he twigged that my job on this very mag meant I could be his oracle as he and his fiancée embark on their wedding planning. Not surprisingly, one of the first things he asked me about was rings, to which I confidently replied that he was free to spend as much as he wanted on these, and that regardless of the sum, he and his other half would walk away with something special.

3mm 18ct gold lightweight court wedding band, £375, Chisholm Hunter

When we were growing up, my brother always had more money than me. He saved every penny, whereas I frittered mine away on glitter and rubbish jewellery that turned my skin green. Happily, there’s no risk of those tell-tale smudgy marks with wedding jewellery, even if you don’t break the bank. Buy your rings from a reputable jeweller and all will be well. “We cater for all budgets,” says Sheila Fleet, who lends her name to the brand. “It’s possible to have one of our beautiful, hand-finished rings for under £100.” For something simple yet of superior quality, adds Sheila, you’ll part with around £50 to £60.

“For that sort of figure,” clarifies Richard Laing, MD of Laings, “a plain band would probably be the best option. Our prices start at £60 for 9ct gold.”

It’s much the same at Chisholm Hunter. “There is plenty of choice available for customers on a tight budget,” claims assistant website manager Karyn Rose-Brown. This is particularly so if you are prepared to look beyond the usual options: “Many non-precious metals, such as titanium, are popular choices for men’s wedding bands as they’re inexpensive yet very strong,” she explains. If your heart is set on gold, the price is likely to reach triple digits: “Plain 9ct gold bands start at around £100.”

If you have a little more money to play with, you open up possibilities such as a broader range of metals, the width of the band itself, or even incorporating gemstones. “Going from least to most expensive metal, we have 9ct gold, 18ct gold, palladium and platinum,” details Karyn. For gents’ rings, the weight and width of the piece of jewellery is generally what determines the price, she adds. “These can run from 4mm to 7mm and beyond.”

Platinum round-brilliant and baguette-cut 0.5ct diamond half-eternity ring, £2,320, Laings

Adding stones will also push the price-tag up. “And, of course, some gemstones are much more expensive than others,” points out Sheila Fleet.

If you don’t have unlimited funds to splash on jewels, all is not lost: “It’s still possible to get something on a reasonable budget,” reassures Richard, reminding us that an eternity ring is often a popular choice for a wedding band. “The average eternity ring costs around £1,000, though some are much more expensive than that. But we do have some that start from £500.”

To keep costs under control, you could opt for a half-loop eternity ring, where the precious stones are placed only on the top half of the band – which is the only bit most people will see anyway. If you can afford it, of course, you can go the whole hog: “A full loop means the diamonds go all the way round in a continuous circle,” says Karyn. “At Chisholm Hunter we currently have an 18ct white-gold 0.7ct full-loop eternity ring for £1,250.”

If you’ve decided to devote a healthy chunk of your wedding cash to the rings, your budget will hopefully allow you to get exactly what you want. “The world is your oyster!” promises Richard at Laings.

Karyn agrees that the possibilities are endless. “You could have fancy-cut diamonds – baguette, emerald or oval-shaped, perhaps – instead of the more traditional round-cut or princess-cut stones.”

This freedom of choice extends to the metal band as well – there are some very rare and sought-after varieties out there. “At the moment, we have something very special indeed: wedding rings made from Scottish gold!” boasts Sheila Fleet. Her company is one of only two authorised to work with the precious metal from Scotland’s only gold mine, at Cononish near Tyndrum. “Supplies are limited, though, so it’s first come, first served,” she warns. “We really recommend ordering early.”

River Ripples ring with enamels, £709; and River Ripples diamond ring, £555, Sheila Fleet

There’s nothing to say that you can’t take the design into your own hands either. With bespoke options available at most jewellers, it’s a chance to let your creativity run wild. “Bespoke can be slightly more expensive than buying from stock, as your ring will be completely handmade to your specifications,” explains Richard. Don’t rule it out if a custom-made ring is beyond your price range, as payment options are sometimes available. “We offer interest-free credit so you can spread out your payments,” says Richard.

A lot of couples simply can’t afford their dream rings when they marry (let’s face it, you have a million and one other demands on your cash at that time), so they upgrade them down the line – to celebrate a special anniversary, perhaps.

There are various ways to do this, Karyn reveals, but it’s usually about adding more sparkle. “The most common alteration we make is upgrading the gemstones to a higher-carat diamond.”

As for your original beloved rings, they can contribute to something bespoke, she adds: “That way, your ‘real’ rings are incorporated into the design so the new ones retain that special meaning.”

Over to you, big bro.