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Why Are Wedding Rings So Expensive?

Updated October 13, 2021
Why Are Wedding Rings So Expensive?

The world’s most expensive wedding ring costs nearly nine million dollars and belongs to Elizabeth Taylor.

Even if you don’t aim for the most exquisite wedding ring owner title, your rings are going to make about a quarter of your total wedding budget on average.

Such a high price is, in most cases, justified. Jewelry making is a form of art, and jewelers spend decades learning fine techniques such as filigree and openwork.

But a ring doesn’t necessarily have to feature an intricate design to cost a fortune.

Wedding ring materials on their own are typically valuable and rare. This is because precious metals are hard to source and are limited in quantities.

Today, alternative metals such as tungsten are gaining popularity. However, they still lose to gold and platinum in some physical characteristics and resale value.

The same relates to gemstones. Traditionally, wedding rings feature diamonds.

However, depending on the carats, cult, color, and clarity, the price of a single diamond may amount to multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The high cost of wedding rings is also the result of increased demand for specific designs and materials and the marketing efforts of jewelry companies.

Many couples feel social pressure to purchase luxurious platinum wedding rings embellished with diamonds from famous brands.

But in the end, the wedding ring’s significance is in its symbolism in the first place.

Precious Metals

Wedding rings are usually made of precious metals, such as yellow, white, rose gold, and platinum. Silver is also considered a precious metal, but it’s rarely used for wedding bands.

You can choose any wedding ring material you wish, even go for a plastic or lollypop ring. But precious metal rings became traditional for a reason, and their price is justifiable.

Metals such as gold and platinum have a high economic value as they’re relatively scarce and were historically used instead of money.

Since ancient civilizations, including the Incas and Egyptians, people have valued gold for its physical qualities and as a social construct. Thus, to this day, purchasing gold is considered a wise investment.

But why is platinum more expensive than gold, then? The core reason for that is its density. Metals are valued by weight, and a platinum ring will always weigh more than a gold ring of the same size. As simple as that.

Of course, recently, the demand for alternative wedding ring materials has risen.

More couples today prefer tungsten or, titanium, or black zirconium. These metals aren’t considered precious but have some pretty impressive features.

For instance, tungsten’s hardness is about four times higher than that of yellow gold. You may wonder, why choose a metal that’s four times more prone to damage and also has a three times higher price?

The issue with these modern metals is that they’re impossible to resize.

That’s because tungsten and zirconium have three times higher melting points, and nearly no jeweler owns the necessary equipment. Plus, they have a significantly lower resale value.

Stones

Stones on a wedding band are optional, yet they are important in determining a ring’s value. Some couples prefer plain rings, while others go for full eternity bands, which inevitably come with a hefty price tag.

Not all gemstones are expensive. For example, a ring with semi-precious stones, such as turquoise or lapis lazuli, may cost even less than a plain ring.

That’s because their price is lower than that of gold. But such stones aren’t commonly used in wedding and engagement rings.

The most popular stones for wedding rings are sapphire and diamond. This is because they have been considered a symbol of eternal love and faithfulness for centuries and are the two hardest gemstones.

But apart from impressive physical characteristics, sapphires and diamonds also cost a fortune due to high demand.

Other precious gemstones, such as emerald or ruby, are slightly more affordable but will still skyrocket the final ring price.

If you’ve been searching for a wedding ring with gemstone, you’ve likely come across numerous lab-grown diamonds.

Naturally, this option is tempting, as the price difference is immense. But such diamonds aren’t worth it, as their resale value is incomparable to that of genuine gemstones.

Other popular diamond alternatives nowadays are moissanite and morganite. These gemstones are nearly as hard as diamonds, yet they don’t have such a high value due to lower demand.

The size, cut, clarity, and other features of a stone play a role, too. While a full eternity band can be more sparkly than a solitaire ring, its price will be lower in most cases.

Tiny stones are more accessible to source, especially if they don’t all match by tone. Large stones of excellent quality, in turn, are scarce and cost accordingly.

That’s especially relevant for diamonds. For example, a one-carat rough diamond makes approximately a third of carat polished stone.

So, to make a perfect cut two-carat diamond, the manufacturers will need to find a six-carat stone. And such pieces are very rarely clear and colorless.

Design Intricacy

Many couples feel the pressure to choose the most beautiful wedding rings ever made. That’s understandable, as these rings are very special and you’re choosing them for life.

But this often leads to purchasing rings with indulgent, fancy designs that inevitably cost more than simple options.

Exclusive or intricate designs are expensive; that’s no surprise.

In the case of rings, you aren’t even paying for the designer’s work but rather for the jeweler’s. Each design element takes hours of hard work to recreate.

Openwork gallery, embellished shoulders, floral filigree – these elements can skyrocket a ring’s price even if it’s free from gemstones. And if you request any custom elements, such as engravings, expect to pay in double.

Some of the most creative wedding ring designs can be seen in vintage pieces. Such rings are exclusive, typically available in a single exemplar.

Check out Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco Era jewelry if you’re wondering what an intricate ring design is.

Recreating such a design may cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars only due to the amount of work required.

Brand

A wedding ring’s luxuriousness is defined by its brand, too. A worldwide-famous brand imposes its unique history and philosophy, allowing you to become a part of it by purchasing its product.

People who don’t care about brands are lucky as they can save a fortune by purchasing rings from a lesser-known company. However, many brides dream about getting a ring from Graff, Tiffany & Co., or Cartier.

Do these brands produce good rings? Obviously, they have centuries of experience in jewelry design and production, access to the best materials, and excellent customer service.

Does this mean that lesser-known brands produce worse rings? Absolutely not.

The truth is, no-name jewelers may have an extraordinary skill. There’s no need to overpay for a brand if you don’t care about what the label says.

Demand

Like everything that can be bought, wedding rings fluctuate in price depending on basic economic laws. That is, the supply and demand.

Naturally, when the demand soars, the prices also go up. This usually happens in spring and summer, when most weddings happen. So, if you wish to save a few hundred dollars, shop for wedding rings in cold seasons.

But not the time of the year alone affects wedding ring demand. Certain gemstones, their cuts, and sizes are more desirable than others.

The most popular choice of gemstone for a wedding ring is a round-cut, half-carat diamond. Marquise and pear-shaped diamonds, in turn, always cost less due to lower demand.

Sometimes, the demand may not change, but the supply does. For example, if a stone deposit used by a company is running scarce, the cost of the existing ring will rise.

Tradition or Social Pressure?

As a rule of thumb, you should spend at least three monthly salaries on an engagement ring and about one salary on a single wedding band.

So, if you’re making $60,000 a year, the engagement ring should cost $15,000 and the wedding bands $5,000 each. But who came up with these odd numbers, and should you follow this “rule”?

Back in the day, an expensive wedding ring was meant to serve as a capital for the wife in the case of the husband’s death.

It still may serve as such today, but a costly ring isn’t that important if you have other assets. It’s merely a social construct than a practical requirement.

Some traditions don’t stem from ancient times but were artificially created in the 20th century.

For example, De Beers used to control about 90% of worldwide diamond production. As they were pretty much the only ones in charge of the supply, they could set any price. But marketing has played a role, too.

De Beers’ most famous advertising campaign that has changed the diamond market forever was launched in 1977.

It stated, “How else could two months’ salary last forever? A diamond is forever.” This short phrase justified the high cost of diamonds for millions of men since then.

Store Overhead

Like any business, jewelry stores must earn some overhead. They need to cover the working hours of sales assistants, managers, accountants, and other workers, utility and operational expenses, and get some profit.

Studies show that jewelry retailers expect to receive a gross profit margin of over 40%. This means that you can save a significant sum if you shop for wedding rings online or directly from the manufacturer.

However, in the case of online shopping, you can’t try it on and see all the design elements closely.

Image credit: Pexels

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