College Student Seeking a Proposal Ring for $1600 Budget

student seeking help on wedding band

Budget Proposal Ring For $1600


Great website you have here. It’s very informational and helped me gain a better understanding of diamonds.

I have a budget of around $1500 to $1600 for a proposal ring that I want to surprise my girlfriend for her upcoming birthday. Currently both of us are students doing our final year of undergraduate studies at Ohio university. I’m a physics guy while she majors in biological sciences.

Though I have a small budget (took me a while and tons of part time jobs to save that up), I would still like to get the biggest and brightest stone possible. Following your advice that cut is of utmost importance when choosing a diamond, I narrowed my selection at James Allen down to the following diamonds.

The diamonds listed above had been sold and no longer available. However, you can still click here to visit James Allen to browse through diamonds and interact with their intuitive 360˚ videos.

I liked the first diamond the most but am quite concerned about the black inclusion I can see with the loupe. For the other 2 diamonds, they seemed to be nicely cut as well with nice arrows and have AGS 0 cut grading.

This is the setting that I am looking at:

I would like to hear your thoughts on these diamonds.

Did I miss anything out? Thanks for your help.


Hi Charles,

Thanks for writing in. First of all, I want to congratulate you on your decision to pop the question. No budget is too small to purchase a ring that symbolizes your love affirmations towards your partner. To me, a wedding engagement ring’s true value lies deeper than how many carats the diamond is.

I am glad you decided to contact me with your questions.

All 3 diamonds you had picked possess great cut quality. First of all, the D SI1 diamond you chose has an inclusion which could possibly be seen by the naked eye. However, the great thing is that this inclusion is “prongable”. When the diamond is set in the ring, it can be done in a manner in which the prong will cover up the inclusion. This in turn makes it eye clean.

For the other 2 G colored diamonds you had chosen, they do lie in the higher clarity grades and you are effectively going to pay for a feature that you or your future wife to be can’t appreciate with the naked eye.

With the engagement ring setting costing you around $400, it leaves us about $1200 to work around for the diamond. ($1300 if you decide to go for 14k white gold for your setting)

Here are 2 other great looking stones I would recommend you to consider:

The diamonds listed above had been sold and no longer available. However, you can still click here to visit James Allen to browse through diamonds and interact with their intuitive 360˚ videos.

They are slightly bigger stones ( > 0.50 carats ) and both will face up white when set.

Hope this helps.

Hi Paul,

I’d had looked at the stones you had recommended. Aren’t J colored stones going to look slightly yellowish?


Hi Charles,

A well cut J colored stone will face up like a colorless stone. In fact for smaller diamonds, the color won’t show up easily. That’s one of the advantages for going small. When you combine this with an ideally cut stone, a J will look colorless even if you put 2 diamonds (say an G colored diamond) side by side for comparison.

g color diamond solitaire 4 prong ring appearance
j color diamond solitaire 4 prong ring appearance

A G color diamond vs a J color diamond in the chosen solitaire setting design.

However, you would be able to pick up a tinge of slight yellowness if you place a D colored diamond right beside the J colored diamond in a face up comparison. But think about it. How often would such a scenario occur in reality?

Would your fiancee be going around the campus and comparing her proposal ring with others?

For more examples of color comparisons, click here. In my opinion, maximizing your budget for cut and carat weight would provide you with more value than going for higher colors or clarity.

With all that said, it still boils down to personal preferences at the end of the day.


Hi Paul,

I see. Thanks for the insights. Between the 2 J colored diamonds, which would you chose and why?


Hi Charles,

I would pick the J SI1 as my first choice. If I’m being super anal, then I would say this is the option that is cut more precisely. If you look at the Idealscope and hearts patterning images, you’ll see a more symmetrical shape and better cut quality on this stone.

patterning of arrows and hearts on a diamond

Optical patterning that shows perfect hearts and arrows

The truth is, when you view both of these diamonds with your eyes, you will hardly see any major differences between them in terms of brilliance and sparkle. Since the SI1 comes at a better price and has better optical symmetry, I think the choice is pretty straightforward here.

Either way, you won’t go wrong with either of the stones or the D colored SI1 diamond that you first picked.


Hi Paul,

I can’t thank you enough for your informative advice. By the way, how do you make money if you are offering your time and advice for free?



It’s been a pleasure.

Please read this:

We cover our website’s operations mainly through advertisements you see on our website as well as referral fees. For example, we would get a small commission from if someone decides to buy a diamond through the links on our website.

Of course, you could bypass our website and head directly to JA to purchase your diamond. Note that the cost of the diamond for the consumer is the same even if you decide to bypass our website.

Best Regards,

Hi Paul,

Thanks for clearing that up. So, all I’ll have to do is to click the link on your diamond website before making my purchase to make sure that you get credited?

Please keep up the good work with your site.


That’s correct. Thank you.


For people who are shopping for engagement rings on a budget, I recommend checking out You can make use of their 360˚ videos to help you cherry pick the best diamond within your budget easily.

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  1. Louis-
    September 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I noticed a black spot on the hearts at the 9 o’clock direction. Does this impact the hearts and arrows patterning? Are there any places in the UK that offer affordable engagement rings for college students?

  2. Paul-
    September 5, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Strictly speaking, severe inclusions that cover up the hearts or block up a significant part of the patterning will not affect the cut precision or patterning. Cut quality is cut quality and inclusions fall under clarity which doesn’t have any relationship with how well or badly the diamond was cut.

    You could take a I2 or I3 garbage quality diamond and cut it to hearts and arrows standards but not many people would want to buy the stone because of the ugly inclusions.

    I hope this makes sense.

    For a more detailed read on the guidelines, go to:

    To answer your second question, if you are looking for affordable engagement rings on a budget, heading online is the best way to stretch your dollar. The vendors in US ship regularly to the UK and I’ve had many readers who bought from the US vendors with zero issues. If you want to strictly work with a UK based vendor, you can consider Blue Nile:

  3. Joe Ashton-
    September 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    This is a very nice and informative website. Keep up the good work.

    I am a graduate student doing my PHD and am looking for a engagement with a budget of $3000. My preferences are as follows:

    1) round brilliant cut
    2) must be sparkly and bright
    3) biggest carat weight possible. I’ll be willing to compromise on color down to a J grade.

    Can you help?

  4. Paul-
    September 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Sure! I dropped you a private email for further assistance on this.


  5. John S.-
    August 30, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    How much should a grad student spend on a diamond engagement ring? Do you have any idea what’s the average cost that other students are spending? I’ve read your article on prices and looked at the 2-3 months salary guideline. However, the stipend that I’m on is very little and even with 3 months “salary”, it’s still a very small amount.

  6. Paul Gian-
    August 31, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    If you are a graduate and still doing your studies, I don’t see why you would need to subject yourself to any guidelines on spending. You should buy what you can afford and here’s the thing. You don’t even need to buy a diamond ring for a proposal if you don’t have sufficient cash. Simply buy a symbolic ring or wedding band, And once you’ve started working and have more spending power, you could always upgrade to a ring you want at that time.

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