11 Unique (and Affordable!) Alternatives to Diamond Engagement Rings

engagement ring alternatives
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Wanna get hitched? Congrats!

But before you go out and blow two months’ salary on a diamond engagement ring, don’t forget to think outside that little black box.

Yes, diamonds are beautiful, and yes, they’re what many people want — but if your beloved likes to buck convention, or is a true penny hoarder, they may want something a little different.

Not only are diamond engagement ring alternatives unique, they’re often more affordable — which means you’d have extra money to put towards your wedding, student loan debt or a big trip (exotic honeymoon, maybe?).

That being said, if you want your sweetheart to say yes, propose with more than just the question itself.

Here are some unique (and affordable!) ideas:

Cheaper Alternatives to Diamond Engagement Rings

Women (but not men) have worn wedding rings since ancient Egypt; their circular shape symbolizes eternity.

However, diamond engagement rings only came about as the result of an advertising campaign by — you guessed it — the diamond industry.

If you and your betrothed want to wear rings, but you don’t necessarily want to buy a diamond engagement ring, here are some alternatives:

1. Do It Yourself

What’s more romantic than (literally) forging your commitment with your own two hands? DIY wedding bands have become a popular option in recent years.

A Wedding Ring Experience has 11 locations throughout the US, and three more in Europe.

You’ll design and create your ring with the help of a master jeweler; packages range in price from $995-$2,798, depending on the type of metal you choose.

“Couples are only limited by their own imaginations,” wrote co-owner John Rose in an email.

If they’re not available in your area, a local jeweler might offer a similar workshop. Do a quick Google search for “make your own wedding rings” in your city.

2. Find a Family Heirloom

Most people would be flattered to receive a ring that’s been in your family for a long time.

Ask your parents, grandparents and other relatives if they have any jewelry they’d be willing to part with in your quest for everlasting love.

If the ring is outdated or the wrong size, your local jeweler can help you make it perfect. Or, you could take diamonds (or other gemstones) out of a necklace or earrings and put them in a ring.

Don’t have a trusted local jeweler? Check out Sequel, which specializes in transforming old stones into new pieces.

3. Buy a Vintage Ring

Does your partner love antiques and vintage clothing? Chances are they’d love a vintage ring.

Scope out local pawn shops and flea markets, or check eBay, Etsy, Trumpet & Horn, The One I Love, Erstwhile Jewelry, Brilliant Earth, Doyle & Doyle or Erica Weiner.

4. Look for Alternative Stones

Diamonds are far from the only stone in the world.

In fact, more than 200 gemstones exist, and many are just as beautiful as diamonds!

Even better? Many are also cheaper.

You could check with family members or your local jeweler, or try a specialty site like Gemvara, which has a wide selection of gorgeous alternate-gemstone rings.

5. Get Ring Tattoos

What’s the one ring you can’t take off or give back? One made of ink.

As tattoos have grown more popular among millennials, so have inked rings — especially for people who work with their hands (think: construction workers, fishermen, etc).

Need ideas for a romantic engagement tattoo? Here are 40.

6. Engrave a Wedding Band

If your partner is a no-frills kind of person, they might prefer a simple wedding band — no bling necessary.

To make it special, engrave the inside of the band with a special message between you two.

Find basic wedding bands at your local jeweler or on Etsy. Buy two, so you can match!

Fun Alternatives to Engagement Rings

If you really want to veer off the beaten path, forgo the engagement ring completely and propose with a gift, experience or investment your partner will love.

7. Take a Pre-Wedding Vacation

Adventurous partners would probably be psyched to receive a pair of plane tickets to their dream destination.

Plan your romantic getaway, then propose with a trinket (postcard, snowglobe, guidebook, etc.) that symbolizes the destination.

Some friendly advice: Don’t wait until the vacation to propose. Or, if you really want to propose in your special destination, do it on the first day or night. The sooner you ask, the sooner you can enjoy your engagement (and time away) stress-free.

8. Adopt a Pet

I’ve had several friends say they want “engagement puppies” instead of rings. Who knows if it’s true …

But a new pet would be an adorable way to start your family together.

If at all possible, adopt (don’t buy) your new addition; browse available cute critters on a site like Petfinder.

9. Commission Original Artwork

Is your sweetheart an art aficionado? Commission some original artwork that represents your love and future.

We found great ideas on Etsy, including a watercolor portrait, custom illustration and hand drawn love map.

10. Make a Down Payment on a House

Depending on where you live and how much you were planning to spend, a down payment on a house might not cost much more than a diamond ring.

Of all the options, this is probably the smartest financial move.

Plus, what’s more meaningful than investing in your first home together?

11. Purchase a Timeshare

Not ready to put down roots, but want to invest in something you’ll use forever? How about a timeshare?

Shared vacation rentals typically cost around $16,000 and are a good excuse to go on a honeymoon every year you’re married.

As you can see, diamonds aren’t the only way to express your love and commitment. Don’t be afraid to propose in a way that’s uniquely (and beautifully) you!

Your Turn: Do you like diamond engagement rings? Or would you prefer an alternative?

Disclosure: We appreciate you letting us include affiliate links in this post. It helps keep the beer fridge stocked in The Penny Hoarder break room.

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.