When Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel proposed to Miranda Kerr last July, the model lit up Instagram with a shot of her new diamond.
But no sooner had she shared her priceless personal joy (“I said yes!!!”) than it was being dissected in commercial terms.
Depending on which Google variations and engagement ring calculators—yes, that’s a thing—you’ve read, an engagement ring should cost two or three months’ salary.
That meant when it was estimated Kerr’s four carat rock cost $197,000, celebrity watchers felt the world’s youngest billionaire’s ring-to-wallet equation didn’t stack up.
Truth is, it’s nobody’s business how much Spiegel spent.
There are no hard and fast rules other than engagements should be about what the occasion represents.
Men don’t always have to be the ones proposing, and they don’t always have to do it with a chunk of jewellery.
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But at a time when house prices are soaring and salaries aren’t, if modern couples want to put a ring on it, what is acceptable engagement etiquette?
Can you put a price on love without being crass?
A 2017 Australian online survey found couples spend an average of $6143 on an engagement ring.
That sounds “low”, says Nicola Cerrone, founder of Cerrone Jewellers. “Our average spend is higher.”
There’s “not really” a sum that’s prudent to spend on a ring, says Mr Cerrone. “Everyone wants quality, but ultimately it’s what they feel most comfortable with.”
Still, he admits, “Social media has put significant pressure on what is expected from a ring and is pushing people to spend a bit more than they would have a few years ago.”
Before Gold Coast technician Nathan Christos, 32, proposed to teacher Mallory Lowe last November, he spent four months researching rings and became “an amateur expert” on the four Cs of diamond buying—cut, colour, clarity and carat.
You’re made to feel the amount spent on the ring is directly proportionate to the love you have for the person.
“What’s unwritten is you’re made to feel the amount spent on the ring is directly proportionate to the love you have for the person,” he tells The New Daily.
“The question is, where do you draw the line?”
Among women her age, “having a ring that costs the right money with a large diamond is very much a status thing,” says Ms Lowe, 30, who wears gloves to gym to protect her “perfect” one carat halo diamond.
“I admit I used to feel like that. But with Nathan, it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t have cared if it was a plastic ring from a vending machine because he was the right man.”
Angus Logan, managing director of Jan Logan, says the contemporary jewellery company “never” thinks of salary-to-spend guidelines when people are choosing rings: “If someone spends $3000 or spends $20,000, it means the same thing.”
About 40 per cent of Jan Logan clients commission bespoke rings—think unusual elements like black diamonds—and other trends include bill-splitting.
Says Mr Logan, “There are lots of couples coming in together so there’s a collaboration.”
Pressure to spend a certain amount and “guilt sales techniques” led Melbourne finance recruitment consultant Jonathon Prince, 35, to commission a 1.5 carat diamond one-off to propose to his now-wife Kylie in March 2015.
“Kylie sent me a pic of a ring she liked about 12 to 18 months earlier which I laughed off and told her I deleted,” he says.
“I used it as inspiration but went with my own design to the jeweller who made it, improved and refined it and we ended up with a great result.”
Executive assistant Kylie, 34, had dreamed of her ring “since I was a little girl,” she says, but “I didn’t have any expectation on how much would be spent.”
Still, she says, laughing, “I won’t lie—if the diamond was miniscule I may have been a little bit heartbroken.”
Was it worth the effort and expense? “I think so,” says Mr Prince. “We’re not materialistic, so to have something special that will be treasured forever isn’t very common for us. I’d rather that than a trip to Tahiti.”