03/12/2012 04:24 pm ET

Rules Of Engagement Rings: How To Save On The Bridal Bling

When my girlfriend and I decided it was time to take our relationship to the next level, she wasn't sure what style engagement ring wanted. First, she thought something with a vintage look, then shifted to looking for a more contemporary flair. It took us five months to settle on a suitable bauble.

Understandable, perhaps, that it took so much consideration: That piece of compacted carbon has some serious life-altering implications -- and financial ones. The average diamond engagement ring costs $3,500, according to Ken Gassman, founder of the Jewelry Industry Research Institute. Wedding website puts that average figure closer to $5,000, but its calculation excludes sales from Walmart and other low-end retailers. But those prices don't appear to deter those in love.