The average American engagement ring costs $5,200. That's just one of the results of the just-released 2011 Engagement & Jewelry Survey from XO Group Inc., formerly The Knot Inc., and owners of TheKnot.com  and WeddingChannel.com . The survey polled more than 10,000 U.S. brides and 1,000 U.S. grooms who were either engaged or married in the past year.
Below are highlights of survey data, featuring average prices, carat weights, and more:
Engagement ring cost: $5,200
Carat size: 1 ct. for center stone; 1.4 cts. t.w.
Most popular diamond shapes: round (53%) and princess (30%)
Most popular engagement ring metal: white gold (73%)
Time it takes for groom to find engagement ring: 3 months
Wedding band cost: $1,126 for brides; $491 for grooms
Most popular wedding band metal: white gold (70% for brides, 34% for grooms)
Luxury ring segment: About 12% of couples spend more than $8,000 on the engagement ring
Luxury engagement ring cost: $13,500
Luxury engagement ring carat size: 1.5 cts. for center stone; more than 2 cts. t.w.
Luxury wedding band cost: $1,560 for brides; $731 for grooms
Other data reveals that just 14 percent of grooms claimed to have scaled down the size and cost of engagement rings purchased due to the economy, while 1 in 4 grooms spent more than he originally budgeted. Buyers are, however, still spending less than they did a few years ago; today, couples are spending just under $5,200 on the ring, compared with $5,800 for engaged couples in 2008.
Round diamonds are the most popular cut for brides overall, and they’re even more popular with 57 percent of luxury-buying brides versus 53 percent of the non–luxury-buying segment. Cushion-cut diamonds are also trending for 8 percent of luxury-buying brides (versus 3 percent of the non–luxury-buying segment). Nationwide, the luxury-buying population tends to be older, lives in the Northeast, and is more traditional: 77 percent of grooms proposed on bended knee (compared with 70 percent in 2009), and 71 percent asked the bride’s parents for permission (compared with 62 percent of grooms in 2008).
And whether couples designed rings with a jeweler or made custom changes to an existing design, approximately 2 out of 5 grooms (or 41 percent) chose to add personal elements to the engagement ring. Customization is even more popular with the luxury ring-buying segment; more than half (59 percent) chose to incorporate custom-design elements.
White gold is still the most popular metal choice for bands, though alternative metals are gaining popularity. In 2011, 27 percent of grooms chose tungsten (up from 19 percent in 2008) and 16 percent selected titanium, up from 13 percent in 2008.
Approximately 2 in 5 grooms (39 percent) purchased at least one of the rings from a local or independent jeweler, while 1 in 3 (35 percent) purchased at least one from a national jewelry chain. Nearly 1 out of 10 grooms (9 percent) purchased from an online retailer. No matter where rings are purchased, however, brides are helping to select their rings. The majority of brides (65 percent) are at least somewhat involved in the ring selection, with nearly 31 percent being "very involved"—meaning, they shopped for and/or purchased the ring with their groom. Additionally, 21 percent of brides will actually visit a retailer in-person without her fiancé, a decrease from 30 percent for brides engaged in 2008.
And while a proposals are oftentimes private moments, they are increasingly becoming more public affairs. In 2009, 68 percent of grooms proposed privately, while that number dropped to just over half—57 percent—in 2011. Perhaps that’s why 43 percent of grooms meticulously planned the proposal down to the last detail and only 10 percent of grooms “winged” it.
Lastly, brides aren’t the only ones with engagement rings nowadays. Five percent of grooms now wear “man-gagement” rings.
Additional information about survey respondents reveals that all were American, 18 or older, of mixed ethnicities, education and income levels, and were polled across 50 states. The survey took place in February 2011 and was administered by Digital Research Inc. on behalf of The Knot Market Intelligence Group. Topline data highlights from The Knot Market Intelligence 2011 Engagement & Jewelry Study are available at xogroupinc.com/tkmi , while complete custom analyses and reports are available for purchase by contacting email@example.com .