Affordable Engagement Rings: Why Custom-Designing Matters

There are a lot of misconceptions about custom-designed engagement rings, not the least of which is that many people believe “custom” is a euphemism for “costly.” At Secrète Fine Jewelry, we believe that custom means custom all the way-- designed all the way to your specifications, hand-crafted, and designed to fit your budget.

Couples who wish to purchase an affordable engagement ring can benefit greatly from choosing a custom ring at Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, or Bethesda MD. Just because we’re a fine jewelry store with amazing, one-of-a-kind high-end pieces in diamonds and gemstones doesn’t mean we’re not happy to cater to every client’s needs. Every engagement ring has a budget-- whether you’re going big or going with something more modest, but you never have to sacrifice quality or craftsmanship with Secrète. Whether you’re young, still in school, or planning for other expenses like buying a home or doing a renovation, or if your style is simply not too flashy, you deserve to propose with a special engagement ring.


This custom sapphire and diamond engagement ring set in rose gold is a copy of a vintage engagement ring a client found online. Our master jeweler at Secrète was able to upgrade the sapphires, diamonds, and craftsmanship for the same price as the smaller ring she'd found while maintaining its vintage charm.

Here are the top five reasons to custom design an affordable engagement ring:

  1. It’s special!

If you go into a chain store at a mall to choose an engagement ring on a budget, you’ll likely be directed to a small section of “petite” rings with sub-par diamonds in generic settings. We take offense to this! There’s no reason your engagement ring shouldn’t be special and personal, no matter what your budget is.

At Secrète Fine Jewelry, we believe in romance, and sometimes, it’s the couples trying to do something special on a limited budget who have the most romantic stories! We’ll never push you to a back corner of the store to show you some cheap prefabricated options. We will help you design something unique, personal, and meaningful no matter what your budget is.

A big part of what makes jewelry special to us is the stories that specific pieces tell. When you think of the stories you’ll tell your grandchildren someday, you’ll be able to say that Grandpa designed this engagement ring for Grandma and put the time and attention into it that made it the perfect ring for her, you’ll be able to talk about getting it handmade especially for you, that it came from an artisan who knew you and cared about you. That’s the story you want to tell. No matter how much or how little you have to spend, a custom designed engagement ring will become an heirloom because of the care that was taken to create it.

According to Live Science, handmade gifts are psychologically proven to be more meaningful than gifts just chosen off a shelf, so take an active role in custom-designing your engagement ring. It really means something special.


This custom engagement ring was designed at Secrète for a young couple in citrine and emerald. She loves pineapples, and this affordable custom engagement ring reflects that bold, happy style. Their personal involvement in designing this ring will make it an heirloom story to last for generations. 

2. You have more options!

When you custom-design an engagement ring at Secrète Fine Jewelry, you have infinite options, even on a modest budget. Sometimes, going a little non-conventional can really help make an engagement ring more affordable-- whether you choose gemstones instead of diamonds, clusters of stones instead of one large flawless stone, or sculptural designs that rely on artistic shape more than glitz-factor, our designers can help you find savings through truly creative designs.

Some of our most beautiful rings are the result of thinking outside the box to help a couple with a tighter budget get an amazing custom engagement ring. Instead of delivering a compromised version of the ring you’re “expected” to get, you are freed to get the ring of your dreams.

You’re also free to bring in photographs, email us Pinterest boards, or show us websites that feature rings you like, whether or not those rings are in your budget. We can often recreate rings available elsewhere at a much lower cost. Because we do all of our work in house at the Bethesda Secrète workshop, we don’t have the overhead costs that huge corporate jewelry stores have, and we can pass on the savings to you.

Because Secrète has amazing relationships with stone suppliers from all around the world, including dealers of ethically-conscious choices like Montana sapphires and Canadian diamonds, we’re able to source gems that make any engagement ring a high-quality, personalized work of art.

While Ancient Origins traces the history of wedding and engagement rings back to Ancient Rome, styles have changed a lot. According to AGS, the first diamond engagement ring wasn’t made until 1477 and didn’t become the “standard” until the 1940s; so don’t let “tradition” dictate what you think your ring should be-- traditional includes rings of all shapes, sizes, and materials!


The cocktail ring and earrings in the top right were on display in the vintage section of Secrète DuPont Circle. We used them to custom-create this engagement ring, necklace, and earrings for a truly one-of-a-kind set in rose and white gold, with pretty diamonds and vintage details. 

3. The quality of the work

An engagement ring is meant to be a promise of love forever, and its quality should reflect that promise. When you’re shopping for an affordable engagement ring, you should never have to sacrifice quality-- can you imagine how sad it would be to save your hard-earned money for a ring, only to watch it bend, crack, and lose stones?

We’ve seen couples come into our DuPont Circle and Wildwood locations of Secrète for repairs, heartbroken because the rings they bought online for “such a good price” are literally falling apart before their first anniversary. Not cool.

Every piece of jewelry, especially engagement rings, should be crafted to last a lifetime. Sure, you might anticipate little repairs over the years, re-polishing, tightening prongs after a careless accident, or resizing as you age, but the quality of a custom, handmade engagement ring from Secrète Fine Jewelry will last forever.

Especially when you’re on a budget, it’s important that you get a lot for your money-- this applies not only to design and quality of the materials but also to the quality of the craftsmanship.


This beautiful aquamarine and diamond engagement ring in white gold incorporates an heirloom aquamarine from a grandmother's necklace and a small diamond from a mother's ring. We matched it with another diamond and set it to create this beautiful, elegant engagement ring for a lucky DC bride. 

4. You can what you already have to offset the cost

Secrète Fine Jewelry is so proud of the custom engagement rings we’ve made incorporating heirloom diamonds, gemstones, and gold or platinum. We reset stones, redesign rings, or offset some of the cost by rebating you for scrap materials. Even if you haven’t inherited the Hope Diamond, you may have the ability to reuse the gold from your great uncle’s class ring or reuse the ruby from your grandmother’s necklace to make your custom engagement ring special and affordable. Often, families are willing to pitch in, sourcing two little diamonds here and four little diamonds there to give you a start in the process. Our expert designers and master craftsmen will create something with your family stones that looks as if it were always meant to be.

Wedding sites like WeddingBee and The Knot offer valuable advice about reusing family stones to create something beautiful!


This classic engagement ring was made using diamonds from an heirloom ring and necklace that belonged to the groom's mother. Secrète was happy to supply some design aesthetics and labor for this young man to be able to use these sentimental and beautiful heirlooms. 

5. You deserve first-class treatment

Secrète recognizes that your proposal, engagement, and marriage are important, happy, and sacred occasions, no matter what your budget is. When you’re in love, and you’re ready to choose a ring, custom designing your engagement ring gives you a real relationship with the artisans who make it and lets you be treated like a king or a queen in the process.

Whether you visit us in Washington, DC, or Bethesda, we give special attention to our engagement clientele. Whether you’re in the early stages of the design process with one of our team members or sipping a glass of champagne with us when you’ve finally made up your mind, you’ll feel the difference between the small family-owned business we run and our big, corporate competitors.

When you’re shopping for an affordable engagement ring, going custom gives you a richer, more personal, more relaxed experience than you can get browsing the sale section at a chain-store or shopping on a budget at an overpriced boutique. Courtesy and celebration shouldn’t be reserved for big-ticket sales, and we believe you deserve to have a first-class experience when shopping for an engagement ring for the love of your life.

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These beautiful modern rings incorporate diamonds-- rough and polished, fancy color and white-- in sleek brushed gold designs. Available at Secrète in Washington, DC. 

To get started on your custom designed engagement ring, contact us or visit one of our stores today!