The UK’s pandemic lockdown is seemingly coming to an end at last. With real wedding parties set to become a thing again across the country, a lot of us are deciding we like it enough to put a ring on it.

That’s fantastic news, of course. In fact, engagement rings, wedding rings or even the Big Day and honeymoon are all popular extravagances to blow a tax refund on. At RIFT, we love hearing back from happy customers about their refund blow-outs, whatever they are. When wedding bells enter the picture, though, it’s always an extra-special feeling for us.

We’re not going to get into the so-called “rules” about how many months’ worth of salary you’re supposed to spend on a ring. Is it 1 or is it 3? That’s none of our business. Our business is tax – and there’s a tricky little extra one that you might not even realise you’re paying.

What you search affects what you pay

Here’s where the romance of ring-buying starts going wrong. Even if you know better than to leap in and buy a ring without scouting around first, you could still be getting stung by your own search strategy. Obviously, given the amount of time we’ve all been spending stuck behind closed doors recently, most of us have got used to buying basically everything we can online. The jewellery industry’s wise to that, and they’re taking advantage of the way we search the internet to whack a huge premium on engagement and wedding rings.

The results you’re shown in a web search are designed to lock in on the type of language you’re using. Certain keywords will tend to steer your results in particular directions, for instance. So, when you’re hunting for a ring, it can really pay to be a little bit careful with the words in your query. By “really pay”, by the way, we’re talking in the region of a grand or more difference in the price you’re paying!

Search smart and save a grand for the honeymoon

Here’s an example. If you search the web for a “men’s ring” or “women’s ring”, you’re probably going to see a much wider range of items than if you insert the word “wedding” or “engagement” in there. Your search is less specific without those extra words, obviously, but there’s more to it than that. Specifying that you’re after a ring to suit a life-changing event is like dropping bait into shark-infested waters. In real terms, the jewellery you’ll be offered when specifying wedding and engagement rings will often be many hundreds of pounds dearer. One investigation found the following startling statistics:

  • Searching for “women’s rings” produced an average item price of around £200
  • Adding “wedding” to the search terms bumped that average up to almost £1,400
  • “Men’s rings” produced an average price of about £130
  • “Men’s wedding rings” came up closer to £800

Now, you might assume that the cheaper rings are probably just inferior “tat” – but you’d be surprised. In many cases, we’re actually talking about pretty similar items here. It’s just that the sellers understand that people are expecting to pay through the nose for “special event” jewellery. Essentially, when buying a wedding or engagement ring, we tend to look more at the price than the item itself. The more expensive it is, the more romantic the gesture we make by buying it, right? At least, that’s what the sellers are asking us to believe.

So, what we’re learning here is that it’s not enough to shop around when you’re buying rings online. You’ve got to think harder about the search itself to avoid little traps like the “wedding ring tax”. Wouldn't that money be better spent on the honeymoon, the celebrations, or your life together rather than an extra word on the description of your ring?

Again, we’re not your mother, or even your mother-in-law. We’re not going to lecture you on what you choose to spend your money on. Just keep in mind that the words you type into a search box can easily drag your results down an unnecessarily expensive path. Whatever ring you choose, make sure that you’re not playing – or paying – right into a seller’s hands by tipping yours too soon.

And make sure you check if you're due a tax refund  - an average payout of £3000 would be a big help for the big day.