As a female in my late 20s who expects to be engaged soon to a relatively high earning partner, I can tell you that this sentiment is admirable and that those things do matter. My boyfriend and I are avid savers - I've saved over 30% of my gross income my whole career - but we also live in a fairly wealthy/materialistic urban center, and my lifestyle has creeped to the point where I love to indulge in luxury travel and designer shoes/bags. I have half-joked to him that he's welcome to buy me a fake diamond because I'd rather have a bigger down payment on a house, but I expect him to spend around $10,000 on the ring (I may be grossly overestimating, but that is my expectation). For context, we both earn in the low 6 figures, and many of our friends/acquaintences are married and have elegant but flashy diamond rings that appear to be in the 1.5-2.5 carot range. I have heard that men seem to be spending anywhere from $10,000 - $25,000 on these rings. These are people getting married in fancy hotels and buying first homes in the $400K range. Also these are mostly highly educated and relatively highly earning couples - or at least people with wealthy parents who are chipping in for the jewelry/weddings.
The key thing to remember though is that it's not what you spend that counts but rather what you get. If you go to Tiffany you can easily spend $20K on a "perfect" diamond that is barely one carat on a simple band. Every woman I know would rather have a ring from a no-name diamond dealer that costs half that but is bigger and looks just as good (it will have poorer clarity or cut or whatever, but few people know the difference). Do yourself a favor and get a 1.75-2.00 carat ring for her, whatever you spend (do yourself another favor and go to Pinterest and look up "engagement rings" for the most popular tagged ones). You don't have to spend a ton but spending 5% of one year's pay or $15K for you is probably reasonable. The last thing you want is for her to be embarassed to show it off (and she'll be asked to do so constantly for months if not years). Also for better or worse it's a symbol that says a lot about you both. And if you're running in those circles earning that kind of money you are going to look like a cheapskate if you buy her a tiny simple dimaond (unless you have a good story like that it's your great grandmother's or something). Besides do it right now and you'll avoid a ring upgrade gift request for your 2 year anniversary.
The reality is that many women spend a lot of money on their appearance each year - thousands of dollars on gym memberships, facials, underwear, makeup, hair coloring, accessories, even plastic surgery and weight loss regimins. Not to even mention the clothes and the shoes. Men don't realize or understand this, but to a woman who has spent this money willingly and happily for years - largely with the goal of finding and wooing a desirable husband in all liklihood - it doesn't seem unreasonable to spend a few grand on a decent ring that will represent the culmination of this effort, and which will have to be worn continually for the rest of our lives.
If the intended is too embarrassed to show it off - the fellow will have been smart to have dodged that bullet before even making it down the aisle. For better or worse, remember Meg.
Are you sure you're not from NY, Long Island, NJ or Staten Island? The above would be representative of the fashionistas or "wives of......" shows beliefs. Now I know there's inflation - when $10K has become "a few grand"
. BTW, there is no such thing as a perfect diamond - there's Tiffany's and then "everything else".
Here's the best part - if the guy buys the engagement ring and wedding band, for the various anniversary's he can then complement that nice ring from where ever with those diamond stud earrings you've been eyeing, a nice pearl necklace, the anniversary ring, etc. - see Meg, it never ends, because guys who are into "it" will spend over time much more than just a few grand in showcasing it.
Fortunately for me, my wife was very happy to come to the store with me - she'd never been to Tiffany's and I let her pick out what she'd be happy to show off for "years to come". (btw, Meg, after you've been married a year - no one asks to see the ring, they'll be asking when are you having kids
) My wife actually wanted a smaller stone, but I wouldn't have it - so we compromised.