Apparently diamonds are a girl’s best friend, or so I’m told. I can’t speak for everyone, but the closest I’ve come to a diamond is when my nose is pressed up against the glass at Tiffany’s, so evidently I have no best friends. At least not the shiny kind.
These coveted gems are usually found on a day to day basis on the ring finger of a woman in the form of an engagement ring. Possessing this ring gives women a cultural elevation above all the other ringless women, indicating that she is engaged to be married, which means she has ‘bagged herself a man’. This kind of thinking held more weight in the past, when women couldn’t work for themselves and were basically live-in baby makers dependent on their spouses. Society has changed a great deal since then, yet getting an engagement ring generally adorned with diamonds, has become a prerequisite for getting married.
The Knot Inc. conducted a survey in 2011 involving more than 10,000 U.S. brides and 1,000 U.S. grooms engaged or married in the past year. It found that the average cost of an engagement ring was $5,200, with 12% of couples actually spending more than $8,000. That’s not including the costs of the actual wedding rings, either. Evidently if you decide to get married you have to accept that you’re going to go broke.
Jewellery is a significant part of the wedding experience, but why is that so? Where did this phenomenon of exchanging polished gems come from? At one time it was believed that the ring finger contained a vein, the vena amoris, that led to the heart. This no doubt stroked the romantic sides of many people, leading to the custom of wearing the engagement ring on that particular finger. In fact, at my own parents’ wedding, my dad forgot which finger he was required to place the ring on and my mum had to subtly waggle it to give him a hint.
So how did diamond rings become popular? Well, in 1938 a diamond cartel called De Beers started a marketing strategy that had a massive impact on engagement rings. The price of diamonds collapsed during the Great Depression and at the time, market research discovered that engagement rings were out of style with the younger generation. A huge advertising campaign began in 1939 which boasted the slogan, ‘A Diamond is Forever’. De Beers persuaded consumers that an engagement ring was necessary and that a diamond was the only appropriate stone for such a ring. In 1939, only 10% of engagement rings had diamonds and by 1990, 80% did. This campaign completely duped consumers, and the effects of this campaign are still seen to this day.
The thing is, despite what the receipt says, diamonds have no real value. There are far more of them than we are led to believe, and they can’t be sold at even a fraction of their price. Before the De Beers discovered an untapped source of diamonds in South Africa, the gems were indeed as rare as they are currently advertised as. And yet in the public’s mind to this day, diamonds are linked to love and romance. The stark truth is that this ‘diamond = romance’ fantasy was created by the greed of a totalitarian conglomerate which dictated the price of diamonds for years and turned a blind eye to the slave driven people who mined them.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get your spouse an engagement ring at all, just that perhaps you could consider gems other than diamonds. After all, there are so many other beautiful gem stones that one could use, including topaz, sapphires, rubies, opal etc. In fact, some really ‘alternative’ brides even go for grey or black unpolished gemstones with rough edges or engagement rings with no stone at all. There is something for everybody and if you’re really planning on spending several grand on a ring, it should be something you really love that suits you and not a ‘generic’ diamond that’s marketed to everybody.
Here is a video that humorously explains the scam:
Would you buy a diamond engagement ring or would you go for an alternative gem? Do you care? Leave any comments below!