Diamond engagement rings are supposed to symbolize love, commitment, fidelity, and so much more, and yet their beginnings are rooted in a much less than sparkly past loaded with taboos and gender-bias. Perhaps the most ironic part about engagement rings is that every girl wants one, but none of us knows why.
With that, I set off to do some Internet research on the reason for diamond engagement rings and was well entertained (and a little saddened) at the history of the ring.
My favourite article was by Rohin Dhar, titled “Diamonds are Bullshit .” He weaves an excellent monologue against the marketing machine that made diamonds synonymous with love.
According to Dhar, we can thank our friends at De Beers diamonds for a massive ad campaign in the late nineteen thirties to tie diamonds to our concept of love via the engagement ring. The campaign was such a resounding success that within three years diamond sales had jumped 55%. He also says that as a result, eighty percent of women in the United States today get diamond engagement rings.
Of course he also raises the very true fact that diamonds are not an investment in and of themselves. (The relationship may be, but the diamonds are not). Our sparkly friends do not hold their value. Anyone that has tried to sell a diamond knows this only too well; they depreciate faster and deeper than any new car driven off a showroom lot.
Why do they cost so much then? The supply was limited by De Beers. When there isn’t a lot of something on the market, producers charge consumers more for it and consumers will happily pay for it because they think that they are getting something rare. It’s the law of supply and demand.
Only diamonds aren’t rare. There are new deposits of diamonds found all the time, and only through marketing and cartels are the prices kept artificially high.
What’s funnier is that we women have bought this hook, line, and bejewelled sinker!
Most women expect a diamond, and they expect one that is worthy of their finger. Poor men know that they will be judged by everyone that sees the ring: so size does matter. Though it is simply preposterous that men be told by the sellers of the diamonds how many months salary will show her the right amount of love.
Other writers focus more on the taboos including the abysmal conditions of the workers in many diamond mines, and they question why any woman would want a blood diamond or war diamond to start off their happily ever after. (At least Canada has a great source of conflict-free diamonds).
Other bloggers delve into the feminist side of the argument, asking the typical question as to why men don’t wear engagement rings to show that they are also proudly off the market.
I won’t get into the other reason rings were originally so important, but feel free to read up on “Breach of Promise to Marry” actions.
Perhaps what is most cringe-worthy is that men expect you to wear the ring for the rest of your life even if you had no say in its purchase. What if you don’t like it? What if you don’t want a diamond? Some men will even get upset if you drop hints as though their parochial/patriarchal right is being tampered with.
Ladies, imagine telling a man that you’re going to pick out something that they will have to wear for the rest of their lives, completely without consulting them. Perhaps you can offer to choose a tattoo for them?
(That crashing sound is the lead balloon hitting the ground at high velocity.)
Forget the tattoo, how about a new car or truck? Would women be encouraged to pick out the vehicle that their man would ride to and from work in, day in, day out? Can you already see the fumes emanating from their ears at the thought that they’d get no choice in the colour, features, make, or model? And yet, a car is traded in after five to fifteen years, but a diamond is … forever.
We have to challenge common practice with common sense. Sometimes diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend.