Some believe the tradition of giving a ring dates back to ancient Egypt. The ring was a symbol of eternity, with no beginning and no end. In many countries, engagement rings were placed on the ring finger of the left hand because it was believed that this finger contained a vein that led to the heart. Most of these rings were very simple in nature, and it wasn’t until later years when a marketing campaign changed the future.
In the late 1940’s the DeBeer’s slogan, which is still used today, was created: “A diamond is forever.” Since then the price of diamonds has been inflated by an artificial perception of scarcity. DeBeers steadily purchased all diamond mines across the globe in order to control prices up until 2001. We’re still dealing with the aftermath. They are right. A diamond certainly is forever, as it’s nearly impossible to resell anywhere near the cost you paid for it.
A diamond is a depreciating asset that loses a large portion of its value the second you buy it. There’s usually a 100% – 200% markup on the retail price of your “rock”. Most retailers receive their diamonds from wholesalers. They don’t need to pay for those diamonds until they’re sold. This means that there’s no point in risking capital on customer’s diamonds. Retailers also don’t want to insult customers by making an offer that would ruin the perception that a diamond is a great investment.
Then there’s the notion of how much a man should spend on your ring. Asking most of my friends what is “appropriate” they reference the “three months gross salary rule.” This rule states that if a man makes $100,000 a year, he should spend $25,000 on an engagement ring. I had a friend who actually took out a loan to abide by said “rule.” This is ridiculous (sorry friend), as they still hadn’t bought a house and they both were swimming in student loans and wanting a family in the near future.
It’s not easy to go against societal pressures on this one. Nearly every woman on the planet has come to expect a ring as part of the engagement process. The first question many are asked after one of the most important moments of their lives are, “can I see the ring?” Is this the only reason that we still play along with these rules? Are we too afraid to confront the fact that buying a diamond ring doesn’t make sense to avoid explanation or judgment? (I’m not even getting into the moral issues surrounding the industry or commenting on the expensive celebrations that follow to celebrate the actual act of marriage).
Recently I got engaged (and married). We opted for plain white gold bands. I got a heart cut out in mine, as I’ve always loved hearts (on absolutely everything). We got them engraved with a matching message from a poem I wrote when we first started dating. We opted to have our own ceremony, as, to us, it was an intimate moment that we wanted to plan for ourselves, not anyone else. We are both successful professionals, but I didn’t need a rock to define how successful. I certainly would have never factored the size of the ring in saying yes, as many still seem to do.
No one in my life cared about the ring that much (or maybe they knew me well). In fact, many seemed to exude a new respect for not being like everyone else. It was tough knowing that many people in my life seemed hurt by my choice to not have a wedding. I took the time to explain our preferences and all seemed well. Explaining isn’t scary, conforming is.
Our marriage could be a day for everyone else, but in the end, we just wanted it to be a day for us. We went to the town hall, sat on the floor waiting for our number, ate Mexican food, walked home and snuggled as if nothing had changed… and it was just perfect.