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Why I didn’t buy my wife a diamond wedding ring

October 23, 2012

Shanda and I have gotten a number of questions from people regarding this issue, so I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about our reasoning behind this (and yes, this was a mutual decision).

First, let me say that I am not trying to make a rule or law that people need to follow. My intention is just to put the information out there and let you decide what to do with it. Also, I am not attacking traditions just because they are traditions, I am challenging those things that we do without ever thinking about or questioning because “that is just the way it has always been done.”

Many people have asked if our decision had to do with so-called “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds.” The answer is no. There are a number of reasons behind this. The impetus surrounding the Kimberly Process and getting people to not buy conflict diamonds was the belief that diamonds were the cause of a number of conflicts around the world. Thus, if you could prevent these diamonds from being bought and sold then the conflicts would end (or so the theory went). However, this logic was flawed in two areas. First, just because groups were using diamonds to support their efforts does not mean that diamonds were the cause of the conflict. Instead it has been shown that conflict diamonds are just a symptom of conflicts, not the cause. Second, these groups, like most savy business people, have diversified revenue streams to finance their actions (drugs, diamonds, arms, people). So removing conflict diamonds (or any conflict mineral) from the table does not really affect them as they are able to make up the lost revenue by simply increasing some of their other avenues of revenue (for more information see this article by Laura Seay).

In fact, by the time the Kimberly Process came into effect, most of these conflicts had already ended. As for the Kimberly Process itself, there is plenty of research and evidence out there that shows that it doesn’t really work, 1) because the monitoring and evaluations of diamond companies is done by the companies themselves, and 2) because weak states lack functioning governmental institutions to enforce the process.

So, why didn’t I buy her a diamond ring?

Let me ask you a few questions first. Why do we buy diamond engagement rings in the first place? Why do we believe that “diamonds are a girls best friend?” Why do we believe that “you show her you love her by buying her a diamond ring?” And finally, why do we believe we need to spend two to four month’s salary on a ring?

Most people’s answers will be something along the lines of “that is the way it has always been done.”

But has it?

In a word, no. In fact, prior to 1870 diamonds were a rare commodity in the world and hardly anyone bought them. However, by 2002 total retail sales of diamonds around the world amounted to $57 billion. How did we get there in less than 150 years? It all has to do with two companies, De Beers and N.W. Ayer. De Beers is the cartel that has dominated all aspects of the diamond industry by controlling the supply, limiting competition, and fixing prices. How have they done this? They have sought to control every source of diamonds in the world, they stockpile all the diamonds they mine and only release a certain number each year and they only release to a very select group of distributors, and they have created a market that effectively prevents people from selling back their diamonds (ensuring people will continue to buy new ones). As for N.W. Ayer, it is the ad company that was able to convince the world that we needed diamonds:

“The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.”

“…Specifically, the Ayer study stressed the need to strengthen the association in the public’s mind of diamonds with romance. Since “young men buy over 90% of all engagement rings” it would be crucial to inculcate in them the idea that diamonds were a gift of love: the larger and finer the diamond, the greater the expression of love. Similarly, young women had to be encouraged to view diamonds as an integral part of any romantic courtship.”

The full article is well worth your time as traces the history of the “diamond invention” from the very beginning. As you can see, the illusion of diamonds as rare, valuable, and a necessary expression of love is  nothing more than a lie conjured up in a lab.

And that is why I didn’t buy Shanda a diamond ring. We are not interested in spending thousands of dollars on an object just because tradition dictates that we do so, especially when that tradition is founded upon a lie. Sadly, our culture has come to believe that tradition equals truth. It doesn’t. Doing something just because “that is the way it has always been done” without questioning why is an indictment on our society of how we have lost the ability to think critically and independently. If you think discerningly on this issue and come to the conclusion that there are good reasons to buy a diamond, that is one thing, but blindly following tradition (and marketing) is another.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2012 2:00 am

    Love it. I came across this article when I was researching diamonds for my wife’s engagement ring. It turned out to be a moot point because she emphatically didn’t want a diamond anyway… she felt like they were a waste of money. “Get me a CZ, I can’t tell the difference so it doesn’t matter!” she said. Love that woman 😉

    • October 24, 2012 4:21 pm

      Jimmy, thanks for the comment. I would be really interested to know her reasoning behind wanting something that looked like a diamond? Did she just not want to spend the money, but still felt like she needed a ring that looked like a diamond ring because that is what you are supposed to have? Or something else? This is not a judgement at all, I am just curious.

    • October 25, 2012 2:21 am

      honestly I don’t think we ever discussed her reasoning for wanting a stone that still appeared to be a diamond even though it isn’t. I’ll have to ask her tomorrow (when she’s awake!) because now I’m curious.

      To hazard a guess, it would be for a number of reasons (sparkly, pretty, matches everything, she doesn’t have a favorite stone or really color to speak of), but I’m sure that ultimately it will boil down to something along the lines of the, “it’s the type of stone that’s supposed to be there.” reason. I don’t think she would have felt any other stone signified the marital status as well as a diamond either.

      Plus if you have another stone, then you have to work to explain it to practially everyone you meet… which if the goal is to raise awareness of the diamond conspiracy (which is what I think it is) or conflict diamonds or similar issue then great. If you just don’t feel like a real diamond is worth the cost (like my wife) then it could get tedious explaining a different stone over and over again.

      I’ll get back to you after I get a chance to check with her though…

      You heard about this yes?

  2. March 9, 2014 12:41 pm

    Even though guys genuinely believe these things are mutual agreements, I promise you that in the back of her head she’s at least a little disappointed. She obviously really loves you a lot and you’re right about the feelings being worth more any rock can, but it for whatever cultural or societal reason, it means a lot in the simple fact that it’s a gesture and it makes her feel special. It doesn’t have to be a diamond or some big expensive boulder for her hand, but the experience of being given an engagement ring is invaluable, too.

    • March 11, 2014 4:14 pm

      Hi pnwuyco,

      I’m the wife, Shanda. I saw your comment and wanted to chime in. He didn’t mention this in the post, but Jon did give me an engagement ring. It’s a beautiful band that he thoughtfully chose and put a lot of personal meaning into, for both of us. It’s the thoughtfulness, symbolism, and meaning involved that make it special to me. Having a ring, just for the sake of having a ring, wasn’t something I was interest in. As far as the choice to not have a diamond, it was actually a decision I personally made before I even met my husband. I was thankful that, when Jon came into my life, he agreed with me. I actually would have been very disappointed if he HAD given me a diamond.

      I suppose that we’re fairly unusual in this regard, but… 🙂



  1. a numbered list | november, autumn, 20 posts, diamond rings… | … this grace in which we stand …

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