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