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If he loves it, maybe he shouldn’t put a ring on it. Perhaps he should instead find a worthy way to show that he is committed to you–like investing in the relationship and/or marriage itself.

Now before you ladies string me up in front of the nearest Kay Jewelers, check out this article in the Business Insider, which says that the symbol of you and your man’s undying love is actually pretty worthless and more a result of careful price fixing and marketing than actual value. More specifically:

We like diamonds because Gerold M. Lauck told us to. Until the mid 20th century, diamond engagement rings were a small and dying industry in America. Nor had the concept really taken hold in Europe. Moreover, with Europe on the verge of war, it didn’t seem like a promising place to invest. 

Not surprisingly, the American market for diamond engagement rings began to shrink during the Great Depression. Sales volume declined and the buyers that remained purchased increasingly smaller stones. But the US market for engagement rings was still 75% of De Beers’ sales. If De Beers was going to grow, it had to reverse the trend. And so, in 1938, De Beers turned to Madison Avenue for help. They hired Gerold Lauck and the N. W. Ayer advertising agency, who commissioned a study with some astute observations. Men were the key to the market”

The article goes on to describe a plan hatched by the advertising agency to market a De Beers diamond as the ultimate mark of one’s high socio-economic status in society. This changed the entire social construct at the time as such men began to look to diamonds as an extension of their manhood – and the bigger the better. And because of wildly circulated marketing material, men were compelled to spend a comparable one month’s salary on a diamond ring. According to the Business Insider, “It worked so well that De Beers arbitrarily decided to increase the suggestion to two months salary.”

Diamonds haven’t been rare since before 1870s when the only people rocking the bling were actual African and European royalty. However, the discovery of huge diamond deposits in South Africa followed by a monopolization of the mines by the De Beers corporation helped to bring about the inflated price of the so-called “precious” stone on the global market. Now when you buy a diamond, you purchase it at an almost 200 percent markup, and when you try to resell it, you’ll would be lucky if you get even half of that back.

We covet diamonds in America for a simple reason: the company that stands to profit from diamond sales decided that we should. De Beers’ marketing campaign single handedly made diamond rings the measure of one’s success in America. Despite its complete lack of inherent value, the company manufactured an image of diamonds as a status symbol. And to keep the price of diamonds high, despite the abundance of new diamond finds, De Beers executed the most effective monopoly of the 20th century. Okay, we get it De Beers, you guys are really good at business!”

Personally, I find the diamond engagement ring to be rather passe – even without the history lesson. I mean, if a dude is hell-bent on showing his intent to marry by his financial procurement, I would rather set my own bride price and give him a list of what I really want. Top of that list would be the payoff amount of my student loans. And it is my hope that my husband-to-be and I would be more creative in our branding of one another – perhaps even an actual brand (ie. matching tattoo). After all, marriage is supposed to be forever. And if I do get around to getting married, it will be forever or I’m not doing it at all.

Matter of fact, I haven’t worn, or even desired, any part of that stone since the day I learned the meaning behind the term conflict diamond. More specifically, despite the assurances from the diamond industry by way of the Kimberly Process, it is nearly impossible to determine which diamonds were and were not conflict-free. Suddenly, the egregious human rights abuses of mostly Africans for the sake of shiny little rocks didn’t seem all that appealing. Definitely not romantic – and no, I don’t care if he went to Jared…

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