The bling’s the thing…or is it?

Back in the day — by which I mean a period beginning shortly after WWII and ending sometime around the year 2000 when the United Nations General Assembly finally recognized the whole “blood diamond” thing — the recipe for getting engaged read, “Take one diamond valued at roughly two month’s salary plus one knee, and combine. Issue proposal thusly for maximum effect.” Screw you very much, De Beers.

You know, some gal out there would love this

I tend to forget about the whole business of diamonds for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t subscribe to cable or have an antenna, so my exposure to those nerve-gratingly annoying De Beers commercials is kept at a bare minimum. Two, most of my engaged and married peeps received something other than diamonds from their sweeties. And three, as much as I adore all that sparkles, I subscribe to the rather old fashioned notion that big bling looks best on ladies over the age of 50. Perhaps that should even be 60 or 70, considering that 40 is apparently the new 20, which would naturally make 50 the new 30 and so on.

So why am I suddenly concerned with mineralogical numerology? I read something yesterday in the online journal of a friend of a friend.

What is a diamond? It’s a pretty stone, but a really expensive one, and one that only means “I love you” because people think its absence means “I don’t”. With diamonds as the social norm in many countries, marriage is like a game of chicken – neither partner can broach the subject of not getting a diamond ring, because to do so would sound like less than total commitment.


So what do I propose? Giving couples a moment of clarity. Get both of them at once, and show them just why a diamond ring is a ball and chain, a vote for evil, a defeat of individuality in the face of advertising. Give them a chain of reasoning at the end of which is a different ring. And hopefully, before they quite know what they’ve done, they’ve told each other that they’re at least considering having a different ring. Point out to them that a diamond does not mean love, but defeat in the face of the everyday horror of the world. Show them that that accursed stone has no place at a wedding.

Strong words, eh? Human rights concerns aside, I’m neither pro-diamond nor anti-diamond. Please don’t gift me with a diamond with suspect origins — I say this because I know that about half of you were probably just about to pop some bling in the mail for me. In fact, I’d rather have a bit of moissanite, considering its laboratory origins and its superior sparkle.

What really struck me about the whole anti-diamond entry was this one line: “[a diamond] only means ‘I love you’ because people think its absence means ‘I don’t.’” While I’m not suggesting that we wedding enthusiasts take to the streets en masse to protest diamonds in general, I definitely think there is truth to be found in this sentiment. How many women grow up believing that a proposal must be accompanied by a diamond swathed in gold? How many are then disappointed to receive a sapphire set in silver, the pop top from a Coke, an onion ring, or nothing at all? How many others receive a diamond when they might have actually preferred emerald earrings or a nice watch or perhaps even a new washing machine to replace the old clunker in the basement?

In my always humble opinion the proposal’s the thing, whether it is accompanied by knee trauma, a huge rock, a six pack of Miller High Life, two tickets for a balloon ride, a brand new shiny pony, or the aforementioned nothing at all. As long as someone loves you enough to propose, the absence of any of the other common “ingredients” shouldn’t matter much.

36 Responses to “The bling’s the thing…or is it?”

  1. KS January 23, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    OMG, OMG…I think my new dream proposal now incorporates the Champagne of Beers, a balloon ride for two, and that amazingly awesome ‘two-carrot’ ring. The pony would be cool in theory, but if it’s like the one from the Verizon commercial I’ll pass. :D

  2. Tizzy January 23, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    When my intended and I started talking about getting married I insisted I didn’t want a diamond. Any number of semi-precious stones would do. But as we got more and more serious about it I realized that Disney was not the only coporation to successfully brainwash me as child. I thought I was going to escape because my mother never had an egagement ring. Then she went an told me that she was always a little sad that she didn’t get one. It was all downhill from there.

    I applaud women who don’t want a diamond ring because I rather wish I didn’t but I really, really do. I also own an alarming number of Disney DVDs for a grown woman with no children.

  3. srah January 23, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    I don’t like diamonds. The political implications are important, but when it comes down to it, I just don’t think they’re very pretty. To quote from Anne of Green Gables:

    “Long ago, before I had ever seen a diamond, I read about them and I tried to imagine what they would be like. I thought they would be lovely glimmering purple stones. When I saw a real diamond in a lady’s ring one day I was so disappointed I cried. Of course, it was very lovely but it wasn’t my idea of a diamond.”

  4. srah January 23, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    I should add, before I get jumped on, that just because I don’t happen to find them attractive does not mean that diamonds are not beautiful to other people. I am not – as much as I may believe the opposite – the Official Arbiter of Taste for the Entire Universe.

  5. Never teh Bride January 23, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    I’m glad I could inspire, KS!

  6. Pencils January 23, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    I didn’t receive a diamond swathed in gold, but I was fine with that, as I didn’t want one. At first I received a CZ set in silver, placed inside a lovely example of the British art pottery that I collect. In fact, I forgot for a few seconds that I was being proposed to, as I admired my new vase.

    And we replaced my CZ with a vintage aquamarine set in platinum. I think diamonds are beautiful, but there are so many issues with them. I’d only ever get a vintage one.

  7. MissPinkKate January 23, 2008 at 12:10 pm #

    You simply must post where one can get that gorgeous two carrot ring!

  8. Chloe January 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    I must admit – I wasn’t much of a diamond person until my DH proposed LOL. I am in the lucky position of living in a country that produces it’s own diamonds (Canada) and so I’ve got the paperwork on my ring that shows exactly wear it came from.

  9. Kate January 23, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    Just tell me *where* one can get a shiny pony, and I’m THERE! ;)

  10. Abby January 23, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    My husband proposed with a diamond ring that had been his grandmother’s, so it was special to me because it was precious to his family…but secretly, I would really have loved a horse. Maybe DeBeers will start a trend for the “10th anniversary diamo–er, horse.”

  11. Never teh Bride January 23, 2008 at 12:35 pm #

    For MissPinkKate:

    According to http://www.haboger.org/pictures.html, the two carrot ring was made by one Martin for one Elianna. But never fear, there are other carroty rings out there.

    The one carrot rings:
    http://www.larocksmagic.com/newstuff/11-01-06.htm#One_Carrot
    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=7310401

    The three carrot ring:
    http://www.dowrycostumes.com/Cart/StoreFront/product.asp?product=3392&ph=search&keywords=3,carrot,ring&recor=1&SearchFor=any&PT_ID=all

  12. jenny t January 23, 2008 at 12:36 pm #

    When my parents got engaged, back in 1980, my father bought my mother a trailer. They had been looking for a summer vacation spot (they are both teachers), and they found a campground community that they both loved. Only catch – they had no trailer in which to live at said community. So, instead of a diamond, he bought her a trailer. She said yes, and although the trailer is long gone, we have spent 27 summers up there as a family (in new trailers) and made countless memories. I recently got engaged, and did in fact receive a diamond, but if it just so happened that a trailer would have been offered, I still would have said yes. I know how an “alternative” gift worked out for my parents; I’m sure it would work out just as well for us.

  13. Audrey January 23, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    My BF was dismissive of my engagement ring, which does contain wee diamonds but was purchased cheaply off Overstock, because it didn’t cost enough. I seem to recall her saying she expected hers would cost several thousand dollars. She has high (and unrealistic) expectations. Hers probably did overshadow mine in cost as it contains blue diamonds and was purchased from a jeweler who assembled it at her request – but mine is dainty and makes me feel like a princess when it catches the light.

    I feel like I should “defend” my diamond engagement ring by pointing out that my wedding band is a lovely and simple celtic wedding band artisan piece that is sterling silver and cost all of $30, so they balance each other out financially and decoration/bling-wise.

  14. Twistie January 23, 2008 at 1:07 pm #

    Srah, I’m glad to know there’s someone else out there who discovered a kindred spirit in Anne of Green Gable’s disappointment in diamonds. That passage struck a strong chord with me, too.

    If Mr. Twistie had handed me a diamond ring when he proposed, I’d have accepted it, but I would always have been a bit disappointed. Luckily, he knew me well enough to know I would have a strong opinion of what my ring should look like that might well not match the standard expectation, so he didn’t propose with a ring in hand. It took him a couple minutes to feel sure I wasn’t joking when I pointed out that silver frog ring and said that was what I wanted, but in the end I think we’re both delighted with it. I love it because it really says something about us, and he loves it because it saved him a packet.

    I once saw a couple’s wedding web page where they had a link to a picture of the ‘engagement ring.’ When you clicked on the link, you got to a picture of the brand new computer he’d gotten her instead of a ring. While I would have wanted something more permanant than a computer which would be obsolete in a few years, it seemed to work for them, and that’s what matters.

    Diamonds, another stone, no stone, or something that isn’t even a ring…it’s all about what works for the couple in question. Here’s to individual couples finding the answers that will make them truly happy!

  15. Julie January 23, 2008 at 6:56 pm #

    This might sound awful but I’m prepared to defend myself. I didn’t care what kind of ring my husband got me as long as it cost enough to be a little uncomfortable…i.e. two months salary?

    Why? Because my first husband got me the cheapest ring he could and that sentiment only continued from there as my job, my money and my emotional sacrifices dragged us through our four years together.

    The fact that my new husband had to sweat a little to earn something nice for me meant much more than what that something nice was.

    If the bloke can’t afford something good or isn’t crafty enough to figure out something else….then he might not be ready to be married.

  16. Never teh Bride January 23, 2008 at 7:06 pm #

    I was with you up until that last bit, Julie. I personally don’t believe that not having the spare cash for a ring (or whatever) is an indication that a fellow isn’t ready to be married.

    My grandparents–who have been married forever–were as poor as church mice when they tied the knot, which meant no engagement ring, cheap wedding bands, etc. I don’t think my grandfather as any less ready to be married because of that.

    That said, I sure wouldn’t want to marry a miserly man! However, in my mind there’s a big difference between being miserly and being frugal or practical with money.

    But there’s no need for you to defend yourself ;-) I prefer to stand squarely in the YMMV camp! If that’s what’s important to you, that’s what’s important to you.

  17. Jennie January 23, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    Large diamonds seem to be status symbols rather than a true expression of love. I would rather have a nice house or memorable honeymoon. The cz’s and other artificial stones are now so real looking only highly trained gemologist can tell the difference. I know because I wear a cz set that always gets comments. One of my biggest clients even told me that she was so jealous because she always wanted a Harry Winston!

  18. dr nic January 23, 2008 at 7:58 pm #

    I told my DH that I didn’t want a diamond engagement ring. At the time I had two inherited family diamond rings and I’ve always been rather meh on diamonds. My birthstone is garnet and I’ve always found them beautiful. So my engagement ring was a garnet set in gold that I saw at a local art festival (he snuck back and bought it). Another of my friends got an onyx ring and another has an emerald. Diamonds aren’t everything. A lump of compressed coal that has been marketed to the masses does not equal love.

  19. E January 24, 2008 at 12:06 am #

    I’d love to get married one day, but I’m not sure what to do… The problem is that I hate rings. I don’t have very nice hands and would rather not draw attention to them. See, my hands are very long and not very feminine. Oh, and I’m stuck with very large knuckles, so it makes rings very uncomfortable. They need to be rather large to accomodate the knuckle, but then, they’re too big for the part of the finger where they’re supposed to sit. Plain rings are slightly better (as there is no stone to end up upside down or lopsided), but they’re still a pain. What am I to do? I was thinking about wearing my wedding ring attached to a necklace… but it’s just not the same, is it?

  20. Never teh Bride January 24, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    E: What’s not the same about it? Sure, some people who believe that you simply caaaaan’t get married without a ring will voice their confusion, but most people will think it’s really cool that your fiance got you something you’d actually like as an engagement present. And a lot of folks don’t wear wedding rings for whatever reason. A techie uncle of mine stopped wearing his after he melted the third one while working inside a computer! Some people just don’t like rings! Like I said, the bling’s not the thing…

  21. Ninjarina January 24, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    ITA NtB!

    Especially w/ the part about bling only looking good on women 50+; I always felt that lavish things like diamonds, pearls, furs, and luxury cars only look good on the wife of a rich, well-established man. A blushing bride has youth on her side but I think the right to show off the fruits of a stable partnership should be reserved for older women b/c as we all know, behind every successful man is an equally smart woman.

    Also, I told my bf what I wanted in a promise ring (I do not want an engagement ring, just a simple wedding band will do) – a small pink sapphire, princess cut, set on a simple Russian gold band. The pink of the sapphire and the pink of the Russian gold looks really good on my warm-toned skin (we tried some rings out), much better than a traditional diamond would.

  22. C* January 24, 2008 at 11:55 am #

    I have a Canadian diamond as well and I really love it. I think there is something timeless about diamonds but I am all for being conscious about where they came from and how they entered the market. We looked at all kinds of diamond alternatives from white sapphires, to moissanite, to a pale, pale tanzanite before we found my Canadian Asscher cut stone.

    If any of you have purchased (or been given) any diamond jewlery between Jan. 1, 1994 and March 31, 2006 check out http://www.diamondsclassaction.com and file a claim to get a refund from the lawsuit against DeBeers. Apparently they had an illegal monopoly on diamond sales during those years (is that really surprising at all?).

  23. class-factotum January 24, 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    I don’t care for rings, either, for the same reason as E — they don’t look good on my pudgy little fingers with the spade-shaped, will not grow long fingernails. Also, I do a lot of things with my hands (gardening, etc) that are easier to do without a ring.

    My fiance has accepted that I don’t want a ring. I have suggested that if he wants to spend a lot of money, I’d rather take a fabulous trip to Paris.

    I do, however, like diamonds, and wear the diamond earrings he got for me every chance I get.

  24. Pencils January 24, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    Is the “two month’s salary” thing supposed to be before or after taxes? Gross or net? It does make a big difference. If my husband had bought me a diamond ring worth two month’s gross salary, I’d be very uncomfortable wearing such a valuable thing around every day. We’re not rich or anything, we live in the NYC metro area where the cost of living is very high, and salaries are commensurably higher.

    I do think an engagement ring should cost a significant sum of money, as it’s the symbol of a significant commitment. However, “significant” means very different things to different couples. I don’t think men should go into serious debt for an engagement ring, and I also don’t think that they should suffer for it. And I don’t believe that not wanting to spend a huge amount on a ring means a man isn’t ready for marriage. It just might mean that he has different values and doesn’t believe the DeBeers hype. Before anyone gets married, they should make sure that they have similar values.

    BTW, my best friend got a computer as her engagement present. At the time, it seemed like a great gift, very “them.” However, that was nearly ten years ago, and that computer is long gone. Which is too bad, as their marriage is still going strong. I don’t think an engagement gift has to be a ring, but I do think it should be something that lasts, not something like a computer that will be obsolete in a few years. It’s supposed to symbolize the relationship, and be enduring.

  25. ash January 24, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    I always thought it unfair that only the female half is expected to receive such a showy present. I’ll pass on the diamonds for matching bands and a house down payment.

  26. Nariya January 24, 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    My diamond was also a family heirloom. It belonged to my fiance’s great-great-grandmother… of course, the reason her husband gave it to her was as an apology for cheating on her! Anyway, that makes no nevermind to me. This ring matters to me because my fiance wanted to give me something beautiful and lasting without breaking the bank (and I do think diamonds are beautiful), and his mother wanted to welcome me into their family. Receiving such a huge present from her was an honor, and I’m glad he didn’t go out and spend thousands on a rock. To me, this one is more valuable than a newly bought diamond by far. It’s a little scary, having something so valuable around, but I try to take good care of it!

  27. Never teh Bride January 24, 2008 at 11:08 pm #

    That’s pretty much what I ended up with, Ash! I did get two rings, in fact, but they were both under a hundred bucks, and I like how my plain band looks better. The Beard could have bought me some fabulous bling, but he was saving it for the house we now live in, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

  28. sterlingspider January 25, 2008 at 8:31 pm #

    I don’t think the ring is as important as concrete proof that the proposer has thought long and hard about what they are doing. To me an engagement gift should signify the weight of the decision.

    I have been in so many relationships where my SO has said “sure one day we’ll be married” and yet they are long gone, so to at this point words like that are no better then pillow talk. Words are easy as it gets, but diamond rings (or a new boiler, or that perfect pair of earrings, or the scuba kit they’ve always dreamed of) are a sign that someone has probably thought long and hard about what they’re saying.

    In engagement gifts, probably more then anything else, it really really is the thought that counts.

  29. Julie January 25, 2008 at 9:29 pm #

    I agree with Ash. I got my husband some “engagement power tools.”

    Baby, with this angle grinder I thee wed.

  30. Johanna January 26, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    I just have to comment on this, too, as I have a very beautiful, cheap, silver ring on my ring finger. Well, not cheap as it is a design from one of the most famous jewelry manufacturers in my country, http://www.kalevalakoru.fi/korut/kuvasto/rings/1271?language=en (check it out, they have some really wonderful designs), but it cost less than an average trip to the grocery store.

    When we decided to get married, we both agreed that diamonds, as beautiful, traditional and lasting as they might be, will not be embellishing our engagement rings. The value of the stones, in my opinion, is overrated, since they no longer are rare, and since the proficiency of the cut cannot be judged by the naked civilian eye. I won’t even go to the “supporting illegal weapons” bit..

    I might have accepted a laboratory-made gem to shine across the room so everyone could see I was spoken for, but as I am the clumsiest person I know, we thought there should be nothing potentially detachable in the ring. We believe our love is lasting no matter what might happen with the ring, but it would be a shame to break or lose an expensive piece of jewelry.

    I was surprised that many of the salespeople frowned at my boyfriend, as I inquired about titanium rings, like it was somehow still important to spend the two-month-salary to be worthy of the bride. I know he has the funds to support me if I ever have the need, buy me gifts and he even suggested getting me a new macbook as an engagement gift (something I really needed), but I was satisfied with just something pretty as a mark for this event.

    Finally we found the perfect designs, and the shopkeeper was so nice she admitted the 10 times more expensive white gold version did not look as nice on my hand as the silver one. We will later design matching wedding rings and have them made out of titanium to be worn with these ones, as we really don’t think traditions or trends should be more important than our happiness and lives together.

    (http://pikkumei.net/mein/kuvii/kihla/5826.jpg)

  31. de January 28, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    The boyfriend made a comment once about how much he’d be willing to spend on an engagement ring “should there come a day” (at least $1500 or so he said)….and I literally gagged. I told him he would NOT be spending all that money on a piece of jewelry just for me, and that I’d be afraid to wear it! Not because of theft, but because I am clumsy and forgetful and I’d be terrified of what I would do to such a piece!! Would he want to have me living the rest of my life with him in abject terror?! And shouldn’t we think about better ways to spend this mysterious pile of money??

    I then showed him several websites that had rings I thought were stunning and considerably cheaper (as in, under $400)…..I think he was quite relieved to see where my “priorities” lay…

    (And no, so far, that day has not come. Who knows tho, who knows…)

  32. La BellaDonna February 6, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    That said, I know women who cared more about the ring than the man, and one charming BtB who made the young man take it back because it was too small, and get another one. It was “only” $10,000, some thirty years ago. This I find horrifying, and, curiously, reiterates the importance of the ring; it’s a litmus test for the bride, too. The man who’s engaged to a woman who insists on a ring that’s far, far out of reach, or the bride whose ring is “too small” – the man may ponder on whether or not the bride fits him, as well.

  33. Never teh Bride February 6, 2008 at 8:04 pm #

    Oh dear, La BellaDonna…I thought women like that only existed in the pages of magazines and in movies!

  34. mywhimsey February 7, 2008 at 11:27 am #

    Just a word in favor of diamonds, scientifically speaking: Diamonds are the hardest natural substance on Earth! You can wear them every day and never scratch or score them, they’re tough. A diamond in a platinum band is practically inert to most chemicals and resistant to heat (up to about 1700 C). Ooo and they make lovely lovely prisms. I can make sunlight refract dancing rainbows on almost any surface. So, yes, I love my diamond ring because I am a huge geek (and a chemist). But I also kinda like that my ring is tougher than any hard times we might go through; it’s an enduring symbol and one that i know will be around long enough for me to pass on.

  35. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    I think a ring would be for me the most acceptable thing to accompany a proposal. However, I’m not a diamond girl, so another stone would be beautiful. Maybe a yellow sapphire or an aquamarine. I’d hate anything pricey, being that I am forgetful and very clumsy!

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