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Nov 04 2013

Avoid the racket

Tauriq Moosa has a righteously indignant article on diamonds and engagement rings. Diamonds are rocks with industrial utility, but we’ve been fed this horrible line of propaganda that they’re essential geegaws for lining the bower to attract a mate; it’s an incredibly dumb myth, leading to much waste and obscene profits to a monopoly. Meanwhile, the whole engagement/wedding ring ritual is absurd: jewelers have unilaterally declared that the rule of thumb is that you should spend three month’s income on an engagement ring…and people actually fall for it. Why three months? I don’t know. Maybe because the jewelers thought it was the maximum they’d be able to bilk the rubes out of.

When my wife-to-be and I decided to get married, we went to the local jeweler and spent about $100 on plain gold bands, simple and adequately symbolic. We would not have spent more, because we were already committed to a freakin’ partnership, and sinking more into a pointless status symbol would have been a reckless waste of our mutual funds. I wasn’t buying her, I wasn’t trying to impress her into thinking I was rich (we knew exactly what we were each worth financially, and that didn’t matter), and tying up our limited capital in a useless rock was not part of the agenda.

Also, Moosa says he’s giving a man’s perspective — but it’s also a sensible woman’s perspective. My wife was even more insistent on keeping our little tokens appropriately priced than I was.

90 comments

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  1. 1
    Inaji

    We didn’t bother with rings at all. I like rings, and wear a lot of them, all silver. I don’t care for gold, and I have never seen the attraction of diamonds. Mister can’t wear rings, given his type of work, and I prefer to wear rings I actually like, rather than something worn to declare my relationship status to the world.

  2. 2
    ftltachyon

    Why three months? I don’t know. Maybe because the jewelers thought it was the maximum they’d be able to bilk the rubes out of.

    That is literally true. That really is the reason – they wanted a nice, round, large number. So they picked one and advertised it.

  3. 3
    ck

    And like the priest with the collection plate, the jewellers are very careful to stress that three months salary is supposed to be before tax.

  4. 4
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    I recall reading an article a year or two ago about how artificial diamonds are rising in quality, to the point where they are increasingly viable alternatives for jewelry, but at a very low price compared with natural diamonds. This, of course, would break the artificial monopoly of the diamond companies (which have vastly more diamonds on hand than they sell, in order to keep prices high). And so DeBeers was preparing a campaign to claim that diamonds are only good for jewelry if they have the — prominent, unmistakeable — barcode and serial number scratched in the side which the industry groups were proposing for natural diamonds, which would completely ruin the sparkly-ness of the stones, which is the only attractive thing about gems in the first place. And in their tests, people accepted this.

    Consumers, in direct contradiction to economists’ theories and Libertarian fantasies, are totally irrational.

  5. 5
    sadunlap

    Aren’t diamonds as common as dirt? Only the artificial practices of hoarding and no one re-selling them as they are given sentimental value by marketers will keep the price high.

  6. 6
    ck

    @sadunlap
    They’re not quite as common as dirt, but it’s not just the hoarding and lack of resale that keeps the price high. Older cut styles are appraised at lower values than the new cuts, so that keeps old diamonds depreciating. Add to this DeBeer’s practice of restricting availability, and you’ve got artificial scarcity.

  7. 7
    Nathaniel Frein

    Wife and I are looking into some nice titanium rings. We like the idea of rings as a symbol of our relationship, but would rather put the money necessary for “real” wedding rings towards something more useful, like a new car or computer.

  8. 8
    kestrel

    I’m a jeweler… and I totally agree. When you want jewelry get what YOU want, not what others are telling you to get. I personally don’t care for diamonds (although they are nice and everything) but prefer colored stones and in fact I personally prefer stones that are considered not as valuable. (Although, sadunlap, no. Diamonds are not as common as dirt. Most precious and semi-precious stones are not.) Yes, there is an industry that has artificially kept the price of diamonds high. And the sad thing is there is a very poor second hand market for diamonds so it’s difficult to get back the money you spent on them.

    Artificial stones (or man made stones) have always been viable alternatives. There is no real reason that the artificial ones can’t be used except personal preference. Did you know that even a trained jeweler can’t just look at a stone and tell you what it is? You need to do special tests and in particular one must use at least a spectroscope to ID a stone. So… if even a trained professional can’t tell the difference… ??

    Still though the natural stones hold more value in the current market. It’s all one to me. I just try to make things that people will love and buy.

  9. 9
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Well, and the diamond retailers/wholesalers’ complete refusal to accept diamond rings for sale at anything approaching their purchase value, no matter how short the period since the purchase. It’s a huge scam.

    I’m very glad that my first partner and I went with matching tattoos, and I still love mine seven years after the breakup; my second and I haven’t been able to afford matching tats, so we’ve gone with silver rings with fake green stones, I think it was about $100 between us. Was happy with mine, until i lost it at a soccer game a couple of years ago, but neither of us were busted up about that minor loss.

    One of the advantages of transitioning when I did (21 years ago) is that it meant that I had to be willing to break convention in all kinds of spheres we don’t usually do so, it’s made it much easier to break convention in other ways too, or to recognize its conventionality and choose the option based on whether or not it works for me rather than whether it’s expected.

  10. 10
    Leo Buzalsky

    You know…this is advice I could have used 4 years ago!!! Geez…

  11. 11
    snodorum

    A friend of mine spent just into five figures for the stone and ring. I congratulated him, but then I had to ask why so much. He explained that his fiance would actually have been upset to hear the price. It seemed like he wanted to spend more for his own sake. Like the more he spent, the greater the gesture. It wasn’t a mentality of buying her or trying to impress her. It sounded like he wanted (needed?) the financial investment be a reflection of his emotional investment. And I can actually understand that pressure, even though it is irrational.

  12. 12
    MJP

    Three months! That is just Macchiavellian. Convince people to spend loads of money on your product to both show off how wealthy they are and to show off how much they care about their partner, and present it as a non-optional social convention despite the fact that some probably-a-jeweler made it up at some point. It’s like the “I Am Rich” app on steroids.

  13. 13
    Jafafa Hots

    colored stones are rarer and prettier and were more prized than diamonds up through the victorian era, were the traditional stone for such rings.
    The whole “diamonds” thing was BS 20th century marketing.

  14. 14
    Suido

    Three months is ridiculous.

    My fiancee and I exchanged engagement rings, and as much as we did go for something shiny and spiffy, we both got the rings custom designed for each other after touring jewellery shops and getting a good feel for each others preferences. And we’re both damned happy with the other’s design.

    However, we weren’t just doing it for the look of it. We’ve been long distance due to work for most of our engagement and it means a lot to me to regularly catch sight of the gleaming, beautiful, ring while working.

    The wedding rings will be much simpler, not least because I’d prefer to spend money on the honeymoon ;-)

  15. 15
    Menyambal

    I found a pretty ring with colorful shinies in a flea market. It was the look of it that counted, to both of us—it’s good colors for her. The cost was not a strain—I would hate to be reminded of sacrifice every time I saw it.

    I did not know diamonds had such poor resale. That is shite, indeed.

  16. 16
    quartercalling

    I think the wedding industry as a whole is just gross. A whole bunch of items for a party that cost more just because of the significant term “wedding” is slapped onto it…Despicable.

  17. 17
    michaelbusch

    My wife and I went with titanium and nickel-iron meteorite (cut from the fall near Gibeon, Namibia). Affordable and suitably astronomy-geeky.

  18. 18
    chigau (違う)

    I like diamonds.
    And most of the coloured stones, too.
    They are shiny and pretty and almost as old as the Earth.
    Which is way cool.

  19. 19
    screechymonkey

    I seem to recall that it used to be “two months income” not that long ago. No doubt it’ll be upped to four within my lifetime.

  20. 20
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Yes, screechymonkey @ 19, but it won’t be any more dollars despite the extra month, given the wage trends.

  21. 21
    futurechemist

    When my husband and I got married, we each went with $150 gold-plated, tungsten carbide rings. Gold plating because it made the rings look shiny. And tungsten carbide because we’re both chemists, and there’s something geeky about saying our rings are made of Wolfram. (Also because tungsten carbide is more scratch resistant than most metals and I’m prone to bumping the ring into walls and stuff).

    We got off easy because we’re both men. At the jewelery counter, most of the men’s rings were under $1000, while the women’s rings were much fancier and some were near 5 figures.

  22. 22
    Travis

    I like jewelery but my tastes don’t generally seem to align with what normal jewelers are selling. I have a tungsten ring that my girlfriend purchased for my birthday because I love the colour and the weight of it. As for engagement rings, I would never, ever pay that much for a ring. I don’t know if I could date someone that put such a high priority on such a silly thing either.

  23. 23
    24fps

    My beloved has always had a thing against diamonds – he just doesn’t see the point in paying that much for something sparkly. So when he decided to propose, he didn’t buy an engagement ring, he found a friendly custom jeweler and they designed a pair of silver bands in a braided design that echoed our heritages (he’s Scandinavian, I’m Celtic in origin). They’re lovely and perfect for us. Then, when we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary he surprised me with a ring that he designed – it looks much like a solitaire engagement ring, but it’s white gold and silver with a beautiful dark purple amethyst. All of them cost far less than most off the jewelry counter rings and are so much more personal. Far more romantic, too.

  24. 24
    Paul K

    My wife and I bought our plain gold wedding bands at a pawn shop. It’s been a while (15 years), but I think we paid about $30-$40 each, and they even re-sized mine. Our total wedding costs were only a few hundred dollars, including food, flowers, and the space. The money that folks I know and love have spent on weddings has often been hard to watch, especially those times when they didn’t have the money to spare, or when it’s been fairly clear that it wasn’t going to last. (Thankfully, the latter was only a couple of times.)

  25. 25
    sugarfrosted

    @4 The Vicar

    I’m pretty sure there are quite a few economic models that assume that consumers are irrational. In fact any model that doesn’t assume this would be pretty terrible. I feel that any economic model that didn’t assume this wouldn’t be able to explain why bank rushes happen for example.

  26. 26
    michaelbusch

    chigau @18:

    I like diamonds.
    And most of the coloured stones, too.
    They are shiny and pretty and almost as old as the Earth.
    Which is way cool.

    Not really true, unless you’re talking about very tiny diamond grains embedded in somewhat-less-tiny zircons. Most natural diamonds on Earth are between 1 billion and 3.3 billion years old – as compared to 4.5 billion years for the planet.

    And if you want to wear something made of atoms that have been in the same locations relative to one another for as long as possible, go with nickel-iron meteorites. They’re somewhat older than the Earth (although by only maybe 30 million years). I suppose you could sieve pre-solar grains out of interplanetary dust particles, but that’s a bit time consuming if you want more than a pinhead.

  27. 27
    Jadehawk

    In fact any model that doesn’t assume this would be pretty terrible. I feel that any economic model that didn’t assume this wouldn’t be able to explain why bank rushes happen for example.

    most currently dominant models assume “rational” actors, where “rational” means “acting from self-interest”. In that sense, a bank-rush is entirely “rational” in the same way that the Tragedy of the Commons is: if you don’t do it, someone else will, and you’ll be worse off for not having done it, too.

    Maybe we really need to get away from the idea that “rational” is a synonym for “reasonable”; it’s neither traditionally (where “rationalism” is a philosophy in opposition to empiricism), nor in economics jargon.

  28. 28
    playonwords

    Well, as the modern engagement ring is a product of the De Beers marketing campaign back in the 1930s …

    Why not “poesy” rings (engraved with text)?

  29. 29
    LykeX

    Just googled some images of tungsten rings. They actually look pretty awesome.

  30. 30
    opposablethumbs

    The entire wedding industry is such a scam. We never did any of the (insanely expensive) trad things (especially considering the appalling symbolism) (and getting married at all, all those many years ago, was purely a matter of right to residency and/or citizenship plus tax status). We never exchanged rings, or indeed had any rings to exchange, though now I come to think of it we did exchange socks on the way to the registry office.

  31. 31
    Dutchgirl

    I seem to recall that the whole x months salary was based on the idea of the ring being financial insurance for the woman should something happen to the man. She could sell the ring and take care of herself. But you tell me the resale market is a racket too? Geez. My wedding band was given to me by my husbands grandmother, its plain gold, quite thin and inscribed to her from her first husband and dated 1942. He died not long after fighting in WW2. It fit me perfectly, and I felt so welcomed into the family.

  32. 32
    Ing

    Engagement ring was a trilobite fossil ring and was perfect. Our wedding was a DYI event at a local small old museum. We were married in front of a mastodon wearing a bow tie. Rings are simple bands that will be engraved on the 2 year anniversary.

  33. 33
    Ing

    We found the site “off beat bride” very helpful in planing a non industry standard wedding.

  34. 34
    Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    I’m with Screechymonkey and always thought that it was 2 months-worth. Which is still pretty ridiculous (urm, I’m not entirely financially responsible and this amount would really hurt).

    Almost makes me glad that I don’t really play well with others so any possibility of marriage is miles away.

  35. 35
    Sunioc

    Diamonds? Gold amd platinum? Feh. My wife and i both have stainless steel bands, cost about 20 for the pair on amazon. I splurged a bit on the engagement ring though. Sterling silver with a sapphire, cost about 60 on a discount jewelry site.

  36. 36
    Ing

    Also we found that if you go a non traditional or DYI route, vendors and caterers and the like are more willing to make a deal with you and cut you a bargain out of relief of not having to deal with typical bridezilla stuff.

  37. 37
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Sadunlap #5

    Depends what you mean by “diamonds”. Diamonds can be any colour, but the vast majority (if I remember rightly, about 98%) are brown, yellow or black, and normally flawed. Any colour in a diamond is the result of chemical impurites, and a colourless diamond will be pure carbon (in theory, anyway; in reality it may have low-level nitrogen impurities that don’t affect the colour). Flawless, colourless, gem-quality diamonds therefore really are rare; though not nearly as rare as people believe because it’s true that large diamond companies hoard gems in order to keep prices high. At Uni, my Industrial Geology lecturer told us that if supply ran out tomorrow, De Beers could keep supplying the jeweller’s industry at the current rate for the next two decades.

    Interesting factiod; people here have presumably heard of “Champagne” and “Cognac” diamonds? They are the result of the best marketing campaign ever. In the 20th century (might have been a bit earlier) a trend began to develop for coloured diamonds (called “fancy diamonds” by the jeweller’s industry), presumably because they were a bit different. The trend was mainly for blues, reds, greens, pinks; the colours you would expect, but De Beers noticed this and saw an opportunity, and started marketing yellowy-brown diamonds as “Champagne diamonds” and sort of orangey-golden-brown diamonds as “Cognac diamonds”. It worked and they made a shit load of money from colours which were previously considered useless for jewellery.

    Apparently they recently started marketing a darker brown colour as “Coffee diamonds”. I predict they will make a shit load on these too.

  38. 38
    carlie

    Was it here that I saw soundwave rings? That seems like a neat idea for a wedding ring.
    (They etch the soundwave of you saying something into the ring).

    We went the traditional route, as befit us at the time, although not the ridiculous months of salary business. I love my ring, but it no longer fits. Spouse liked his well enough, but it got lost in a move. C’est la vie.

  39. 39
    Doc Dish

    @Nathaniel Frein, #7; when I was getting a replacement wedding ring I opted for titanium. The ring is fine, if a lot lighter than gold, but the almost mirror-like polished finish was gone within weeks. You should be aware of this if the rings you’re looking at have a finish like this: http://www.beaverbrooks.co.uk/0004931/Mens-Titanium-Ring/p

  40. 40
    haitied

    I love bursting the self righteous bubble of those who are convinced they purchased a conflict free diamond. Although de beers can claim they no longer purchase these stones they certainly didn’t throw away the horde of dirty diamonds they collected for decades. You are putting faith in a system that has taken advantage of people for so long without a second thought. And even after the issue was brought to light you had sacks of diamonds being smuggled out of conflict areas to be sold out of countries that don’t produce diamonds.

  41. 41
    cartomancer

    For three months’ wages I’d want a ring that turned me invisible and gave me a direct line to the Dark Lord of Mordor himself.

    Still, at least I actually will be able to get married here in the UK soon. Now all I have to do is wait for my darling beloved to become available again and it’s all peachy. Can’t be too long now.

    Though I’ve always thought that if we do go in for wedding rings, it would mean so much more if we made them ourselves, each for the other. Neither of us owns or wears any jewellery – even watches feel uncomfortably restrictive to us, there’s just something we don’t like about things on the hands – so they’d probably end up worn on chains round the neck when worn at all. Neither of us has any formal skills in jewellery manufacture, but the symbolism of the act really appeals to us. I’d feel proud and touched to carry with me something that is the product of my James’s creativity, artistry and skill, whatever it looked like.

    Given that a wedding is an entirely symbolic ritual, it seems to me that it is far more meaningful when heavily personalised, rather than just going with the off-the-peg version. Those tend to offend my sense of aesthetics anyway. The central role of the celebrant is particularly irksome, a hangover from late medieval christian marriage rituals. I don’t want someone else in the master-of-ceremonies role, when the day is supposed to be about my James and myself – I want us to write the script and present the show between us, because it’s our day, not the celebrant’s. But apparently that’s not allowed.

  42. 42
    oursally

    Never did the engagement thing. When we decided to get married, we … got married. Just nice gold bands in three colours.

    If I had a diamond I would only lose it.

  43. 43
    Nathaniel Frein

    @Doc Dish, #39

    Thanks for the heads up! I prefer the brushed look myself, but I think wifey was looking at some of the shiny ones so I’ll pass that on.

  44. 44
    Tauriq Moosa

    Prof Myers, we’ve reached the point where you can call me Tauriq, I think.

    Thanks for the write up. (As I said to you on the Tweetybox, the “as a man” wasn’t my doing – but at least it’s got some “nice” comments from dudes who think I’m against all teh evol goldigging womin)

  45. 45
    Cuttlefish

    For what it’s worth, the story of the woman who was responsible for “A diamond is forever”, the tagline that sold millions of diamonds for De Beers, is actually pretty fascinating. A woman in the man’s world of advertising, not interested in marriage, let alone in diamonds, working on a propaganda campaign. They actually, in the De Beers company memos, used the term “propaganda campaign”.

    http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/07/26/diamonds-are-forever

  46. 46
    opposablethumbs

    cartomancer, when that day comes I hope you post about it on Pharyngula – maybe drop by the Lounge – because I’d like the chance to rejoice with you, and I bet I’m far from being the only one too.

    Instead of “investing” in a ring, wouldn’t it show greater caring and commitment to give the gift of training/education in something a person wants to learn? Would make a better hedge against loss of spouse, too. (as in, if that’s what the ring is supposed to be good for!).

  47. 47
    fergl100

    Sorry PZ. Sounds to me like you’re a bit bah humbug in this thread. Where is you’re romance?

  48. 48
    flex

    In another, FWIW moment, when we talked to our jeweler about titanium rings he said they were pretty, very popular, very durable, and impossible to remove from someone’s finger when they have been in an accident. Apparently they need to be shattered because they are too tough to cut with the usual tools.

    For all I know there are better tools available than what he had, but we ended up going with white gold (Thomas Covenant non-withstanding).

  49. 49
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    The ring I gave Wife when I proposed was, literally, out of a gumball machine. About a month later, we found a small diamond ring at an estate sale for about $30. Nice ring. Our wedding bands are plain gold, but our favourite rings are a matching pair of silver rings with “UBI AMOR IBI ANIMA” cast around the ring. If we had to do it over again, we would have started with those silver rings.

  50. 50
    ludicrous

    Carto @ 41

    “The central role of the celebrant is particularly irksome, a hangover from late medieval christian marriage rituals. I don’t want someone else in the master-of-ceremonies role, when the day is supposed to be about my James and myself – I want us to write the script and present the show between us, because it’s our day, not the celebrant’s. But apparently that’s not allowed.”

    See what happens? By your example you greasy footed atheists are just making the slope more slippery for everyone else Pretty soon we won’t be appealing to authority at all, Is that what you want?

  51. 51
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    I will discuss rings with Girlfriend when we get to the marriage stage. I want the visible symbol, but I’m not going to buy a diamond. I want to buy her something that she wants, something she thinks is pretty, and something that I can match and afford.

    @fergl100:

    Romance = spending a ridiculous amount of money on a pretty industrial rock only because a multi-million dollar corporation operating off slave labor says so.

    Really, is that what you’re trying to say?

  52. 52
    Doc Dish

    @flex, #48: That sounds like a myth: http://www.titaniumstyle.com/titanium_tungsten_ring_cut-off.htm http://www.cascadiadesignstudio.com/faq-cut-off-ring.htm

    @Nathaniel Frein, #43: I hope I haven’t upset the apple-cart for you. I can try and post a picture of my ring to show you the effect of a year’s wear if that would help? I wish I’d gone for the brushed look now, but the polished one looked so shiny in the jewellers!

  53. 53
    Nathaniel Frein

    @Nathaniel Frein, #43: I hope I haven’t upset the apple-cart for you. I can try and post a picture of my ring to show you the effect of a year’s wear if that would help? I wish I’d gone for the brushed look now, but the polished one looked so shiny in the jewellers!

    Oh, no, apple cart is standing fine. You brought up a good point that I wasn’t aware of.

  54. 54
    marcus

    When we got married my wife took the jewelry she inherited when her mother passed away and went to a local jeweler who helped her design her own wedding ring. She used older diamonds from her mom’s rings and sapphires that her brother had purchased in Thailand when he was serving in Vietnam, There was just enough gold to make a nice ring with some left over to help cover the expense of the fabrication. She got a beautiful ring that has real meaning for her without a huge outlay of cash, and it was responsible recycling, which made her happy also.

  55. 55
    Eric Riley

    Every time I see one of those commercials on TV, I turn to my wife and ask her how she would respond if I brought home a bright shiny piece of jewelry for her as a surprise… The response runs from divorce to slow dismemberment.

    My wedding band is simple gold, but it’s 22k and thick, very like the One Ring, in fact (except I have not performed the fire experiment, and wearing it doesn’t turn me invisible, so I won’t) but the size made it one of the most expensive things I have ever purchased (I’ve spent less on cars… Though I tend to buy really *crappy* cars). Even with that, my wife’s wedding set were both fairly simple – orange jade for her engagement ring, and a small band for her wedding ring…

  56. 56
    flex

    @Doc Dish, #52,

    Yeap, it sounds like a myth that they can’t be cut. I should have checked wiki before posting, heh. Even Snopes has an entry on it. All I can say is that it wasn’t that important to me at the time, so I trusted my jeweler without question.

    Thanks for the correction.

  57. 57
    Jacob Schmidt

    I’m under strict orders to never buy a diamond for my partner. Not because she doesn’t like them (they’re pretty little rocks, after all) but because she’s a geology student and she wants to find her own.

  58. 58
    dianne

    Yet another argument for not getting married. Well, unless you want to, of course. I find the whole idea that there are a bunch of things you HAVE to do for a relationship (get married, spend an inordinate amount on a ring, wait until a certain time to have sex, etc) to be silly. Arrange your life the way that seems best to you and your partner(s). If that involves a $6,000 ring and a $40,000 wedding, go for it! If not…well, I’m sure any reasonably happy and well matched couple can find something to spend their money on together…(Not that the average young couple has that kind of money: I’ve seen people go into debt to get the kind of ring and/or wedding they’re “supposed” to have.)

  59. 59
    Doc Dish

    @flex, #56: I needed to check for my own peace of mind after reading your comment. ;-)

  60. 60
    badgersdaughter

    My husband and I got married with plain, heavy silver bands. We knew they would lose their gloss and get banged up in wearing, and we thought it was a kind of cool symbol for how we ourselves would remain just as valuable and important even when the factory-floor shine had worn off our marriage and we got down to the serious business of commitment.

  61. 61
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I will speak in favor of the much maligned diamond–though not as an ornament proclaiming marital status. Every diamond comes from Earth’s mantle, and as such it carries valuable information (inclusions, impurities,…) about the conditions that prevail there–they are invaluable messengers for geologists.

    Since they are formed in the mantle, you only find them near the crust when mantle material is extruded rapidly (on geologic timescales). This also means that diamonds really aren’t all that common–especially larger diamonds (>2 carats or 0.4 grams). It is true that many colored stones–especially good-quality rubies–are much rarer.

    The hardness of diamonds is well known. However, they do have perfect cleavage–strike them a good blow along the right crystalline axis, and they will break. This is an invaluable in the shaping process–if you had to grind a diamond into the right shape, it would take forever.

    The “fire” in a white diamond is due to its high dispersion–the property where you have different refractive indices for different colors of light. This is why you have flashes of color from a white diamond. You mostly lose this with colored diamonds.

    Finally, the DeBeers monopoly hasn’t existed for over a decade. The Russians never joined the cartel. Nor have the Aussies or Canadians, who now produce quite a lot of diamonds. Yes, DeBeers still has a huge inventory stored away in vaults, but it isn’t propping up the price appreciably. What is pushing prices up is demand–both from a bling-infatuated culture and from “investors”. You see the same trend for all of the major gemstones (except emerald, which poses its own issues).

  62. 62
    teejaykay

    I’m of the same opinion. I was (and am) entirely against rings, but eventually I gave up even though I repeatedly pointed out that having a hand-crafted silver ring shipped from the States to here with the assumption that I was paying for it was a little… too much, given that I was living off student benefits. I gave into that but told wifey that she’s paying for her wedding ring and I’d pay for mine if it’s that important to her. I ended up with a 10 euro steel band. I scarcely even wear it — it gets in the way every time I make food or working at the family farm.

  63. 63
    aggressivePerfector

    Talking about wasteful uses for commodities with industrial utility, why is is still permissible to sell helium balloons for the short-term entertainment of children? Helium is not gravitationally bound to the Earth – once you let it go, you ain’t getting it back, and once it’s all gone, then, for example, no more MRI. No more cryogenics, in general. Bad news for medicine, basic science, and high-tech industry, in other words.

  64. 64
    Bronze Dog

    I’m not a jewelry lover or likely to get married, but if I ever felt compelled to get a wedding ring, I think I’d go for a custom job made from alloys of common metals. Okay, maybe just a little bit of silver and gold mixed in, but only if they make a really nice alloy with a common base metal. Just about any kind of stone is an option, and I don’t just mean crystals. I’ve seen some beautiful polished rocks at museum gift shops. Aside from the price inflation and blood mineral kerfuffles, I find the whole “gold with diamond” thing quite limiting. Marriage is about as personal as you can get, so why limit your options for personalization?

  65. 65
    gussnarp

    Three months’ salary? Is that net or gross? Seems to me that when I was a young man the rule of thumb was two months salary. So the cost of the ring is inflating faster than wages, I guess? The website with the three month rule of thumb also suggests a woman who wants her fiance to spend less on a ring should suggest that the money saved be spent on a bigger wedding budget….ARrrgggh!! You do not convince a man to spend less on a ring by telling him it can be spent on the wedding. You convince him by communicating with him about these things openly before hand. That’s a two way street, of course. But if it came down to arguing about it and either partner needed convincing, shouldn’t say, having more money for a down payment on a house be a better argument than spending more on the wedding? The whole wedding industry is fucked. Fortunately my wife agreed. I wear her father’s wedding ring, she wears my great grandmother’s, there was no engagement ring, and we were married at the courthouse. Then we bought our home.

  66. 66
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @Bronze Dog:

    Girlfriend has a beautiful smoky black gemstone on one of her necklaces.

    It’s polished coal.

  67. 67
    Artor

    I re-gifted my mother’s engagement ring, and I made my wedding bands myself.

  68. 68
    Menyambal

    Elsewhere on the internet is an ad for affordable fake-diamond engagement rings starting at $500.

    I don’t wear jewellery, rings or even a watch, so I made a wedding band out of something symbolic to us, used it in the ceremony, and keep it safely stored away. I suppose I could make a display case for it …

    The family’s teen got all emo about a black-diamond ring, and she managed to buy it. I figured the black diamonds were dark stones that were otherwise unsalable. Then the black peeled off. I didn’t see what was their real color, as the teen got all emo.

  69. 69
    Menyambal

    The ad I just mentioned has now showed up here. I thought it might.

  70. 70
    moarscienceplz

    I seem to recall that it used to be “two months income” not that long ago. No doubt it’ll be upped to four within my lifetime.

    Jewelry Industry to normal people everywhere:
    “We’ve upped our guidelines. Up yours!”

  71. 71
    Cynickal

    My ex-wife and I bought rings from a silver kiosk in a mall because we were poor, we like the color, and I might someday need to defend myself in hand to hand combat against a werewolf.

  72. 72
    mnb0

    Never had engagement rings. Then again I did not propose my ex-wife, she made very clear from the beginning that marriage would be our goal.
    You probably have guessed that neither of us is American.

  73. 73
    pinkey

    Another reason that men buy their women expensive rings to impress everyone *else* who will eventually see it on her finger. For many people, giving the impression of being rich (whether it’s true or not) is important. In that case, she’s proud to wear it and he’s proud to have her wear it.

  74. 74
    Yvonne Rathbone

    I would seriously reconsider a relationship with someone who bought me a diamond in a jewelry setting when there’s so many beautiful types of silica out there. Diamonds are for drill bits.

  75. 75
    geekgirlsrule

    The Geek Husband What Rules and I are both firmly against diamonds, for many of the reasons that have been listed above.

    My engagement right was a five dollar silver wire and black venetian glass bead ring we picked up at a craft bazaar. Our wedding rings are matching silver claddagh rings that cost $35 each.

    Been married 19 years, I don’t think the lack of monetary investment hurt our relationship one bit.

  76. 76
    robnyny

    I had a colleague who proposed to his long-time girlfriend. He presented the ring, and she declared the stone was not big enough. He ruminated for 24 hours, deciding between a bigger stone and an different girlfriend. It wouldn’t have taken me that long.

  77. 77
    don1

    While working in SE Asia I had built up a modest collection of semi-pecious stones from local markets. When my partner and I decided to get serious I opened up my collection and she chose two matching stones. We went to a silversmith in Bali and had them built into a rings we helped design. Civil wedding and a beach celebration among friends. That was thirty years ago and still going strong. Total cost of rings, wedding and party was around $700 at current rates.

  78. 78
    Rey Fox

    Sorry PZ. Sounds to me like you’re a bit bah humbug in this thread. Where is you’re romance?

    Right here:

    I wasn’t buying her, I wasn’t trying to impress her into thinking I was rich (we knew exactly what we were each worth financially, and that didn’t matter), and tying up our limited capital in a useless rock was not part of the agenda.

    Where were you looking?

  79. 79
    magistramarla

    Back in 1976 gold was a hell of a lot cheaper, so my hubby’s band cost $50 and my smaller one cost $35.
    The special thing is my engagement ring. It is a family heirloom that has been in his family for a long time. Inside the ring is scratched the name “Amanda” and the date 1871. Since there has never been an Amanda in the family, we think that the gold band may have been used as barter, since my hubby’s family had a clothing manufacturing business that produced uniforms for the Union army in the Civil War which had ended a few years before that date and later for WWI.
    A jeweler told us that the stone was probably added around the turn of the century, so we think that his grandmother was responsible for that. I treasure this ring and its history much more than I would some silly over-priced modern ring.
    I suppose that someday I’ll pass it on to a grandchild or great-grandchild, but I plan to enjoy wearing it for a long time yet.

  80. 80
    edmundog

    My fiancée was from a gold-mining town in the silver state, and while proud of her heritage, was also adamantly opposed to the current state of the mining industry. So I got her a ring made of recycled material, a silver band with a golden ball instead of a stone.

  81. 81
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    My great-grandmother’s ring was bought sometime in the early nineteen hundreds. It was a plain low-karat gold band, no stone.

    The story goes that her Young Man™ (to use the term of the time) had taken the boat to America and promised to send for her when he could afford a wife. One day, she received a letter containing the ring and a letter indicating what port she should sail to. She took it to a local smith, who carved their names inside it, then strung the ring on a chain and wore it around her neck on the journey, then moved it to her hand after the wedding. She wore it on that hand until she died in the 1980s (and yes, she was over a hundred years old).

    It is rather battered-looking nowadays, looks rather cheap, and the carving on the inside was definitely not done by a jeweler or someone accustomed to such fine work. But to my eye, it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.


    Non-diamond story, but awhile back my siblings and I got our mother a gift for Christmas – a gold band set with the birthstones of her children. The color combination is rather horrifying (aquamarine, garnet, peridot), and the jeweler we ordered it from looked in askance at it, but she was touched.

  82. 82
    Jadehawk

    Apparently they recently started marketing a darker brown colour as “Coffee diamonds”. I predict they will make a shit load on these too.

    google sez they’re called “chocolate diamonds”, and they’re surprisingly pretty. I just scared and confused the shit out of the boyfriend by telling him a chocolate diamond with rose gold would be the perfect engagement ring for him. lol.

  83. 83
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    @#65, gussnarp

    The website with the three month rule of thumb also suggests a woman who wants her fiance to spend less on a ring should suggest that the money saved be spent on a bigger wedding budget….ARrrgggh!! You do not convince a man to spend less on a ring by telling him it can be spent on the wedding. You convince him by communicating with him about these things openly before hand. That’s a two way street, of course.

    Actually, we ought to be grateful for this whole thing; it’s a sort of last-minute safety check to see whether the person you’re planning to marry is an idiot, in case you hadn’t noticed or they had successfully concealed it.

  84. 84
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    LykeX @29:
    I was reading the comments prior to yours, thinking this or that ring probably looks nice. Wasn’t til your comment that I went “D’oh” and remembered to use Google Fu.
    I agree with you on Tungsten rings.
    ****

    It just hit me how much certain marriage rituals were ingrained in me. Years ago when I would momentarily dream of my wedding day, I always imagined that being the only time I would wear a tuxedo. I have never liked being *that* dressed up (jeans and T shirt kinda guy) but always said I would do it on my wedding day (yeah, gay man in Florida ::rolls eyes::). Having read the thread, I find myself wanting a wedding that my theoretical spouse and I agree upon, rather than the traditional, socially approved one.

    ****
    I hope fergl100 comes back to explain how
    not wanting to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a ring
    =
    being unromantic.

  85. 85
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Suido @14:
    Congrats on the impending tying of the knot.

  86. 86
    ticklequeen

    Well, this is something I have significantly changed my opinion on over the past year or so. bf is an electrical engineer and hates the diamond industry, diamonds, etc. I am a girly girl (yes, I wear vintage coats and vintage inspired clothes and I am an atheist, because I can) who loves sparkly things and pretty things. I was worried for a while about this, because, I mean, a man SHOULD buy a sparkly ring! But, upon thinking about it I am now more worried about how to make whatever tokens we buy each other equitable. I rebel at the thought of being “given away” in marriage and my bf wil only ask my mother (dad is deceased) for permission to keep the peace with her (don’t want to hear about it for the rest of our lives). I want something, he has said he wants to give me something, but I don’t want it to be soooo, expensive. I love many pretty things on etsy and vintage websites. Diamonds are a bit passe and every woman from my old church (ahem, cult) has one. I want something that has color, spark and interest, like our relationship.

    His birthstone is alexandrite, which is beautiful and they make in labs now. I love silver, not gold. Mostly, I love him and want him to give me something he wants to give me, like he does any other time he gives me a gift. He wants tungsten, which is awesome.

  87. 87
    Taemon

    We have steel rings with blue diamonds set inside the band, mine round, vir square. 300 euro each. I love them. They’re perfect. I’ve always loved diamonds.

  88. 88
    Azuma Hazuki

    I am a geologist by degree, and studied at a place with a very high-pressure mineral anvil. I was hoping to make my then-lover a custom ring, using the anvil, but that never came to pass. Still, it would have been a nice gesture…

  89. 89
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Jadehawk #82

    That’s just cruel :)

    My girlfriend did a similar thing to me the other week, by declaring out of the blue that she wouldn’t want a diamond on her engagement ring, because they’re so impersonal, but that she did have a particular fondness for aquamarine… scared the shit out of me.

    Chocolate or Coffee (it’s entirely possible both exist and are subtly different shades of brown, as with Champagne and Cognac; or are different names for the same thing used by different diamond companies or jewellers), I predict the same thing will happen: a stone that was previously not used for jewellery will suddenly become popular and the diamond industry will get even richer.

  90. 90
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    That said I agree brown diamonds can be quite pretty :) the paler Champagne diamonds in particular can look lovely as the centre piece surrounded by colourless stones; and Cognac diamonds can have this gorgeous golden colour akin to Tigers Eye, but translucent.

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