Diamonds: Girl’s Best Friend or Something Darker?

by Ed Dryer

The diamond engagement ring.  The universal display of everlasting love and affection that has been the material representation of marriage and romance for as long as marriage has existed.

Really?  What you might not know will surprise you.

via Flickr by Yi Lin Hu

In reality, almost everything that average consumers know about diamonds is a result of seventy years of extremely well planned and controlled marketing.  The specific names of individuals and corporations can be found with almost no effort on the Internet, so they won’t be mentioned here.  The primary objective of this article, however, it to provide you and your spouse to be some things you absolutely should know before spending very hard earned dollars on shiny, polished hunks of carbon.

I was married once before I met my beautiful wife.  That endeavor left me with two wonderful children, a lot of wisdom and perspective and the experience of having to find a suitable and socially acceptable engagement ring not once, but twice.  As I’m a geek and have a pretty severe case of ADHD, I have a tendency to want to learn as much as I can about something while I’m experiencing it.  My research led to some very interesting facts and fables about engagement, the engagement ring and materials that they have historically been composed of.  While dealing with the angst and suffering of a divorce, my jaded side took over and I found comfort in running the ‘numbers’ on what type of long-term investment engagement and wedding bands actually are.  The modern standard for engagement accoutrement are gold and diamonds.  While gold’s value and rarity as been established and solid for as long as early man has needed something as currency, diamonds have a much less prominent role, if not an incredibly flashy one, in history.

History is a pretty precious thing to my current wife.  Those who don’t learn it are doomed to repeat it, so know as much of it as you can.  Her favorite topic of history isn’t how Russian propaganda differed so starkly from American propaganda during the cold war or how women subtly influenced the development of the human race over 6,000 years.  Those topics are definitely ones she loves, but the history she holds most dear is the personal journey of her ancestors making a place in history, leading sometimes uninteresting, but hard working lives.  This is why the ring she wears on her left ring finger is so perfect in many ways.  It was her great-great grandmother’s ring, handed down to her by her grandmother when she learned that she wanted to get married.  A platinum band houses a beautiful, 100 year old diamond.  The design is antique, but never fails to catch every woman’s eye when she wishes to show it off.  As stunning and timeless as  the ring is, what really took her breath away was the reality that this ring was worn on the hand of a woman who lived in a completely different time and that one day, another young woman in her bloodline will wear it just as she is right now.  From a practical perspective, the price couldn’t be beat.  For a betrothed couple composed of a man who has two kids and an ex-wife and a woman who is just starting to develop her career, something so lavish could never be afforded.

Over the next several days, we’ll delve into the history of engagement, engagement rings, the economics of them and how a relatively common (from a geologist’s perspective) but incredibly hard carbon structure took its place in history as one of the greatest marketing plans ever executed.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I just turned in a report on De Beers for a management class I’m taking earlier tonight. I look forward to reading the upcoming posts.

  2. […] In the first article of the series, I told the story of my wife’s engagement ring.  It is a family heirloom which belonged to her great, great grandmother.  It is an absolutely stunning stone set in platinum ring.  More importantly, to both me and my wife, it represents the love and family that traveled over the Atlantic to find a new life in the United States.  Left to my wife’s grandmother and then passed onto my wife when she announced her engagement, it was given with a single stipulation:  It stays in the family to be passed onto another generation.  One hundred years from now, a descendant on our family tree will wear this ring and it will represent seven generations of love and family.  Not everyone can be so lucky to be able to receive a hundred year old piece of family history, as there is usually only one or two grandparents and a significantly larger number of grandchildren.  But your engagement ring doesn’t necessarily need to be the engagement ring of your predecessor.  My mother has a ruby ring that was given to her by my father when they were my age.  It’s always been something I’ve had an attachment to, and if it weren’t already promised to my older brother’s wife, that would have been my engagement ring of choice.  I’m certain that every family has heirlooms of significant emotional attachment that can suit the purpose.  The key is making sure you have solid familial bonds so you can be liked enough to receive them. […]