In our society, a marriage proposal is strikingly incomplete without a diamond ring. I have friends who have already imagined or even picked out their dream engagement rings from places like WP Diamonds.
Your fiancé should spend three months’ worth of his salary on the ring, some people tell me. Women are supposed to lust after fine jewelry, and nothing is more important than the diamond engagement ring as it’s a symbol of both wealth and relationship status. But why do we care so much?
Diamonds are a rare but naturally occurring mineral made up of carbon atoms.They are not the rarest gem on earth – it is the ruby that holds that honor. Diamonds are, however, the hardest substance known to man, and have the highest heat conductivity. Diamonds have a range of industrial and research applications. They are also quite aesthetically appealing, particularly in the way that they refract light.
But that’s all just science. The first documented diamond engagement ring was given by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 Vienna. This act made diamonds a status symbol. Grooms who could afford diamond rings gifted them to their fiancés as a display of wealth.
However, when diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1867, their worldwide supply increased and the price dropped. Diamond engagement rings became more popular. But it wasn’t until the 1940’s that diamonds became an indispensable part of a modern engagement. All thanks to the De Beers diamond company.
In the early 20th century, De Beers was experiencing a drop in sales. So, in 1939 they launched a tremendous marketing campaign to promote the diamond engagement ring. They had ads on TV and radio, arranged for high profile celebrities to wear diamonds, rewrote movie scripts to feature diamonds, and gave talks to women about diamonds.
Their goal was to associate diamonds with romance, market them as a necessity luxury, and make every woman want one. In just three years, diamond sales in the United States were up 55%. And in 1947 a women who, ironically, would never marry, coined the phrase “Diamonds are Forever,” giving the company a slogan that they still use today. People were sold.
Millions of girls and women lust after beautiful engagement rings, just because, in the 1940’s, one corporation told us that we should.
I decided early on, as a 13 or 14 year old, that I thought diamond rings were ridiculous. I never understood the concept of people spending thousands of dollars on a shiny rock. As I grew up, my criticisms of diamond engagement rings matured. Now, I see diamonds as a way to buy women.
Back when they first became popular, a lavish ring was a man’s way of proving that he had enough funds to provide for his future family. Additionally, if the engagement was broken by the man, his former fiancé got to keep the ring as collateral for the damage done to her reputation.
Diamonds are also a way of claiming women as property. A woman who is engaged wears a very prominent symbol indicating her relationship status. A sort of “hands off” sign. In fact, many sitcoms play on this idea that an engagement ring makes women invisible to other men. Yet, it is less common to see a man displaying any symbols of his engagement.
Diamond advertisements today suggest, or even outright say, that you can buy love, affection, and favors from your wife. They propagate the notion that women can be placated and won over with money and nice things. Many of them are disgusting.
These ads are made to make both men and women feel insecure, while reinforcing outdated gender norms. Here are some modern ads from De Beers.
A very dear cousin of mine recently got engaged, but they have not bought a ring yet. I kindly sent her some information on the origins of the diamond engagement ring. I know it’s not likely to change her mind, but I wanted her to know. In the end, it’s a decision she gets to make for her relationship.
I know that if I am to ever get married, there will not be a diamond in sight.