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Feminspire | April 18, 2014

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Diamonds: A Woman’s Best Friend, Or Worst Nightmare?

Diamonds: A Woman’s Best Friend, Or Worst Nightmare?

| On 01, Nov 2013

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.

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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.

De Beers Why She Picked You De Beers Negotiate De Beers Return on your investment

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.

Written by Mansi Kathuria
Follow her on twitter or tumblr.

  • Hannah

    Yep, just got a white gold band like my mom did…

  • Akirah Robinson

    Pretty much sums up how I feel. I got am awesome ring off Etsy and I love it. We inherited his grandmother’s diamond ring and when my husband resizes it, I will wear it because I know his love for her makes the ring very important to him. But to spend all that money…and to wear a flashy ring? Not to mention your point of diamonds being a way to buy women! That’s just not me. Glad to hear from someone who agrees.

  • Emrakul, The Aeons Torn

    Hm. I never realized a commodity capable of being bought had a say in whether or not it was bought and under what conditions it is purchased.

  • Louise McGregor

    And just in case you’re the non-marrying career type the Diamond industry came up with the slogan “Woman of the World; raise your right hand”.

    (disclaimer; I am wearing a diamond engagement ring, it was my grandmother’s and probably purchased before De Beer’s started their campaign)

  • Sleepmaps

    The engagement ring is actually a tradition in many cultures, not just our own, and pre-date this ad.

  • lianeandthemusic

    Yeah, I never particularly cared about a having diamond ring. Every time any woman I know gets engaged, she shoves her hand into my face, waiting for me to say something about the ring, which I always ignore in favor of saying “I wish you a lifetime of happiness together”, because isn’t the important part of getting married the whole agreement to spend the rest of your lives together? Like, hello, priorities.

  • Anon

    My engagement ring is a titanium band inlaid with meteorite. It’s beautiful, practical, unique, and only cost $450. My fiance got a matching one with black zirconium instead of titanium after we got engaged, because he wanted to wear a ring too. It means a lot to us that we have something unusual and more representative of us than a diamond, and we love them so much that we’ve decided to use them as our wedding bands once we get married.

  • Kelly Rogers

    I can’t believe that men are expected to pay diamond engagement rings for sale up to 3 months of their salary. What a lot of crap. In our case, I was the one who paid for our ring at just half of my salary. And it’s bespoke too. And no diamonds. :)

  • Mco

    Speaking from personal experience, I decided no to diamonds when I got engaged, too. Because I didn’t have “the diamond” people outright said to my face that either I must be lying about my engagement or that it wasn’t a “real” engagement. Well, the wedding’s in two months now, so I don’t see how it isn’t “real.”

  • Sully

    I didn’t get an engagement ring (we decided to adopt a cat instead), and my husband and I wear matching wedding bands. I don’t really see myself wearing a diamond every day, my parents got my a diamond ring when I was younger (it is my birthstone), and I only wear it when I dress up, so I’ve always associated diamond rings with fancy occasions, not everyday life.

  • Beebop

    I have always said if a man proposes to me with a diamond ring I will have to reject him. I am not a raccoon! I’m not attracted to something just because it’s shiny!

  • Bastet

    Personally, I don’t like the concept of marriage. That stems from ownership also. The girl/woman has her fathers name because she belongs to him, then she is ‘given away’ to become the property of her husband. Marriage was designed for men to know who their children are. It had nothing to do with love or respect. It’s a ritual of male ownership. I got rid of my name, the one given to me at birth. I chose my own as my own personal ritual of claiming myself. I own me. I will not give that up. Love is just as real without the paperwork or the ring. Claiming myself doesn’t change that.