“So, let’s see the ring!” everyone from my grandma to my waxer exclaimed within moments of hearing about my engagement. I don’t blame them; I’ve certainly done it, too. We’re conditioned to assume proposals always come with a sparkly rock—so I can understand my loved ones’ surprise when I tell them I don’t have one.
It’s not because my fiance couldn’t afford it. Despite having a ring savings fund ready to go, I told him a few months before we got engaged that I didn’t plan on wearing one.
What’s my issue with this tradition? First off, it ticks me off that men aren’t expected to wear them. If my fiancé and I are both “spoken for” now, why should I be the only one wearing the symbol?
This question led me down a research rabbit hole into the history of engagements rings. Back in the 1940s, diamond behemoth De Beers recruited an advertising agency to help turn sluggish diamond sales around. The resulting campaign introduced us to the now classic phrase “A Diamond Is Forever,” as well as a marketing scheme that connected (with help from Hollywood) both the romance and necessity of a diamond engagement ring to middle-class American women.
That’s right, it was all a brilliant marketing ploy—which cleverly hides the fact that the average diamond ring isn’t a great investment at all. In fact, the resale value may be as little as 20 percent of the original price tag, which wraps in the cost of other materials, labor, marketing and even the store’s operating costs. (Ouch.) Plus, like many commodities, prices fluctuate with supply and demand. So just because an appraiser valued your ring at $15,000 doesn’t mean you’d actually find a willing buyer to pay that.
All that said, the real reason I ditched an engagement ring wasn’t for a feminist cause or lack of investment opportunity. I’ve spent years learning how to ruthlessly prioritize putting money toward things I value, rather than what society says I should. I know that I value travel, living in a major city, the flexibility of being self-employed and being able to afford a pet. I’ve never valued fashion or jewelry—so why start now?
This hit me after a few months of considering and trying on various rings with my fiancé. I told him it’d be ridiculous for him to spend $5,000 (the average amount spent on engagements rings) or more for something I didn’t actually want. Instead, we’ve happily decided to repurpose the ring money to buy a simple wedding band and to pay for our honeymoon—an experience we’ll both remember forever.
November 20, 2017