Diamond engagement rings are now so ubiquitous, it’s hard to imagine a proposal without one. In truth, diamonds were not so strongly associated with engagements and proposals until the now legendary De Beers marketing campaign in the 1940’s that proclaimed “diamonds are forever.”
“Her engagement diamond is a drop of magic flame fashioned through eons,” the ad copy oozes. But is it really?
To some, diamond rings aren’t the flawless tokens of love jewelers would have you believe. For one, they are needlessly expensive. Cartels with a monopoly on the world’s diamond supply keep diamond prices under tight control, and retailers inflate their prices to keep a decent margin.
Prices aside, there are also concerns that the diamond mining industry creates more problems than it should. Smuggling, black markets, exploitative mines, their role in civil war and corruption are just some of the thorny unpleasantries that dull the industry’s sparkle.
Other people may feel uncomfortable with the somewhat sexist standards diamond rings represent. You see, in the 1930’s, American states began removing a law that allowed women to sue men who called off their engagements. If a woman lost her virginity in a failed engagement, the lawsuit would offer her financial security where a future husband would not. (Because no man would want to marry her without her virginity.) With lawsuits out of the picture, diamond rings stepped in to take their place. So yes, expensive diamond rings are essentially insurance for your virginity, girls.
Diamond rings may feel as essential to romance and engagements as much as ketupat does with Hari Raya. But unlike ketupat, diamond engagement rings are a commercially-constructed practice, the result of a brilliant exercise in mass marketing.
Maybe you still want a diamond, or maybe you don’t. No matter what it is, here are our top options and alternatives for your big day.
For those who really want a diamond, without the inflated price.
Enter ZCOVA: a local diamond trading company that operates completely online. The two Malaysian brothers who run the startuo keep no physical stock of diamonds; only sourcing each diamond after an order is placed. Without the costs of maintaining an inventory and physical store, ZCOVA can sell their diamonds for a much cheaper price than any you’d find in a brick-and-mortar store.
Forget the silly myth about having to spend two months of your salary! ZCOVA even offers a personalised consultation service in which they ask you everything from your budget to your personal style in order to find you your perfect diamond.
For those who really want a diamond, without the ethical dilemma.
There is no way to know if a diamond has ended up in the display case by ethical means. Synthetic diamonds offer a fine conflict-free alternative. Synthetic is a misnomer; physically and chemically, these are real diamonds.
The only thing synthetic is how they are produced – in a lab, replicating the same conditions that would cause a diamond to form naturally in the earth. Diamonds, after all, are just carbon atoms arranged in a specific way. If you’re practical, you might feel that it makes no difference whether your diamond came from the earth or a lab. In that case, here’s a Singaporean-based synthetic diamond producer and an online retailer that ships worldwide!
For those who don’t want a diamond, but still want to sparkle.
Consider other gemstones, but make sure they’re hard enough to withstand daily wear. A rating of 7 or higher on the Mohs scale is good. A stunning alternative to diamonds is moissanite, a gem first found in the heart of a meteorite and with a brilliance that rivals that of a diamond.
Gemstones come in a range of colours and features, so pick one that represents you! Alexandrite is also incredibly unique – described as an emerald by day and a ruby by night, it shifts colours under different lights like magic. Rose quartz and morganite with their soft pink hues are delicately feminine and look beautiful on a rose gold band. (Hint hint, boyfriend.)
For those who don’t want any stones.
Have you heard of posie rings? These simple gold rings trade stones for words of love. The bands are unadorned except for a sentimental inscription engraved on their inner surfaces so your sweetheart’s words will always lie next to your skin. So sweet and perfect if you’re a more private, reserved person. During the 15th to 17th centuries, these were really popular as lovers’ gifts in England and France! (And yes, before you ask, they remind us of the One Ring too.)
For those who want a completely unique piece.
Custom jewellers abound! MC Square Studio is one located in KL. Or take your pick from one of Etsy’s many custom jewellers. Feel free to request something that really represents you, or take a cue from one of your favourite video games or TV shows. Because the world is now a wonderful place where you can get a matching Final Fantasy or Sailor Moon rings so why wouldn’t you.
For those who don’t even want a ring.
Maybe rings aren’t your style. Modern alternatives run the gamut from down payments on a house to half the stocks in your company. In the end, an engagement gift should symbolise your commitment to a life together, so choose something that captures that for the both of you.
With all that said, there’s nothing wrong with getting a diamond ring if you really want one and can afford it. Diamonds carry a cultural weight that can’t be replicated, their pure white brilliance matches any outfit, their durability is unmatched, and they sure are sparkly.
When it comes to engagement rings, get one you like. Because if all goes well, it’ll be the only one you ever own.