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.