Bling or no bling?
August 28, 2006 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Engagement ring dilemma. To get one or not?

Romance is in a terrible state of affairs when a girl will post a question like this, but I would like to hear some opinions on this subject since I'm in such a quandary.

My boyfriend and I are talking about getting married, and he has asked me to decide whether I want an engagement ring or not. (I've often said tht I don't want one.) I'm torn. Btw, I'm fairly traditional, so I would only want a diamond ring.

The reasons why I don't want one:
-I don't like wearing rings much - mostly because I don't like my hands and because my hands swell a lot during the day and when I exercise, so rings are often uncomfortably tight, or too loose.
-Connection to human rights abuses (although I would only get a conflict-free diamond).
-I've heard diamonds devalue quickly.
-I don't want him to have to spend so much money on something I don't necessarily want, and something that will lose so much value, and something that is just for me. Also, he's a high school coach and doesn't have a lot of money, so for us and for him it could be better to use this money differently.
-Historical implications of the woman as property.
-I don't like what I hear about how diamond companies artificially controlling diamond supply and demand.
-Women with diamond engagement rings annoy me a bit - sometimes it feels to me like they're more excited about the ring than the upcoming marriage, and sometimes it feels almost like a fad - the accessory to have at the moment (I'm in my early twenties, and lots of friends and acquaintances are newly engaged)
-The idea of flashing around an expensive gem for the rest of my life sort of puts me off - too public an indicator of my socio-economic status.

Reasons why I might want one:
-I do think they're beautiful.
-I would be wearing a wedding ring anyway, so the fact that I don't like rings might not matter.
-I think he wants me to have one.
-My mother would be heart broken if I didn't have one, and I feel like I've been disappointing her a lot lately on unrelated matters. And my mother thinks that I would be happy having one, because it would constantly remind me of being loved by him.
-It would be exciting - constant reminder of the engagement.
-Sometimes I wonder if people would take my engagement less seriously if I didn't have one.
-A close friend had these same qualms, and has one now and absolutely loves it because it's so pretty and because it reminds her of her fiance, and because of the public aspect of marriage - the world can see that she is going to be marrying him, which is the public demonstration of their commitment to each other.

I'm ashamed of some of these pros and cons, but there they are. No one can make up my mind for me, obviously, but I would like to hear if you had (have) these dilemmas, if you wish you had one or didn't have one; if you wish your wife/fiancee had one/didn't have one.
posted by n'muakolo to Human Relations (68 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Buying a conflict-free diamond will still fuel the demand for diamonds, much like buying antique ivory is still a no-no. If you want a diamond or nothing, I say go for nothing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:06 AM on August 28, 2006

To me, it sounds like mostly a case of what you want vs. what other people think. I think you should weigh the options - is it more important for you to be personally comfortable with your choice (no ring) or to be socially comfortable (ring)? Though I understand the mother guilt (oh, do I ever), how important is it for the world to know that you're engaged? You know it, and your friends and family know it, so the outside world might not be a factor.
posted by Zosia Blue at 8:12 AM on August 28, 2006

I don't suppose there's a hand-me-down ring in your or his family that could be remade to fit you? Might solve a few of your problems.

You could also get just a simple ring with a smaller diamond to save money and yet still have the ring.
posted by bibbit at 8:12 AM on August 28, 2006

Diamond engagement rings are not at all traditional, so if you are very traditional, do some research on what people got before DeBeers started the advertising campaign in the 20th century.

that said, I think people don't realise how stunning other precious and especially the semi-precious stones can be. A friend of mine has an aquamarine ring, and it's extremely beautiful, in a delicate silver setting - much more beautiful than the 3 carot (sp?) diamond I saw on another woman's hand (which was, frankly, just not in good taste).

I would go for an amethyst. Amethysts look like what I imagine diamonds should look like. :) Actually, I've found that I much prefer the look of garnets to rubies; garnets have a lovely deep colour.
posted by jb at 8:16 AM on August 28, 2006

It sounds to me like your heart is telling you yes and brain saying no. Listen to your heart otherwise there will always be a hint of regret.

Get one you are comfortable, but get one. It's a beautiful, lasting token of love and memory of the feelings you have for your husband.
posted by traderjoefan at 8:17 AM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

I kind of agree with traderjoefan - I think you want a diamond ring, and you're trying to talk yourself out of it (for a number of really good reasons, I might add). If you actually do want one, and it would make you happy, then you might get one. But perhaps you might consider something like a claddagh ring which typically contains no stones and is quite a lot more traditional than a diamond?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:22 AM on August 28, 2006

Most of your "pros" seem to involve making other people happy. That's something to think about. (There was a really long thread of comments on diamond rings over at my web site that touches on a few things you ask about.)
posted by chunking express at 8:23 AM on August 28, 2006

I never really wanted a ring either, because rings annoy me and I'm not much of a diamond person. I would much rather spend the money on something else that I would really enjoy. But I also knew that my fiance wanted me to have one, and that having one as a public statement of the engagement might be nice.

We didn't have the money issue, and he felt bad not spending enough on the ring, so we compromised. He bought me an engagement Vespa, which is what I really wanted, and a small ring that is very classy and beautiful, but didn't cost nearly as much as some huge rock. I find that I've gotten used to wearing the ring, and I like having it. So my vote is for getting something small, not a "typical" engagement ring. Something you enjoy, that acts as a reminder, but that won't make you regret spending too much money. It sounds like you want one, so don't go without altogether.
posted by thejanna at 8:26 AM on August 28, 2006

I understand the way you feel. I have one. I've had it for over two years. For the last year I've also had a wedding ring with smaller diamonds. I wouldn't change it for the world.

My husband bought canadian diamonds, for both rings. He spent an absurd amount of money. Occasionally I think "it would be nice to have that money for X." But the truth is, we're both professionals, and we can afford it - if we were still paying for it now, I'd probably feel differently. And every day I look at it and think about how he proposed, and the wedding and everything.

I do think I would feel the exact same way about my ring, though, if it were made out of wood. There is a lot that is special in the ring becuase of the backstory - how my husband saved the money, and how he bought it, and how he made it perfect. If he'd put the same kind of love and care into a ring with a different kind of stone, or made of something different, I'd feel the same way.

And sure, diamonds devalue, but so what? Are you going to sell it? Probably not. You'll keep it and give it to your kids some day, and that's precious, too. I have my grandma's enagement diamond on a necklace, and it means the world to me - again, becuase of its story, not becuase it's a diamond.

Also: What traderjoe said. I think your heart says yes. As long as you can afford it, go for it.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:26 AM on August 28, 2006

It does seem like a non-diamond ring would solve most of your issues, or at least be a good compromise (at least certainly in terms of money and ethics; possibly in terms of making the engagement seem "real" for everyone not currently part of the engagement). You seem to be fairly thoughtful about the pros and cons of diamond rings, but a little quick to dismiss non-diamond rings -- are you sure you've really explored that option?

To some extent, I kind of feel like if you stick with the idea that it's a diamond or nothing, it's probably because you want a diamond, and not because you want nothing. I'm not a huge fan of diamond rings, for all the reasons you mentioned, but I'm not you, and I think I agree with traderjoefan's heart/brain split here.
posted by occhiblu at 8:28 AM on August 28, 2006

Sounds like you probably want this ring, deep down, in spite of your moral hangups. If there are really so many reasons to not want an engagement ring, why are you so stressed over making the decision (I realize that there are also a lot of reasons to not want one, but they don't seem nearly as personal)?

But worst case scenario, you don't get the ring and you regret it, and your husband ends up buying you an anniversary diamond.
posted by shownomercy at 8:29 AM on August 28, 2006

For me, diamonds are out. Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone. If a ring isn't right for you, perhaps something else you can wear every day and show off to your mom? Bracelet? Earrings? An Engament Purse? A ring worn on a necklace?
posted by enfa at 8:32 AM on August 28, 2006

As MoonPie says, any diamond you buy, whether it be nonconflict or antique or whatever, will contribute to conflict diamonds because diamonds are essentially moveable commodities -- if one goes up in price, then they all go up in price. I'm sure an economist can better explain this.

I didn't get a diamond for my fiance, partially just because we think they're silly and she's never been into stuff like that, and partially because of the whole morality issue. I found an exquisite white gold band at a local jewelers. She's very happy with it, I think far happier than she expected to be. I'd suggest getting a ring -- it's a really cool part of being engaged -- but I'd stay away from a diamond.

Y'know, now that I think about it, I think I've got the perfect solution. CZ.
posted by incessant at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2006

If you like white sparkly stones for their "traditional" look, don't rule out lab-created diamonds like Moissanite, or even ordinary CZ. You can still have these stones set in precious metals, and even fancy jewelry stores won't bat an eyelash if you come in looking for one of these.

But there's no reason you need to have an engagement ring unless you want one.

A lot of people like to solder together their wedding band and engagement ring, but I kept mine separate and wear sometimes just the band, sometimes band with solitaire, depending on my mood. You're not, to put it one way, married to the rings themselves.
posted by padraigin at 8:37 AM on August 28, 2006

I didn't think it was so obvious, and hadn't quite thought of it that way, but it's completely true - my heart wants a diamond engagement ring (at least 90%), but my head doesn't (putting moral qualms into head category here). I have a beautiful ruby ring that has sentimental family value, so that's partly why if I get one I'd want a diamond - and not another beautiful stone - which to me is the more classic engagement ring.

The conflict issue bothers me the most. And it actually is a bit personal, but I was thinking the non-conflict diamond dealt with that problem. I guess if it does drive up demand for other diamonds (how does that work exactly) then that is not a solution at all.
posted by n'muakolo at 8:40 AM on August 28, 2006

Women with diamond engagement rings annoy me a bit - sometimes it feels to me like they're more excited about the ring than the upcoming marriage, and sometimes it feels almost like a fad - the accessory to have at the moment (I'm in my early twenties, and lots of friends and acquaintances are newly engaged)
I feel the same way. Some shallow women drone on and on about their diamond rings, and it is annoying as hell.
I don't like the feel of jewelry on my body either. I wear earrings, a watch, and my engagement ring and wedding band. My husband bought me a beautiful diamond engagement ring set in a plain platinum band. It's a little over a carat, and in my opinion is not flashy at all. My wedding band is plain also, and the platinum has become a bit dull with wear, so it's not that shiny and flashy. I love my ring, because it is a reminder of our engagement, not because it's a diamond.
I think sapphire engagement rings are as equally as beautiful and not a dime a dozen. I wouldn't worry about your stone devaluing. That is not what an engagement ring is about. The ring is a symbol of a promise, a romantic gift. It could be anything from a plain silver band to a huge rock. My mom's gold wedding band cost 20 bucks from Montgomery Wards, but she treasures it deeply.
I wouldn't think too technically about the ring--it's supposed to be romantic and heartfelt. If your soon to be fiance wants to propose with a ring, you should let him do so.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:40 AM on August 28, 2006

It does sound like a lot of your pro reasons are about other people, not about you. Sure, they're beautiful, but if you're not sure you want it, you're not sure you'll wear it, and you're not sure you're comfortable with what wearing one projects... why wear one? I think the others have good points about diamonds not being traditional, and exploring the idea of non-diamond engagement rings if you really decide that you want to publically proclaim your engagement by wearing a ring.

When my wife and I started talking about getting married, we talked about it. She's not a bit jewelry person either, and decided against it. When people asked her why she didn't have a ring, she just shrugged and said, "because I didn't want one."
posted by canine epigram at 8:41 AM on August 28, 2006

You could buy a fairly nice secondhand ring for $500 or so - it would at least help with the cost and the contributing directly to human rights abuses thing. Every time I go to a pawnshop I see whole trays of lovely rings. Also, you don't have to wear the ring all the time. I know lots of women who just wear their wedding rings most of the time.
posted by orange swan at 8:41 AM on August 28, 2006

Another way to solve your dilemma might be the purchase of an antique diamond ring. I don't know the history behind mine, but I love that it has a history. And I get the warm fuzzies about my sweetie every time I look at it. Now that's priceless!
posted by hsoltz at 8:43 AM on August 28, 2006

Are you sure that you would only consider a diamond? It seems to me that a lot of your conflict/monopoly related issues would be resolved if you, for example, chose a sapphire engagement ring. A friend of mine has a beautiful one -- up until I saw it, I didn't realize that sapphires are not just blue, they come in many colors, including a light yellow that sparkles very nicely.
posted by echo0720 at 8:48 AM on August 28, 2006

How do we know it's heart/brain and not consumerism/morals? Or id/ego? See it how you want to see it, but if the decision devolves into a chorus of "listen your heaaaart," an expensive rock is a foregone conclusion.

Trader Joe's & diamonds? I've always considered packaged-organic the height of hypocrisy, but this takes the cake.
posted by Doctor Barnett at 8:49 AM on August 28, 2006

There is a legal issue here, as well. As a marriage is a legal contract, I think that the laws of some states may requires the exchange of something of physical value for the contract to be valid. It probably doesn't have to be rings, though.
posted by DandyRandy at 8:49 AM on August 28, 2006

oops, didn't preview, also what padraigin said.
posted by echo0720 at 8:50 AM on August 28, 2006

Um, DandyRandy, that's just not true. My marriage is valid, and we didn't have engagement rings. To make it valid, you have to go through a legally registered officiant and file papers at the courthouse. No jewelry required.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2006

As a marriage is a legal contract, I think that the laws of some states may requires the exchange of something of physical value for the contract to be valid.

I've never heard of such a thing for marriage, but even if true, the engagement is not a contract. Presumably wedding rings would solve the marriage issue (so, I would assume, would paying for the marriage license).
posted by occhiblu at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2006

Ditto what the poster above said about diamonds not being, in any real sense, "traditional". Note, for example, Lady Di's engagement ring, the central stone of which was a truly amazing blue sapphire. DeBeers marketing for the win -- diamonds aren't even all that rare. I would consider a colored stone -- the best ones (Chasmere sapphires, for example) are far rarer than diamonds, but also far less showy. I'm biased of course. My wife wears a sapphire engagement ring.

P.S.: Orange Swan do you play City of Heroes by any chance?
posted by The Bellman at 9:04 AM on August 28, 2006

Second orange swan - get a second hand ring if you are concerned with conflict issues. Alternatively, just get a very small diamond if you want to avoid bling-flashing and cost issues. I have a diamond engagement ring that cost $500. The diamonds are very small (one "larger" one with several smaller ones inset on the band, unsure of weight but definitely much smaller than a caret), but the ring is just beautiful. Sounds silly, but I liked the way it caught the light in the elevator and reminded me of fiance (now husband) while I was at work. We're both happy with it.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:07 AM on August 28, 2006

Whoops, that should be "Cashmere" not "Chasmere". Occhiblu: Engagement is actually a contract, but not one that requires consideration. There's plenty of old law about the breaking of engagement contracts (it was called "breach of promise to marry") though you don't hear much about it any more. Oddly the one legal piece that survives is the question of what, by law, happens to the engagement ring. In New York, as a legal matter, the groom-to-be may demand it back if the bride-to-be breaks off the engagement, but he must let her keep it if he breaks it off himself.

(IAAL and also have broken off an engagement, though I wasnt AL at the time. Ah youth.)
posted by The Bellman at 9:08 AM on August 28, 2006

I guess if it does drive up demand for other diamonds (how does that work exactly) then that is not a solution at all.

It is in the interest of various African paramilitary groups to mine and sell the diamonds because they are worth something here in the West. If the price of diamonds and the demand for them dropped, then using them as a form of currency no longer works. Now if you are 100% confident that these groups can't find a market for their particular diamonds, then this is a mute point I suppose. I just refuse to believe that an enterprising capitalist wouldn't snatch up these cheaper diamonds.

Anyway, I've always felt that there is no real point in getting worked up over this in particular. There is so much ugliness behind much of what we enjoy here in the West. Chocolate is also used to fund groups from the ivory coast for example. People don't seem to get fired up over Blood-Chocolate though.
posted by chunking express at 9:14 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

All right, fine, but I'm still not buying that rings or any other gifts are in any way legally required in order for a couple to be married, or engaged.
posted by occhiblu at 9:19 AM on August 28, 2006

Occhiblu: I didn't mean to suggest that they are. As far as I know they aren't.
posted by The Bellman at 9:20 AM on August 28, 2006

It is OK to get a diamond ring. Wanting one does not make you a bad person. Getting one doesn't make you a worse person. If you want to alleviate your guilt, visit some independent jewelry stores and talk to them about estate pieces - jewelry that has been loved before and can be loved again. That way you aren't contributing to current mining.

It will take more footwork, but it sound like you are looking for a way to be okay with the diamond ring you end up getting - this seems like a good solution.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:28 AM on August 28, 2006

Your options don't make much sense. You've got it down as these two options:

1. No ring.
2. Monstrously expensive diamond ring.

It doesn't take much to see that there's no shortage of other options here. Smaller diamonds, different gems, whatever.
posted by reklaw at 9:29 AM on August 28, 2006

Oh, and the people saying "listen to your heart" in this thread suck. Shame on you for discouraging someone who's thinking about the consequences of their actions -- "just do what the marketing tells you, baa baa baa".
posted by reklaw at 9:35 AM on August 28, 2006 [5 favorites]

Diamonds are a bad deal economically, period. They aren't worth what you have to pay. But (along with your issues of historical symbolism and how other people act) the same could be said of basically every other aspect of getting married. It costs a lot and you don't get anything pragmatically economic in return. As long as you don't spend beyond your true economic means, so what? In the end it means what it means to you. If you want a diamond ring, the other objections can be worked around.

Consider a relatively small, impeccably sourced diamond (research will be required, there are bogus conflict-free diamonds). This will keep the costs down and dial down the ostentation factor.

My wife and I found a one-man, independent jeweler who helped us create truly unique, handmade rings with a quite small, exceptionally high quality diamond. The results were the opposite of ostentatious yet truly beautiful and meaningful to us. Working with him was one of the most fun, pleasurable part of the "preparing for the wedding" process and we got a lot more ring for a lot lower cost.
posted by nanojath at 9:36 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with the consensus that you seem to be weighing sociopolitical concerns with what your heart wants, and that therefore you should get a ring. (Don't worry, you can always take it off before you go to a Grrlpower Women's Lib meeting.)

(Not being nearly as flip as I sound, since I went through some of the same concerns... basically, they all stop mattering when you're staring at your hand going "oooh, sparkly." And, it's not surgically attached to you, you can always take it off.)

I have a sapphire ring, for which we opted because it is a stone that simultaneously accomplishes traditional and unique. Sapphires historically connote fidelity, which I thought was sweet -- and which is also part of the reason for its common usage as engagement ring, pre-DeBeers.

(Then, if you want to get really meta with it all, have this read at your wedding.)

Do not undervalue the symbolism of the solid token of your engagement. That other people will have views on it is about them, not you. If you feel unliberated over it, get him one too -- an Australian man once told me that that is the tradition there; why not here too? You could get something cool and inexpensive that he then "trades in" when it's wedding band time.

And, my last plug for a non-diamond stone: they are almost always less expensive than diamonds. You can get a lot more bang for your budget by looking at other stones.

If you just can't over the idea that an engagement ring has to be a diamond, I recommend a book called Cinderella Dreams: the Allure of the Lavish Wedding, with an in-depth look at the DeBeers campaign and how it is considered one of the greatest American marketing/advertsing coups of the 20th century.
posted by pineapple at 9:41 AM on August 28, 2006

Oh, and the people saying "listen to your heart" in this thread suck. Shame on you for discouraging someone who's thinking about the consequences of their actions -- "just do what the marketing tells you, baa baa baa".

It's quite a stretch to say that everyone who is saying "get the ring" is also de facto saying "be sheep-like, don't think for yourself" -- when that's clearly not the case in this thread. Kneejerk much?
posted by pineapple at 9:44 AM on August 28, 2006

reklaw, there's a lot of crap that gets dumped on women about marriage, and engagement, and while I'm happy to debate those abstractly, it's not exactly the height of progressive politics to tell individual people they must do it my way on every issue or else they're an idiot. Are you going to follow her around and comment on whether she should wear white, or change her name, or let her father give her away, too? These are all things, among others, that deserve consideration, but that doesn't mean anyone's a bad person for deciding to give into the tradition. Possibly for giving into the tradition without thinking about it, but that's obviously not the case here.
posted by occhiblu at 9:47 AM on August 28, 2006

I totally know where you're coming from with the whole annoying people flashing them around thing.

We did exactly what you're thinking about. The whole idea of an engagement ring and a wedding ring seemed silly, so we just went with a nice wedding ring. We used a design from Symmetry in New Orleans, and they were very nice, made a custom design for us, and didn't make disgusted faces when we said that we wanted smaller stones and didn't care if they had flaws only detectable under a microscope.

He probably is acting like he wants you to have one because he's been told that all women want one, and he wants to make you happy.

You mother will find something to be unhappy about, so you might as well let it be this.

On the other hand, the blood of innocent children is on your hands in a thousand different ways just by living in our modern society, so what's one more?
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:49 AM on August 28, 2006

I got The Future Mrs. pdb a blue sapphire ring - I have the same issues with diamonds as most posters here, but TFMpdb is a traditionalist, so she really wanted a nice shiny diamond. She knew my issues, understood where I was coming from, and knew that it was a possibility that a diamond would not be forthcoming, but she trusted my opinion and let it go.

I presented her with the sapphire ring when I proposed a couple months ago, and since then I've heard her tell many people that it's the most amazingly beautiful thing she's ever seen and she wouldn't trade it for "a sackful of diamonds". Sapphires are beautiful, and the content of the ring, in my experience, is less important than the symbolism of the ring.

My recommendation would be to get a ring, make it a sapphire or an emerald, and don't be ashamed of your pros and cons - you raise good points on both sides.
posted by pdb at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2006

We got a small ring because, frankly, I wanted one, but I didn't want to spend a ton of money and I didn't want to be ostentatious. I think my husband felt he should get me a ring and would have felt weird about me not having one, even if I insisted I didn't care. People are odd creatures.

That said, I would go with a family-hand-me-down, OR (and this might be more doable) use two or three (or more) family pieces to build a ring. I think if I had to to do over, I might do it that way. A friend of ours used an heirloom piece, and it's amazing.

And, just for the record, this is about you and your fiance. That's it. Don't allow it to be about anyone else. Congratulations!
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:10 AM on August 28, 2006

i was in a very similiar boat when my husband and i decided to get engaged. we debated the idea of an engagement ring for weeks and decided against it. afterwards his grandparents gave us their wedding bands to exchange at the wedding. we had the inside engraved with their wedding date and with ours, leaving room for one more date to someday be passed on. after about two days of wearing this ring i couldnt take it anymore, it was annoying to have something on my finger and i was also very concerned that i would subconciously remove it and lose it.

my husband and i dont wear the rings now, instead we had small playing card style diamonds tattooed on the tops of our ring fingers. its the only diamond ill ever wear, it cant be taken off which makes it much more romantic to me, and it only cost 25 bucks for each.

some people in the family expressed disappointment in our choices about rings but they quickly got over them and like what we did instead, and anytime anyone looked for my engagement ring i just told them that i didnt need an expensive chunk of metal to prove my fiances love to me, my memories of the day find their way to many no matter what.

do not let society or your mother talk you into wearing an engagement ring, especially not a diamond, the only reason they are as expensive as they are is because of the marketing done in this country. they are NOT valuable jewels.

but if you really want one, get one. its YOUR wedding/finger/life.
posted by trishthedish at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2006

I recently got engaged and decided that I did not need a ring. I decided that it wasn't fair that he would have to spend that amount of money on me if he wanted to get married. I don't really like engagement rings, anyway. I worry about forgetting about it and getting it dirty or it catching when I run my fingers through my hair. I also wouldn't like the constant comparisons to other women's rings. It's like a competition to see who can wring the most money out of their partners.

Only one person has shown any kind of surprise that I don't have one and no one has said anything negative. I wear something besides a ring that I point at to show that I am engaged and people seem to get it more when they see a physical reminder.
posted by Alison at 10:23 AM on August 28, 2006

It sounds to me like your heart is telling you yes and brain saying no. Listen to your heart otherwise there will always be a hint of regret.

On the contrary, listen to your brain. The worst mistakes I've made in life resulted from "listening to my heart." The heart is the stupid part of the brain, the part that wants without regard for the consequences. It must be kept on a tight rein. Believe me, you can regret the things you do because of your heart as much or more than you ever regret not having done them.

This decision may or may not have major impact in your life, and there are times when after due consideration it is appropriate to give yourself your heart's desire, but I would be very wary of any advice advocating that you outright ignore your brain.

(This is a somewhat less inflammatory version of what reklaw said, I suppose, but its applicability is hopefully somewhat more broad. We all want lots of things for lots of different reasons.)
posted by kindall at 10:30 AM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

Your reasons were the same as mine. Completely.

I picked out a CZ ring from for $30. I wore it until we got married, and then swapped it out for my wedding ring. Now I wear the engagement ring on a chain around my neck when I feel like it (like today!)

Worked for us! The fun of an engagement ring without the stress.
posted by agregoli at 10:32 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can't talk about the moral implications. I don't know enough about it. Do you? Maybe you need to do some research. The hive mind is a good place to start, but I would want to confirm it all first. I bet you could find some diamonds that satisfy you. And don't forget that diamonds come in many cuts and shapes. The 'stupid sparkle oriented bride' is easily avoided with a cut that reflects and refracts less. Hell, most people don't realize I'm engaged my ring is so neutral.
As far as the emotional issues, hold your head high. The ring means 'property' only if you make it so. If you don't get a ring, your mom is going to have to deal with it. If your friends need a ring to acknowledge your engagement, then they are fools. If a stupid ring is tying you up in knots then maybe you need to put things into perspective a bit. I admit that the ring thing made me crazy. It wasn't until we sat down, and talked about it very objectively that we settled on something. A ring is/can be a big financial purchase. This is the start of your marrage. Do it right! Are you going to make all your decisions like this? Talk to him. What does -he- think? You said that you think he wants to get you a ring. Find out if that is fact. He might have a brilliant idea as an alternative. Maybe he doesn't care, and realizes that you secretly want a ring and is trying to please you.

You are ashamed of your pros and cons because they are all so uncertain. "I think". "I wonder" and "I heard". Go through your list and turn them into "I know".
posted by billy_the_punk at 10:45 AM on August 28, 2006

I assume you've seen the info in the diamond thread earlier.

If you want an engagement ring, would you consider getting one that is made by a local artisan to your (both of you) specifications, which could represent specific things about your relationship and be very personal, but not as expensive, ethically questionable, or flashy as a diamond? It would fill the requirement of your mom that you have a ring; fill your interest in having a tangible reminder to wear; but still be something you would feel comfortable wearing every day.

FWIW, I got an heirloom diamond ring from my partner -- but I'm worried I will hit it on something and the stone will come out, or that it's too flashy, or that it strengthens various social norms I don't approve of, so I NEVER wore it except to family functions with partner's family. It's in a box most of the time.

Nobody every gave me a hard time about not wearing a ring; they were just happy for us.

When we got married, the first few weeks it was strange and novel to wear a ring all the time. I was constantly noticing the wedding band, and thinking happy thoughts. It was, weirdly, really wonderful to have that feeling about the actual wedding ring rather than the engagement ring.

I would say, don't spend a bunch of money on a ring that's not you -- that you're going to feel ambivalent about and might end up not wearing. (If you get a ring with a stone, get one where the stone doesn't stick up a lot from the setting.) Go to local artists and find one whose work you like, and work with them to create something that is more in keeping with your personal style.

Or don't get one at all, stand up to your mom, and have a few weeks after the wedding where you can't stop thinking about what's on your finger. :)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:02 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

My husband and I drew up a very similar list. In the end, we didn't go for the ring. He bought me a beautiful pearl pendant and (my favorite) carved and printed a linoleum print of a diamond engagement ring. Awww.

But I found that many of the people around me did expect a ring, any kind of ring. They got a little confused when there was no ring to squeal over; they couldn't follow the usual script. So he and I went to the local rock shop and bought an inexpensive, pretty silver ring with an olivine in it. People squealed over it and assumed it was an emerald in platinum. They certainly wouldn't be able to tell the difference between cubic zirconia and diamonds.

It all seems important at the time, but you know, once you're married it really doesn't seem like a big deal. That's what I've found, anyway. You soon get on with the business of being married. The heart calms down and the brain takes over. My hunch is that, all in all, when the intoxication of being engaged wears off, you'd slightly regret getting the ring. You probably wouldn't wear it and almost certainly couldn't sell it for anything like its original price. The human rights abuse connection could embarrass you. And you have your wedding ring to remind you of your husband.

Lack of a diamond ring won't sink a marriage, but lack of money can stress a marriage immensely.

Don't worry about your mother. For just about every woman I know who's gotten married, this is the time when Mom puts on the screws of guilt, nicely or not. Your relationship will probably change after you marry; this is her last chance before you are undeniably an adult. Feeling like you're disappointing her is par for the course. But whether you have a diamond ring is not her business; if she's invested her happiness in something that's not her business, that's her problem to fix. Whatever you do, follow your own star.
posted by sculpin at 11:36 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have told Eattheweak that if he were to give me a diamond, I would leave him. Instead, I asked for something with more meaning, like the down payment on a house or the like. I wanted something that actually cemented the idea of us building a life together. Through this thread I found out that he would like to have something to give me when we officially get engaged. I suggested a $10 dollar ring from Claire's...we're still working on that.

To repeat earlier advice, diamonds aren't traditional and they aren't rare. Also: I find them the most boring of all the 'precious stones'.
posted by nadawi at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2006

My suggestion was metnoind in the diamond thread: "There are very good diamond-like stones that are hard to distinguish from real diamonds -- moissanite for example. "
My best friend gave his wife one for their engagement, and I gave one to my finacee. No stigma of diamonds, no overpricing, and no stigma of CZ, which many people think of as "cheap".
People who ooh and ahh over diamonds don't know a great one from a crappy one, so moissanite will make them happy (and happy for you too). It looks nice, it's not ludicrously overpriced, and it's still a wonderful symbol.

I'm biased, I'll admit.
posted by Four Flavors at 11:52 AM on August 28, 2006

I bought a Canadian diamond in 2003, but if I did it again today I'd probably persuade the Mrs. to try a different gem. At the time I was convinced that the mining companies in Canada were being at least somewhat responsible by hiring and training indigenous people and paying them a living wage. Since that time, DeBeers has stepped up its investment in Canadian mining, and whatever moral advantage the Canadian mining companies had has pretty much eroded. (I know that my consumption of chocolate and gasoline causes wars and kills people too. But when you make a conscious effort to cut back, the flashy, expensive, least necessary stuff goes first.)

Now, of course diamonds are popular only because of creative marketing, and not because of their intrinsic value. But unless you are willing to cut yourself off from McDonalds and Coca-Cola, and throw away your iPod, that argument is specious. We're all consumers and consciously or not we all reward successful branding efforts by paying inflated prices for unnecessary goods. The real problem is not that the ring costs so much that it inflates the profits of multinational corporations, but that it costs so much that it depletes the cash flow of a demographic that is young, upwardly mobile, and faced with other simultaneous expenses. When I bought the ring I had packed away some surplus income from my job. But three mostly unemployed years and a graduate degree later, that money's looking a lot less expendable now. (And I am one of those careful types that doesn't carry a balance on his credit card.) I would hate to see young couples double or triple their debt load when the apartment needs furniture and the baby needs diapers. If diamond rings were things that 55-year-olds were conditioned to purchase for themselves once the last kid has graduated college, I'd be less concerned. But I am increasingly uncomfortable with the concept of pushing ridiculously expensive luxury goods on credit to 20-somethings. So my purchase wasn't regrettable, but it also wasn't necessary, and for that reason I have second thoughts.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:05 PM on August 28, 2006

My mother would be heart broken if I didn't have one, and I feel like I've been disappointing her a lot lately on unrelated matters. And my mother thinks that I would be happy having one, because it would constantly remind me of being loved by him.

It's nice that your mother cares about your life. However if she is disappointed when you achieve joy in ways she does not necessarily understand... then, well, she deserves to be disappointed. Or more accurately- you need to do a better job of explaining to her that while she may see X as a sign of not achieving Y you see Y as something you don't want and X as a victory all by itself.

It's your life. If you have to live with something for a long time to avoid her experiencing disappointment for a few weeks that's a bad deal for everyone. Practice saying "I understand it's not what you would want, but it is what I want and it makes me happy. I hope that it makes you happy to see me happy." Lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by phearlez at 12:42 PM on August 28, 2006

If you'll indulge in a self-link, I've had a few dozen people tell me that this conversation about the negatives of diamonds helped make it easy for them to say no to diamonds.

For clarity's sake, if you do really feel emotionally that you like that style of ring because it's beautiful, you might want to ask yourself why a cubic zirconia isn't an acceptable substitute. If CZ isn't okay, then your reason for liking the ring isn't "because it's pretty".

To me, one simple way to clarify this for a lot of people is that you're starting off your life together. What's the best possible investment for guaranteeing the stability, security, and comfort of your lifetime together? Bet it ain't decoration.
posted by anildash at 12:56 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Now, of course diamonds are popular only because of creative marketing, and not because of their intrinsic value. But unless you are willing to cut yourself off from McDonalds and Coca-Cola, and throw away your iPod, that argument is specious.

I disagree with this. Ingrained in Western culture is that marriage is the brass ring, the true prize for those who have found real love -- and a marriage begins with an engagement and a wedding. For many people, the diamond ring is the engagement, second in importance only to the actual proposing itself. A proposal without a ring wouldn't be "real."

So, yes, we're all becoming aware that the values surrounding a diamond engagement ring have been tainted by shrewd marketing -- but to say that that shouldn't affect their perceived value any more than a Coke or an iPod is overly simplistic. An engagement ring is an external symbol of a major life event, and really isn't a comparable consumer purchase.

(Although, the comparison is making me picture a man on bended knee, carefully opening a cardboard clamshell to his beloved, as she weeps tears of joy over a Big Mac, which is amusing me.)
posted by pineapple at 12:56 PM on August 28, 2006

Remember where you posted this question. Metafilter has a long history of disdain toward diamonds, so you loaded the deck in favor of alternatives simply by asking the question here.

But let's be practical. "Non-conflict diamonds drive up demand for other diamonds" is a philosophical argument that suggests your wearing a ring will encourage other people to buy their own, not-as-well-thought-out diamonds, thereby supporting the diamond cartel. But this argument doesn't hold water on a practical level. Would you abstain from owning a dog because you don't want to encourage pet stores to support puppy mills? No--you'd buy one from a trusted source, or adopt.

So do that. Get a Canadian or non-conflict diamond with certification that will allow you to sleep well and wear it with pride. Or buy an antique, thereby keeping your money out of the direct product stream. That way your heart will be happy and your head will be satisfied.
posted by werty at 1:01 PM on August 28, 2006

Would you abstain from owning a dog because you don't want to encourage pet stores to support puppy mills?
That question is incomplete. I would abstain from buying a purebred dog, from any source, in part to reduce the puppy-mill trade. I would, instead, adopt a mixed breed from a shelter.

I agree with those posters who advocate diamond alternatives (my wife has an engagement ring, but not a diamond). But n'muakolo states that she wants a diamond or nothing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:24 PM on August 28, 2006

I disagree with this. Ingrained in Western culture is that marriage is the brass ring, the true prize for those who have found real love -- and a marriage begins with an engagement and a wedding. For many people, the diamond ring is the engagement, second in importance only to the actual proposing itself.

The statement you are responding to was referring not to engagement rings in general being a DeBeers fabrication but the tradition of DIAMOND engagement rings being a fabrication. The concept of a diamond as the only 'real' engagement ring stone IS new.
posted by phearlez at 1:44 PM on August 28, 2006

The statement you are responding to was referring not to engagement rings in general being a DeBeers fabrication but the tradition of DIAMOND engagement rings being a fabrication. The concept of a diamond as the only 'real' engagement ring stone IS new.

And by new, you mean, only 75 years old? Let's keep in mind that for most people getting engaged today in Western culture, they've never known anything but a diamond ring; it's just "what is done."

I didn't misunderstand the original poster. My point is that it's not fair to dismiss the argument that "the recent awareness of DIAMOND engagement rings as a marketing ploy reduces the value proposition of the DIAMOND purchase" just because we don't also reject marketing ploys as they attach to less expensive consumer goods.

In other words, it's not specious, as originally charged, to consider a non-diamond ring simply because the "diamond tradition" was borne of a marketing campaign. That's as viable a reason as any other consumer consideration -- and in my argument, even more viable when you consider that the item in question is the ultimate physical demonstration of love, for some people. Wanting to reject commercial associations with it would be quite natural.
posted by pineapple at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2006

We originally looked for a band with inset stones for me. I didn't want a diamond sticking out to get caught on everything. I hated everything I saw for a long time, and was just going to get matching platinum wedding bands. Eventually we did see one that both of us knew was 'me'--and I really love it. (My husband teases me about it still sometimes...because of how much I didn't want one to start with, and how much I loved it when I got it!) It's tension set, so there are no prongs, although the ring still sticks up from my finger a bit. We never bothered with a wedding band--this particular ring looks better solo anyhow. So, I just have the one ring.

--I didn't own any rings before I got married, but it didn't take too long to get used to. I wasn't too interested in having one either, but now that I do have it I'm very attached to it and what it symbolizes.
--I don't wear it all the time--I remove it when I rock climb, backpack, volleyball, clean, garden...sometimes I don't wear it for several days over the weekend. My husband has arthritis which can make getting his band off and on very difficult, so he too frequently goes a couple days without it.
--Another mom wears only her wedding band, but on special occasions she does wear the engagement ring.
--I don't really think it matters if the diamond loses're going to keep it forever, right?
posted by sLevi at 2:48 PM on August 28, 2006

>There is a legal issue here, as well. As a marriage is a legal contract, I think that the laws of some states may requires the exchange of something of physical value for the contract to be valid. It probably doesn't have to be rings, though.


Marriage is a legal contract, and much more. A contract, to be binding, requires that each side agree to do something that he does not otherwise have to do. There is no requirement that physical items of any kind be exchanged.
posted by megatherium at 2:54 PM on August 28, 2006

My husband and I chose to get married in Vegas two years ago. I definitely didn't want an engagement ring, and we didn't have any wedding rings either. The celebrant didn't bat an eye, just left that part out of the ceremony. So there's definitely no legal requirement.

We keep saying we're going to get wedding rings one of these days, but it just seems like a waste of money to me. I don't usually wear rings, and I don't need to look at something to be reminded of our life together. If I had one I'd just worry about it or lose it or think people were judging it. I haven't run into anybody who gave me grief for not having one. (Aside from my sister, who called in me in terror a few weeks before she got engaged because she'd had a nightmare that he'd proposed and - HORROR - the ring was ugly! So there may be a bit of a reaction to that mindset in my attitude.)
posted by web-goddess at 3:08 PM on August 28, 2006

jb: "Amethysts look like what I imagine diamonds should look like."

That's what Anne of Green Gables said, too.
posted by srah at 3:11 PM on August 28, 2006

I would have wanted something to pull out and show people when they find out you're engaged, but I would have been okay with cz. But my husband spent months picking out a ring, and it's beautiful, and I'm excessively attached to it now. In fact, pretty much what dpx.mfx said above. Of course, I also consume coffee and chocolate and meat and drive to work every day instead of taking the metro and flush every time and even so generally feel okay about myself, so maybe I should stop reading this thread.

Also, realize that between the engagement and the wedding, there are plenty of additional opportunities to disappoint -- or totally make things up with -- your mother.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:09 PM on August 28, 2006

Being a woman is shitty. Really, it is. Every single decision we make, down to the way we wear our hair, has to be some huge political decision. And then, once we make our decisions, instead of supporting each other, we snipe at each other: "Can you believe she doesn't have a ring?" "::sniff: Hope that thing is conflict-free!" Wanting *anything* is a crime- wanting either the extra donut or the smaller ass is gonna get you dirty looks and nasty comments. There's really only two things to do, IMO: try and change society on a molecular level (by embracing and celebrating every woman's decisions, not just those that match your own), and not being ashamed of wanting things. When I get engaged, I want a big fat diamond ring, and if you think that's shallow, you can kiss my juicy post-marriage ass. I'm gonna repeat what Sprout the Vulgarian said: It is OK to get a diamond ring. Wanting one does not make you a bad person. Getting one doesn't make you a worse person. You don't have to buy it used. You don't have to buy it fake. You don't even have to pay cash (although, really, that would be wise; you don't want to be paying off that heirloom when you give it to your grandkids!). Anyone who tries to put you down for getting what you want and wanting what you get is a jerk and does not deserve a dignified response.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:41 PM on August 28, 2006 [6 favorites]

That's what Anne of Green Gables said, too.

I admit, I stole the line, and misquoted it, too. I do like amethysts, but I prefer garnets (which really are how I imagined rubies would be). And the aquamarine ring I saw was truly stunning - I think it had a particularly good setting, I think that makes more difference than people realise.

posted by jb at 10:20 PM on August 28, 2006

I wonder whether getting a sapphire would really help with the conflict issue, or would it just contribute to a push to buy engagement sapphires (or precious stones), which could just be marketed and mined and become problems like diamonds.
posted by Amizu at 10:29 PM on August 28, 2006

It's worth noting that two implicit assumptions about diamond rings are very common, and very untrue:

1. A man should spend two months' salary on the ring.
2. However much a man spends, he should get the biggest diamond available for the money.

1 is a rule that I have to assume the diamond merchants made up. Hey, you can't blame them--if I could convince the world that the proper price for my goods was two months' salary, I'd do the same. But there's no reason your husband has to pay one sixth of his entire annual income to De Beers just because they asked for it. (Heck, most churches only ask for 10%.)

As for "the biggest diamonds are the best..." There are actually Four Cs with regard to diamonds: cut, clarity, caret weight, and color. Generally, if you have (say) $500 to spend on a ring, increasing any one C is going to diminish the others. So if you insist on the $500 ring that weighs the most, you are almost by definition getting a worse cut, clarity, and/or color. Instead, once you've figured out how much you want to spend, you might want to look into getting a smaller but more beautifully cut diamond. You might find that you enjoy it more--both for its inherent aesthetics, and for the fact that it frees you from the whole "My rock is bigger than yours" arms race. (This is actually probably true of any precious stone, but I got a diamond, so I don't know much about saphires etc.)

I see from your profile that you are in LA. I think LA is even worse than the rest of the world in emphasizing the superficial aspects of an engagement ring. I did my own engagement-ring-shopping in LA, and I was amazed at how many jewelry shops told me, "Don't worry--you can always trade in the diamond for a bigger one later." Um, hello. Symbolism, anybody?

Fortunately, I found a wonderful jewelry shop in Westwood called Sarah Leonard jewelers. I HIGHLY recommend them if your fiance is ring-shopping (diamond or otherwise) in LA. It's a family-run place, with (I think) three generations now working there at once. I was a poor grad student at the time, without a lot of money to spend on a ring, but they couldn't have treated me with more respect and helpfulness if I was buying the Hope diamond. (It's been several years since I was last there, so I guess things could have changed, but from their webpage, it looks like it's still owned by the same family, so I'm guessing they still have the same great attitude.)

Finally, one last thought. The engagement ring is just the first of a million decisions of varying sizes you'll have to make about your wedding. Because your relationship is so important to you, it is natural to transfer that importance to every one of those decisions. Just remember that the ring is not your relationship, and neither is the wedding photographer or the thank-you note stationary. (I know you know that, but I figure it can't hurt to do a little sanity check before the wedding machine swings into gear.)

Congratulations on your engagement-to-be, and here's wishing you and your almost-fiancé a wonderful life together.
posted by yankeefog at 9:00 AM on August 29, 2006

I like your pro and con list, it certainly seems you've thought this out.

You wanted personal stories, so here's mine. I told my husband that I didn't want a ring. Partly due to cost, partly due to not wanted to be sucked into the great wedding hype extravaganza. I didn't know about conflict diamonds at the time, but that would play a roll for me now.

However, after several months of being engaged but having no ring, I broke down and said I wanted one. We picked out just about the smallest ring Kay's Jewelers had and were still paying it off a year later, long after I'd stopped wearing it. I found that once I had the wedding ring, the diamond didn't matter to me anymore. What a waste of money.

Maybe suggest he gets a non-diamond ring to pop the question with. It would have sentimental value because he proposed with it, but if you feel later on that you want a diamond, you can shop together for it. And I think antique stores have a much better variety than most jewelers.

Also, is it possible that after announcing your engagement, someone in his or your family might come forward with a grandmother's ring that could be yours to wear? I have two diamonds now, mine and my mom's, and will have a third from my mother-in-law to pass onto my children. But that would be a hard topic to broach with a boy who's seeing my daughter until after the proposal.
posted by saffry at 5:51 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

« Older Battle of the middle-years bulge   |   D&D for a 10 year old boy Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.