Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: The ugly truth about diamonds

Shelley Bridgeman dishes the dirt on the diamond industry.
Photo / Thinkstock
Shelley Bridgeman dishes the dirt on the diamond industry. Photo / Thinkstock

What women want in their engagement ring revealed some interesting data on this tradition: 43 per cent of women want a modern style ring, 51 per cent want to choose the ring with their fiancé, 38 per cent say the value of the ring doesn't matter and 42 per cent would not be prepared to chip in to buy the ring. Inspired by this information, I spent some of Valentine's Day unromantically uncovering the cold, hard truth about engagement rings and diamonds. I kind of wish I hadn't. It wasn't very pretty.

First wives lose out

In Confirmed: Second Wives Get Bigger Rings, it was revealed that "men spend an average of [US]$2,000 more on an engagement ring for their second wife than they do on their first".

Nearly half of men surveyed said "they had more faith in the security of their second relationship than the first" but that sounds like wishful thinking to me. I'm with the 38 per cent who "admitted they were simply wealthier at the time of their second marriage".

Upgrades are in

There are wives who decide the engagement ring their beloved gave them, say, fifteen or twenty years ago no longer cuts the mustard. Fussier and more financially secure, they deem this ring to be a paltry gesture unbefitting of their perceived status. So they either buy a much fancier version or have their existing ring remodelled with the addition of some newly procured diamonds. We're close to celebrating our twenty-first (yes, you get less than that for murder, ha!) wedding anniversary and I've occasionally been invited to "upgrade" my engagement ring. Call me old-fashioned, but I've no plans to do so. (I'm allowing sentimentality to triumph over materialism; it's unlikely to happen again.)

Diamonds are not rare

In Are diamonds really rare? Myths and misconceptions about diamonds, the International Gem Society debunks some myths. Far from being rare, evidently, "diamonds are actually the most common" gem. Diamond behemoth De Beers "carefully released only enough rough [diamonds] for current demand" resulting in "continuing escalating prices" which "increased the perception of rarity".

Diamonds are not an investment

"A diamond is a depreciating asset masquerading as an investment," says Diamonds are Bulls**t. The writer also claims that in economic terms, the market for diamonds is not "liquid nor are they fungible", and "[a]s soon as you leave the jewel[l]er with a diamond, it loses over 50 percent of its value".

Resist the status symbol

According to the aforementioned Huffington Post article, diamonds became strategically positioned as a status symbol thanks to an inspired De Beers' campaign to "sell a product that people either did not want or could not afford". Furthermore, "[n]early every American marriage begins with a diamond because a bunch of rich white men in the 1940s convinced everyone that its size determines your self worth."

Forget two month's salary

Why do we believe that two month's salary should be spent on an engagement ring? According to the Huffington Post writer, it's "because the suppliers of the product said so". Evidently, De Beers (yes, them again!) "circulated marketing materials suggesting ... that a man should spend one month's salary on a diamond ring. It worked so well that De Beers arbitrarily decided to increase the suggestion to two month's salary." It could have been worse; they could have increased it to three months or more.

Beware of blood diamonds

"Sixty-five percent of the world's diamonds come from Africa ... but the diamond industry has long indirectly funded violence, torture and slavery by rebel armies on the continent," says the writer of How to Buy a Conflict-Free Valentine's Day Gift. Various organisations and protocols have been established to ensure diamonds sourced through reputable channels are not blood diamonds and The Kimberley Process, an "initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds", recommends customers quiz jewellers about their policy on this issue prior to purchase.

Consider pre-loved rings

Much debate surrounds the matter of whether a second-hand engagement ring is a suitable option. The fact that it's on the market again suggests that the relationship involved took a turn for the worse. Will the bad luck rub off on any future bride? Is it considered a cheapskate option? However, anyone who doubts the aptness of a second-hand ring need only consider the example set by the Duchess of Cambridge. Despite the disastrous ending of her mother-in-law's marriage, it seems to be working out for Kate so far.

What's your view on engagement rings in general and diamonds in particular? When did something so ostensibly straightforward become such a minefield to navigate?

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Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

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