SoYouWanna buy an engagement ring? ⇒

    1 June 2005, late evening

A nice introduction to buying diamond rings -- God damn diamond rings. Update: this thread is too hot to let it slip off the front page. Update: Don't be shy, you can comment too.

This is a post from my link log: If you click the title of this post you will be taken the web page I am discussing.



  1. 1. A Pretty Ring
    2. Tiffany & Co.
    3. A million trillion dollars
    4. Diamond
    5. The Tiffany Setting

  2. At some point in every relationship there has been the diamond discussion. I refuse to buy anyone diamonds and won’t be buying a diamond engagement ring. The diamond trade causes too much civil conflict, death, and heartache in the world for me to consider purchasing one. I am sorry – it’s a rock. It’s a rock like any other rock, one that has been imbued with meaning by the diamond industry and silly materialism. I can’t tolerate knowing that I am so actively supporting a corrupt and destructive industry in order to fulfill a societal order. Each girl gets this lecture.

    I am a joy at parties.

  3. The problem I have with boycotts is that they are ineffective and seemingly random. Everyone talks about how bad the Diamond trade is for Africa, and I’m not going to dispute that fact because I agree with it, but people need to realize that when you buy goods from China, you are also doing damage to Africa. China is apparently the number 1 foreign investor in the Sudan right now, buying up their Oil and natural gas. China also sells arms to much of sub-Saharan Africa. I don’t think it is hard to find examples of exploitation in Latin America and other parts of Asia where much of the goods we consume in North America are made. How many people have died because we are all so dependant on Oil/Gasoline? Oil is probably the biggest reason the Middle-East is as fucked up as it is now. I would argue simply living in the West makes us complicit in the exploitation of the poor around the world.

  4. In addition, the highly subsidized defense industries of most every first-world nation (with US, France and UK topping the list) provide the lion’s share of arms to second and third-world nations. If you can’t sleep at night knowing you are financially contributing to diamond wars, gold wars, bauxite wars, oil wars, rice wars, sugar wars, coffee/cocaine wars, etc., then a good first measure would be to stop paying taxes.

  5. You better keep politics and romance separate, or you’re asking for trouble.

    Girls love diamonds, we love our girls, we buy them diamonds. If you heart goes out to those hurt by blood diamonds, get one from Canada or estate. (Though, you are still just fooling yourself, anyway.)

  6. Cubic zirconia is so optically close to diamond that only a trained eye can easily differentiate the two.”

    Need more reasons to choose cubic zirconia over diamond? War-free history, less costly, can be ordered by phone, and less costly.

  7. That’s true, but everytime I mention cubic zirconia I get slapped.

  8. That’s pretty interesting. I didn’t realize they were visually that similar. Of course, “A Cubic Zirconia is Forever,” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. There is of course the whole artificial diamond industry too now. This old article in Wired is pretty interesting: The New Diamond Age.

    Getting back to Ben’s point on the moral arguments against diamonds, Diamonds are for never by Anil Dash is a funny jab at the advertising of diamonds.

  9. You guys can argue how bad diamonds are or suggest substitutes all you want, but when it comes down to it, I bet all of you will buy your future wives diamonds… So get over it!

  10. There are diamond mines in the Northwest Territories, eh?

    (i.e. You can buy diamonds that are unencumbered by war).

  11. Yeah, Victor raised the point about Canadian diamonds. Of course, you are still complicit in supporting the industry and keeping the cost of diamonds up. There are also estate diamonds (antique diamonds/rings from old estates). Of course, when you buy an old diamond, it isn’t unreasonable to think it was mined by a slave or someone else in a less than amicable situation, so it’s debatable whether they are any better. Hence Victor’s, “you are still just fooling yourself,” remark. It’s interesting to note that people that work in the legitimate diamond industry—i.e not kids in Angola forced to mine at gun point—are paid quite well.

    Victor, Mezan and Shima all raise a valid point. I don’t think I’ve ever met a girl who didn’t like diamonds. Most men will have to put aside any feelings they have on this subject.

  12. That’s a good elaboration on my post Ram.

    Remember that jewelry is primarily for show, so the fact that it is overpriced is an attribute in itself that cubic zirconia will not have. And generally all girls are a “trained eye” when it comes to diamonds.

  13. I am bothered by my cooperation in all the things that you listed, Ram, certainly. But by that logic, and the logic of rishi, what is the point of ever trying to do any good, ever, at all? My point is simple: the diamond trade is a highly isolated industry in that it would be fairly easy for us to stop consuming diamonds. No new technologies need be adopted, no major changes of worldview, just a simple recognition that a diamond is a rock like any other and that it isn’t worth perpetuating the conflicts that surround its trade.

    And no, I will not, under any circumstances, buy a diamond, and no, Victor, I will not sacrifice my morals for “romance”. I do my best to get by day to day, to live in a way that makes less impact than I could otherwise. It’s a continual process – will my being vegan save the world? No. But I sleep better at night. And I continue to work on all those other things that you mentioned – oil, the defense industry, etc. One step at a time. Not buying a diamond is a very easy step. I could buy Canadian, but as you already pointed out, it perpetuates the industry and overvaluation of a simple rock that serves nothing but emotional value.

  14. Ben, do you mean that you think helping to perpetuate the industry (IE, the not buying (Canadian/”guilt-free”) diamonds) supports cruelty (diamond market at large), or just props up a logically inconsistent scam?

  15. Is Shima the only girl that reads this web site? I wonder. In a thread about engagement rings I would have thought that at least one other girl might have something to say. It seems like no women write anything here. Perhaps my sexist assumption that women want to discuss rings is part of the problem.

  16. Weiguo, both. But really in the end it is just a logically inconsistent scam. It’s like: I own an Apple computer. I believe it was overpriced, but I bought it because it has certain practical value that makes it worth that cost. Diamonds don’t have that. They are just overpriced, the industry is inflated, the inflated prices are the reason it’s so worthwhile to kill people and destroy lives in areas of the world that aren’t Canada. Buying Canadian would just be propping up the system as a whole, as I’d still be supporting overpriced diamonds.

    It’s a rock. A rock. That’s all. A pretty rock that sits on a finger.

  17. Ben, in a previous relationship I was happy to give diamonds as a gift SOLELY for the emotional value (IE they made her really happy). Said additional value was just as tangible to me as your Apple’s additional value is to you. That said joy might have been brought about by an illogical scam doesn’t bother me.

    but you have given me something to think about; I might hesitate to buy a diamond now because of the cruelty indirectly involved. Not because it bothers me directly (IE I don’t boycott sweatshop labour, inhumanely grown coffee, etc.), but because my significant other is the sort to be bothered by this sort of thing.

  18. Ramanan, I think it’s because no other girlies read this sight as religiously as I do, but then again there are obvious reason why I do. hehe..

    I know plenty of girls that have something to say about rings! I don’t believe I’ve met any that don’t want a diamond ring… maybe it’s the people I know? :s

    And since we’re on the topic, just so you know, I’m still looking forward to my diamond ring. :P Yes I’m a horrible person! I know..

  19. Ben – Completely agree.

    But nevertheless I will throw in this argument – artistic value.

    Its not the rock itself, its the cutting of the rock that turns a piece of coal into a diamond. Case in point, the Kohinoor. Big piece of rock but ruined by the cutting (I read somewhere that the Duke of Wellington was involved).

    I also detest ornamental things. But diamonds have other uses in many fields.

    I blame it on the whole “diamonds are forever” tag. The reality in our world is that the diamond may last forever but a marriage surely won’t.

  20. hey i’m a girl and i read your blog!

    about the diamond industry, I feel bad for Ben. you must have a lot of things you can do because of what you know. Much of it however, is beyond consumerism. When you avoid buying a diamond for your loved ones, its often a lifetime of ridicule the girl (or guy) must go through. Can you imagine the social consequence your wife has to endure? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it will definitely need to be a girl who can take that.
    I wonder on that note if you can create a healthier substitute for diamonds that will have the same social value (ie. girl won’t be ostracized for marrying a seemingly cheap bum who refuses to buy her a diamond) maybe like instead of diamond you can make a ring out of your old baby tooth or something, something that’s got some real value…
    someone may want to spearhead that.

  21. i will be the second girl to comment on this topic aside from Ram’s gf. :P

    Let me bring in a girl’s perspective:
    True, a diamond is simply nothing but a rock.
    However, attached to this one little piece of diamond is a symbolic significance that is very important to a girl: Just as diamonds are a rare find, so is the girl you’ve fallen in love with and what to spend your life with. Yes, diamonds are overpriced and expensive but the man who is willing to give up a little of his paycheque shows that he will give up something more than money (maybe even his life) to protect her from a bullet. a diamond means purity… the purity of a woman’s heart when she is in love and will love no other but you.

    a diamond ring is a symbol of committment. just as a wedding is more as “a girls’ day” than it is for the guy, so is the ring. there is a reason, traditionally in the 21st century, that a guy gives a girl a diamond ring when he proposes, not the other way around. Guys, would you want your girl to propose to you and for YOU to wear a diamond ring on YOUR finger while her fingers are empty?! =P
    there has not been one girl i’ve met who does not dream about recieving a diamond engagement ring from her special man.

    i agree with the above comment that a diamond ring serves an emotional value. we all know that girls are more emotional than guys, and that guys are more logical than girls. emotion and logic are not friends; they collide. us girls all want to go around to show-off and brag about our diamond rings to our girlfriends… not some kind of feldspar rock you can find 2km away from your house in a construction pit. Common, we want to feel important to you!
    besides, for most of us it’s only a once-in-a-life-time thing. it serves as additional sentimental value as well. =)

    but of course, you’re hearing this point of view from someone who has studied minerals and geology. I collect and love rocks. But most importantly, I am a girl – like any other girl – who wants a diamond engagement ring! =P

  22. But what you both have lost track of here is that my primary argument was not that diamonds are overpriced, but that the diamond trade itself is fundamentally corrupt and leads to a whole lot of death. The reason that I care that diamonds are overvalued is not because that’s a problem per se, but that the overvaluation of diamonds makes it worth risking life and limb (yours or someone else’s) in certain African states. Emotional value aside, people die. As in: dead. As in: not living. What is the value to their lives? What is the value to their families, their lovers, their wives? As Ram pointed out, people die around the world because of a lot of stupid consumer whoreish things that we (myself included) do, like me driving a few hundred miles a week in my gasoline fueled car. It’s worth doing better in every way, but diamonds strike me as a particularly easy thing to avoid.

    Personally I think diamonds are far more symbolic of the frivolous, detached consumer mindset of the West (I avoid pointing only at the States here since there are so many of my brothers and sisters to the north present) than petroleum or any number of other things. To put an end to that industry in particular would, I think, be a sign that we’ve come a long, long way as a culture.

    I would never be engaged to any woman who did not respect that I do my best to value life over convenience whenever I possibly can. Life takes precedence over embarrassment, tradition, and greed any day of the week. It’s just one small step. One easy thing. I wish there were more of them around, frankly.

  23. Small step number 1: Try public transportation for a change. You’ll be doing your children a favour!

  24. Liz, it is a myth that diamonds are a ‘rare find.’ Actually, far more diamonds are produced than are necessary for jewelry purposes. I believe (don’t quote me on the exact number) that about 90% of diamonds are used for industrial purposes. The only reason that people think of diamonds as being rare (and I think I’m repeating several comments from above) is that this myth is perpetuated to keep diamond prices high.

    Ram posted a link to a site a while ago which had a lot of information about the diamond industry. It was quite interesting. It was called The Diamond Invention

    Ben, I must say that I support you wholeheartedly on this issue. I also refuse to buy a diamond ring for any woman I propose to. My philosophy is, if the girl won’t marry me without the ring, then there’s something wrong with the relationship anyway.

    I’ve always joked around with the idea of an ‘engagement sweater,’ but seriously, I’m not sure what I would give instead of a diamond ring. Not that this is a pressing issue right now anyways…

  25. Matt, I’ve gotten the “engagement sweater” promise from Ram way too often! I really hope he’s joking! Could you imagine telling your friends: “yeah, my boyfriend got me a sweater.. ” Worse, try explaining that to your parents! (Moral of the story: don’t joke about an “engagement sweater”... great way to make your girlfriend HATE YOU!)

    Okay Fine, to be fair, being Persian and all I’m not technically suppose to get an engagement anything (least I don’t think so, but I’m sure there are some loop holes)... so technically Ram doesn’t have to get me the tiffany setting.. but I better be getting a damn nice wedding band… he he he…

  26. Whaaat?? Shima, do not give in, I don’t care what these guys say, there is no way a girl should have to compromise when it comes to something as significant as her engagement ring.

    If guys want to save money and have a clear conscience, then they should see to it that other wedding costs are kept down. Heck elope even and donate the money saved to poor diamond traders in Africa.

    You want a big shiny rock, so Ram will just have to work overtime for 5 straight months to give you exactly what you want.

    This is because you are the Woman, and if Ram knows what’s good for him, he’ll know that he should try everything in his power to keep you happy. Ram, unless you have forgotten, Shima can withhold something from you that will eventually make you ‘blue’ and want to rush off to Africa and personally pluck a diamond out of a mine yourself.
    Of course, not that she would.

  27. It seems like people just don’t really know the significant cruelty that goes on in the diamond trade. I understand that diamonds are a sign of committment, but if one needs a fancy rock to prove that, are they really committed? Liz speaks of the emotional value of the diamond, but if it truly pained your fiancee to buy you one, don’t you think you might let it slide? If your loved one told you that he just couldn’t be part of that kind of hateful enterprise, don’t you think you’d let it go? Same goes for all the women involved, I think if you answer honestly, this can’t really be all THAT big of a deal to you.

    All of the reasons for wanting the diamond ring are emotional, but you might want to do some real research on the subject before you take such a strong stand. Read about the people who die for those rocks, the people who have no choice but to work in the dangerous mines for little pay. Think about if that were your family, your loved ones being forced to suffer so that someone who is already so much better off could have a nice piece of jewelry. You already have so much in this world, it might be an idea to think about simple ways to help those less fortunate. Yes there are other ways to help, and we should all strive to work towards them as well, but as Ben notes, this is something you can do by taking no action at all. All you have to do to help, is not buy something. And of course, to maybe have to explain why the ring on your finger is something other than a diamond. Personally, I don’t think anyone would deride you for making a choice to not support the suffering of impoverished africans halfway around the world. If you told your parents that you and your fiancee decided against diamonds because of the cruelty surrounded with them, I’d think they’d be pleased to have such a thoughtful daughter willing to put the well-being of strangers before her own desires.

    I commend Ben, and note to the girls that it requires people making a stand before things will actually change. If enough people adopt Ben’s stance instead of folding to convention, then maybe the world can change a little.

    Personally, my current girlfriend is patently against diamonds, for the very reasons stated here. I’m proud of her, and really, it was she who got me thinking about this sort of thing in the first place.

  28. Do you know how many people you killed in your life time alone because you won’t stop driving your car?

    You guys all come across as wonderful people that care about the poor souls in Africa that are mining for diamonds. Give me a break! Try doing something on a local scale…

    Diamonds are bad, but there are FAR WORSE things in this world.

  29. Just a thought; what if the guy knitted the engagement sweater? Would a girl find more “emotional value” in a a diamond ring that the guy spent two months’ salary on, or a sweater that the guy spent two months knitting? (I realize there are a few problems with this. I don’t know any guy who knows how to knit or would care to learn. And if the girl is bigger than size 0, it would definitely take longer than two months to knit her a sweater).

  30. This is a long comment, I’ll try to stay out of the discussion hence forth. (I just thought I’d argue with Shima since I don’t know if people here are too intimidated to do so since she is my girlfriend and all.) There are two main points.

    Matt, that article is damn long. So, for those who don’t want to read it, some of the main points (and Mezan can probably better summarize the article than I) that of interest here are: that the diamond industry is run by a cartel called De Beers, that diamonds are not rare, but artificially made so by having the cartel control the supply, and that De Beers funded a marketing campaign for decades and decades to reach the point we are at now, where a diamond ring is synonymous with an engagement ring.

    So one argument against diamonds is that it is an entirely artificial construct. However, the sentiment around them exists today, so I think it is in fact a mute point. You can’t have a rational discourse on diamonds because people are no longer rational about them. There is a passion for them you don’t find with too many other things. The other argument against diamonds is that they are used to fund civil wars in Africa. I think this is the point that is harder to argue against—because really, who actually wants to contribute to brutality. To want a diamond is to reconcile these two things, and if you can do that then that is fine. As I have said before, living in North America makes us exploiters. We all make peace with the lives we lead, either through ignoring the suffering we implicitly inflict on others, or by coming to terms with it.

    The diamonds that get sold to industry are called Bort, and are basically not worth much of anything because they aren’t pretty enough. I think it’s only the sale of diamonds used in jewelry that would be used to fund bad things in Africa. Shima, as Ben pointed out a few times now, Diamonds are actually something you could stop buying, and effect some change. So, if Ben doesn’t buy a diamond, he can pretty much live guilt free knowing he isn’t contributing to the exploitation of Africa through the diamond trade. And also, that would actually be on a change he could make at a local scale.

    On the other hand, to feel the same way about the oil/petroleum industry is much more difficult. Oil isn’t just used to power cars. Basically any product you use is going to have some ties to the oil industry, whether it be simply through transportation, to actually powering factories, or making its way into products. Natural Gas is produced by the same people that drill for oil. So, it’s not like you can take the bus and feel glad you aren’t propping up regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia. You have to fundamentally change the life you lead in order to remove yourself from the oil/petroleum industry.

    I have long since stopped caring about all of these sorts of issues. I think Ben’s point is actually quite valid, and I think I dismissed it a bit to hastily earlier, but as I said before, I think just living where we live makes us exploiters. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of how big an exploiter you want to be.

    Thanks girls for replying. I wanted some voices of dissent to chime in. I’m actually not particularly interested in a debate on diamonds—because I don’t want to feel like a big hypocrite when I give Shima a ring, hah. I’m more curious to see where people stand on the issue.

  31. Fine. I don’t want a stupid diamond ring!

    I guess you should start learning to knit Ram..

  32. Synthetic diamonds as a compromise? No?!

    This thread is becoming Kottkesque.

  33. Synthetic diamonds are actually interesting because they have the potential to turn diamonds into a commodity. However, as Victor and others have pointed out, the price tag attached to a diamond is part of the appeal I suppose. So flawless but cheap just isn’t going to cut it for most women I think. And I guess I lied about not replying in this thread. And also, Shima, you so want a diamond, liar. :)

  34. Take it back, I’m not a liar! 8o|

    I’m sure I can teach you how to knit this weekend. You’d want to get a head start, I hear it takes a long time to finish a sweater.

  35. I personally like diamonds quite a bit. I’ve always been fascinated with the way gemstones shine. I always spend quite a bit of time at the Gemstone exhibit at the ROM and I have a collection of loose sapphires and rubies that I enjoy.

    Despite diamonds being actually quite plentiful, I personally don’t have that many and I find them quite valuable. I don’t think of them as just a rock. Even so, saying something is “just a rock” isn’t a great argument. Some rocks are quite valuable, such as large marble slabs. The pyramids are just a bunch or rocks, heck they were build with all kinds of human cruelty. I don’t see anyone ripping up American dollar bills because of their use of the pyramid with the stonemason symbol. The diamonds aren’t killing people, its people killing people. If diamonds went out of fashion and wearing south sea pearls came into strong vogue, there would be gunboats harassing poor pearl divers and trollers. With so many people in the world, and the way wealth is distributed, there must be an outlet. Soon, telephone support outsourced to 3rd world countries may also cause injustice. The way to stop cruelty and violence is not through boycott, it just makes them poorer. You must help them become viable and rich in their own right, which is not as easy as saying I’m a cheap ass and don’t want to buy a rock for a girl I love, cause heck, I don’t love her if she wants one. WTF, if that’s how you discard love, then you’re hardly an open minded individual that gives people a chance. A few flaws and they’re out? No wonder marriage isn’t lasting these days.

  36. hey Ram i think that’s not a fair say about the petroleum and oil industry. sure it may seem easier to avoid diamonds because you only marry a woman once (well , hopefully anyway) and your life is now so entrenched with cars that you can’t get rid of it.

    i think Ben has a point, but i think many men are piggybacking off of his points in hiding their true intention which is to save money and not to save people.

    sustainability doesn’t just depend on one stance against one violent industry. the argument can go farther into how mining industry is releasing uranium into drinking and ground water system which poisons our source of life for the next millions of years.

    the real alternative here is to educate people and bring justice and equity into these trades. simply boycotting cars, diamonds, furs will not prevent them from happening. cultural changes must be made.

    I do believe there is a sustainable version of everything. You can mine sustainably without killing people and jeopardizing our nature.

    extremism often further divides our nation and move us farther away from common goal.

    on that note boys and girls, the pearl industry is also bad. chocolate, shrimp and plastic industries are even worse. now that its on your conscience, find out about your choices everytime you make a purchase.

  37. there was a news article a few years back about a company that developed a process to create a diamond from the ashes (yes, cremated remains) of a loved one. Presumably that would have to be bulked up with some pure carbon or something. But the diamonds were of jewellery quality.

    creepy? yes. Supporting cruelty and overinflated cost? hmm.

  38. I support Shima and Sanaz.
    i think bottom line is that men want to save money and not have to work overtime. =P

    About the comment that “diamonds are not rare”: i agree that diamonds that are artifically made are NOT rare and are NOT diamonds.
    If people actually know the process of a REAL geologically, earth-made diamond… the complicated and natural cycle of lava cooling and the pattern of air circulations in a lava tunnel deep in the earth many KMs down, then diamonds are INDEED rare. It is one of the most rarest stones ever found on the physical earth. Go pick up a geology textbook and read it.

    if boys think diamonds are bad then why not write to diamond companies and support groups who fight for the cause instead of just sitting there?

    Heck, no one knows the cost of a REAL diamond.. and a REAL diamond does not cost only a 3-month salary. It’ll cost you millions, possibly billions…so much more than you’ve ever thought possible. So in all, the boys who think they’re making a change in the world by not buying artifical diamonds, you’re not really helping what you thought you were…

    Do you buy Dole bananas and products? Well, you’re supporting a terrible food trade there already.

    If you want to do something more local, try biking or walking sometime instead of driving your 4-exhaust pipe car and revving your engines while idling to impress the girls.

    I spend the most time in the gemstone wing at the ROM than anyone i’ve ever known. (Hey, maybe Victor and i could go see it together sometime. Anyone want to join? =P)

    “Diamonds are bad, but there are FAR WORSE things in this world”. you are creating a large ecological footprint that you’ll need 3 earths to sustain yourself…

  39. Seems like this thread is finally dying down a bit. I’ll say one thing though, justifying Ben’s (or my) challenge to buying diamonds by stating that we should stop using cars isn’t really a valid point. My (arguably) erroneous behaviour does not excuse yours. Also, I drive a hatchback that is so painfully unglamorous it wounds me inside, all because it’s good on gas mileage. I agree that the world would be a better place if we all used eco-friendly transportation, but it’s not really a viable option right now. Also, I might consider being insulted at basically being called a cheap bastard for taking a stand against cruelty. You know, if I felt like responding to that sort of thing.

    “Diamonds are bad, but there are FAR WORSE things in this world”

    I’m not sure there really is much worse than needlessly contributing to the suffering of others. But I suppose it all depends on one’s priorities. This is where I choose not to goad the environmentalists.

    Also, I think Ram will knit you a beautiful sweater Shima, until he finds out that the wool trade helps fund the slavery of some indigenous people in Fiji or something.

  40. One more thing to add.

    If you think diamonds are bad, then you should stop buying anything that is made in China or Indonesia or in any country where child-labor is hidden behind doors.
    In fact, maybe you should stop eating the foods that you eat too because the chemical sprays are killing people and the earth.

    People always find something bad to say on just about anything in the world, even donating money to charity. you see it as a good thing, other see it quite differently…

  41. Ramanan, are you happy now? see what you’ve started! :P I think any future diamond talks should really be done in the privacy of our own home!
    I can’t wait to get my sweater! :D


    I’m really trying hard not to get involved again… but one last thing: Dinu, you’re not sure there is anything much worse than needlessly contributing to the suffering of others (by buying diamonds)?

    Do you buy gas for you hatchback?

    Being from the middle east I know who to come thank for the fucked up childhood I had.


    You men should just admit you’re too cheap to buy the person you love a diamond. It’s as simple as that.

  42. [Rereading from the end, I guess this is mostly addressing Shima and Liz.]

    This cheap argument is ridiculous. Who said I’ll spend any less on an engagement ring? I never said that. Nor did anyone else anywhere in this thread. Not once. I intend to spend every bit as much as I ever would have, even before I understood the diamond trade. Several folks keep throwing around the word cheap, and yet no one ever said that they wouldn’t buy an expensive ring. I’ll spend every bit as much as I am ‘supposed’ to spend, if I am with the kind of girl who wants that.

    You can pick and choose your causes. If the diamond mines were located just outside Isfahan would your attitude toward this issue be different? I don’t intend it as a cheap shot – my point is to bring the issue closer to home. And Dinu is correct, the damaging behavior of others is not a valid justification for one’s own damaging behavior.

    My point is simple, and simply restated: this is one easy, simple way to do a good thing, and all it takes is not buying this one thing.

    I’ll still spend a stupidly large percentage of my paycheck on an engagement ring. It just won’t have one of those particularly silly rocks in it.

  43. Liz, real diamonds that people dig out of the earth are not rare. That is a myth. Their scarcity is entirely artificial. De Beer’s basically controls the sale of all new diamonds in the world. They choose to sell a small percentage of those diamonds. So, in this respect, diamonds are rare, but they aren’t rare in the sense you prescribe them. It is in the interest of De Beers to perpetuate the myth that they are rare, and to keep the supply of diamonds to a minimum in order to keep the prices of diamonds high. I feel like I am repeating myself.

    This is a very short introduction to De Beers that won’t take long to read. The longer article I linked to a while ago, that Matt linked to again in this thread, is also worth reading. Most of the conceptions people have about diamonds are all basically marketting. The prologue discusses how De Beers managed to change 1500 years of traditional japanese courtship and wedding rituals in a mere 13 years of marketing. Chapter 6 explains the ‘rules’ De Beers imposes on its clients in order to keep the demand the way it is.

    Shima, it’s funny because I linked to that article so I would know how to go about buying a diamond ring. I guess we can blame Ben for everything that follows. Hah. Also, Dinu didn’t say using gas wasn’t bad, so you are putting words in his mouth and then calling him out on it, which is bad form.

    Also, calling people cheap is lame argument, much in the same way calling people evil-diamond-loving-african-baby-killers is lame. For example, how do you know Dinu isn’t going to give his girlfriend a giant wad of cash—a true sign of love if there ever was one.

    [On preview, Ben addressed my last point.]

  44. Holy crap.

    Synthetic diamonds are actually interesting because they have the potential to turn diamonds into a commodity.

    Diamonds are already a commodity.

  45. Ben, I don’t think my attitude would be any different if they were located in Isfahan. (Have you ever been? It’s so beautiful!!! There is a persian say that goes something like this “Isfahan nesfe donyaz” meaning “Isfahan is half of the world!”)

    You’re right about one thing though: We all have our own causes to fight for. I guess the diamond industry/trade isn’t my thing.. Maybe in another life time.

    Ramanan, you can get ride of the link now, cuz you won’t be needing it.

  46. Well, this has turned out to be quite a thread. I think people have brought up a lot of separate issues that really need to be addressed individually.

    I’ve read that Epstein book that was linked above and I recommend that everyone read it. Before reading that I read an article adapted from that book in Atlantic Monthly which really changed my understanding of the diamond trade. I don’t think the issues of conflict diamonds are covered in it though so I know nothing about that. The book isn’t really about diamonds being ‘bad’, it’s just an account of how DeBeers was built and prospered. In any case, it’s very interesting reading.

  47. Ramanan, you can get ride of the link now, cuz you won’t be needing it.

    You’re a liar. Because I know I’ll give you a ring, and you’ll be all like, “Oh Ram! You’re the best! I Love You! I Love You!” And that is why, when all is said and done, diamonds are the greatest things evah.

    And Rishi, I meant it would turn diamonds in to a commodity regardless of whether De Beer’s exists or not. (I am using the word to mean a good that is in abundance and therefore cheap.)

  48. Shima, I’m sorry for your childhood, but shouldn’t that then make you even more willing to spare others the same fate? Regardless, the world is structured around automobiles right now. I’ve already said that the car-centric world is a bad idea, but right now, they’re generally a necessity. How else do we get from one widely-separated place to another? I do the best I can by using a fuel-efficient automobile.

    What good does the shiny rock on someone’s finger do? Other than to make them feel good. It’s artificial and purposeless, and the analogy to the petroleum industry isn’t really appropriate. Also, as I said before, my (supposed) crimes do not justify yours, and I claim mine in the name of necessity, while you would have yours for vanity.

  49. Ramanan we are not discussing this on your blog! 8o|

    Dinu, it’s not a necessity to have a car, some would argue that having a car is for vanity too! Anyways, I don’t have one and I have survive FINE in suburbia. If I can do it you can too! :P

    Anyways, you guys should all be rejoicing, I no longer want a stupid diamond ring. You’ve won! There, I’ve changed my ways, so I think it’s your turn.. Dinu GET RID OF YOUR CAR! I know where you live, don’t make me come over there and get rid of it for you! :P (I don’t technically know where you live, but I’m almost certain I can find out!)

  50. I must say, I take full credit for all of this. Mea culpa. Ha.

    And no, Shima, I haven’t been – someday. One of my favorite professors ever was born and raised in Isfahan and made me love it without ever seeing it. Someday. Like after I pick up some Persian (the language… well, or in any other sense, as well).

  51. See you all at the diamond exhibit at the ROM. Consciousness is vanity. For all that we think only other vain humans give their opinions, all other things in the world react only as the laws of the physical world dictate.

    I try to be nice to people at the local level, and make them feel better. Who knows how far that will chain onwards by giving forward. Wanting to make a direct impact on something like world hunger is itself vain, when you’re not willing to start at a humble level.

    Diamonds live on!

  52. That is such bullshit.

  53. Shima, believe me, nobody thinks my car is for vanity. She’s old, rusting, and purely need-based. And I mainly use it to get back and forth from waterloo these days. I promise, the day the TTC is a viable alternative I will use it wholeheartedly. Until then, we all do the best we can.

    Also, please Shima, don’t come hurt my car, she wouldn’t be able to take it.

  54. If you think diamonds are bad, then you should stop buying anything that is made in China or Indonesia or in any country where child-labor is hidden behind doors.

    Fuck there goes my PowerBook.

    And Rishi, I meant it would turn diamonds in to a commodity regardless of whether De Beer’s exists or not.

    Ram, there used to be a time when De Beers used to control the worldwide market of uncut, unpolished gems. Pretty much they were the world’s biggest monopoly as 90% of stones passed through their hands. That’s when they started the engagement ring fiasco through commercials in 1934. And now they are doing it again: they are also in the synthetic diamond business, trying to rein in and control the supply.

    I personally like diamonds quite a bit. I’ve always been fascinated with the way gemstones shine.

    Same here. A well cut diamond regardless of the size is a breath-taking scene. I remember visiting a diamond factory in Amsterdam in 1999—one of the coolest experiences in my life. Now of course the diamond capital is Antwerp, Belgium. BTW, diamond business in Holland was entirely controlled by Jews until the Indians started doing business on Saturdays. Then they basically took over.

    I’ll spend every bit as much as I am ‘supposed’ to spend, if I am with the kind of girl who wants that.

    That logic makes sense. Girls, think of it this way: same price – diamond = a bigger rock!

  55. Well, if it is soley the fact that the industry is falsely inflated that bothers you (anyone), then the good choice of engagement gift would be the diamond’s worth of stocks in de Beers. They’re owned entirely by Anglo American Plc, which is on the Nasdaq.

    I would say yes to just about anyone who offered me that. It’s logical and it has a lot of emotional value, no?

  56. want to exchange bones, anyone?

  57. I know this is really late to chime in, but I just wanted to state I’m female (28), and have NEVER liked diamonds. I’m not fond of how they look, I hate the artificiality behind the selling of them (this “right hand ring” campaign DeBeers has started makes me want to SCREAM), and if a guy ever bought me a diamond, I’d be incredibly disappointed because he could have spent a LOT less money and made me a LOT happier.

    Personally, if I were picking out an engagement ring, I think I’d want a ring with our birthstones – that at least would have personal meaning. Or a plain silver celtic knot band (the knots are one continuous line, to symbolize eternity).

    Prior to the Victorian era, an engagement gift was not expected to be a diamond, nor even expected to be a ring!! That is a relatively recent “tradition.” Yes, men would give their betrothed a gift (usually jewelry), but it could be a necklace or bracelet, more often an heirloom piece from the family coffers, and could have any color of gemstone or metalwork.

    Just another female POV.

  58. It is never too late to chime in. I think people who read this site frequently check the recents comments to see if older articles have had comments posted on them. Thanks for your comment.

  59. I am a woman. I think you rock Ben. I’ve given the same lecture to guys I’ve dated and I’m glad you are spreading the good word.

    I took a media literacy class in high school where we deconstructed the entire DeBeers advertising campaign and learned all about the dark side of the diamond trade. I’m a total romantic, but the truth really killed the whole “diamond is forever” thing for me.

    As for the lack of women on the message board…if we believe this survey, blog readers are disproportionately male.

  60. This thread was so entertaining. I love the random comments that still trickle in. (I am one of the top hits for “sweatshop diamond wedding ring” right now.)

  61. My girl doesn’t like diamonds. And she hates it if I spend too much money on her.

    So if I got her a diamond engagement ring, she’d probably slap the heck outta me.

  62. Here’s my rant.
    I married a man who gave me his grandmother’s engagement ring. I felt it a cop out. I married him anyway. I divorced him within a year.
    It seems all the above have missed the point. The diamond.. the cost of it.. the “monitary value of it” is a promise, a strong indication of a man’s intention and dedication to the well being of his beloved. At least that’s why most women are so enamoured with the idea of them.
    My second husband proposed not with a diamond but with a phone call and a suggestion that we throw a big party. Wedding plans got underway and he suggested that I go find a wedding band for myself, which I did. I chose the most thin little band I could find and wore it. I didn’t want nor did I need the flash. His mother suggested to him that he needed to give me an engagement ring. He trotted me out to an estate jeweler where we chose the only engagement ring in the showcase. I hated it. It was dowdy and old fashioned. I wore it for 25 or so years. At the first opportunity I had it remade. I still hated it. It was not from him and not with the intentions that engagement rings should be acquired.. or so tradition dictates. My current and third husband drove for a couple hours so that we could enjoy a canada day parade. After the last flippin’ floppin’ clown trotted by he grasped my hand and ran me directly accross the street into a jewelery store. It was one of those where the doors lock behind you when you go in and have to be unlocked to allow you out. He announced “if you could choose any ring which would you choose”. I thought he was joking so pointed out the largest rock in the showcase. He directed the salesperson to allow me to try it on. He then asked if I wanted it. “Of course!” I replied, again thinking he was fooling. He wasn’t. He whipped out the plastic and the thing was on my finger pronto. I was floored but assured that this man had my best interests, my well being and my heart in his own.
    I know not everyone can afford a rock.. but the point is.. as is indicated by all the articulate individuals who have contributed… there are many things in the world which contribute to unfairness in the world. Brainwashed we may be… but it’s part of our culture.

  63. I’m a girl, and I received my fiance’s grandmother’s ring as my engagement ring. I was honored to receive it, and I continue to be inspired by my fiance’s devotion to his moral principles that would keep him from buying blood diamonds. I understand the symbolism behind choosing a ring with a stone that is harder than any other, but beyond that, it really is just a rock. And it’s just a thing. What is truly important is strength of the relationship, not what kind of stone (if any) in the engagement ring.

  64. I may be a bit biased, due to the fact that I have been selling jewelry for about 5 years now, but am also very educated on the diamond industry and feel as if I should share a few things even though I just randomly stumbled upon this blog. Anyway, here goes: I have been aware of the controversy surround “conflict” or “blood” diamonds for quite some time. With the release of the new movie I have noticed more concerned clients and am in fact very glad to see people showing a concern. Yes, DeBeers controls most of the worlds diamond supply. Yes, at one time diamonds were being used to fuel conflict in Africa. But at their height, conflict diamonds only accounted for 4% of the entire worlds diamond supply. After the UN agreement with most of the diamond production countries, The Kimberley Process; diamonds mined from conflict sources only now account for LESS than 1% of the worlds diamond supply. It is true that until every country is REQUIRED, and not volunteering to comply with the laws, it is impossible to say that the number is zero. There are approximately 1 million diamonds mined every day, less than one percent accounts for a very miniscule number. Not to mention the fact that the diamond industry directly or indirectly supports millions of families all over the world providing education, healthcare, etc. Visit to read about various ways that if not for the diamond industry, people would be subjected to far worse conditions than they currently are or were. Areas like Sierra Leone and Angola are now thriving economies whose main income is generated from diamond mining. Also, most diamond miners in African countries are self employed- not enslaved and destined to die a terrible horrific death in a mud pit. The point to my ramble is not to defend or deny the fact that thousands of people have died, but only for the greed and not the diamond itself. What many people don’t know is that in countries where diamonds were being used to fund wars, so were many other exports, mainly fish. The best advice that I have for someone who is considering buying a diamond is to ask the jeweler where you shop to verify that the sources they buy their diamonds from are A) Kimberley Process compliant and do not buy diamonds from conflict sources, and B) To see a packaging slip from one of their vendors, (All vendors must put it in writing.) It is a terrible tragedy that so many lives were lost during the late 90’s when conflict diamonds were at their height, but if not for diamonds- it would have been for any other commodity that held any amount of value. It’s sad but true.

  65. My boyfriend and I (well, I guess soon to be fiance) just looked online for a cubic zirconia engagement ring. I picked out the one that I wanted, and the size and he bought if for me. Sure, it was not that expensive, but it’s what I wanted. I don’t see the point of him buying me a ring that we can’t afford (we are graduate students) when I’m going to love him whether I get a diamond or not. And to be honest, I don’t want a diamond. Maybe my personal boycott won’t stop what is going on in Africa, but at least I know that I won’t have had a part in it. Judging how long a marriage is going to last based on the engagement ring is ridiculous—-my grandparents have been married for 50 years and he couldn’t afford an engagement ring and her wedding ring was basically a piece of crap. My man purchased this ring because he loves me and wants to marry me and spend the rest of his life with me. Maybe one day when we are older and after he gets his law degree and I get my MBA he’ll buy me a diamond, but it won’t be because I asked him to. This preoccupation everyone has with diamonds is really getting old.

  66. I came across this blog while searching for alternatives to diamond engagement rings. I just don’t care for stones of any kind, including diamonds, so when my boyfriend and I started talking about it, we decided to go a different route.

    So, as alternatives that girls like me appreciate in lieu of diamond rings, there are:
    -antique rings remade (with or without diamonds) that allow you to screw the industry out of their expected customer
    -different cultural options, like tattoos or henna
    -custom rings (which can be pricey)
    and my personal favorite so far,
    -wooden rings (these are winning for me personally – they are so warm and beautiful)

    Here are some links I’ve been bookmarking:

    And if you’re interested, this is quite possibly the best article I’ve found on the issue:
    Conscious Choice

  67. My friend Carvill likes these wooden rings with silver accents they sell in the Distillery District in Canada. They’re made by some artist from Quebec. They’re probably better suited to be wedding rings than engagement rings though, in terms of aesthetics. Good luck picking a ring.

  68. I happened upon this long after it was written…but just thought I’d comment and say that I’m a girl who does not want a diamond engagement ring…nor even an expensive ring. It’s not about the price…it’s about the commitment. A diamond is forever…in today’s world means little or nothing. Divorce is all too common place. I’d prefer to have a marriage built upon solid ground (and solid financial ground) than a flashy ring.

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