May 1, 2008

Do You Feel Duped? The Heartless Stone, Fianna's Report - Part 2

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series.

The preview can be found here.

Part 1 is here.

Diamond engagement rings are a relatively new trend. The giving of a ring to mark a union leads back to the Roman Empire. It was first documented among soldiers of the Roman Empire who marked their chosen woman with straps of leather tied around their fingers. The practice lived on symbolically through metal bands and has long been a part of Christian wedding ceremonies. However, in the 1930’s, it was not common to link a diamond with the arrangement. (p. 68) Diamonds were more likely associated with Bugsy Siegel or Al Capone than a young bride.

It was not until the 1930’s that the metal band was replaced in our minds (American minds, this is not a worldwide practice as I will mention with respect to Japan later on) with a diamond utilizing a clever marketing scheme that supplanted all previous traditions. Diamonds were “interesting to look at, but hardly practical, and certainly nothing that a young working family would want to buy.” (p.68). Beginning in the ‘30’s, a strong marketing campaign of DeBeers created a mind shift.

The phrase “A Diamond Is Forever” was created at 4 A.M. by a tired female copywriter, tasked with creating a tagline. As stated by an executive of DeBeers, “In these four words are concentrated all the emotional and physical properties of a diamond.” Oh really? Hmmm... The emotional properties of a diamond? My grandparents, married as teenagers, whose marriage lasted until my grandfather passed away, didn’t need a diamond to signify their marriage was forever. My great-grandparents, nope. Now, with a burgeoning divorce rate, we must have diamonds to symbolize that we will be together forever?

Consider this, I know I am guilty of it. When I hear a friend has become engaged, I grab their left hand. What would you think if a couple did not have an engagement ring? My first thought, even now, would be, why are they engaged if they can’t afford an engagement ring? I hope my thoughts will soon shift to the point that when a friend does not have a sparkly left hand, my first inclination will be, “Excellent, now they can afford a down payment on a house.”

Ladies, get this figure. A 1990 marketing survey suggested that a stunning 59% of men would choose to put key investments, like a mortgage, in jeopardy, to buy you a ring. The years of marketing have changed our culture so greatly, to place it in men’s mind that in order to prove himself worthy, he must provide a dowry, a sacred ring, that wasn’t so sacred just a half-century earlier.

In 1960, DeBeers attention focused on Japan, a country, at the time, with less than 100,000 carats in imports annually. Just 30 years later, following a marketing campaign that, like the one used in the U.S., changed a cultural tradition, imports had increased to 4.1 million carats. “What happened there was still held up – wisely or not – as a signature example of how a well-marketed product could ingratiate itself into the culture, even more completely than it had in America” (p.81).

So, what is the proper amount to spend on an engagement ring? Two months, right?

Ever consider where that came from? Did you know that in Great Britain, the standard amount is one month salary.

How about in Japan?

Three months salary.

When asked about the difference by Tom Zoellner, the author of the book I quote so extensively from, a DeBeers representative said, “We were, quite frankly, trying to bid them up”. (p. 81)

Does this nauseate you as much as it does me? Does this statement resonate greatly with you? A standard, what has become a cultural standard that us women, as the recipients of these items, as the ooohhhers and awwwerrrrs of such items, we are being played with by these DeBeers execs.

Aren’t we lucky to be in the middle price range of their marketing scheme? Americans, while not as fortunate as the 1 month Brits, we are better off than those poor Japanese, who were strung into the DeBeers marketing net at a later time, when DeBeers realized they could milk the poor gents for 3 months income.

Japan, at the peak of the diamond engagement ring craze, 9 out of 10 marrying couples had a diamond ring. Interestingly, in 2006, it had declined to 5 out of ten. Japan is wising up to the DeBeers marketing scheme. When will we?

The idea that if a man is willing to spend 1-3 months salary, (depending on where he is fortunate enough to live), he must be committed, he must be worthy, to marry. If he is willing to lay down months of income to buy a trinket, is that proof of love?

I would rather my spouse save that money for a house, a car, retirement accounts, hell, a honeymoon, than for a trinket that I am bound to drop into the bathroom sink, snag on my pantyhose, or otherwise quit wearing because I will lose it or cut myself with it somehow.


Kaytabug said...

I never received an engagement ring.
I still oooh and aahhh over them at the jewelry counter, sometimes I still wish for one, but I can think of a million things to better spend that $$. So I am ok with not having one.
I hope you can get there too!

Sauntering Soul said...

I had one from my ex-husband and it's now sitting in the bottom of my jewelry box in a ziploc bag along with my wedding bands because I have no idea what to do with them. (He didn't spend close to one month's salary on it and I'm fine with that.)

I don't think I'll get one from Hot Brazilian before we get married and that is absolutely fine with me. I'm with you's just something I have to worry about losing.

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