As a little girl, I often dreamt of my future engagement ring. I wanted the diamond to be this shape, that size, and the color of pink lemonade.
I did not bat an eye at the societal expectation of men to spend three months worth of salary on a diamond ring. Never did I consider that that money could instead be put towards a down payment on a house, a car paid in cash, or a college fund.
When I was in high school, I was flipping through channels on t.v. after school — a ritual I practiced for an hour or so before succumbing to my homework pile — when I landed on a documentary about the diamond industry.
Within 1 hour and 30 minutes, my stance and overall desire towards and for diamonds had become forever tarnished.
Here is what I learned:
Diamonds are not rare. They were instead monopolized by a company called De Beers, up until the last couple of decades when other mines acquired a share of the market. In 1982, The Atlantic, reported that over 100 million women owned a diamond engagement ring (a number that has surely increased tenfold by then). What is rare or special about something that almost every woman you know, has? The rarest gem is actually a Tanzanite, a gem only found in Tanzania.
Diamonds kill people. The next time you see a marketing campaign like “every kiss begins with Kay”, remember that diamonds are often not ethically sourced. At least seven African countries have been afflicted by violent bloody wars since the diamond industry started booming. Even as recent as 2013, the Central African Republic has experienced multiple violence breakouts over diamond mine territory resulting in thousands of deaths and over a million displacements. (Source).
It is the greatest marketing scam in history. The evil diamond cartel, also known as the previously mentioned De Beers, decided to launch a campaign that would turn diamonds, a common gem, into a multi billion dollar industry. In the 1940’s, they launched a campaign claiming that “diamonds are forever” — essentially planting the seed into society’s mind that love = diamonds and that the bigger the diamond, the deeper the love. Through this campaign they claimed “that a diamond, like your relationship, is eternal — while also discouraging people from ever reselling their diamonds, as mass re-selling would disrupt the market and reveal the alarmingly low intrinsic value of the stones themselves.” (Source).
Diamonds are not an investment. The chairman of De Beers, Nicky Oppenheimer, was once quoted as saying “diamonds are intrinsically worthless.” The second you buy a diamond ring its value drastically depreciates (like driving your brand new car off a lot). Jewelry stores buy diamonds wholesale from a buyer and mark them up between 100-200% for you, the consumer. This makes the resell value abysmal.
Starting a life together with your husband or wife is a grand adventure. It is also really expensive. College debt, mortgages, healthcare, and car costs are just a few of the expenses that are leaving many Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Even for those that are millionaires or even those that simply have an emergency fund and 401k — why spend that money on a basically valueless rock?
There are many worthy places to invest three months+ of salary — why does a marketing scam have to be one of them?