Is Covid-19 the End of Diamond Engagement Rings?

To many romantics such a question would have seemed anathema or even blasphemous if asked prior to the current pandemic. Of course a sparkling diamond ring is necessary when proposing to the love of your life. How else can your spouse to be possibly know how invested you are in the marriage? However, the truth is that prior to the 1948 De Beers “A diamond is forever” campaign, diamond engagement rings were not universal.

Engagement rings have been a part of human history at least since ancient Roman times. Marriage was a legal contract, and the giving of engagement rings was deemed proper in this legal context. As women were considered under the guardianship of her father until her wedding, the groom to be would endow his bride with a ring, signifying his transfer of guardianship. Patrician wealthy Roman women often would have an iron ring at home (signifying power and permanence) but wear a gold ring in public to showcase her status.

It was only as recent in 1870 that the diamond mines of South Africa were exploited by Dutch and British colonists. Europeans had turned to Africa seeking resources for the Industrial Revolution, and instead of fair trade deals and diplomacy, they opted for colonization and abuse.  Mining capitalists consolidated into joint-stock companies who bought out individual diamond diggers. The industry became a monopoly in 1889 under Cecil Rhode’s De Beers Consolidated Mines. The De Beers was a white British company whose workforce comprised mostly black migrant workers.

In 1927 Ernest Oppenheimer became Chairman of the company. To prevent diamonds flooding the market and decreasing demand, De Beers created an artificial diamond shortage. De Beers also created exclusive agreements with suppliers and buyers, making it next to impossible to procure a diamond without their involvement.

Beginning in the 1930s and culminating in the infamous 1948 “A diamond is forever” campaign, the De Beers company set about convincing Americans and other Westerners that the larger the diamond, the greater the love. This is why many men scrounged to be able to afford a ring equivalent to 3 months salary, or lest have his proposal be rejected.

Thanks in part to the 2006 film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio, people began to become aware of the violence behind the ring. In the past two decades, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have experienced bloody conflicts fueled by diamonds. The diamonds finance the warlords, and the warlords fight to control the diamond plentiful territory. All too often children have been forced to watch their families brutally murdered, only to be forced into becoming diamond laborers and child soldiers, continuing the violent cycle.

Is it possible to purchase a diamond that did not involve exploitation or conflict? According to the US State Department, “The Kimberley Process (KP) is an international, multi-stakeholder initiative created to increase transparency and oversight in the diamond industry in order to eliminate trade in conflict diamonds, or rough diamonds sold by rebel groups or their allies to fund conflict against legitimate governments.” In short, the answer is yes. However, it is difficult to prove conclusively that diamonds are 100% conflict free, and those that undergo the Kimberly Process are often more expensive due to the extra steps of certification. According to The Knot 2019 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is currently $5,900. Also, the resale value is often much lower than what you initially paid for it. Therefore, are there alternatives?

Diamonds come in more tones than clear and sparkly! Colored diamonds in beautiful hues of yellows, grays, browns, and blacks are often less expensive than their clear counterparts.

Diamonds manufactured in laboratories are chemically indistinguishable from diamonds procured from a mine, are much less expensive, and have greater clarity.

Of course, going back to our ancient Roman forebearers, a diamond is not a necessity for an engagement ring at all. Princess Diana’s ring finger held an oval sapphire, which is now worn by Kate Middleton. While also encompassing diamonds, Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, wore a dazzling sapphire, while Jackie Kennedy’s engagement ring was a brilliant emerald. 

I plan to get engaged. What type of ring should I purchase?

We at LMG Financial I’m in debt. Now what?are practical romantics in this age of financial uncertainty. There is absolutely no reason to abide by the “3 month salary” rule, but that does not mean that you cannot purchase a beautiful ring that will hold sentimental value for you and your partner. If purchasing a diamond, make sure you use an ethical seller who can trace the source of their diamonds. However, just remember that there are other options that can fit within your budget and still hold life long cherished memories. LMG Financial Solutions has the experience. Contact us today and ask to speak with our Financial Advisor.

Photo Source: A Roman Ring with Linked Hands

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