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Diamonds
August 14, 2002 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Diamonds, a symbol of love for a large part of this century. Yet there is an underlying monopoly who have socially engineered the whole entire idea that a "Diamond is Forever". Does your notion of a diamond change knowing that a consortium is ensuring that their Monopoly is Forever?
posted by mutantdisco! (105 comments total)

 
"Does your notion of a diamond change knowing that a consortium is ensuring that their Monopoly is Forever?"

jimmy dean couldnt be satisfied with just the sausage.

i love diamonds. my notion has not changed.
posted by clavdivs at 7:01 AM on August 14, 2002


i saw a frontline doc on this awhile ago, v.eye-opening! n.b. :)
posted by kliuless at 7:02 AM on August 14, 2002


Wasn't Jimmy Dean the guy who drove his Porsche 550 into a tree? Or was he the guy that ratted out Nixon? Or the alcohol? I always get them confused...
posted by drstrangelove at 7:13 AM on August 14, 2002


I work here. The second diamond mine in North America. Yep. Sorry, just had to throw that in there. Any questions?
posted by ODiV at 7:15 AM on August 14, 2002


I could care less if anyone has a monopoly on diamonds. They don't fill me with awe, and I'd die quite content never having owned any.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:16 AM on August 14, 2002


Bill Maher has been arguing this for years. That buying a diamond for the one you love is perpetuating a monopoly which involves blood money. People have died so that your girlfriend or fiancee or wife can have that sparkly bauble on her finger. The idea that diamonds are forever is not an age-old truism, but one of the first internationally successful advertising campaigns in modern history.

Personally, I'd rather give the woman I love something more practical, like a Mapsco or buy her a dress. Something she can actually use. Of course, I don't have a woman that I love right now. Guess that says something. Principles over romance? Oh well. I hate dating anyway.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:17 AM on August 14, 2002


An excellent article on something I've been explaining to friends for a long time--that the "tradition" of a diamond engagement ring is no tradition at all; it is a creation of the diamond industry.

I don't like to rain on anyone's parade, but diamonds are:

1. Tremendously expensive for no good reason;
2. Not really connected with any deep sentimental ritual.
3. The product of vast mining operations--not so nice for the planet.

Asking a man getting married to dole out a huge chunk of change for this bit of sparkly seems to me to be a symbol of something other than love. At least for De Beers.
posted by frykitty at 7:21 AM on August 14, 2002


That does it -- I'm getting my next wife a Diamelle off of eBay instead!
posted by spilon at 7:24 AM on August 14, 2002


And I'm getting my next wife off of eBay!
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:30 AM on August 14, 2002


My girlfriend says if I propose she wants an engagement kayak...so I don't have to worry about this.
posted by Fabulon7 at 7:34 AM on August 14, 2002


I'm approaching the diamond shopping zone, sooner or later. And this kind of story frustrates me. What is a man to do? Do we not propose? Its about true love, not the ring. But then again, everytime a woman's friend gets engaged the first thing they all do is hold out the finger and ooh and ahh.

The real problem here isn't the monopoly and blood money, its the fact that there is no other choice, unless you have a very understanding girlfriend - and even then they really would prefer a diamond to show off.

I guess the real deal is the showing of prosperity. The same reason guys wear big, expensive watches, and now carry cell phones in the open. Its part of nature. I guess. Anyone have more along those lines?
posted by tomplus2 at 7:34 AM on August 14, 2002


Great article, if a little old...

Here's another.

There was an "activism alert" sent from one of the social/environmental org's a while back (I get so many that I can't find the e-mail or remember which site sent it.) It had a brilliant take-off on the "Diamonds are Forever" silhouette commercial, pointing out issues like child labor, working conditions... Anyone have a link for it?

Personally, I don't want diamonds, or a fiance who has to have a diamond ring. To me, a diamond is a symbol of what is wrong with our brainwashed, materialistic, status-obsessed culture...
posted by argybarple at 7:35 AM on August 14, 2002


just buy ODiV's canadian diamonds! [NB: blood chocolate, blood cell phones :]
posted by kliuless at 7:44 AM on August 14, 2002


I've never liked buying "impractical" gifts, but the wife always seemed to, and very much still does, like jewelry. I have decided that I can find 1K better ways to spend my money than buy diamonds. Too bad I got one for her engagement ring *and* a nice christmas present last year.

Recently I read about the whole De Beers advertising push to create a false demand for Diamonds in a book about 20 Ads that Shook the World. While it wasn't the first time advertising had been successful at changing attitudes about a product, it was effective in getting people to place more intrinsic value in an inanimate object than ever before. Eliminate the after-market and ba-da-bing-ba-da-boom... monopoly.

Bastards.
posted by damclean2 at 7:44 AM on August 14, 2002


Diamonds. Tell her "I'd kill for you."
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:45 AM on August 14, 2002


Hey Fabulon - does your girlfriend have a sister?
posted by chino at 7:51 AM on August 14, 2002


I don't even like diamonds, anyway. There are many semi-precious stones that have more meaning and interest than something as banal as diamonds.

Yes, I know about colored diamonds.
posted by Cerebus at 7:52 AM on August 14, 2002


I don't buy into the whole diamond thing. Mostly because I'm a cheap bastard. I much prefer to get the girl something she can actually use. You know, like a broom.
Row 12, seat 4, express bus to hell
posted by fnord_prefect at 7:56 AM on August 14, 2002


Self-indulgent comment: I wanted to say how happily amazed I am to see so many people echoing my desire for a diamond-less marriage(/partnership/relationship.) Maybe it's because I live in Ohio, but I'm sure I'd be lucky to find one-in-a-1,000 people here who share that view.

It's just damn ALIENATING, ya know!
posted by argybarple at 7:56 AM on August 14, 2002


Yeah, I remember the guy who sold me the engagement ring I gave my wife--"We'll sell this to you for $800, and it has a certified value of $1200. See, so you can make money off of this."

Uh-huh. Killify.
posted by psychotic_venom at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2002


Having just gone through this I've a few comments. First you don't want to have your activism, self righteous or otherwise, come off as simply being cheap.
Secondly, an engagement ring doesn't have to be diamonds. Unfortunately, all precious metals and gems (except of course for the organically grown free range Canadian variety) have a lot of the same arguments against them as have been listed for diamonds. But still the symbolism of a ring is still a powerful gift while proposing marriage.
Go to a local jeweler, not a mall chain, and get something custom designed and created. You know her better then Bailey, Banks, or Biddle. So why should you pick something that literally thousands of other women have on their fingers when your love is unique in every way?
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 7:59 AM on August 14, 2002


"What is a man to do? Do we not propose?"

Quit proposing to women who ooh and aah over something as absurd and irrelevant as a shiny rock. Fabulon's kayak babe mentioned above sounds like quite a catch. That's the direction to go! Find a woman with a little more upstairs. And I'm not talking about her rack, but her cerebral cortex. The Diamond trade is a blatant and successful attempt at adversely affecting cultural attitudes. It makes me feel like humanity as a whole has been used. What if we woke up one day to absolute unequivacal proof that we never made it to the moon? That it was all a scam? There are some who believe this is true. It's not but what if it was? That we've been lied to?

The diamond trade lied to humanity, convincing us all that diamonds actually matter for some strange reason and we on the whole bought into the fantasy. It makes me sick.

"The real problem here isn't the monopoly and blood money,"

Actually the real problem IS the monopoly & blood money, but often the real problem gets overshadowed or completely ignored by unimportant minutiae, like "but she won't love me if I don't give her a diamond." *gagging sounds*

People who wear big expensive watches and walk around in public talking into cell phones are annoying people. Why would anyone want to be one of those people? Affluent? Not necessarily. They're certaintly wanting attention, but may just be poseurs. Am I the only one who feels this way? For the record, Bill Maher is one of those guys who wears big expensive watches and walks around in public talking into a cellphone. He's deliciously hypocritical. I miss Politically Incorrect. Dammit.

"To me, a diamond is a symbol of what is wrong with our brainwashed, materialistic, status-obsessed culture..."

AMEN! Can ah git a witness! TESTIFY!
posted by ZachsMind at 7:59 AM on August 14, 2002


The real problem here isn't the monopoly and blood money, its the fact that there is no other choice, unless you have a very understanding girlfriend - and even then they really would prefer a diamond to show off.

I'm sorry if that's been your experience. I think that many women (maybe I'm overestimating) are more understanding than that. Perhaps you don't want to begrudge your gf such a Highly Symbolic and Meaningful Gift®, but why not talk to her about why you don't like the idea? Might as well get one's ideological differences out of the way before the big day, anyhow.

There are alternatives to diamonds. Also, there's always estate jewelry (reduce, reuse, and recycle that cruelty...)
posted by cowboy_sally at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2002


That's "diamonds of color", thanks.

Yes, as said the De Beers thing is pretty sleazy and it's hard to avoid buying into an ad campaign that wonderfully feeds upon one of the most joyous events in a couple's life.

What do you do? It depends on the couple. I knew a woman who wanted an engagement Steinway (in return she would provide an engagement Porsche or other monetarily equivalent item). Another approach is to find a goldsmith or an artisan to make your rings. The emotional symbolism of a unique piece of art representing your commitment to your other is very strong, and it supports an artist instead of a mass production company.
posted by plinth at 8:02 AM on August 14, 2002


The article was published in 1982, when De Beers was facing the end of its monopoly. What happened? What might the future hold?
posted by raysmj at 8:03 AM on August 14, 2002


Diamonds can't hold a candle to gold, which has been valued in various cultures for millennia. Gold jewelry done well, or inlaid with precious stones, is much more beautiful, albeit 'unneccessary'.

There are some diamonds, however, that are incredible. But nothing is forever.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:08 AM on August 14, 2002


Insomnyuk's page
posted by websavvy at 8:12 AM on August 14, 2002


Nothing wrong with a ring, it's a beautiful symbol. But, here's what goes on in the back of the guy's mind:

"Um, the symbol of my undying love doesn't mean anything unless it costs two months' salary? And it means MORE if it costs MORE?"

A female friend of mine told her guy "no diamonds and no rings that stick up above my finger...as seems to be de rigueur in Dallas engagements" And she writes a blog, too, dammit!: (shameless plug for DeAnne)
posted by argybarple at 8:17 AM on August 14, 2002


Neat site Cerebus! Apparently my amethyst engagement ring stands for "sobriety and chastity". Oops.

I'd like to say I didn't go for diamonds for (what I think are valid) political reasons, but really it's because we were broke.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2002


Next time I get engaged I'm going to offer my bride to be a choice. I'll give her 10 K for a ring, or I'll put a 10 K down payment on any piece of property she chooses upon which we will build us a house. If she chooses the former of course, the whole deal will be pulled off the table and I'll move on until I find one that chooses the THING THAT WE CAN SHARE.

I used to always say this, then got engaged, and felt like I had no choice but to buy a ring (good lord you should have heard the criticism I got from friends for my proposal). Then when the inevitable breakup happened, we took the ring back to the store for credit and went on a shopping spree.

Anyway. Fuck diamonds.
posted by vito90 at 8:38 AM on August 14, 2002


"Diamonds can't hold a candle to gold, which has been valued in various cultures for millennia"

some value to this. In egypt of old, Lapis was prized more then gold. Lapis is my fav stone (mineral really) and the best comes from Afghanistan. If one is worried about blood diamonds, buy 'old mine' diamonds. (which is a sham, most diamonds of note, even the old stuff has 'Blood' on it) As a side point, an exhibit of diamonds is in michigan now, supposed to be largest collection on tour...no, i wont steal them...besides what would i do with a 101K, heart shaped , D flawless.
14 M$ is to much for any stone. And don't think your gonna get a deal on diamond row in NYC easy. The system of catagorizing diamonds is pretty rigid, it is almost everything in the trade. to be a diamond sorter is not easy and requires much skill. Debeers did market this 1K gig. There are some fascinating works on diamonds, and the mining, esp. the African cartels. Was it Rhodes who tipped over someones sorted diamonds to delay the guy so he could get his deal in faster?
posted by clavdivs at 8:40 AM on August 14, 2002


Dewa Ammajee, widow of a Rajah,detremined to follow her husband, ground up a 20-carat diamond and swallowed it's dust!

Believe or Not!
posted by clavdivs at 8:45 AM on August 14, 2002


I was just discussing this issue last night with a friend. I was reading up on Debeers a couple of months ago (I thought it was a MetaFilter thread, but I can't seem to find it) and their practices disgusted me. I have no desire to ever own a diamond, let alone have it dictate to me whether or not my engagement is "worth it." For all the men who are saying "My fiance will think I'm cheap if I don't get her a diamond!" well, perhaps you should try having a real conversation with her. I'm sure many women are willing and eager to explore other options.
posted by witchstone at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2002


I went with platinum and ruby for my wife's engagement ring, mostly because she doesn't like diamonds or gold. The diamond trade is truly disturbing though...Nat'l Geographic had a great article on it.

Also, a site with many links and info.
posted by Kafkaesque at 8:50 AM on August 14, 2002


People who wear big expensive watches and walk around in public talking into cell phones are annoying people

I walk around in public taking into my cell phone. Isn't that the point of them? Should you wait until you get home to use them? And as they're owned by rich and poor alike I don't think it's a status symbol anymore.

I digress. All those who say diamonds are meaningless and that there's a false demand - surely all jewellery is meaningless? Can there be such a thing as a false demand? I don't think people are being tricked. In a capitalist system something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. Intrinsic value, in reality, doesn't exist. The public decided to buy into the diamond ritual, nobody was coerced.

Personally I can't tell the difference between diamonds and glass and have absolutely no interest in owning one. I was going to say I'd rather be given a mountain bike but I don't see why my boyfriend should have to give me anything really.
posted by Summer at 8:51 AM on August 14, 2002


When dealing with women and engagement rings, often the issue is not intelligence. Me fiance' is very intelligent/understanding/open-minded about the vast majority of life. Engagement rings and jewelry in general is about emotion (by which many women are ruled).
posted by srw12 at 8:55 AM on August 14, 2002


"Engagement rings and jewelry in general is about emotion..."

I'd add it's more about really good marketing, which lead to those emotions.
posted by Blake at 8:57 AM on August 14, 2002


Summer: good point about the 'false demand'. Look at Hallmark cards, Christmas trees, and the like.

I've considered complaining about how if I'm going to get married I'm expected to buy a ring for her and she's not expected to do something similar. But honestly, it's not really worth it. I figure she's got to give birth to the kids, right? :)

srw12: I'd change that to (by which many people are ruled), but maybe that's my experience.
posted by ODiV at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2002


I can't tell you how humiliating it is to drag your fiancee up a mountain in the middle of the night, in the dead of winter, after you've spent the whole day rigging up a Honda generator and stringing lights all over an oak tree, just to have her turn you down.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2002


Ahh, for once a way poverty made life simpler: I never had to worry about this when I got engaged. Had I scraped together all my spare change, I might possibly have been able to afford the diamonds off the tip of a drill bit. Instead we skipped the whole engagement ring "tradition" and just got a pair of matching silver bands for the wedding.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2002


Never had an engagement ring. Still wearing the plain silver band I put on 45 years ago. Perfectly satisfied. A diamond is a rock. So what?
posted by gordian knot at 9:08 AM on August 14, 2002


I can't tell you how humiliating it is to drag your fiancee up a mountain in the middle of the night, in the dead of winter, after you've spent the whole day rigging up a Honda generator and stringing lights all over an oak tree, just to have her turn you down.

Especially if you've dragged a kayak up, too.
posted by liam at 9:13 AM on August 14, 2002


Even though my birthstone is a sapphire, my engagement ring was an amethyst, because I love purple. I've had more compliments and comments on that ring than my girlfriends have had on their diamonds.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:13 AM on August 14, 2002


Kafkaesque: not that I mean to pry, but I don't think I understand. What did you drag your fiancee up a mountain for?
posted by ODiV at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2002


Fabulon7: My girlfriend says if I propose she wants an engagement kayak...so I don't have to worry about this.

That's strange, my girlfriend has said the exact same thing (an engagement sea kayak). Is there some advertising campaign by the kayak industry I'm not aware of - "A Kayak is Forever"?

And no she doesn't have a sister, Chino.
posted by pitchblende at 9:16 AM on August 14, 2002


I walk around in public taking into my cell phone. Isn't that the point of them? Should you wait until you get home to use them?

HA HA HA HA HA. I just spit Kenya AA coffee all over my cell phone and Timberland boots.

But, more importantly, Summer's dig on false demand is right on. If you bought a diamond engagement ring in 1941, you were a sucker. In 2002, its a tradition.
posted by footballrabi at 9:19 AM on August 14, 2002


Ha, sorry ODiV. There's an annoying DeBeers commerical in which a guy does just that, with the dragging and the proposing.

I personally, got engaged in a graveyard in Bristol, cause I'm deathrock like that. (gratuitous self -linky)
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:21 AM on August 14, 2002


I'd rather give the woman I love something more practical

I don't want diamonds, or a fiance who has to have a diamond ring.

I much prefer to get the girl something she can actually use

I'm not a girl who wears jewelry. The Significant Other and I have had several talks about this. So imagine my surprise last christmas when instead of the bookcase I thought I was getting, stuffed down in the toe of my christmas stocking was a diamond bracelet. I cried. I still get choked up when I think of it. Easily the best christmas present ever. I'm sorry for all you guys who would love to eschew jewelry-giving forever, but nothing takes the place of it.

Of course it doesn't have to be gold and/or diamonds. At some point, the S.O. and I are planning on buying each other silver bands. If we were thinking about a stone, I would lobby for an emerald.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:30 AM on August 14, 2002


blood diamonds, blood chocolate, blood cellphones...

Anyone ever wonder exactly what in Human society is bloodless? Socially and environmentally? It seems to me you've got blood on your hands as soon as you're born. TC Boyle, in an interview on NPR, suggested the best way to be environmentally conscious is to bury yourself in a compost heap and shoot yourself in the head.

Or maybe I'm just depressed. I'll go have a (foil-wrapped, child-labor-produced) candy bar to cheer me up...

footballrabi, did you spit fair trade Kenya on your keyboard? (Just kidding. Good choice of java, btw.)
posted by argybarple at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2002


I'm sorry for all you guys who would love to eschew jewelry-giving forever, but nothing takes the place of it.

Nothing? Nothing at all? Not trying to argue semantics but did you mean nothing when you said nothing?
posted by vito90 at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2002


Well, I just got mine, and I can tell you that there is a HUGE difference between the appearance of glass and diamond...

There actually is a longstanding practicality of precious stones — they#8217;re very portable cash. I’d like to see you bribe a border guard with a kayak or a land deed. Yay, shiny rocks.

*and furs, but that’s tomorrow’s flame war)
posted by mimi at 9:35 AM on August 14, 2002


The idea of a diamond engagement ring always seemed kind of silly to me. I've made it very clear to my boyfriend that I don't want one. I think we should save the money and put it on a down payment for a house or buy something cool like power tools.

I think a lot of my friends feel the same way. The idea of cooing over jewelry seems kind of air headed. But then again, most of my female friends are computer scientists who prefer hardware to diamonds.
posted by Alison at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2002


And also...your alternative was a bookcase? In that case I could see it. What if the alternative gift was 100 books to fill the bookcase? Would that compare favorably?
posted by vito90 at 9:37 AM on August 14, 2002


Get your wife some blood Exxon gas!
posted by matteo at 9:42 AM on August 14, 2002


I walk around in public taking into my cell phone. Isn't that the point of them? Should you wait until you get home to use them?

I wouldn't know. When I go out I don't carry a cellphone with me. I prefer to talk to the people who are with me as opposed to putting their conversation on hold so I can talk so someone elsewhere on the planet who is not with me. I don't own a cellphone. I don't plan to ever own one. Of course this hasn't stopped Sprint PCS from charging me over $100 for the use of a cellphone which I find laughable.

So I don't know if the point of cellphones is to walk around and talk loudly in public places at people who are not in the room with you, but I do know that when I see people who do that I am offended that they exist in my space but are mentally somewhere else. Go wherever your brain is existing and quit breathing my air.

I guess you could say cellphones are against my beliefs. As are diamonds. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 9:45 AM on August 14, 2002


"and I can tell you that there is a HUGE difference between the appearance of glass and diamond... "

Under a microscope perhaps. On the whole the difference is unremarkable. A shiny glowy thing is a shiny glowing thing, whether it's cubic zirconium or the alleged 'real thing.'
posted by ZachsMind at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2002


I'm sorry for all you guys who would love to eschew jewelry-giving forever, but nothing takes the place of it.

I couldn't disagree more. Any man who would go out and buy me a diamond bracelet after we've discussed that I don't like jewelry and after promising me a bookshelf (something that would serve me a helluva lot better) doesn't know me at all. Jewelry is not some socially transcending archetype, guys. Not all girls see it as the be-all, end-all gift.
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2002


My girlfriend rules, she's told me a thousand times she doesn't want a diamond ring. When we get engaged, we plan on tattooing matching designs around our ring fingers.

Tattoos really are forever. Sort of.
posted by David Dark at 9:51 AM on August 14, 2002


I don't own a cellphone. I don't plan to ever own one. Of course this hasn't stopped Sprint PCS from charging me over $100 for the use of a cellphone which I find laughable.

You may be getting the shaft on that deal, Zach.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:55 AM on August 14, 2002


So, Zach, I guess I couldn't interest you in a cell phone with a diamond studded case, huh
posted by mss at 9:59 AM on August 14, 2002


You're absolutely right, Summer, that what we are talking about here is not false demand, assuming that there is even such a beast. What we're talking about is false scarcity. When DeBeers keeps diamonds off the market, supply is low and demand for the limited quantity available is high. That results in higher prices, and combined with effective marketing, gives the appearance of prestige and meaning. If the diamond supply was not so restricted, and thus diamonds were cheaply available, relatively speaking, diamonds would not be perceived as such a status symbol.

To echo the comments above, diamonds are pure status symbols, less worthy even than an SUV, for at least you can haul stuff in an SUV. Now a kayak, I could dig that.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2002


So I don't know if the point of cellphones is to walk around and talk loudly in public places at people who are not in the room with you, but I do know that when I see people who do that I am offended that they exist in my space but are mentally somewhere else. Go wherever your brain is existing and quit breathing my air.

Um...so if I'm standing in line at a movie theatre, asking my friend where in the theatre she wants to meet up, I'm offending you?
posted by amandaudoff at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2002


Not only will I insist that any future boyfriend/husband of mine not spend money on an engagement gift for me, I also hope to talk him into taking all the money otherwise spent on a wedding and using it to do this.

Of course, having no desire to have a big showy wedding makes me somewhat of an anomaly to most single men around here.

And consequently, too "weird".
posted by triggerfinger at 10:08 AM on August 14, 2002


but I do know that when I see people who do that I am offended that they exist in my space but are mentally somewhere else. Go wherever your brain is existing and quit breathing my air.

wouldn't the same thing apply to home phones and internet connections?
posted by tolkhan at 10:09 AM on August 14, 2002


My boyfriend and I just got engaged, and yes, I have a big sparkly three-diamond ring on my finger. It's his great-aunt's ring, given to her by her mean husband, whose nickname was Harry the Racist. Originally my boyfriend and I had decided we'd design my ring--I wanted silver and a small moonstone, because I don't see the point in his paying tons of money for a diamond when I prefer moonstones anyway. But the fact that this ring was a family heirloom (and the hilariously twisted story about Harry the Racist) made me feel like it was special. Plus my boyfriend didn't have to spend any money at all, which I think's great--I don't feel he should have to pay for me in order to convince me he cares about me. In conclusion--if you've got a ring in your family, and you're thinking of asking your girl/boy to marry you, do it with that ring. I felt honored to be the next person the family heirloom was passed down to.
posted by poopus at 10:22 AM on August 14, 2002


Any man who would go out and buy me a diamond bracelet after we've discussed that I don't like jewelry and after promising me a bookshelf ... doesn't know me at all.

What if the alternative gift was 100 books to fill the bookcase?

Gee, I don't know what to tell you guys. I'm a practical woman and would have been very happy with the badly-needed bookcase; I would have been ecstatic with 100 books. But the fact that he chose to throw practicality out the window (for once) really moved me. I've made him promise not to ever do it again, but I will be forever touched by the romance of his gesture.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:24 AM on August 14, 2002


Quit proposing to women who ooh and aah over something as absurd and irrelevant as a shiny rock. ... Find a woman with a little more upstairs. And I'm not talking about her rack, but her cerebral cortex.

If I ever manage to find a woman who is perfect to me in all other ways but the fact that she wants a diamond -- fuck it, I'm buying her a diamond. It's not as if there is an infinite smorgasbord of interchangeable women to choose from; they are individuals, with only a very few suitable for any given man, and when you find one, you're very lucky indeed.

When you come right down to it, is there any way you can say to a woman "I don't want to buy you a diamond because that is an artificial tradition created by an exploitative monopoly" without sounding like a wack job -- and a cheap wack job, at that? No, unfortunately, there is not.
posted by kindall at 10:28 AM on August 14, 2002


or just spring for some primo weed :)
During the height of the marriage ritual, Conrad instructed Emery to pack a bowl of bud in a three foot high ornate glass bong. Both Bennett and Boje took hits off the bong and exchanged the holy smoke during a kiss.

Boje told the crowd that she was several months pregnant with Bennett's baby. Indeed, the fugitive's swollen stomach, painted with ancient fertilty symbols, was bare during the ceremony.
hopefully in nevada!
posted by kliuless at 10:28 AM on August 14, 2002


So I don't know if the point of cellphones is to walk around and talk loudly in public places at people who are not in the room with you, but I do know that when I see people who do that I am offended that they exist in my space but are mentally somewhere else. Go wherever your brain is existing and quit breathing my air.

Um...so if I'm standing in line at a movie theatre, asking my friend where in the theatre she wants to meet up, I'm offending you?


Well quite, amandaudoff. I don't understand this exist in my space but are mentally somewhere else. Why can't I be mentally somewhere else near you? If I was actually with you and ignoring you to talk on my mobile you might have a point. But a stranger talking to someone else -- what's offensive about that? How is it different to two people talking next to you?
posted by Summer at 10:33 AM on August 14, 2002


The issue isn't so much diamonds or jewelry or even the details of the war between the sexes as it is the idea that the cliches will consume us in the end. You know the drill: Oh, women may say they don't want expensive jewelry, but give them a diamond bracelet and they'll all melt. Meaning: They're all the same inside, just with different pretenses.

It's the same as: Oh, you have all those liberal views now, but just wait until you have kids. Or any of the hundreds of cliches that people believe truly govern their lives. Go ahead, think you call the shots; you're just a bunch of meat inside.

If you believe that, ask yourself why you want to believe that. Because that's the real question.

That's why: Secret Life of Gravy, I'm glad you enjoyed your diamond bracelet. But your comment was absolutely depressing. "Nothing takes the place of [jewelry]?" That's very sad.

And tomplus: as for your comment ("there is no other choice, unless you have a very understanding girlfriend - and even then they really would prefer a diamond to show off."), I'm happy to say that I know this is not true.
posted by argybarg at 10:40 AM on August 14, 2002


"...is there any way you can say to a woman 'I don't want to buy you a diamond because that is an artificial tradition created by an exploitative monopoly' without sounding like a wack job -- and a cheap wack job, at that? "

I don't know, but now I MUST TRY. Someday when I find a suitable cheap wack-job woman, that is. (I promise to let you know how it works out... Seriously. Kindall, it would seem you have written part of my proposal...)
posted by argybarple at 10:41 AM on August 14, 2002


I think the tradition of proposing is important, and it has to be taken on a case by case basis, different people will react and appreciate different methods and objects.

Like when Steve Martin offered that house to his girlfriend in that stupid movie with Goldie Hawn.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:43 AM on August 14, 2002


Interesting thread. Love the Indiebride.com site. I believe the tradition of expensive gifts is a descendant of the bride price or dowry. Make of that what you will.

And, Kafkaesque, that is just so sweet and so sad.
posted by theora55 at 10:54 AM on August 14, 2002


argybarg, your comment is brilliant and insightful. I would like to offer my encouragement and gratitude to all women and men who attempt to break out of the prison of diamonds and stereotypes. Hurray for engagement kayaks!
posted by acridrabbit at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2002


Diamonds can't hold a candle to gold, which has been valued in various cultures for millennia

Gold would be worthless if it didn't require
Such heartbreak to seek it; to find it and mine it.
Things remain precious as long as they're rare,
But if gold could be found lying 'round everywhere

It'd be the lowliest of metals.
Too soft for serious use.
Pretty, of course, and warm to the touch,
But no longer alluring if you've handled so much ...

-- from the song "Gold", by Peter Blegvad
posted by chuq at 11:02 AM on August 14, 2002


Yet there is an underlying monopoly who have socially engineered the whole entire idea that "AOL is easier". Does your notion of internet access change knowing that a consortium is ensuring that their Monopoly is perceived as easier?

Yet there is an underlying monopoly who have socially engineered the whole entire idea that there exists a "Freedom of the Press". Does your notion of a free press change knowing that a consortium is ensuring that their Press is perceived as Free?

Yet there is an underlying monopoly who have socially engineered the whole entire idea that a "War on Drugs" can be won. Does your notion of a substance abuse change knowing that a consortium is ensuring that their War is Forever?

Yet there is an underlying monopoly who have socially engineered the whole entire idea that Bush is the duly elected President. Does your notion of democratic elections change knowing that a consortium is ensuring that their Candidate is Legitimized?
posted by quonsar at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2002


Personally, I'd rather give the woman I love something more practical, like a Mapsco or buy her a dress. Something she can actually use.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the reason why Zacky is single!

Seriously, buying a girl a Mapsco is not practical or romantic; if she needs one, she already owns one. As for a dress, well any man who buys a woman a dress is pretty brave. A practical, romantic gift is something she could use/would like but would never think of buying for herself. Like, I dunno, a heated towel rack North of the Mason-Dixon. An action figure of her favorite anime character, perhaps.

If you don't want to pay for "blood diamonds," you have two options that get you the same appearance: fake diamonds, and antique diamonds.
posted by ilsa at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2002


antique diamonds are liable to be bloodier. i understand life was a short, brutish affair if you happened to be a poor, black worker in the diamond mines 100 years ago.
posted by quonsar at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2002


I for one am going to try and fit the phrase 'engagement kayak' into more conversations in the hope of spreading this meme further and undoing the DeBeers stranglehold.
posted by vacapinta at 11:53 AM on August 14, 2002


Good point, quonsar. However, since the people who did the killing are themselves not benefiting from the sale after all these years, and indeed are likely dead, I consider them somewhat sanitized. DeBeers is certainly not benefiting from Charlie using Aunt Merguertroid's old diamond ring to get engaged to Susie.
posted by ilsa at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2002


I think the Diamond cartel is loathsome. Nonetheless, I recently bought/created an engagement ring. The main stone belonged to my grandmother. In addition to being a moving gesture of continuity, the "recycling" of a diamond ring (new setting; and as full disclosure, two, smaller, "new" diamonds) may be the best ethical compromise.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:21 PM on August 14, 2002


all ODiV is saying is give canadiens a chance :) oh and russian diamonds, since 1982!
posted by kliuless at 12:26 PM on August 14, 2002


Next month an interesting book on the global diamond trade will be released,
Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones
, by Greg Campbell. Interesting book...
posted by twsf at 12:28 PM on August 14, 2002


"so if I'm standing in line at a movie theatre, asking my friend where in the theatre she wants to meet up, I'm offending you?"

If we're on a date and you're talking to your friend, yeah that would offend me.

"wouldn't the same thing apply to home phones and internet connections?"

Not that I'm aware of. I'm generally referring to those who talk on the phone as if the person on the phone were in the room with them, but they're in a relatively public place ignoring others in the space with them. It's simply a matter of decorum and polite etiquette.

And no I didn't mean to change the subject of the thread, but simply used the cellphone as another comparative example of annoying status symbol blah blah blah.

"When you come right down to it, is there any way you can say to a woman "I don't want to buy you a diamond because that is an artificial tradition created by an exploitative monopoly" without sounding like a wack job -- and a cheap wack job, at that? No, unfortunately, there is not."

Ah, yes. The story of my life.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:28 PM on August 14, 2002


Gee this is starting to look like Slashdot, although not surprisingly people here seem to have a bit more sense than the people there.

My sweetie and I were both dirt poor and she expressed a strong dislike of both diamonds and gold. Also we both value simplicity so a ring was not ever a big deal. We both go for days without wearing our rings. I have not worn mine since I got a bad case of repetitive stress injury, and she doesn't always remember to put hers on.

In addition, not having a ring is sort of a family thing. Grandfather was supporting extended family from an Alaskan army base, while grandmother was working as a schoolteacher in Nebraska. Wearing a wedding ring would have meant losing her job because married women living alone were unfit role models for kids. Of course my uncle when he was conceived created a slightly bigger scandal, but by then the war industry was rolling.

Anyway, I see the ring as a test of who your friends really are. The people who love you and want to see the relationship succeed will gush over a loop of aluminum foil. For the people who want the relationship to fail, no ring will be good enough. If someone really wants to go all out for an engagement ring, I don't know of any woman worth the time who will object to either a locally crafted custom design, or a stone especially picked to match her favorite color.

On cell phones: they really only bother me when I see someone driving, or when they go off at the movies.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2002


I think the tradition of proposing is important, and it has to be taken on a case by case basis, different people will react and appreciate different methods and objects.

Beyond De Beers, this whole "proposal" business seems like an anachronism to me. As do weddings & the tradition of marriage. Can't people just have relationships (& legal contracts, if desired) w/out invoking all the myths & symbols that De Beers/Conde Nast/Disney/Mattel/&c. want us to buy?

Marriage rates are dropping throughout the world, esp. in Northern Europe, and I imagine that the diamond industry will follow along. As an XX w/ longtime XY partner, I gotta say that the idea of him pseudo-surprising me by getting down on his hands & knees & giving me an expensive rock for my finger so I can then wear white poofs in front of family & friends & be legally entitled to half his shit if we split is about as appealing to me as I make it sound.
posted by salomesalami at 12:56 PM on August 14, 2002


If we were thinking about a stone, I would lobby for an emerald.

If you plan to wear the stone all the time, I would advise against an emerald. It's impossible to buy a flawless emerald and the large number of inclusions make them weak stones, not well-suited for everyday bumps. The rectangular "emerald cut" was actually designed to reinforce the structure of an emerald. It's a shame since emeralds are beautiful and also extremely rare. So if you want one for an everyday engagement ring, find a good jeweler who will know if it is up to the task. Sapphires and rubies (which are the same stone) are highly durable (diamonds more so, of course).
posted by girlhacker at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2002


Diamonds, feh! Puh-lease. So passe. Moon rocks are a girl's best friend these days.

Which would sorta make NASA the DeBeers of the situation.... I smell marketshare!
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:12 PM on August 14, 2002


this whole "proposal" business seems like an anachronism to me. As do weddings & the tradition of marriage. Can't people just have relationships (& legal contracts, if desired)

Sure you can, but who wants to do that? Marriage, weddings, and proposing are traditions found in numerous cultures which date back far beyond the existence of corporations. These companies have merely tried to co-opt tradition for profit. Tradition is a powerful element of society that too often goes ignored. Tradition, on occasion, can be something beautiful that has been practiced by generations of ancestors. For some, it can help provide meaning to an action. When you propose, you are invoking a tradition practiced for thousands of years. In American culture, for example, getting down on one knee is an obvious sign. The tradition of proposing provides nostalgic and sentimental value. I understand some people hate tradition and sentimentality, but I don't. Even a wedding itself is wrapped up in symbolism, the idea is that the ceremony itself helps convey the meaning and importance of the union about to take place.

To many, it is romantic to propose using a family heirloom ring, for example. It's saying, the ring is a symbol of the lifelong dedication of people who loved each other, and by using it, you are invoking all of that history and making a similar, equally powerful, and romantic committment.(or in the example provided above you are being reminded of a story which has helped you share a few good laughs) Call me an idealist, but that's what I believe.

Life is sometimes so fraught with boredom, cynicism, and disillusionment that sometimes a strong injection of meaning and order brought from tradition can be a good thing.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:14 PM on August 14, 2002


If we're on a date and you're talking to your friend, yeah that would offend me.

if the date were going well, my friend wouldn't be involved in the first place. {/snark}

sorry about that minor thread derailment. i'm done now. ;)
posted by amandaudoff at 1:19 PM on August 14, 2002


I told my husband that if he ever considered buying me a diamond, I would have his head examined. And I'm thrilled that Gravy enjoys having her wishes ignored and being surprised with baubles, but if it were me? We'd have been first in the exchange line on the day after Christmas. If we're spending a couple thousand bucks, we're spending it on a P4 1G+mhz system. Stupid jewelery. Stupid de Beers
posted by headspace at 1:29 PM on August 14, 2002


we're spending it on a P4 1G+mhz system.

Now that's sexy.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:48 PM on August 14, 2002


I had a woman, an Asian gemologist, look at the stone and tell me that it had been cut in the early 1900's. I suddenly tried to imagine my grandfather, who I only "experiences in his 60's, 70's and 80's, as a young man in NYC; someone who had ridden a horse and wagon across the Brooklyn Bridge, who’s English was marginal, shopping for a diamond. It was warm, fuzzy moment.

Clearly, for 97% of women who want to marry, a diamond ring is de rigeur. I don't think it makes you a horrible person to want one, or participate in this institution.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:49 PM on August 14, 2002


T minus 9 days and counting, I plan to propose to my boyfriend while we're camping in the mountains. I'm glad I didn't hear the kayak idea before I went out and bought the ring...
I LIKE that, but a ring is a lot lighter.

Way back, I told my fella that I'd never marry anyone dense enough to offer me a diamond. He asked what I had in mind, and I said LAND! Even if it was a sixteenth of an acre, we could build the treehouse of our dreams together. And I'd have gotten him land, too, except that he recently bought a tiny house on a nice big spread.

Final note: the ring I chose is brushed titanium--it's a clean, spare look, and I hope my engineering beloved will appreciate the choice. Sparkly rocks--who needs 'em?
posted by clever sheep at 1:50 PM on August 14, 2002


A while back the documentry With this Ring was presented by American Radio Works on NPR. It brings up alot of these common points and has detailed info on the early Debeers ad campaigns.
posted by jonah at 1:53 PM on August 14, 2002


KirkJobSluder: "The people who love you and want to see the relationship succeed will gush over a loop of aluminum foil."

These are the best words expressed in this entire thread.

As for insomnyuk's well written but idealistic sentiments regarding tradition, I agree that corporate greed has tainted many traditions for personal profit, but that's one of the reasons why so many ignore tradition today.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:19 PM on August 14, 2002


A few years ago in Paris, de Beers ran an ad in the cinema. Beautiful, pouting woman. Well-dressed, nervous man. Romantic lighting. Will they get together? After much visual suspense, he offers her a ring, and she smiles. The music swells to a romantic crescendo. And the tag line: "What is a lifetime of love worth compared with two months of salary? A diamond is forever."

The audience burst out laughing. They pulled the ads shortly thereafter.
posted by fuzz at 2:27 PM on August 14, 2002


Sentimental Pawn Shop.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:58 PM on August 14, 2002


Sentimental Pawn Shop
Off topic: sigh. Phil we miss you still.
posted by girlhacker at 4:46 PM on August 14, 2002


I think it's more than a little silly to pontificate as though there were ONE right way to get engaged, propose, solidify a relationship, give gifts, choose jewelry, etc. Certainly, the points made to begin this thread are valid and important--people should be aware of how the diamond industry works. But people should also acknowledge and accept that no two people are the same, no two relationships are the same, and that people should make (informed) choices that work best for them--and be tolerant and understanding of the different choices that others make.

On tradition. Most often, tradition consists of someone else's ideas, the creative and rewarding moments of someone else's life, packaged and marketed to those with insufficient imagination to live their own lives. They are easy, something to fall back on as needed in our busy, stressful, tired lives but to be avoided whenever possible. Too much reliance upon tradition creates a prison. Originality and self-direction trump slavish adherence to obsolete rituals.
posted by rushmc at 5:06 PM on August 14, 2002


Ha. I just blogged about this very thing last night.

Truth be told, diamonds are pretty, but I'm not that into them. If I had to think about being engaged, my ideal ring would be a garnet inset in a silver band. Get it designed as a set with a matching tie-tack or cuff links or something for the male half of the equation. Nothing too expensive, ornate, or elaborate. Just a nice token.

But then, I will admit to being a little strange.
posted by kayjay at 7:29 PM on August 14, 2002


Most intelligent people have been aware of De Beers marketing scheme for some time now, so I'm not sure what the point of the link is.

That said, if you think a diamond looks like nothing more than a piece of glass, don't buy one.

If you would rather have a kayak, buy that instead.

But accept that some people find diamonds beautiful. For some people it may be the only diamond they ever buy. These same people may not even ( gasp) own a cell phone. Heck, they might even be avid kayakers.

Plenty of people don't consider a diamond a 'status symbol'.

Besides, that g4 you bought your fiance will have lost all value and become obsolete within a few years.

Each to his own, but feeling you know someone's intelligence level or social makeup based on a once in a lifetime purchase is ludicrous.
posted by justgary at 12:24 AM on August 15, 2002


I would never want a hundred books. Nobody knows exactly what I've read, and I've read a lot. I'm not sure I'd even want a gift certificate for it. Don't think there are that many books I don't have yet.

On rings: I'd want a star sapphire. My mom has one that I've always loved. I don't really care one way or the other about diamonds. One star sapphire and one plain platinum or titanium band, thanks.
posted by stoneegg21 at 5:24 AM on August 15, 2002


my wife's diamond ring was her grandmothers, and was worn by her mother for years as well. That and a cool design are its value, would never have bought a new diamond.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:00 PM on August 16, 2002


my wife's diamond ring was her grandmothers, and was worn by her mother for years as well. That and a cool design are its value, would never have bought a new diamond.

I can certainly understand how a diamond passed through generations would add value. (I'm not ignoring the cool design part, but you can get different designs today, even with a wider variety than in past years.)

However, if the grandmother had not received a 'new ring', you wouldn't have the ring you value so much today.

So the diamond bought today can become an heirloom tomorrow. It all starts somewhere.
posted by justgary at 6:05 PM on August 18, 2002


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