I have some advice for couples, especially young couples, contemplating marriage. I am not normally known for marital or pre-marital counseling, but what I am about to tell you could be one of the best bits of pre-marital counseling you’ll ever get.
When I was being counseled before marriage, I was told that three issues make up the vast majority of marital problems for newlyweds. Number three is money; two is sex; and the number one issue is in-laws.
I have advice on in-laws, but that’s not for today. And while many more people need it than you might imagine, I am also not going to talk about sex here. That leaves money for today.
The advice I am about to give you could save you anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 or even more on the front end. Properly used or invested, such a sum will make a very healthy difference in the lives of a young married couple.
So here it is. Simply put: don’t fall into the diamond pit. A diamond ring is one of the most ridiculous and wasteful investments you could ever make. Save the huge sum you would have sunk into diamond ring, and give it to the bride-to-be in a more sensible and valuable form: gold, cash, property, whatever.
You think that’s far out? Perhaps you think I’m one of those “blood diamond” types. That’s not it. Blood diamonds are more evil that others, but all diamonds are ridiculous as far as statements, statuses, and investments—unless, of course, you’re inside the cartel. Then you can make millions.
Otherwise (and here’s the great lie exposed), you’re paying for something that is not really that rare, has been pumped up purely on clever marketing, and for which you can never get anywhere near what you paid for it if you needed.
In short, diamonds are not worth what you pay, and there are many better ways to spend or save that money. Why in the word would you start your marriage with something that amounts to nothing more than a bad investment? There may be a solid rock there, but it’s not the right one, and it’s certainly not a solid foundation.
Some of the best investigative reporting on the great fraud that is diamonds was done by Edward J. Epstein. In a 1982 article, he writes,
The diamond invention—the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem—is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds. The British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was endangered; diamonds had little intrinsic value—and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity. The financiers feared that when new mines were developed in South Africa, diamonds would become at best only semiprecious gems. . . .
After explaining the historical formation of the cartel, Epstein continued:
The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.
Brilliant! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Epstein goes on to explain the history of the marketing campaign used to exalt diamonds. By 1947, the marketers were overt, throwing it in our faces: “We are dealing with a problem in mass psychology. We seek to … strengthen the tradition of the diamond engagement ring — to make it a psychological necessity capable of competing successfully at the retail level with utility goods and services….” (emphases mine).
For a good education, I would suggest reading Epstein’s book, The Rise and Fall of Diamonds, which in its own words is about “The men, the giant cartel, the inspired campaign that convinced the world Diamonds Are Forever, an artificially maintained illusion of value. . . .”
The illusion is shattered the moment you consider one question: “Have you ever tried to sell a diamond?” If you have, you have learned that the mark-up price on diamonds is tremendous, and that dealers are almost universally hesitant to buy them back, even at half of what you paid.
Why? Because diamonds aren’t really worth that much. They aren’t that rare, especially compared to some other gems. In the end, they are hard, and they sparkle. Aside from industrial uses, that’s about it.
But aren’t they rare? Not really. About 57,000 lbs. of diamonds are produced every year. Imagine an entire semi-truck full of thousands upon thousands of diamonds. Since the start of the diamond campaigns, about 4.5 Billion carats have been mined. Think about it: that’s enough to give every single woman on the face of the earth a big fat 1.3 carat diamond of her very own. Does that sound rare to you?
Even one writer for the International Gem Society admits, “Due to some excellent advertising, diamonds are believed to be the rarest of gemstones. One simple example will help put that into perspective: How many women do you know who don’t own at least one diamond?”
Heck, scientists just discovered an entire planet made out of diamond.
Rubies are actually rarer than diamonds, and many other lesser-known gems are, too. Now consider that the Bible says a virtuous woman is worth much more than rubies (Prov. 31:10), and perhaps you should rethink the gesture by which you would choose to engage her.
But then some will say it’s actually the cut that makes the difference. Not really. If that were true, then a nicely cut cubic zirconia should be as valuable as a diamond.
I could go on about this all day (especially in more detailed argument in regard to the “4 Cs” that determine the price (not the value) of diamonds), but my point should be clear. A diamond is a lousy investment. As a way of pledging your life to a woman, once you understand the sham, it’s a slap in the face. If you really understand the diamond market, you’re saying, “As my foundational symbolic act of love toward you, I have made an investment that lost 50% immediately and I’ll never get it back. I have been outmaneuvered by a retailer cleverer than I, and I paid dearly. You could have had the money for yourself, but I got sharked. But look, it sparkles! Will you marry me?”
But what about the potential bride? After all, she also has probably been conditioned by the marketing and social illusion under which we live. She expects a diamond. You can’t just spring a no-diamond on her or else you may hurt her feelings. Yet it seems difficult to educate her in advance without her realizing you’re already considering marriage. I see the difficulty. But in good Christian circles, the element of surprise regarding “popping the question” should (by “should” I mean by moral obligation) already be largely gone anyway. This is a serious discussion worth having with her, then. Once educated on the matter, if a potential bride does not see the merits of spending a few grand more wisely than on an over-marketed, overpriced piece of carbon to sparkle on her finger, then she’s not worth marrying. In other words, if she understands, and yet still demands you sink the money, she is acting selfishly and probably does not have good judgment in general. That does not bode well for the next sixty-five years.
On the other hand, if you do choose to marry a girl who demands the malinvestment of overpriced bling, then at least you know you have the type of girl who can be distracted by shiny objects. I would suggest investing in laser pointers, pinwheels, and Zippo lighters as well.
I read recently that the average price paid for engagement rings in American is about $3,500. One study said $5,000, but it was noted that that study did not count sales from Walmart. Either way, it’s a lot of money, especially for a young couple starting out. It’s just terrible to see such a tremendous waste.
My advice is to have this discussion seriously with your bride to be, and agree not to fall into the diamond pit. Then, talk with your parents and church elders about ways a young couple could better invest the money. For example, a good life insurance policy. Or else, just save the money. A virtuous woman will not only understand, she will be inspired by the wisdom and forethought of the decision. She will praise you for it. And a start like that will bode well for decades to come.