I have a 1.5-carat emerald cut diamond solitaire engagement ring. It previously belonged to my great-grandmother Henrietta Murray, and since my now-husband (then boyfriend) had to ask my parents for their permission to give it to me, pretty much everyone in my family knew I was getting engaged before I did.
When I look at it now, I think of how much I love both my Grammy and my husband, so it has great sentimental value to me. That is, in fact, its only real value. If I tried to sell it, it would be worth very little, maybe a couple hundred dollars.
I don’t wear it often. I find it clunky to have a big rock dangling off the back of my hand and I tend to fret about losing it. Also I think my hands just look weird with traditional girl things attached to them – like sparkly rings or red nail polish. It’s just not me.
I think most people know these days that the DeBeers Company invented the diamond engagement ring pretty recently in the 1940’s via what was possibly the most effective marketing campaign in modern history.
Now, looking back at my engagement, I’m relieved that Ted didn’t waste money neither of us had to purchase a worthless and common sparkly rock that might have been mined via abusive child labor practices. I’m also disappointed that we perpetuated the marketing tactic at all, and that neither of us knew enough at the time to shirk the tradition altogether.
Wasting money does not prove love. Even saying “I love you,” does not prove love. I often say of my husband that of all the romantic interests in my life who said, “I love you,” he is the only one who turned those words into action. He is the one who was patient, who was kind, who did not envy, who did not boast, who was not proud. He is the one who always protected, always trusted, always hoped, and always persevered. Actions prove love, not words and not gifts.
Love takes time to show, years to build, a lifetime to cultivate, and must be tended always with faithfulness and care.
Diamonds are not even an investment. Much like cars they depreciate the moment you take them off the sales lot. If you need to spend two months’ salary to prove your love or entice someone to marry you, you’d be better served finding someone who is more attracted to your interests and personality than your bank account. If you demand an overpriced tribute to help you decide who to spend your life with, you need to seriously reevaluate your mate selection process.
Choose your mate by hours spent lying in bed laughing on a lazy Saturday morning.
Choose your mate by knowing who will lie awake all night cradling your head in their lap when you are sick.
Choose your mate by recognizing a soul that lights up in response to the same things yours does.
Choose a mate that challenges you to think and grow and stretch who and what you are, and who is challenged by you in return.
Choose a mate who is your biggest fan, and whose biggest fan you are.
Choose a mate who works as hard as you do to prioritize, tend to, and care for the delicate relationship between you. And work hard, very hard, every day. It is worth it.
These are things I have learned in sixteen years being one of the most happily married people I know. All these things are the true treasures and riches in life. A sparkly stone will sit on your hand, then sit in a box on a shelf, long forgotten.
You can’t get that money back, and it would be far better spent on building a life together than in service to a ridiculous tradition generated by a successful marketing campaign.
It’s just a rock. And not the type of rock that creates anything resembling a firm foundation for a lifetime of marriage.