edit: un-diamonds are also a great litmus test. if your girlfriend learns the real story of diamonds and still insists on having one you're probably in for much bigger problems than just the ring.
$60 later she's happy as a peach with a CZ ring she enjoys wearing. And on balance she says that she's even happier with it because she doesn't have to worry about it at all. If she loses it, it's not like losing a used car.
This one's a good one, too: http://cowbirdsinlove.com/76
She loved it and our families thought it was great but we both had to deal with a lot of comments off strangers and friends about why I didn't buy a diamond. She was great about it but you could see a bit of disappointment in her whenever it was raised as she was just excited to have it and felt hurt that she had to explain why it wasn't a diamond. When they would ask me I'd list the reasons on the page and tell of why I picked the stone I did so it would only bother me when I saw her bothered.
The point of this story? Even when its perfect for you and you couldn't be happier there are large portions of society and people you honestly never expect that will go about criticizing you for not following the norm and you need to be prepared to have that conversation a LOT like every time someone sees your ring a lot.
That said I still wouldn't change it for the world though and I know neither would she and when your day comes I'm sure you won't either.
Plus I'd just say "We preferred sapphires" and change the topic.
"Anyone who buys or accepts a mined diamond is implicitly supporting war and slavery in Africa. I'm against slavery. What about you?"
(This does run the slight risk of alienating most of the women in the room, including some who cried during "Blood Diamond".)
(Although I suppose after enough impromptu five minute speeches about blood diamonds people will learn to stop asking you about the ring :) )
She didn't have to explain anything.
What she should have done is pointed out how rude they were to make such hurtful comments.
On a related note, I find general obsessions over expensive jewelries a bit annoying. I rather have an expensive vacation with nice memories over an expensive piece of metal/mineral.
I've noticed a lot of people in north america are fascinated by Europe, you only really need to lay a hint and they'll do the work of making themselves jealous. Considering you can get to the Canary Islands for about $4k from Toronto, I don't really see how any woman would prefer a stone over that. 2 weeks at a beach in the Mediterranean where ocean temp is regularly 20C+, I believe today the ocean temperatures are ~13C for most of the European coast, in Turkey and Egypt I believe the oceans are still hitting almost 20C.
I know for a fact my wife would prefer to go to Europe again over ever getting a diamond, in fact she told me a list of countries she'd prefer to visit over me buying her expensive jewellery.
The issue, really, is status. Our society places pressure on women to show their status via clothing and jewelry. I'm glad to see substitutes like synthetic diamonds and moissanite making it to the market, because of the ethical concerns of supporting systems that promote such destruction. It is important to note, however, that it is not the mere materialism of a woman here that causes the drive for diamonds -- status is important, and let's not fool ourselves if we think it isn't important to us. We have karma systems on HN, we hold successful entrepreneurs to the limelight, and we reach for it ourselves.
It's definitely true, however, than many people loose the forest (status) for the trees (jewelry).
Most women now prefer other kinds of expensive gifts - http://tech2.in.com/india/news/entertainment-internet/women-...
The whole "Diamonds are not forever" bit is true, and I think it would be very cool to see some diamonds burning/vaporizing. On the other hand what is homeowner's insurance for?
The bit about how diamonds are not perfect and are now produced artificially does not bother me. You get what you pay for.
Lastly, the thing about how diamonds are just a big scam introduced by De Beers in the 30s is not anything new. Does it bother me? Not any more than the fact that I have to shave. Should I stop shaving just because somebody at some point popularized shaving and is now selling me razor blades at $2/blade? Would be a great conversation with my boss:
Boss: "So Igor, you grew a huge unruly beard. What's up?"
Me: "Yes. I refuse to support Gillette's market position. I'm off to see a client."
Most of our social norms are built around the fact that somebody at some point had an interest in things being this way. Diamonds are just one small, almost insignificant part of it.
Rather, the point is, social signals are often (and certainly in this case) based on symbolic value, which means that they may be open to "semantic hacking" that transfers that value to a less damaging alternative.
That doesn't mean that the value of a diamond is unconnected with its physical properties. It is likely that diamonds are "special" because they are rare, hard, shiny, etc - all of which helped diamonds achieve their niche. But that is an historical explanation. The social signalling (that you want to indicate to someone their value to you) could be done equally well by some other "symbol" if a common social understanding can be constructed.
So it's interesting because (1) hacking social systems is inherently interesting and (2) the diamond industry is itself associated with various negative side effects that sit uncomfortably alongside the notion of "love"...
There's nothing wrong with the present. What's wrong is the use of diamonds. Diamonds are clearly inferior to other signals. To take an example from another comment: a trip to Europe of equivalent cost has the same 'social signal' strength as do diamonds; but it also has tremendous utility for the woman (educational, memorable, enjoyable, etc.). Diamonds have no utility in jewelry form. So: signal+utility > signal.
The utility opportunity costs are staggering; >30 billion in the US alone. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15842529/ns/world_news/) That would pay for a lot of vacations and more desirable things.
As well, the high margins on jewelry means that prices are pushed up for the useful uses of diamonds, like drills or anvils or bearings. (About 20% of mined diamonds, WP says, go to jewelry. A 1/5 price cut is nothing to sneeze at either.)
A few related funny pics:
-- John Webster, Duchess of Malfi
Diamonds are not the hardest known material.
1) Wurtzite boron nitride (w-BN)
3) Aggregated carbon nanorods (ACNR)
are all harder.
(And no, I'm not a cheap b######. My support is based on the lack of exploitation. But I wonder how pricing in the market for "natural" stones affects pricing in the synthetic market, if at all.)
First of all, you can source diamonds ethically. I made a point of doing so when I had my fiancée's engagement ring made, working with a local jeweller who have been implementing strong ethical policies since long before Hollywood thought it mattered. They were happy to explain the precautions they took to avoid, for example, using conflict or other abusively mined diamonds. I do have written confirmation to support these claims.
Of course, you may have to pay more for a diamond that is guaranteed to come from ethical sources. If you're worried, you could choose to go synthetic, which I have nothing against if the product is identical. But if you find diamonds attractive, there is no reason you can't get one at all because parts of the industry operate unethically. And if you don't find diamonds attractive, why are you reading this anyway? No-one is forcing you to buy one, after all.
Secondly, can't I get my partner a present of some nice jewellery simply because I think it makes an attractive decoration that she will enjoy wearing, just as I might buy her a nice dress or she might buy me some smart clothes for a big night out? Not everything is about showing off how much money you have or trying to prove a certain status in society. In fact, my partner doesn't know how much money I spent on most of the nicest jewellery I have bought for her over the years. Sometimes it's just a matter of taking pride in your appearance.
Finally, regarding whether it is worth spending the money on some nice jewellery rather than, say, a foreign holiday: I proposed while on a (rare, for us) holiday abroad, with a ring that I had spent several months designing with the help of ther jewellers. Yes, that ring was quite expensive, and it does have a couple of diamonds on it. But do you think that is what really matters to my other half, or do you think she appreciates that it is a unique gift, made with considerable personal effort, that will remind her forever of both that holiday and how important she is to me?
I like the way that these campaigns work, and there is another one I've been following more recently. It's been ignored for a long time, but it's looking like some good press could come off the back of another Holywood Blockbuster:
That's a British company. They recently recieved some major flak when the CofE pulled out as an investor citing human rights issues. But they have been allowed to get away with a lot of underhanded dealings for a good while, and it's just one I'd like to bring to people's attention.