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Diamonds Keep Getting Cheaper (bloomberg.com)
192 points by pseudolus on Nov 13, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 389 comments

I bought a good quality moissanite stone for an engagement ring for 2% of the price of an equivalent diamond and not a single person who has seen it has ever thought it was anything but a diamond. My wife gets compliments on it all the time. "What a beautiful diamond!" Every jeweler who has cleaned it has thought it was a diamond. The only one who could distinguish it had to use a thermal conductivity gun to do so. Buying diamonds for jewelry is honestly really dumb at this point. I effectively saved $20,000 USD going this route and no one is the wiser, execpt my wife of course :)

My wife is a very pragmatic, smart and pragmatic person. But even then she couldn't be convinced not to get a diamond. She was happy skipping the honeymoon and reducing wedding expenses, but the diamond was a no go.

The marketing is too strong.

It's not the marketing. It's the fact that it's what biologists call expensive signaling. You are spending money, not on a trip that you both enjoy, but on a ring that really only she enjoys. This is an expensive (therefore hard to fake) signal that you care about how she feels.

Now, imagine that the diamond is cheaper. It is no longer an expensive signal. Therefore, although the diamond is the same, it no longer serves the same purpose. So, the cheaper diamonds get, the less demand there is from prospective brides, even if only marginally. This fuels further declines, although that is probably already happening due to better industrial diamonds.

This takes time, of course. But that also means it has a lot of momentum. As the price decline continues, and the word of that spreads, it will accelerate.

I think explaining it as just signalling is taking a too narrow view of it.

Having a diamond wedding ring is like having a turkey for thanksgiving. That's just the way it's done. It's a part of the culture, maybe you could even say there are religious elements to it.

And that was achieved through marketing.

> and that was achieved through marketing

To elaborate: The "tradition" of diamond engagement rings only dates back to the 1930s, invented almost whole cloth by the DeBeers cartel to sell diamonds. For that reason, I think saying it's a "part of the culture" overstates things. This is not a long tradition that connects us to our ancestors.

The tradition of singing "happy birthday" isn't much older, but I would surely say it is part of our culture!

the average person has the birthday song sung at them every year, and sings it to friends family and co-workers multiple time per year, ideally you only give/receive a diamond ring once a lifetime.

Sure. But you see people giving diamonds all the time. It's a meme, a discussion topic, reinforced each time you hear the ladies on the train discuss their friend's new "gigantic finger rock".

Just cuz you yourself are making the purchase once doesn't mean it is in a thing much of the time.

Slightly off topic, but what are some traditions that connect us to our ancestors in modern western society? I honestly can’t think of any as a Kiwi living in Australia with a Scottish ancestry and that makes me a bit sad now that I think about it

Leatherworkers still use certain tools, today, that are precisely identical to those used 50,000 years ago. They were perfect for the job then, and still are.

Not working animal skins? You could if you wanted to.

1. Smashing a schooner glass at the pub and collectively yelling "Taxi" as a visceral response (this must have taken generations to embed).

2. Keeping mental tabs on which mate always ducks out before they buy the round and making up for it at a BBQ by grabbing a beer out of their Esky. Possibly leading to a fist fight at around 11:30PM and then making up at around 12:01AM.

3. "Sorry mate" as the default response when you're unable to grab the door for a stranger because you're a few CMs too far away.

Well, there's the long-standing tradition of Anglos exploring and settling the ends of the earth... as a Scot/Kiwi/Australian, in regard to this particular tradition, perhaps you can't see the forest for the trees! ;)

Go hunting with a self bow or spear, and cook your kill over a fire. That'll connect you with your ancestors going waaaay back.

I kinda want to go spear hunting but it is illegal where I live. The only animal I can legally spear is a fish in my State an I would rather fish with a flyrod than spear.

I'm certain gender reveal parties and baby showers are not in any culture's ancient traditions.

> I'm certain gender reveal parties and baby showers are not in any culture's ancient traditions.

Well, you’re half right. Baby showers in various forms definitely are in many cultures ancient traditions. Gender reveal parties (at least pre-natal ones; there's some post-natal traditions that have some similarity), quite obviously, not.

Christianity is a big one, although that might not apply to you.

A lot of Western culture that goes back hundreds of years has its roots in either religion or the Enlightenment. Holidays, the scientific method, the individualist concept of humanism, capitalism.

Last names. The seven-day week. Learning European history in elementary school. The food you eat every day. Just a bunch of random stuff, really. Think of every way your culture differs from China or Cameroon.

In the US at least, we are relatively cut off from our immediate past. It is easier to tell people that it is a tradition and we will believe them.

"culture" doesnt mean prehistoric, since it could be seen as the collective activities of a particular time (ex 20th century pop culture. or another example is "canadian culture", which includes things like multiculturalism and universal healthcare. these things are much more recent than 1930!)

I think that's right.

My wife is a practical, pragmatic person. But she wanted a diamond ring. She felt sheepish about wanting one.

The expense wasn't the appeal, and she's never been interested in signaling consumer goods otherwise like clothes, purses, fashion, jewelry, cars etc. If I had gotten a rarer, more expensive stone that was not a diamond, she would not have liked it as much. The cultural element of the diamond ring was a big part of the appeal.

Another one in a similar situation. My wife is also very practical and socially conscious. We looked into moissanite really seriously and almost bought a custom ring with it made by a local artist/metalsmith we were working with, and my wife was like "I don't know why but I just don't want this." She knew she wouldn't be happy and was trying to be honest. So we looked into other precious gems, other nontraditional minerals (because of hardness) and she kept coming back to diamonds. The synthetic market at the time wasn't very good, and secondhand was too risky in terms of provenance for her, so we ended up with a Canadian diamond.

I'd love to see the market change, to support more diversity in what's normative. But it is too late for us. My wife loves her ring but it was kind of a surprising reaction for her to deal with. She's said that if it were any other jewelry she'd be fine with something other than diamond. She also in retrospect wishes she had been accepting of moissanite. But it was what it was.

I don't know if it's so much about the money as it is something that she just... wanted. I'm Indian so its custom to gift the bride a lot of gold. She eschewed that happily in favor of a diamond ring that cost a fraction of the gold she was offered otherwise.

But she loves her ring and has never spent a day without it. She will happily wear faux silver earrings but the ring is non negotiable.

Your wife might be special, but there are differences in the signalling of a diamond and gold despite their superficial similarities.

Gold is famous for holding its resale value; so a gift of gold can in theory be unwound to recover the money spent. It is a signal of wealth.

Diamonds cannot be resold, the money may as well have been burned. It is a signal of wealth and commitment. There is also the added bonus that a diamond is not going to be stolen.

>Diamonds cannot be resold.

I wasn't aware of this. What's the rationale?

Try the classic "Have you ever tried to sell a diamond?" article:


They can be sold of course, but you'll get back maybe 50% of the purchase price.


Superstition that wearing someone's wedding ring is a bad luck. Probably was similarly manufactured to keep higher demand for diamonds.

More that the people you would take it to have way too many already, and would love to unload them on the next pigeon.

I have got some mileage out of characterizing mined diamonds as symbolizing south-African slavery. At least, my wife didn't want one.

>Diamonds cannot be resold, the money may as well have been burned

I wonder how much money you'd have to actually burn to extract enough carbon to create a decently sized diamond from it

Nothing like what they cost.

Paper is, what, 44-50% carbon by weight? Imagine a ring with the weight of even a small stack of bills.

It wasn't long ago that the paper was worth more than the rock.

But if you burn it, you lose the carbon. Char it instead.

Paper was valuable enough at one point it was considered the traditional gift for first anniversaries in the U.S.

I think the reason that it is the first anniversary gift is that it was not considered valuable (unlike eg silver/gold/ruby/diamond/...)

We used to joke that the 19th anniversary gift theme was packing peanuts.

>I don't know if it's so much about the money as it is something that she just... wanted.

"Thou Art Godshatter".[1] Long-term fitness-increasing Machiavellian plots are encoded as simple human desires. Indeed, social plays like this one work much better if the host thinks it's something they "just want" rather than some grim manipulative scheme to prove your loyalty.

1: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/cSXZpvqpa9vbGGLtG/thou-art-g...

You don't sound like a very romantic person. There are other things in the world more expensive than diamonds, but she didn't ask him to buy her a skyscraper or Renaissance painting. Different gifts have different meanings, and it's no less logical than different words having different meanings. People associate specific meanings with specific types of stones, flowers, beverages, you name it. You can't substitute "I greatly enjoy the time we spend together" for "I love you."

I must admit to some confusion. I am closely rereading my original comment, and I am failing to find where I suggested that buying a skyscraper is the same as buying a ring.

You're deluding yourself. She could not have at the same time "just wanted" a diamond ring and also "just wanted" you to overpay it 100x times (she cannot notice the difference, so a diamond and a non-diamond ring are functionally equivalent in her eyes, except that you're paying less for one of them)...

It's also worth noting that it's possible to "just want" something for reasons that one isn't consciously aware of (e.g., feeling physically attracted to markers of health and fertility).

This reminds me of the popular idea of "love languages". I was always baffled by the idea that some people considered "gifts" to be the most important way to express love. But diamond rings seem to fit this paradigm perfectly.

No, it's different. For instance, gift-giving is a really big deal in Asian cultures. It's not about throwing lots of money around, it's just showing that you're thinking of someone, so gifts can be very small and inexpensive. So gift-giving is certainly a valid love language, just like physical touch, words of affection, etc. Some people just really like to give their loved one small gifts, and some people really like getting them. They can be small clothing items, candies/food, whatever.

Diamonds aren't "small gifts"; they're absurdly expensive ornaments. Their primary purpose is so American women can show off to other women how much money their husbands have. It's a bit like having a really expensive luxury car: it's a signal to others to show you're rich, not a way for someone to show affection to another.

Edit: About Asian cultures, I'll also add, it's just just lovers. Coworkers will frequently get each other small gifts, or gifts for everyone on the team. This is usually small food items, not anything at all expensive. They might do this if they travel somewhere. I had an Asian (i.e., he had just moved from SE Asia for this job) coworker once give everyone on our team some nice variety of tea, for instance.

It's like buying lunch. When your manager does it, you thank him. When your cow-orker does it, you think "what is this guy up to?"

When my manager tried to pay for my lunch, I declined and paid myself (I am from Russia, we had no such tradition at that time). The feelings I had were a mix of: a) is he trying to make me a teacher’s pet? I am not a teacher’s pet; b) is he trying to show that he has some power over me except paying my salary? At lunch break? He has no power over me except paying my salary, I can well afford to buy my own lunch.

An American visiting from other company was completely dumbfounded: Why have you paid yourself?? He is your boss, it’s his responsibility to pay when he invites you to lunch!!

...And I was completely dumbfounded observing his reaction: have Americans no pride?

Why are you suspicious of a coworker buying you lunch?

I sure would be. Why would someone spend that much money on me unless they're a closer relation?

Buying small gifts for coworkers is one thing, but buying lunch is a bit much. I wouldn't spend more than $5 on a gift for a coworker.

Cuz he's making, presumably, the same amount of money I am (or in the same ballpark). So either he got a raise, or he has an agenda...

I have heard that it's good taste for those gifts to be impermanent. Sort of opposite of the diamond.

yes and not actually they are both good for the same reason, IE they don't hold value. This sort of gift is social signalling that you are willing to sacrifice a certain amount of wealth for them. Neither chocolate, flowers or diamonds have good resale value so you are sacrificing for the partners happiness.

Not holding value is a different thing though. The permanent gift creates an obligation to keep it.

>I was always baffled by the idea that some people considered "gifts" to be the most important way to express love.

I'm baffled that you're baffled. Gift-giving is common in every culture, country, and religion in the world.

The function of gift-giving was an early topic of social anthropology, a classic treatment being Mauss' _Essai sur la Don_ [1]. It contains the (to me) stunning Inuit proverb "Gifts make slaves like whips make dogs" - gift-giving binds the recipient to the giver, it leaves them obligated. Which is not the rosy picture we have of it, but worth thinking about in this context (or any other).

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gift_(book)

so with blood diamonds, this is effectively... Proof of Violence?

it really is marketing, since the value signalling could just occur by wiring your wife $20k or whatever, no need to violate overseas human rights

Apparently it ain't the monetary value, per the other comments, which leads me to believe that what makes a diamond ring romantic is specifically the human suffering.

Suddenly Padmé agreeing to marry a guy who slaughtered an entire village of Sand People and monologued to her about it makes a lot more sense.

Then why not buy a moissanite golf ball for her to wear? Just as expensive, but blinding signal.

Welcome to the irrationality (or pseudo rationality) of the human race. My hope is these materials flood the market like this article alludes to so that the market is destroyed and we can move on to something else. Another "fitness indicator" that im happy to see go is the preference for a sports car among young men.

As one of those guys formerly, I can only agree. Does very little for you in terms of satisfaction. Or proving fitness for that matter. Ended up selling my fancy Italian car to a guy who actually understood cars.

It's the marketing. When I married, I suggest that we should spent the same amount of money to buy something that's looks like a diamond but it's not a diamond. No go. The price would be the same. So the expensive signal was there. Nope. She wanted a diamond. If it's not a diamond, it's not real.

My wife is as well. When we were married we were too poor to buy a diamond, but she always held out the desire for one. Coincidentally, about the time the movie "Blood Diamond" came out (2006) was about the time we were able to afford a decent diamond for her. The movie had a huge impact on her and she spent weeks slipping in between diamond shopping and learning about blood diamonds.

While she knew that diamonds are more or less worthless logically, the marketing and social drivers kept it in her head that she needed one - the emotional need was very very high. But the more she read about the human cost the more in conflict the social worth of the things became.

Ultimately she decided that the moral cost aligned with her logical mind and that's what finally overrode her emotional desire to get one. She still wanted a sparkly thing and after spending some time looking in to lab grown diamonds, she coudn't get over the basic worthlessness of having an expensive sparkly thing and ended up just getting a modest lab grown moissanite ring -- on sale and with a discount coupon.

No matter how much we pat ourselves on the back for how rational and smart beings we humans are, the reality is that emotions are running the show much more than logic. Evidence is everywhere - elections, fashion, life, shopping and partner choices and so on. For some people its almost purely emotions, and their lives usually look accordingly. Peer pressure, status symbols etc - all just variations of same emotional loops.

Congrats to having such a smart wife.

Not only are emotions running the show, the emotions are being run by very rational marketers and politicians. Although this may have been less true in past centuries, today being run by emotions means being run by other people.

It's always been true, but there is a difference in scale due to the reach of modern media.

You can get pretty far by modeling humans as 1/2 bacteria and 1/2 beagle.

Nothing compared to when you get a house as a couple. Rational pricing and cost-benefit analyses go out the door when the emotional buttons hit on some overpriced place.

But at least the resale value of a house is generally a /lot/ better than the resale value of a diamond.

Used to be. I expect the price of McMansions built in the last 20 years to plummet as people realize they cost more to heat, clean, and maintain, without providing commensurate value.

A big house can have value, but not the way they are typically built in the US. A valuable one has a big-enough living section with a separate workshop, gallery, or apartments. American zoning laws tend to forbid it, so the workshop is often labeled a "garage". Your garage can be as big as you like, but you may be obliged to conceal how you use it.

Strange but true, Americans have been taught it's normal. Like diamonds.

Did you ask her why?

It doesn't outwardly seem pragmatic if she's happy to forego expense which provide a service or experience, but not a piece of stone that weighs less than a gram and serves no function other than to display wealth. You'd be better spending that money on a fancy sports car - at least you'd get some fun out of it and a fair resale value.

It’s the bitcoin of yestercentury. It doesn’t display wealth - it proves effort has been spent for something that’s mostly (or entirely) useless. Quite, but not exactly sunk cost.

People are willing to give something up for proof of effort; a personal union, or something else of value.

Whenever someone tells me bitcoin is a scam and has no intrinsic value, I ask them about diamonds, expensive art, etc. Most people cannot reconcile bitcoin and diamonds (as jewelery) in the same value frame.

Diamonds do have some functional uses of course, as does gold. But their price is wholly determined by the belief (whether justified or not) that they cannot easily be manufactured on demand. Just like bitcoin.

>It’s the bitcoin of yestercentury. It doesn’t display wealth - it proves effort has been spent for something that’s mostly (or entirely) useless. Quite, but not exactly sunk cost.

I really like that, bitcoin as the diamond of yesteryear. Effectively finite, has to be mined, only has value/importance because a group of people assign it one, has limited practical use (diamonds as abrasives mostly, bitcoin as a cookie crumb record of transactions) is seen as foolish/wasteful by others, you can't use either for practical trade as the vast majority of individuals/companies don't accept either for trade and both could easily be rendered worthless by a technological advancement or social change.

The analogy is closer than you might imagine. The rock is not at all rare, and the bitcoins are often mined with other peoples' money.

Ah yes. Every girl and woman I know would cherish a Bitcoin. It really sparkles in the light.

This is literally what my sister responded with when I asked her why she liked diamonds so much:


Bitcoins aren’t pretty. Sparkling, finely cut specific rocks are. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

Mojssanite (sp?) and zirconium stones have those properties as well, and cost much less. Some other gem stones are very hard to distinguish from diamonds without specific tools.

Does your sister have a preference for diamonds over finely cut zirconium (or even glass)? It’s likely not as simple as that, even if you and her try to rationalize it that way.

I nor her have any specific preference for diamonds. I only explained why she, and many people, like them: it’s as dumbly simply as “sparkle, sparkle”.

Yet, it never really is.

Interesting metaphor, but the difference between Bitcoin and diamonds is fungibility.

Unlike gold, there's no way to sell 1% of a diamond.

Good luck even trying to sell 100% of a diamond.

You can sell 1% of a really huge diamond, but its value doesn't scale

Yeah, you can, you can pawn it. 3 days = 1%

Except bitcoin can't be manufactured on demand. I'm sorry, but this is a terrible analogy. There's a reason why people compare bitcoin to gold, because it makes for a better analogy, despite the fact that gold is actually ubiquitous throughout the solar system, and bitcoin is actually finite. For the record, I own zero bitcoin.

Analogy illustrates a point, it’s not meant to claim that two things are totally equivalent. It’s very hard to make an analogy on HN because someone will make a complaint about it like this one, and the overall effect just lowers the quality of discourse.

I don’t understand where you believe I am wrong; I said the gold, diamond and bitcoin all have the property that they cannot be manufactured on demand.

I mean, it's a bit overly broad of an analogy. Iron can't be manufactured on demand either. Neither can corn.

Corn can be, and regularly is; iron is abundant. Both are priced by their functionality (with a price floor set by the cost of manufacturing/extracting/growing if we ignore subsidies for a moment). If they become too expensive, they will be replaced by other cheap metals or crop in most uses.

Gold/bitcoins/diamonds just become more desirable when their price goes up.

> it proves effort has been spent

Diamonds only prove that in a very narrow sense, namely in that some gemstone expert (that you need to trust) can subject the diamond to a battery of sophisticated tests in order to testify to its genuine, non-counterfeit nature.

Bitcoin's Proof of Work is trivially verifiable in comparison.

To be contrarian: Bitcoin is only verifiable with a very sophisticated machine and algos...

I.e. a cheap computer and off-the-shelf software.

To be fair with bitcoin you can at least pay (in some places).

Also the worth of bitcoin is (kinda) backed by the worth of the electricty which is used to mine blocks (and consequently new bitcoins).

I know you’re not being precise, but the term “backed” is not valid. For a currency to be “backed” or more accurately commodity backed currency, you must be able to exchange that currency for that other thing. I.e. money for gold. You can’t get the electricity back in exchange for your bitcoin. :)

Can you pay your electric bills in bitcoin? Even though dollars are not 'backed' by gold, you can still exchange dollars for gold. Just not from the government at a government-fixed price.

Well, that is a completely different thing. That’s just a market exchange of goods/services.

Sure, one way is government price control, the other isn’t.

> and serves no function other than to display wealth

That's the point: signal to peers that you've found a great partner that's willing to throw this kind of money away just for your status.

It's more about what it says to your partner, commitment through sacrifice and ability to provide

Buy her a house? Buy insurance? Put all your pay into a joint bank account?

If you buy something that's directly useful then you (in the general case) risk being exploited. By buying something that can't be used or resold, you give the signal but in a "safe" way.

Why is signalling that to peers useful or a good thing?

That's been thought out a while ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good

Makes you feel good.

I suppose you could accomplish the same thing by just not telling people that it's moissanite.

I think most girls check somehow the ring/diamond value.

My bad, I meant the girl not telling other people. I'm not sure it bodes well for the relationship if the guy doesn't tell the girl!

Symbolism is a thing. There's no actual need or pragmatic need for a engagement or wedding ring - or wedding for that matter.

These things are symbols that ascribe value to a person and a relationship. Getting it made out of plastic rather than gold goes not carry the same symbolism.

serves no function other than to display wealth

That’s not true. The far greater purpose is for the man to signal commitment to his bride. By spending a lot of money, especially if it’s not easy for you to afford it, you signal to her that you are seriously committed to her. You signal that you trust her with something very expensive that would not be easy for you to replace.

You can’t bypass that sort of thing. If the price of diamonds collapsed completely then we’d need to find something else to replace them.

I categorically disagree with this, but let's run with the logic. If we are talking about financial commitment and signaling to a partner, why not gift a house, a car, a long term bond, cash, expensive clothing, a watch, literally any other piece of jewelry, etc? Why does it have to be a diamond which is literally the worst possible use of the money short of burning it? Why does it have to be publicly displayed on a ring if the intention is personal signaling? Why does it have to be the guy that does it; shouldn't the wife also signal equal levels of commitment or is she incapable of that?

Also, we can bypass this kind of thing and did up until the last century. Further, certain couples bypass this type of thing all the time routinely. You don't see gay male couples giving each other diamond engagement rings and yet their marriages aren't exploding in spectacular fashion.

It doesn't even make sense from a financial penalty standpoint. Anyone who is on an upward trajectory would be able to bounce back from losing a month or two of salary relatively quickly in which case it's not really forcing long term commitment.

There is no real point to this ritual other than showing off. The guy gets to show off how much cash he has and the woman gets to show off to everyone else that she has a guy with a lot of financial resources. It is completely arbitrary and we have arbitrarily converged on a diamond as a mechanism to do this. Sure giving rings makes people feel good; receiving and gifting any present makes people feel good; but it's absolutely not a necessary requirement for a healthy relationship.

>It is completely arbitrary and we have arbitrarily converged on a diamond as a mechanism to do this.

This isn't quite true.

1) Who's "we"? Outside the US, no one really cares that much about diamonds. Outside the US, western Europe, and Japan, no one does. It's largely an American phenomenon.

2) People didn't just "arbitrarily coverge" on diamonds; this was engineered by DeBeers almost a century ago, in what's probably the most successful marketing campaign in human history.

>If we are talking about financial commitment and signaling to a partner, why not gift a house, a car, a long term bond, cash, expensive clothing, a watch, literally any other piece of jewelry, etc?

This is literally what's done in other cultures, and has been for ages. Though usually, it's the bride's family who has to pony up all this largesse, in what's called a "dowry".

>Why does it have to be the guy that does it; shouldn't the wife also signal equal levels of commitment or is she incapable of that?

This is a very good question, because again, in other cultures, it has traditionally been the bride (or rather, her family) who had to provide a dowry to get a decent man to marry her. This of course has, in more recent times, driven families to abort their unborn female children in favor of male children.

> usually, it's the bride's family who has to pony up all this largesse, in what's called a "dowry".

Pedant here. Hello everybody!

There is a difference between dowry and bride price. Traditionally the dowry in culture with custom of primogeniture was the portion of inheritance the bride brought with her. It's a bribe to the groom's family not to contest the rest of the inheritance when his father-in-law dies, not to put a fine point on it.

Following Anglo-Saxon customs (which was heavily influenced by the Vikings) brides were given morgangifu, literally morning gift, from her husband the morning after the wedding. This is hers to take with her and her children, after a divorce or death of the husband. See also morganastic marriage, where a woman and her children get nothing except the morning gift, that is, she and the kids don't get the traditional inheritance (crown, title, land, such). It's a payoff to the bride's family to not contest what's regarded as the groom's family's property, not to put a fine point on it.

The bride price is the cost paid by the groom to the bride's family, this practice was more common in Asia and the tribal Middle East. Women were regarded as property, her leaving the family home and joining the family of her husband is regarded as a loss to her clan. In ancient Chinese text, lesser wives not just concubines were bought, literally.

The GP seems to be referring to the (today illegal) practice from South Asia wherein the bride's family is required to provide a payment to the groom's family as part of a marriage contract, a practice which was is itself a reflection of the traditional state of disempowerment of women.

The British colonists, upon observing the similarities of this custom to their own, applied the English term "dowry" to it. The practice, while largely extinct in mainstream British society, has held on in parts in South Asia (though many modern South Asians consider it abhorrent), and therefore its modern colloquial use is more connected to the South Asian custom.

There is a separate practice of the bride's parents gifting her with items of jewelry which are intended to be her sole property - a sort of insurance policy against an unreliable husband - and not that of the groom or his family. Whether that was honored or not obviously depended a lot on the situation. This practice has actually continued relatively unabated, and it is partially responsible for the high demand for gold in South Asia during wedding seasons.

We have or had in Europe something else under the meqning of "dowry". The groom asking in mariage a bride had to prove that he had the means to provide and usually had to have a household (or at least land, in case of peasantry) ready for the future family. The inner items of a house however, had to be provided by bride's family, usually with the pitched idea that the (textile) items done manually were a demonstration of bride's skills and a proof of her ability to contribute to her future family.

> You signal that you trust her with something very expensive that would not be easy for you to replace.[...] You can’t bypass that sort of thing.

Is committing to spending your life with someone not trusting them with something that wouldn't be easy for you to replace? What's more irreplaceable than the years of your own life? Not every couple gets a diamond engagement ring or precious metal wedding rings (the prevalence is trending downward) and I've heard no studies that establish correlation between successful marriages and diamond engagement rings. Your line of thought is very lucrative for corporations like deBeers, however.

Is committing to spending your life with someone not trusting them with something that wouldn't be easy for you to replace

And how does she know you’re committed if you’re not willing to risk anything up front? You can say “well she knows me! We’ve been dating for years!” but then you balk at trusting her with something valuable? Maybe she doesn’t really know you. Maybe things are great now, when nobody has committed anything of value, but will it work when things get tough?

Of course a diamond’s no guarantee of that. It’s only a starting point.

What's more irreplaceable than the years of your own life

We’re talking about the beginning of a married relationship: the engagement. When people talk about engagement rings, they don’t look at dollar figures, they look at number of weeks salary. That is the point! You’re putting time into the relationship up front. Think of it like putting a down payment on a house.

Your line of thought is very lucrative for corporations like deBeers, however

There are plenty of other diamond sources besides deBeers. Lots of people are buying diamonds mined in the Canadian arctic, for example. They have the added benefit that you know they aren’t conflict diamonds.

People do this research when buying diamonds these days! When your fiancée is showing the ring to her friends, if she can tell them a story about all of this research you put into it, then it means even more to her.

That's some properly fucked up logic of yours, to be polite. Literally every sentence is garbage from my perspective, pointing to crappy mindset/lifestyle of desire of approval by others.

This is NOT how happy long lasting marriages are done these days. I would argue that even any days. But reality is, most people are not really happy in their lives, somehow 'lost' drifting around, and combined with sheepish mentality they can accrue this mindset of 'if he spent enough money on some piece of rock then and only then he must really love me, otherwise not', because others are saying so. Desperately immature.

If others are saying so, it must be right, no? Well, in this case, no. Some people take lifetime to understand this simple truth, some are fast learners (ideally from other's mistakes), and of course some never learn.

So the man is essentially being held hostage by giving something of value.

That's not a great start to a marriage

And why doesn't she have to do the same

She will if u have kids...

Exactly. Once the woman is pregnant, she’s all-in unless she has access to an abortion (and she’s okay with having one).

Plenty of times the guy has been all-in right up until the moment he becomes a father, then he bails. If he has no financial stake in the relationship either then there’s nothing holding him to the marriage except his word and his feelings, both of which can be broken.

Single motherhoods is ridiculously common these days. I think a big part of the reason why is that tradition and commitment are dying out, and marriages based on romance are dying along with them.

Buy her a house! A car! A macbookpro!

By your logic, how does he know that she is committed? By her giving him a diamond? So the net total exchange is 0, each might as well keep the money?

Women commit more when they risk their body, health, and potentially life, by getting pregnant.

Not all couples are having children (the prevalence of couples having children is trending downward), so what then?

You cultural background probably very different from mine (I’m coming from an ex socialist country).

I’m pretty sure there are much better ways to put time into a relationship upfront, since probably nobody said on their deathbed I wish you worked more to get me a bigger diamond for our engagement. Spending time to actually know each other instead of working for piece of carbon which is very useful for some industries.

Also this weeks of salary is also something I cannot wrap my head around, I was engaged a few times, breaking off the engagement had nothing to do with the value of the engagement ring.

> then we’d need to find something else to replace them.

Perhaps we could replace them with healthy relationships?

What a ridiculous thing to say. Given that diamond engagement rings are most valued in the US, the US's extremely low divorce rate proves how well this system works. Oh wait...


> The far greater purpose is for the man to signal commitment to his bride [..] > You can’t bypass that sort of thing.

Q: Any actual evidence that cash is any kind of reliable signal for commitment to a relationship? There would appear to be plenty of celebrity divorce counter-examples.

[In the spirit of full disclosure: my wife didn't want - or get - an engagement ring]

Really it was more "able to provide for" as opposed to "would wind up worse off if married". The commitment was far more financial in the past than relationship sense. In some cases jewelery was divorce/unexpected widowing reserves that she could be sure were there and hers.

The social context mutated yet the artifact remained - mostly out of the resistance to thinking known as tradition and the desire to sell overpriced baubles.

A diamond is primarily an engagement stone, not a wedding stone. The wedding nets you community property, worth even more than a diamond. Think of it as earnest money, or buying an option. It's too expensive to buy a diamond and promise marriage just to string your girlfriend along if you aren't intending to follow through in the next year.

> It's too expensive to buy a diamond and promise marriage just to string your girlfriend along [...]

Q: Is it just me, or does that statement sound like it fell out of the 1950s through some kind of wormhole?

In no particular order:

* If the girl asks the guy to marry her, are we to understand that he should expect to receive a diamond ring from her, to somehow seal the deal?

* Why should it be the guy "promising marriage" to the girl?

* Why should it be based on "guys" marrying "girls" at all?

It should be considered relative to the individuals earning capacity.

> The far greater purpose is for the man to signal commitment to his bride. By spending a lot of money, especially if it’s not easy for you to afford it, you signal to her that you are seriously committed to her. You signal that you trust her with something very expensive that would not be easy for you to replace.

I agree with this, and it even makes rational sense. I just wish we could "spend a lot of money" on something else like gold, or a house downpayment. At least those are assets - you aren't simply throwing your money away. Even a charitable trust would be a more impactful way of demonstrating commitment through sacrifice - spending money on diamonds is like throwing it away.

The problem with a bunch of gold or a house is that she can’t carry them around with her throughout her day. With a diamond ring, she can.

Why is that important? Maybe it’s less important today, but if you turn on her and she has to strike out on her own, then her engagement ring becomes a bit of wealth she has access to in an emergency. In that regard it may seem rather silly (why not a bank account?) but in the past, women didn’t have bank accounts or other easy ways to access wealth.

No part of that is true historically. See here. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-yo...

Mind you, in the past there were no diamond rings. Diamond rings are an invention of DeBeers in 30s, because nobody was buying diamonds they keep digging out of earth.

chongli's posts really just seem like they are encoding their own superstitions about relationships in a backsplanation for why things are the way they are. It really sounds like someone coping with buyer's remorse for having wasted so much money on a ring.

I've seen people do the same thing with their wedding that left them $30k in debt.

I totally buy their reasoning for why they did it, but they lose me when they prescribe it to everyone else.

Diamond engagement rings have terrible resale value.

I don't agree with anything you said. That said, it is a pity to see so many people downvote you because they don't agree with you. You've respectfully stated your opinion and we shouldn't down vote comments which we disagree with.

To be fair to the downvoters though, downvoting to express disagreement is how it is and has always been done on HN:


I used to feel that same way as you, but I've changed my opinion over time. It's just one of those community norms that (for me, anyway) makes HN an interesting place.

Thanks for those links! I do know how it is used on HN (and other places on the Internet). However, I don't really think that is how it should be used and I haven't CMV. I don't think down voting disagreements adds any value to the discussion. I'd rather prefer upvoting agreements and leave the down vote button alone.

are you aware there are societies, western, that don't have anything close to the diamond craze that US ladies seem to display? i'd rather set a stack of dollar bills on fire than buy a diamond, same price, same utility, less kids with hands chopped off for not meeting quotas.

This diamond craze is mostly a US phenomenon. Japan is a distant #2, some parts of western Europe perhaps an even more distant #3, and the rest of the world doesn't even register.

According to Bain, China spends more on diamonds than Europe despite having a smaller GDP. It's very close to Japan in diamond consumption rate.

https://www.bain.com/insights/global-diamond-industry-report... (Figure 16)

I guess this is another one of those weird things where China starting trying to be more like America. The other one is cars (and for some really strange reason, Buicks in particular are very popular there).

I asked a peahen why she insists on such an extravagant tail in a peacock: totally useless. She just looked at me coldly and strutted away.

Perhaps surprisingly, peahens don't give a hoot about the tail. It's there to intimidate the other males, who do.

If you have to ask, you don't understand.


That's not normal, and pointing out that "just the way it is" is terrible reasoning doesn't make you an aspie. Maybe if more people had these conversations we'd have fewer terrible industries.

I had that conversation with a doctor. She wanted a diamond. She knew ALL the issues with diamonds. I said, "and knowing all that, kids arms hacked off, you still want a diamond?"

"Yes!!" And she was giddy at the prospect.

I felt confirmation in that moment for having broken up her years before that.

Another few years after that conversation she got her diamond -- after gaining 100lbs and getting a boob job.

I really don't understand how some people think.

Come, my good fellow. Don't exaggerate. I'd bet good money that she didn't gain an ounce over ninety pounds.

I told the spouse that I am not buying a diamond, ever, nearly 20 years ago, and I haven't. I like synthetic corundums: sapphires and rubies. I understand the synthesis process, which does not involve hired enforcer thugs and criminal exploitation of poor laborers. They are hard enough to resist scratches from most things, and they fracture conchoidally, instead of along 4 perfect planes of cleavage. I'm also good with nephrite and jadeite, which can take a pounding, due to their fibrous crystals and interlocking crystals, respectively.

The spouse is not okay with this, and makes only token efforts to hide disdain, but I am stubborn enough to die before giving a single penny to some parasitic international diamond cartel, just for a little bit more refractive index, hardness, and thermal conductivity.

We're still not a diamond-free household, though. Some have been inherited from more foolish ancestors.

We have also "mined" natural corundums at a touristy dirt-washing operation in western North Carolina. This, of course, led immediately to talk about digging up yellow/brown rough diamonds in Crater of Diamonds (Arkansas) State Park, which immediately informed me that the venomous DeBeers brain-hooks were still set. It just makes me hate the cartel more.

I think what irritates me most is that their marketing is so effective. You can show an entire feature film, starring A-list actors, about people getting brutally murdered over the diamond trade, and people will unabashedly say they still want diamond jewelry after watching. Hell, you can watch Marathon Man, and hear, "I'm afraid of dentists now, but I would also like to keep all the diamonds I can eat." They have somehow made diamonds bypass all reason, and link directly to the emotional center of the psyche, with nothing more than decades of persistent advertising.

Get a lab grown diamond. Seriously - hey look great, undercut the cartels and are physically basically the same by any reasonable measure.

All gemstone diamonds, lab-grown or not, contribute to the collective cultural mind-warp that DeBeers has created.

Diamonds do not make you look great. Or, at minimum, they do not make you look better than cheaper, non-cartelized clear gemstones, such as moissanite, cubic zirconia, clear sapphire, clear beryl (goshenite), clear topaz, or even clear quartz.

Think about why you would rather have a diamond than any other mineral. Think about why a synthetic carbon allotrope sells at such a large premium over its actual cost of synthesis. They're still riding along on the coattails of DeBeers' 9 decades of unrelenting marketing.

If I were getting a pure carbon allotrope jewelry centerpiece, I would very much prefer a single graphene molecule, 235 km long, rolled up into a spiral 1 cm thick--preferably oriented to be most conductive along the axis. Now that would be something worth wearing!

She was happy skipping travelling but not an indistinguishable rock on a ring? The marketing is too strong indeed.

It's the social factor. It takes a special kind of person to not only be happy with the cheaper thing but also to not let people know that it's cheaper. If I bought my wife a cheaper ring, I'd be telling everybody the deal I got. However, that is the opposite of the purpose here...

It takes a special kind of person to be happy with a cheap thing they paid way too much for.

As much as I want to applaud the wit here, the truth is that it really doesn’t - that phenomenon is quintessentially human.

We (as a species) will go cognitive miles to avoid actually facing embarrassment or admitting to being fooled. Your thing might not be overpaying for a diamond and it’s unlikely you can see your own instance(s) but I’m sure you have seen it in others on the regular.

yes, but we love them all the same

Honestly I think the diamond-ring culture is deeply unhealthy - it creates an artificial large resentment event right at the beginning of a commitment, that may destabilize the whole relationship.

I've seen threads on r/relationship_advice and r/TwoXChromosomes where women are desperately distraught over issues having to do with the ring their fiancé/husband bought them, it really does seem like unnecessary hardship.

Though, as a man, figuring out your partner's expectations of rings and weddings (and family and children and ...) is part of the dating process. You really shouldn't be blindsided at the engagement phase.

I'm reminded of a friend from high school who is got divorced after finding out his wife of two years didn't want and never wanted children. His defense was "it just never came up!"

To be fair there is no objective value in travelling either. It's a matter of the specific personality profile that makes a person attracted to one or both or neither of those two modes of consumption.

> To be fair there is no objective value in travelling either.

Except that the literature has shown that people generally find greater happiness using their money to buy experiences rather than things. From a researcher who wrote (the) book on happiness:

> "Shifting from buying stuff to buying experiences, and from spending on yourself to spending on others, can have a dramatic impact on happiness," writes Dunn and her co-author Michael Norton.

* https://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/happiness-is-buying-exp...

* https://dunn.psych.ubc.ca

* http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Money-Science-Happier-Spending/d...

If, per Aristotle, happiness is the supreme good, it would objectively be better to spend your limited resources on things that are more likely to give it to you.

* https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201301/ar...

> Except that the literature has shown that people generally find greater happiness using their money to buy experiences rather than things.

Yes, but a) travelling is not the only way to buy experiences by any means, b) Actually doing/ creating things or experiences is infinitely more rewarding than consumption[1]. Programming, making music, painting, woodworking, cooking, gardening, whatever tickles your fancy. All those studies still only are about buying.

[1] for certain personalities.

Thank you. Traveling is generally pretty boring to me (especially after the first couple times visitng somewhere.) Making things with friends though, amazing time.

Except that nowhere in my post do I explicitly say travels. Travelling is not the only way to create experiences. (I personally have no interest in it.)

You can't just come in here with "the literature has shown" in $current_year. Here's an article on a piece of the literature that clearly hasn't shown: https://slate.com/technology/2017/07/new-research-clouds-the...

"We found no significant evidence supporting the greater return received when buying experiences."

That was a couple years ago, there might be a meta analysis or actual replication attempts by now, but I'm not going to dive for them, just pointing out this bad discussion tactic of "studies show [what I want to argue for]" without considering the ongoing replication crisis.

Speaking personally, the most bang-for-buck is probably video games. I don't know if I would classify those as experiences or things. Perhaps it depends on the game's replayabilty.

> You can't just come in here with "the literature has shown" in $current_year.

Read the book. Every chapter covers an idea on how to best use one's monetary resources to increase happiness, and there are dozens of endnotes to studies for each chapter.

This is literally the book author's field of study. If you have a problem with the claims, talk to her: I'm just the messenger and will bow to the experts.

Let's be honest though, travelling is becoming less fun in the era of mass travel. I'm not saying everyone doesn't have the right to travel or something like that, but I think only a fool would argue it's a better experience visiting x tourist hotspot when that involves having to fight it out with thousands of other people doing the same thing.

We have an entire planet here; you don't have to go only to tourist hotspots. Of course, I'll admit there's many very boring places that probably aren't worth your time and money, like Oklahoma, and some very dangerous places that you should avoid, like El Salvador or Syria, but there's lots of very nice places in civilized countries where you can go, which aren't chock-full of tourists. As a bonus, they're pretty cheap to stay at, since there's not so much demand for lodging there. Even if you confine yourself to western Europe, there's lots of places to go without running into throngs of tourists.

True - I love the boring US states! I have fond memories of a coast to coast US trip in 1992, early summer, stopping at small towns in mid America. Everything seemed so peaceful, sleepy, and warm, and the people so friendly. Watched a meteor shower one night, went to an open air cinema another. Lovely.

>Everything seemed so peaceful, sleepy, and warm, and the people so friendly.

I'm guessing you aren't black...

Those "peaceful" towns are now either full of old people because the young ones have moved away, or a bunch of opioid and meth addicts. America's small towns are falling apart. Things were really different in 1992; that's over a quarter-century ago now.

There's far more to traveling than hitting up tourist hot spots and fighting your way through people to see something, though unfortunately that's what most people, especially on HN, seem to synonymize with "travel" which explains why it's so common here to poo-poo "travel" as something lame and boring.

Then again, most Americans get, what, two weeks off in the year? It makes sense to me how travel then becomes an all-inclusive resort trip instead of the more enriching slow-boil flavor of travel that provokes the best experiences and potential change in your life and perspective. Pretty hard to get that in two weeks.

> Let's be honest though, travelling is becoming less fun in the era of mass travel.

Traveling is not the only way to create experiences. I (the person you replied to) have no interest in it. I'd rather spend time/money on a local motorcycle racetrack staring at the upcoming corner and figuring out the best line.

We’re tourist hot spots ever all that special? Travel is still amazing, lame spots are now super lame :)

World's full of 2nd-tier places to visit that are damn near as good as 1st-tier, but have 1-5% the visitors, putting them way the lead, experience-wise, except for taking instantly-recognizable "I been thar!" photos.

World population should level off before those 2nd-tier ones start to get swamped, too. So that's nice.

Believe it or not, they have got worse based on my experiences in the 80s versus now. Think about it - whole regions of the world were effectively shut out of tourism either by economics or politics back then e.g. China, India, Soviet Union.

Well there's evidence that spending money on experiences rather than material goods will make you happier:


One way I've seen engagement rings used is as an unspoken pre-prenup. He cheats, she bails and sells the ring. I say "unspoken" but I've heard men and women speak rather frankly about the exchange

The ring doesn't have enough resale value for that (and the breakup would spoil the sentimental value of keeping the gem). The incentive isn't compensation for her, it's sunk cost for him.

Just reporting what I've heard. If he spends $20k and she sells it for $2k, it's still a $2k bonus to her.

My wife is pretty rational but was emotional on this point. I made my position and moral issues with diamonds clear from the second date. she went with the value argument until I hit her with appraisals of her grandmother's ring and industry trends. Wife bought a really pretty sapphire ring from Etsy in the days when it was hand made for around $650. She's very happy with it. It's actually unique.

My partner is very smart and pragmatic, and opted for a non-diamond engagement gem. A few years later, an upgrade to a diamond was demanded, on threat of divorce. Peer pressure is amazing on this topic.

(It's fun to have this conversation with gender-neutral pronouns.)

"an upgrade to a diamond was demanded, on threat of divorce"

this sounds like the opposite of a true marriage to me.

*But of course I have no idea about your lives and wish you the very best.

Meanwhile, my wife and I have not even worn rings for years, and no plan on the table to get new ones. Initially it was caused because we went through a very rough patch and we both were giving up on the marriage. But that turned around, and now years later the work we've done in our marriage stands on its own, and the rings are only a reminder of the shredded remains of the old marriage. So we don't wear them.

Sounds like she values a rock over you, don't negotiate with terrorists.


I've been married three times, and the issue of diamond rings never came up.

But then, I would never have married someone who raised the issue.

Edit: In case it's not obvious, the "diamonds for women" thing is blatantly sexist. And it's a flag for other attitudes.

It's difficult to separate out the marketing and social side from her own values and feelings.

This is it. My family as it currently stands has two “ring” related stories:

Story 1. Both my and my wife’s wedding rings were stolen. The wedding bands were my parents’ and had been in the family for the better part of a hundred years. Though they were extremely simple, plain gold rings with very little value (prob got $50 at a pawn shop if that). We replaced them with similar rings just because we wanted them.

Story 2. My wife had a ring that had belonged to her grandmother. It was very ornate and had many kinds of jewel including diamonds and Ruby’s. It was very old school in design but was quite pretty. It was also stolen. I found a similar one for about $14,000 online and offered to buy it for my wife who was devastated at the loss but she refused because it “wasn’t the same” which I of course understood.

So there’s more than just the dollar value of the thing is what I’m saying.

Pedantic: it had gems, and was a jewel.

I ran into the same issue.

I don't know if was the marketing, just wanted the commitment in dollars before telling everyone she's engaged or the status symbol to show off to other people but it had to be a significant diamond. One of the things that surprised me was man made diamonds at the size and quality she wanted weren't actually cheaper.

Cheaper for them, just not for you. Same as the dug ones, really.

It is probably more cultural pressure rather than marketing. Especially if your mother, aunts, sisters, cousins, are all getting diamonds. It takes a special level of courage to go against the grain. The desire to "fit in" is strong.

It’s just silly how women get away with this. In a equal world. Imagine if a man said I like the cultural aspect of you staying home and cooking/cleaning while I work and it’s non negotiable.

The wrong part of that inequality is the backlash that man would receive.

Ideal world, both of them feel free to express their wants clearly and early. Equality in being shamed for wants is a bad equality.

I've recommended a test called "canoe test" for figuring out compatibility with your future partner. If you can't figure out how to canoe together over the long enough period and make it a more pleasurable experience than if you would be canoeing alone, probably things would get messy in other strata of life. I think I would add the "moissanite test" as well into my harness.

Sorry but it doesn't sound like someone pragmatic or smart, diamond is just a rock that's worth x amount of $ nothing more.

Someone pragmatic would be happy with "any" kind of ring, when I see those big diamonds it reminds me of those dumb people showing off their ring to friends in TV shows.

I'm not sure for other countries but diamond is a very US thing.

Mine wanted a Diamond so we compromised and bought it at a pawn shop for a far lower price. Second hand diamonds are cheap because there are so many they aren't worth anything. The whole retail diamond market is all just scam.

I hope you at least got a diamond with an official certificate containing the picture and signature of the child soldier that found it.

Ya, I read the introduction to book blood diamonds with my wife. It helped us see past the engagement diamond consumer culture.

Where did you find the moissanite?

My wife wants to upgrade her diamond and I think she is convinced that moissanite is a good substitute.

But I find that moissanite is still far more expensive than I expected (for 1.5 carats, it wasn't 2% of the price of a diamond).

But maybe I'm looking in the wrong places.

If you don't mind me asking. Where did you find yours?

I bought a 1.75 carat Charles & Colvard loose gem for $400 and had it set by a local jeweler for $50. Cheapest identically spec'd diamond I could find at the time was $22,000. They seem to sell this brand of stones everywhere now. I would highly recommend you check it out in person next to an actual diamond and you will immediately see what I mean. I ordered several from C&C, whom at the time had a very generous return policy, and kept the nicest one. I would recommend you check out a few different places tho because there are definitely people out there trying to pawn off lower quality slightly green/gray stones on unsuspecting buyers.

It's interesting that until recently, C&C held multi national patents on moissanite (silicon carbide) for jewelery. It seems like the patent specifically covers lab grown gems.

These patents only expired in the last few years, and as recently as 2018 in Mexico.


Thank you for sharing this information!

Thank you for that information!

same with me - the big price difference does not seem to be there - where can one buy these amazingly priced moissanites?

When I bought one, Charles & Colvard was a good source. Helzberg Diamonds is also a good place to look, and they can set one you bought online for a reasonable price.

I got a 3 carat moissanite pendant necklace from Helzberg for ~$1500. The same thing in diamond would have been well into 5 digits. My wife loves it and gets a lot of compliments on it.

FWIW, I got my wife's engagement ring at www.moissaniteco.com about five years ago. She's been thrilled with the quality and we got nothing but befuddled wows at the 1.5 carat stone.

Spending $20K on a ring is ridiculous.

It's a weird American thing. People here even take out a mortgage to buy these ludicrously expensive engagement rings.

For our international readers, this is very uncommon behavior among Americans (taking out mortgages for a diamond ring) and it seems unlikely since it would require one of the two members of the marriage to own a house as a single person, which is also uncommon among Americans.

Spending too much on a diamond ring is common though

It's very common for people to purchase engagement rings on loan. I had a friend who sold jewelry back in the 00s and he said it was pretty rare for someone to pay cash for engagement rings. Most people got 12-36 months loans.

It's possible this changed between 09-13 because of the recession, but I'd bet it's very common now that the economy is doing really well.

This might not be a mortgage, in the sense of being a lifetime payment. But it's a (semi-)secured loan.

It's not uncommon for engagement and wedding expenditures to exceed what could otherwise be the down payment on a starter home.

Not just American, it's pervasive in Europe as well. France is a little unusual in that engagement rings are commonly made from non-diamond gem stones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

Weddings are becoming insane in the UK. I went to a friend's wedding a while back where they had a carved piece of glass showing the seating plan for the dinner. Cost hundreds. They divorced a couple of years later.

The cynic in me would like to see a graph of cost of wedding as a percent of total annual income compared to divorce rates. I have a theory those two things are correlated.

Here's a study that shows some evidence for this: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2501480

Wow, that's crazy. But it does sound like something middle-class Americans would do; they love spending $100k on weddings these days.

Doesn't really matter how you spend the money. It is a signalling thing. The money must be burnt. With limited resources it ensures you can't repeat engagement with multiple women...


This is BS. You can't use biological evolution to explain high level cultural behavior. It also implies that females have no agency and just run on instinct like frogs. The real reason they want diamonds is culture.

> You can't use biological evolution to explain high level cultural behavior

If you can use math to explain physics, physics to explain chemistry, chemistry to explain biology, biology to explain psychology, psychology to explain sociology, and sociology (plus history) to explain culture, then it would be fair to say you could use math to explain culture.

Of course, there's a lot of big gaps here, but the point is: trying to tie culture to biology is not without merit.

IMO, males and females both run on instinct through chaos crafted channels of superstition we call "culture". Like water running down a mountain in streams, it's not the channels which explain the waters movement downward (that's gravity), they just define the means through which it happens.

Biological evolution to explain motivations: yes you can

Implies that <people> have no agency and run on instinct: see psychology, marketing theory

Scientists call it a "Just So" story. They know everyone is tempted by them, even themselves.

You can't use biological evolution to explain high level cultural behavior.

Why not?

It's like trying to use molecular physics to explain the immune system.

It's not just impractical; it's impossible to know enough of the variables to derive one from the other.

In practice "evolutionary" explanations are constantly used to make something intuitively plausible for which there is no evidence sound scientific and convincing.


A more concrete reason it's not true in this case: diamonds as engagement gifts from men to women are a recent cultural phenomenon. For most of human history this was not the case, and there were/are large cultures where the tradition is a dowry instead (more or less the reverse) or nothing at all.

It's not science. Human brains are very recent in evolutionary terms. What a frog or a peacock does is a result of many orders of magnitude more time under natural selection than the age of modern humans. People guess that this or that behavior is because of natural/sexual selection and pass it off as science with no proof just because the word evolution was mentioned. It takes a very long time for something to become an instinct. Given how much human brains are capable of, I just think the most Occam's razor answer is culture and mimicry rather than somehow some {{uniquely human behavior}} having been important enough to survival to become an instinct across the board.

Not all women insist on $20K engagement rings. I would hope.

No, not even close. In fact, I suspect that outside the people that programmers on HN and other upper-income cohorts hang out with, it's extremely rare.

FWIW, my wife has a $600 artificial diamond ring that she picked out at Walmart.com. It's one of her most prized possessions (not because of the cost, but because of what it symbolizes) and she frequently points out to people how inexpensive it was.

I distinctly remember her saying that if I were to pay 2 months salary for a ring it would be a sign that I was too dumb to marry. For that kind of money she'd rather have a new car.

> I distinctly remember her saying that if I were to pay 2 months salary for a ring it would be a sign that I was too dumb to marry.

Great attitude and totally on-point, responsible finances are one strong pillar under a relationship, if you blow through your cash on baubles you will eventually end up stressed.

That's fitness that can't be faked.

My wife and I spent $30 on our rings. No precious metals, no stones, just unadorned bands.

We're quite happy with them.

Absolutely not. I bought a moissanite ring because my fiancé would never accept a diamond, but I wanted to give something that would be just as flashy.

The peer pressure is stroooong for women.

And insurance!

Tell that to my girlfriend. The first thing her and her friends do when someone they know gets engaged is zoom in on the pics to see the diamond and talk about.

If I had a girlfriend like that, I'd be thinking pretty hard about how much I really want to marry her.

That makes me queasy to think about. Culture is disgusting.

It is, but there's so much social pressure.

A decade ago, I bought a $4K diamond as an engagement ring for my now-wife (I didn't know about moissanite then), and my colleagues gave me so much shit since I was spending significantly less than 3X monthly salary. Thankfully, my wife agreed with me. We remain happily married :)

> The only one who could distinguish it had to use a thermal conductivity gun to do so.

It is extremely easy to distinguish a moissanite from a diamond using a reliable, low-tech test: the moissanite can't scratch a diamond, but a diamond will scratch the moissanite.

The problem, if you're a jeweler talking to a customer, is that this will damage the moissanite.

Moissanite is a 9.5/10 on the hardness scale, with diamond being a 10. Outside of industrial applications this is a totally insignificant difference. This reads like the other criticisms of moissanite I've read where people claim that it is "too shiny" making it look too much like a diamond you couldn't possibly afford and therefore giving away it's identity.

I'm not saying that moissanite's slightly lower hardness will cause problems in use as jewelry. I'm saying that, contra the parent comment's implication, it's very easy to tell the difference.

But you can only scratch it with something as hard as diamonds.Who is really considering that when buying jewelry? Resistent to blemish from everything but diamond...oh nooo...

>Buying diamonds for jewelry is honestly really dumb at this point.

Indeed, my fiance was completely happy with sterling silver and a white sapphire. It's a hand-carved design (lost wax) and it cost me less than our recent trip to the zoo and in her own words "I don't have to worry about being nervous about losing some dumb expensive ring, this one is perfect".

Sure, over time the sapphire will scratch a lot easier and get cloudy but we're talking about a few dollar stone. It can easily be replaced.

> Sure, over time the sapphire will scratch a lot easier

Huh? The sapphire will scratch easier... if you spend a lot of time rubbing your hand against diamonds.

Sapphire is one of the hardest stones there is. It's the 9th point on the (ordinal) 10-point Mohs scale, with 10 being diamond.

Chemical exposure in normal household settings (chlorine bleach, lemon juice, ammonia), diamond on sapphire, sapphire on sapphire etc. Just chlorine exposure over time (swimming, doing household cleaning) can actually weaken sapphire to the point of disintegrating.

Remember, precious and semi-precious stones are just fancy chemical compounds.

I have a tungsten carbide wedding ring, which also rates 9 on the Mohs scale. It's totally scratched up around the outside, and shiny around the inside, after ten years. And I'm careful to take the ring off before I use abrasive materials such as sandpaper and diamond sharpening tools.

You don't know her friends though. They might wear all rings covered with diamonds.

I think at the point where everybody's wearing rings with set stones, they mostly stop fist bumping.

That one is a keeper.

Here's a similar story: https://hackaday.com/2013/05/20/adding-leds-to-an-engagement...

If I were your wife I would be even more turned on when you told me you saved $20,000 and no one can tell the difference

I don't know if you're joking or not, but this was actually the case! ;)

I didn't know what a 'mosanite stone' is so I googled it. It seems that the correct spelling is moissanite. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moissanite

Thank you for the correction. I've edited my post

I got my wife a colored sapphire (champaine). She loves it but the moissanite stone was a no go for her as her perception of it was that it was a fake diamond. The cost for the sapphire vs. the moissanite stone were the same so I just wanted to mention this alternative.

We did a sapphire also, though just plain blue. We both enjoy the contrast between the colored main stone and the smaller set diamonds. (The ring is not halo set, but has bands that roughly surround the main stone.)

Other than moissanite there are also lab diamonds. I found this on lab vs earth diamonds https://blog.onetruerock.com/blog/LabvsEarth (scroll down for the crazy graph for the price difference). Overall they seem to share lots of analytics on the diamond market.

After a discussion with my fiancee I did end up finding a earth/natural diamond(I know). I did end up using the same site to help me find a good deal and seemed to save a chunk of change.

My wife also has a moissanite engagement ring that we love. It was more like 1/5 the cost of a diamond ring, although maybe I'm figuring "equivalent diamond" differently than you (doing the math on your comment indicates about $400, which is around what we paid, but I'm seeing similar diamond settings for about $2-3K on Brilliant Earth, though with slightly smaller & fewer stones).

Our main motivation was actually social justice over price, though - my wife is big into a number of social justice causes, and couldn't justify killing villagers in the Congo so she could have a diamond engagement ring. We looked into lab-grown diamonds as well, but just found that we liked the look of moissanite more. You can totally tell the difference if you have a trained eye, but to mine moissanite is better in basically every respect you would care about: it sparkles more, has more defined facets, and tends to be clearer with a brighter light.

"Every jeweler who has cleaned it has thought it was a diamond"

Moissanite has a higher refractive index and higher 'fire' than a diamond. Any jeweler worth their salt should be able to discern between them with only a visual inspection.

https://i.imgur.com/Cm6gwyL.jpg - I design and make jewelry, from scratch, as a hobby. I can just look at a stone and tell you if CZ/Goshenite/Moissanite/Diamond/Glass. The differences in the stones when cut is quite apparent.

That's easy to claim. Ever done a blind test?

Anyway, I imagine no jeweler when asked to clean a stone, is going to blurt out "That's not a diamond!" No positive customer reaction possible there.

Rutile - http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0744/0957/articles/JC8_1d1c... highest RI out of pretty much anything. Insane fire.

Moissanite - https://www.dhresource.com/0x0/f2/albu/g9/M01/71/E4/rBVaVVy8... Higher RI than diamond but less than rutile. Still great fire.

Diamond - http://img.fruugo.com/product/1/70/74615701_max.jpg Pretty plain and dull. Hardly any prismatic/chromatic display. Even CZ has more 'fire' than this.

We did blind tests when we were shopping for rings. It was stupidly easy to tell - moissanite sparkles more. Didn't go the way the jeweler wanted, though - he only sold diamonds, but had a moissanite ring he was cleaning for a customer for comparison, and we liked the moissanite better.

>Moissanite has a higher refractive index and higher 'fire' than a diamond.

This makes the cachet that diamonds possess even more ridiculous. They're literally orders of magnitude more expensive, for something that's objectively worse in terms of the properties that actually matter for a gemstone.

I tried and failed to interest my wife in moissanite or lab diamonds. DeBeers 1. Me -20,000.

Thermal conductivity is about the same but birefringence is different.

To save other people a clic: "Birefringence is the optical property of a material having a refractive index that depends on the polarization and propagation direction of light." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birefringence

Is this maybe an American thing? I live in Germany and I know nobody of my age who got a diamond for their engagement or wedding ring, including friends from other countries.

My wife INSISTED … NO DIAMOND. Her engagement ring cost $70 at JCPenney.

> Buying diamonds for jewelry is honestly really dumb at this point

to be fair, it probably always was.

We felt that we could tell the difference in reflection between moissanite and diamond. However we did go with a lab grown diamond which is 30%-60% of the price and ethically produced.

Did you blind yourself or did you know going in which was which? Did you separate so that each of your opinions would not influence the other?

Of course maybe there is a noticable difference but often people see/taste/hear/smell/feel something that's not there if they already know which is A and which is B.

The tells are obvious and easy to spot once you know what you're looking for. The moissanite has more fire than the diamond of the same shape and cut, and the angle of the point is shallower. The angle is particularly the easiest way to tell if the setting allows you to see it. I guess in the grandparent's post the point was hidden from the jeweler.

I don't think any of this stuff really matters, btw, just get what looks good to you.

Isn't the angle of the point whatever the cutter wants it to be? What am I missing here?

The angle in the facets of the point has to be right to keep the light bouncing back out through the face and not right out the bottom, and it's determined by the physical properties of the material. For silicon carbide the index of refraction is higher, so the light will be bent more sharply when it enters, resulting in greater separation of white light into color components ("fire") and necessitating shallower angles in the point to maximize internal reflection

I've done a single-blind test and could tell, but to be completely honest I don't think they're similar enough that you need to set up an experiment. Go to a jewelry store near you; you'll be able to tell the difference quickly if you try.

This is still riding on a "real" diamonds coat tails. There's no reason they should be this expensive but you're not helping either.

I've not found a good source for Moissanite in the UK, as in, one that doesn't seem overpriced - it's almost like there's a conspiracy to prevent any good deals on engagement/wedding rings.

Moissanite is actually much rarer than diamond in nature (the only sources are meteorites and rarely diamond mines); it should be much more expensive if we couldn't cheaply synthesize it.

The diamond is a costly signal, nothing more. But this signal transmits a lot of information to the receiver (your wife).

Your a smart man. I wish I had been so wise when I made my purchase. :(

Where did you buy the moissanite stone?

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