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Pandora says laboratory-made diamonds are forever (bbc.co.uk)
499 points by kasperni 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 654 comments





Random diamond story! As a freshman in college, I took a geology class and our teacher asked all of the women in our class to raise their hand if they would rather have natural or human-made diamonds. Most of the women (over 80%) raised their hands for natural. The reasons they gave all seemed to tie back to branding and natural diamonds being “real.”

Then our teacher gave another analogy. He asked if people would rather have natural ice or human-made ice in their water. He broke down that the human-made ice could be frozen in a freezer to a custom size/shape, be a lot cleaner, consistent in how you make it, and chemically no different than H20 than naturally occurring frozen water. As you looked around the lecture hall, you started to see people’s brains unlock. He went on to explain cost efficiencies, ethics, challenges with conflict diamonds, and how you could make a perfect diamond at a fraction of the coast.

After a 30 minute lecture, he asked the question again. Surprisingly, the majority of the women still wanted natural diamonds although the number was less than the original amount that raised their hand. That was the point where I realized the strength of diamonds product branding.


I went through this not that many years ago buying a ring for my SO. My biggest mistake was including her in the decision.

She described what she wanted exactly– nothing gaudy or ostentatious, just a singular, tasteful stone on a plain band. Couldn't be simpler, could it?

Finding stones that met her criteria was easy. Some were natural diamonds, some lab grown, many moissanite. From the outset, she said the meaning of the ring was what was most important and that she didn't want to pick it out herself (after effectively picking it out herself). We'd talked about moissanite a lot over the years, and she'd approved of the idea, and the same with lab grown diamonds. We're college educated adults with backgrounds in the sciences, so we weren't on uneven footing with comprehension.

When I showed her what I'd picked out, it quickly devolved into a lot of uncharacteristic tears and shouting. It took a few more tries, and then she explained. Apparently a lab grown diamond meant my love for her was also artificial, a budgeted ersatz stand-in for the real thing, and me saying we could spend more on a larger stone or matching set further belied my ignorance. No, she wanted me to have picked out an allegory for our love: a "perfect" diamond. She then sent me the details of the stone she actually wanted.

After a little "wait, where's this coming from and why did you let me spend weeks searching if there was only one right answer", I ended up spending twice our decided budget on a "natural" diamond with the same characteristics as the lab grown (except the diamond's clarity was lower, because lab grown clarity is always perfect), which wasn't any object, but now the ring is marred by the memories of arguments, and she doesn't really love it. Lesson learned.

I don't know what kind of spell the diamond people cast on otherwise reasonable women to make them able to reduce the totality of a life and experiences shared together into a single crystalline bet, but they need to package it and sell it to the military.


>I don't know what kind of spell the diamond people cast on otherwise reasonable women to make them able to reduce the totality of a life and experiences shared together into a single crystalline bet, but they need to package it and sell it to the military.

The militaries of the world invented it, it's business that bought it. Much of this diamond/marriage symbolism stems back to the late 1940s post WWII with DaBeer's engagement ring ad campaigns.

WWII involved a lot of R&D in psyops and effects of propoganda. Sure, these strategies always existed but it became part of scientific research, was refined and weaponized to manipulate perceptions of people using non-kinetic approaches to try and avoid or minimize kinetic warfare. After the war in the mid 40s ended, where do you think all that expertise in propoganda from military went? Business marketing and advertising sprouted from much of this expertise. Marketing and advertising always existed before then but there was a dramatic shift in how things were sold creating armies of refined snake oil salesmen.

In the late 40s, DaBeers ran a massive ad campaign employing such propoganda that shifted culture into associating diamond rings with marriage. There had been dowries and other exchanges of wealth and power in marriages before (it's often been a basis for marriage) that but DaBeers managed to shift that in culture in the west to the diamond ring. It's now so deeply ingrained in culture and people's perceptions that it can make otherwise rational people irrational.

Do not ever underestimate the power of propoganda in its various forms. Pyschogical manipulation runs rampant in business marketing and these are the effects. We've culturally accepted it for a variety of reasons. I question if we should continue to accept these practices in business.


This is partly a myth. More important was the non legal enforcement of engagements. Many couples in the past would start to have sex when engaged. If the engagement is not legally secure, the diamond basically serves as signal. That why 3-month salary make sense.

If I buy a 3-month salary worth diamond I'm probably not gone leave you after a month.

Its an easily portable high value item that also serves as signaling for the person wearing it. It makes more sense then livestock in the modern world.

Marketing had something to do with it, but its more complex then that.


> Its an easily portable high value item that also serves as signaling for the person wearing it. It makes more sense then livestock in the modern world.

Jewelry is not a great value store, unless you're fine with selling it at a significant loss. Diamonds specially, unless they're rare, seem to magically lose a lot of its value as soon as they print your receipt.

To be honest, I find the whole love-engagement-sex-wedding handling retrograde and inappropriate for the current times.


This is true but this happen partially over time and the more important function is the initial signal.

And displaying the wealth that is mobile is also an important signal.

Pure economics would suggest a small gold bar would make more sense if you want to signal commitment.

> To be honest, I find the whole love-engagement-sex-wedding handling retrograde and inappropriate for the current times.

Me to but that is not the discussion.


>Jewelry is not a great value store, unless you're fine with selling it at a significant loss

Neither is a car, but they're both still very strong signals of wealth (specifically, that you could afford to burn the money).

However, if you want jewelry as a value store, you deal in gold and silver (mainly that it can be melted down)


To the incredulous: the argument is that expensive engagement rings helped fill the cultural gaps left by the repeal of Breach of Promise to Marry laws. The supporting evidence is an apparently strong geographic correlation between repeal of these laws and increases in high-value diamond engagement rings, the latter beginning after the start of the repeal movement yet before the infamous De Beers marketing campaigns.

For the overview: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/the-str...

The original research paper: Margaret F. Brinig, Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 203-215 (13 pages), https://www.jstor.org/stable/764797

Wikipedia page on Breach of Promise to Marry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breach_of_promise


Correct story, but arguably the wrong war. The allies in WWI really invented much of modern propaganda, paving the way for Berneys, Lippmann et al. to refine those methods for marketing use. Hitler and Goebbels both wrote about the manipulative and underhanded use of propaganda by the allies as being the cause of Germany's defeat in WWI and seemingly carried a lot of resentment about it (while simultaneously trying to outdo them)

I brought my now-spouse along for ring shopping, on her own theory that she'd be wearing the thing and should therefore have some input. She was actually more opposed to mined diamonds than I was at the time. We talked about this extensively, and considered both lab gems and corundum gems (ruby/sapphire).

We went through over a dozen jewelry stores, each of them pushing mined diamonds so hard that it angered us. The eventual solution wasn't even that we found an amenable jewelry store. We ended up obtaining a ring via a private transfer from a family member. While the ring contains a mined diamond, it has quite a bit of sentimental value and didn't really put price pressure on the public market. It was a good solution for us, but obviously not scalable!


>While the ring contains a mined diamond, it has quite a bit of sentimental value

If I said it once, I have said it a million times, if your SO insists on a diamond from the ground as opposed to a lab, say fine, but I am getting my shots flying to Africa and will mine it myself. It won't matter if you bring back a opaque brown rock, with 0 marketing your SO would wear it with pride and most others would be jealous when they hear the story behind it.

It goes hand in hand with your obtaining a stone from family and the sentiment of it. My Mom has 5 boys and my Dad gave her a ring with 5 diamonds, and she has made 1 available to each of us for an engagement ring, which she would replace with the birthstone of each son. As you say its not scalable, and no one ever marketed the idea, but the sentiment is extremely powerful.


I love the idea of some valley-esque tech nerd turning up in a hellhole African diamond mine and getting merc'd by child laborers over his iPhone.

I see where you are going, but honestly the generalizations are pretty sad.

You might be surprised of the acceptance of an outsider showing a willingness to roll up their sleeves and experience something real not just sip drinks on a beach resort, even if it is for a day or two. Similarly if you met a child laborer or former child soldier outside those conditions, odds are you would have no idea of their personal experience.

I have met many child refugees that have more Worldly experience than most adults, yet if I did not represent them in asylum proceedings and meet them while they were detained, they would have simply appeared as children in my eyes. I have been part of law clinics that represented torture victims from some of the regimes you have in mind. The child soldiers, much less the child laborers, are not mercing people for their cell phones.

If you are a reader, I might suggest two books: 1) The Evolution of Deadly Conflict in Liberia; and 2) Storming the Court.


> but I am getting my shots flying to Africa and will mine it myself. It won't matter if you bring back a opaque brown rock, with 0 marketing your SO would wear it with pride and most others would be jealous when they hear the story behind it.

That's a great idea, but I don't know of any place you could do that in real life. Diamonds can be very valuable depending on size, color, clarity etc. Diamond mines have heavy security around their miners to ensure a tiny little diamond doesn't go missing.

There is zero chance they'd let a tourist in.

Someone I know smuggled a diamond purchased in South Africa for their spouse and the diamond and story behind that were both well appreciated.


for most people what you describe is even more expensive and impractical than buying a mined diamond

Impractical, sure. But the average cost of a 7 day trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone is less than 1/2 the average cost of an engagement ring. $2,500 compared to $5,500 on average.

Then there’s time cost, fitting cost, other materials cost, are you a jeweler? if not, jeweler cost…

I was fortunate in this regard. My wife inherited her mother's wedding ring. When it came time for us to get married, we took that ring to a jeweler who mounted the diamond in a setting that my wife picked out. The ring has great sentimental value for my wife at a modest cost. We never had to have the conversation about a mined diamond vs a synthetic diamond.

My experience was different. I ended up going to one of the Shane Company stores on the west coast and the salesperson didn't push diamonds at all. She showed me damn near every red/pink sapphire in the store until I found one I wanted to present. And when it turned out my wife didn't like the color as much as I thought they bought the old stone back at full-price and sold us a new one in a color she loves.

I would have immediately ended it right there, but that's probably why I'm single. Every time I was in a relationship long enough to discuss marriage, I made it clear that there is no way I would ever buy a diamond. Only one was actively on board with it, because she liked the idea of picking out an alternative gem.

Take the money and have a nice honeymoon, buy two $5 seashell necklace at the beach. There are so many ways to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars that are way better than investing them into small chunks of metal.

Take the money and have a nice honeymoon, buy two $5 seashell necklace at the beach. There are so many ways to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars that are way better than investing them into small chunks of metal.

Agreed, but I was OK with spending the money, what really bothers me is how worthless diamonds are. Metals have a relatively free market, many uses, and are fungible, so the pricing is more in line with reality.


The gold in a typical engagement ring is worth something like $50-100. Not sure what you spent, but the same people peddling mined diamonds are also massively up-charging on the band.

I have no problem paying for craftsmanship, artistry, and service. The piece should be worth significantly more than it's raw materials. My problem is when the price of the raw material is being artificially controlled. While I'm sure there are shenanigans going on with all valuable materials, I can't think of any that are as blatantly a scam as diamonds.

Some wise older friends of ours literally wear hose clamps as wedding rings. Adjustable over the course of their lives.

I went to a wedding and the two friends tied a knot as per middle-age European tradition.

The knot was then packaged inside of a chest, as a reminder of the promise they made on their Wedding Day. And as far as I know, they still have that chest with them, and the Knot is still tied.


Look at it as a proof of work. What matters is you burned a certain chunk of your life for her.

It's proof of capability. Sort of like peacock feathers. "Look, I can carry around this obscene tail and still not get eaten! How's them genetics?"

For humans, it's, "I have excess resources I can afford to burn according to the socially-accepted ritual or test, so when you bear my offspring, you can be sure I will also have excess capacity to provide for both you and your offspring."

A female may have second thoughts about choosing you as a mate if you appear to cheat at the test or don't do the test right.


This is the best and most succinct explanation.

But why wouldn't she want a larger fancier diamond for the same work?

From a status signaling point of view, it's the difference between a real van Gogh and a reproduction from Dafen Village.

Because it has to be mined.

Its crypto, but with carbon..

and most electricity going into mining crypto comes fron coal

That makes it worse.

Not really. If that's what that person values and you want that person, that's what you're gonna have to do. Being a relationship means doing things you don't agree with sometimes.

The spell is called herd mentality. People don't like to be losers, so women wear shiny stones and men drive cool cars. Both want to send the message "I'm not a loser". Appeal to science has no bearing on the herd opinion. Your gf was basically terrified that her friends would laugh at her lab grown diamond and her weak scientific arguments won't raise her ingroup status. Edit: I'd add a snarky observation that a diamond is essentially a notarized letter of "love" where the shop gets paid as the notary and your gf gets the proof of your deposit. The stone itself isn't worth much.

IMHO that she is looking really hard for allegories, symbols, representations, of your love is a really good sign for a successful marriage, one that will hopefully really, without doubt or question, last "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, 'tell death do you part". So when the two of you get old and wrinkled, not see or hear so well, have joint pains, the children have moved away and you don't see the grandchildren often enough, you will still have your love for each other that you celebrate with the diamond, the accomplishments of your lifetime together, the stability of your marriage, your home, big times at Thanksgiving, the Holidays, your wedding anniversary, your birthdays, the birthdays of the kids and their graduations, accomplishments, marriages, births and children, the friends you have made all along, the memories in your home, etc.

Again, IMHO, one of the biggest problems in life is solving the problem of being alone, and for nearly everyone the best solution is a really good marriage.

Here is a secret scorecard:

You give knowledge of yourselves to each other, that is, keep your spouse well informed on your thoughts and feelings.

You really care about each other.

You respect and respond to each other.

Neither of you tries to manipulate, fool, or exploit your spouse.

You can trust each other.

IMHO, it is good to do well on this scorecard.


You generalize and project your own life preferences on others. Please don't tell what is best for me. There is no problem to solve whatever.

I avoided this by discussing the size of the diamonds in dead slaves rather than carets. Once I realized it didn't bother her to consider the dead slaves, I knew the "natural" diamond was what she wanted, so that's what she got. She may have genuinely believed it when she said the size of the stones didn't matter, but you can't deny how good she felt when other women fawned over it and were jealous that her stones were bigger/shinier.

It's all about status signaling. The whole concept of the ring is a literal status symbol, signaling you're off the market. We can get upset about this particular status signal all we want, but it's not as if it's any less moral than any other status signal we participate in. That new phone was made by slaves. The car was built by raw materials mined in awful ways, possibly with slave labor. We can't go down this rabbit hole with everything in our life. I recommend making small nudges when we can in our own lives, but try not to get too worked up over any of them, it's not good for your mental health.


Married about 12 years (together 16). I bought my then future-wife a ring for $200. She didn't care it was small or that it was a tiny fraction of my salary - we both wore our rings for everyone else for a year or so... My personal do-over would be to have purchased an even cheaper ring (or none at all) so we could buy more useful things, and she would agree.

In any case, the spell doesn't work on everyone.


Depending on how long ago this happened, you may either already know this or have since worked through it but this was probably not really just about the ring.

I think the comments attacking your partner may be assuming that this "uncharacteristic tears and shouting" was some sort of irrational hysteria rather than the boiling-over of simmering problems.

Maybe I'm the one reading too far into it though.


Nah, I don't think so. + it's not an irrational reaction, can't logic out of it.

I sincerely wish you good luck in your marriage, you’re going to need it.

Many women won't directly tell their partner "I want you to spend a couple months' salary on a beautiful diamond" because it's tasteless to request and it removes all the meaning behind the man doing so, but they'd also be disappointed if the man didn't do so unprompted. People and their emotions are complex like that.

I don't think there's any glaring issue with either party above, but it's like you expect all women in your life to be like many people on HN — hyper-rational, utilitarian devs who would never want a mined diamond because a cheaper artificial one with better clarity exists. It's not wrong, but it's not right - there is no right answer here. Traditional ideas of romance are a powerful force.


Did you miss the part where she gas-lit him? She agreed with all the points about moissanite/etc and then got bent out of shape when he took her at her word. Clearly all that was a "test" that he was supposed to "pass". I rarely see happy marriages with that kind of behavior as a baseline. God forbid he get her Carnations and a nice dinner for Valentine's day, she'll likely ignore the dinner and focus on why he didn't get her roses instead.

It's also a weird interpretation. My response would have been something like "moissanite has better visual properties, is free of all slave/conflict concerns, and saves us money for the honeymoon, so our love shines brighter, is built on a pure foundation, and will give us experiences we'll never forget".

More over it's extremely materialistic. Someone who loves you is pledging their life to you. Assuming the ring in question is fundamentally tasteful, is it too much to ask to focus on the life pledge instead of the $$ value of the symbol?

But I guess I lucked out. My wife rarely takes off her vintage ring with syntehtic rubies and a couple of tiny real accent diamonds on yellow gold (because that's what it came with). I knew her aesthetic tastes and got her something that matched those tastes, and it's unique enough that it stands out amongst her sisters/friends. And it certainly wasn't two months' salary, which she well knows. We didn't have that amount in savings at the time.


I didn't view it as gaslighting, I viewed it in the way I said it: she may have not wanted to demand a 'genuine' diamond, so she left it open-ended. What woman wants to demand that when asked for preference? Demanding it would remove the sincerity and meaningfulness of the man's gesture.

On the note of carnations for Valentine's Day, I'd view it in much the same way. Unless she's told you how much she adores and prefers carnations on Valentine's Day, roses are the best bet.

My partner and past partners have always fit that type, and I don't think either is lucky or better or right. I personally enjoy the tradition and the unspoken symbolism in the gifts, and striving to make her happy without it being spelled out for me.

I'm happy you have someone who makes you feel lucky, and who matches your preferences for communication and a relationship — finding that is possibly the greatest feeling in life. I simply aim to point out that either are valid, normal preferences and dynamics, as opposed to one being gaslighting.


> Unless she's told you how much she adores and prefers carnations on Valentine's Day, roses are the best bet.

Um, she did say with regards to the gem, that's the confusing part.


A woman saying she doesn't mind carnations, and that she thinks carnations are fine, is not nearly the same as saying she adores them and prefers them for the occasion of Valentine's Day.

When the stakes are that high however, this is the definition of poor communication. No one's a mind reader, and how many other unspoken expectations are there?

This is basically obvious to the point of being a trope in our culture, so I'd argue it's actually not that hard. Sure, it's not perfect or well communicated, but it's not mindreader-level.

Do you have a newsletter? You seem knowledgeable.

That's really kind of you and has made my day! I've been thinking about one but haven't found the time; this definitely nudges me towards that so thank you.

If you ever want to chat about something though, feel free to reach me at the email in my profile. Always great to meet new people, especially in these times. :)


there's nothing rational about HN's brand of rationalism - which is really just materialist reductionism. In this thread alone are dozens of people completely blind to the concept of social signals, thinking instead about price, clarity and the vague notion of distant moral dilemmas. Beyond basic survival requirements, social signals are one of the most important concepts in human society! To exclude them from your considerations is deeply irrational in the unique way that developers often are.

Yeah, I agree. I'd go even further and say that although the tech conversations on HN are substantive, the vast majority of non-tech conversations are devoid of social awareness (in the same way as a bunch of developers who don't get out much). For example, sometimes people here don't register deference as a prosocial aspect of cooperation. When you say "I'm no expert, but..." on HN, people take it literally.

If you want to get a ring for your significant other, the whole point is to buy something unnecessary as a symbol of the organic constance of your love. Nobody needs a diamond ring. If you tell a woman that her diamond came from a lab, you should accompany that fact with a better narrative than "this was the most economical rock available within your preference constraints."

She wants to love her ring, so give her a reason. Tell her that you wanted to buy her something big without feeling like it was an extravagant use of your shared nest egg. Explain why gem clarity is so important to you, because your vision of the future as a couple is unmarred by doubt. Talk about how lab-grown gems are a more ethical trade and symbolize a desire to avoid unnecessary conflict in your relationship. Remind her that even a diamond is not forever, so if she wants another ring next year you'd be happy to propose again with a superior gem.


> When you say "I'm no expert, but..." on HN, people take it literally.

I'm not understanding this. What other way to take this is there? "I'm no expert, but" is indicating that -- oh, I think I see what you mean by the non-literal meaning, maybe.

The literal meaning would be a disclaimer as to how much others should take one's perspective into account / how much others should trust/believe what one is saying,

whereas the non-literal meaning would be indicating that the situation is kind of sarcastic or something, either because one is well versed in the topic, and therefore should be considered credible, or because the thing being said is obvious and usually shouldn't even need to be said.

Is that right? Is this the distinction you meant?

edit : I'm sure I'm kind of serving as an example of your point by saying this, but, whatever, I don't regard that as a problem.


the non-literal form is showing humility. It's not sarcasm - even if you are a literal expert (as in SME) on the topic it's acknowledging that you are still aware of your own fallibility - as the parent said.

I don't think I've ever met anybody in real life that interacted the way HNers do. I always assumed it was a social affect where everybody pretends to be a robot because that's the culture of the site, in the same way people form pun chains on reddit. Is this an American thing, or maybe just a software engineer thing? I mean, I work in the software industry as a developer (granted, in the UK) so I figured I would've run into it by now if it were industry specific.


Thanks for the clarification. I don't know that I've seen experts in a topic say that they aren't experts in the topic as figurative speech for humility. That sounds like it would be confusing?

Well, I believe I've seen experts saying that they aren't an expect in the particular sub-topic in question, even if they are an expert in (another sub-topic of) the same general topic. Like, saying that there are people with more expertise than them in the specific sub-topic at hand. And maybe they might phrase this as "I'm not an expert" without specifying the specific subtopic, before commenting on a question of the specific sub-topic. This doesn't strike me as figurative though. Perhaps I've just been misinterpreting though, and they mean "I'm not an expert" figuratively, rather than literally meaning "I'm not an expert in this specific sub-topic"?

I think the "everyone pretends to be a robot" is, partially a software engineer thing? (Or, rather, correlated with the sort of person who would enjoy programming-ish stuff. ) Not literally pretending to be a robot. Rather, a combination of naturally acting in a certain way that could be described as analogous in some ways to a robot, and an imitation (and sometimes exaggeration) of behaviors which one has seen in oneself and in others who one kinda "identifies with", or aspiring towards an ideal or idea which has been constructed around those kinda of behaviors (possibly with this idea including things that aren't really naturally part of the behaviors, but by accidents of chance and misunderstanding, became part of a cultural idea ).

I've previously told someone that I don't really ever "feel like a robot", but I do often "feel like the sort of person who would sometimes 'feel like a robot' " .


> In this thread alone are dozens of people completely blind to the concept of social signals, thinking instead about price, clarity and the vague notion of distant moral dilemmas.

> Yeah, I agree. I'd go even further and say that although the tech conversations on HN are substantive, the vast majority of non-tech conversations are devoid of social awareness

Social signaling and status symbols come up frequently on HN, and in this thread no less. Truly, in ordinary circles these concepts don’t come up and people aren’t even aware that what they’re doing is a concept that’s studied.


> Beyond basic survival requirements, social signals are one of the most important concepts in human society!

These social signals are a core human survival mechanisms since at least the birth of agriculture. When the climate turned for the worse or food was scarce, nomadic tribes just migrated to an environment with better conditions. In an agricultural society, clans had to develop a different mechanism that took advantage of agriculture's strength: large surpluses around harvest time that couldn't easily be stored through the winter. This is where the concept of banquets was born and there's archaeological evidence of hunter-gatherers and farmers participating in them together in the Early Neolithic, when agriculture just getting started.

Instead of moving to find food, humans adapted to create strong social bonds between clans by elaborate social signals. Banquets, parties, and feasts were fundamentally saying "we've got a surplus now and we'll share it with you with the understanding that you'll share your surplus when you have one." Dowries and marriages were just a formalization of that unspoken social contract. Today someone might throw a big wedding or party as a show of status but back then, they were grand events because all of the best food spoiled quickly and it served zero purpose to hoard it.

That said, what the diamond ring industry has evolved into is something quite new.


> This is where the concept of banquets was born

Good post which I don't mean to detract from, but this is certainly not true.

Even before sapiens, erectus and neanderthalensis were big game hunters. Sapiens in particular developed the tools for mass killings of migratory herds of large animals, and the ability to set fish traps for harvesting spawning runs.

Both of these left early hunter gatherers with abundant surpluses of meat at certain times of year, so much that preservation was the limiting factor in getting those calories into bodies. We know the response of the Tlingit people to this bounty from very recent history: they would throw huge banquets called potlatches.


Except this particular social signal was entirely made up by a corporation. Social signals that cost significant resources for something worthless are stupid.

> Except this particular social signal was entirely made up by a corporation.

They didn't make it up, they just made a display of wealth (and therefore social status) associated with their product. Brands do that all the time but the signal has always existed.

The advertising serves to put the association between the product and wealth into the common knowledge - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_knowledge_(logic). Or in other words, everybody knows that everybody knows that rings are expensive.

> Social signals that cost significant resources for something worthless are stupid.

No, you just don't understand social signals, which was my point. The "costing significant resources" part is the whole idea. Wedding rings and fresh kicks aren't expensive because they're valuable, they're valuable because they're expensive. If you want to understand the idea, check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_theory#Honest_signa.... It makes perfect sense (ie, it's rational).

It's equivalent to saying, "I am willing to burn all of this valuable money to prove that I value you".

If we only bought things that were of purely-material value, we'd stop at food, weather-protective but un-aesthetic clothing, and basic shelter. Everything beyond those is social (or hyperreal).


>> Social signals that cost significant resources for something worthless are stupid.

> No, you just don't understand social signals, which was my point.

I don't think OP denies the utility of signaling, only that as an intelligent human being, one must not feel absolutely helpless in accepting and perpetuating all instances of signaling that their peers do.

There are many different cultures with strong means of signaling one's devotion to a partner, without having to essentially burn a small fortune to enrich an exploitative industry. It doesn't even have to be non-materialistic. Many cultures have the gold ring/necklace. It's a signal of a fortune spent, and a retained safety net because gold is tradable.


I can understand disagreeing with social signalling, but this comment tree is rife with people dismissing social signals as irrational, or completely missing the plot by pointing out that you could get a synthetic diamond for much less money. It just speaks to ignorance rather than disagreement.

It's like typical "I don't need anything for my birthday". Even the most rational people tend to get disappointed if they really get nothing.

I don't get disappointed. The best gift you can get me for my birthday is remove the obligation for me to get you one on yours. Saves so much mental energy and time.

Same, even though I've been bit by it.

After rationally agreeing not to get anything (because we were about to move overseas on a couple of luggages and didn't want extra stuff) my SO got me 3 (3!! usually it was one per event) gifts and I was empty handed.

And I had to resell / returns some of the items as we were moving anyway and we could just buy better quality stuff later on, without having to pay for the move.



I always liked the associated page for Gift Economy -- reading it is when I first realized there are multiple credit systems in play at any given moment, beyond raw currency.

I try to tell people I don't have a birthday anymore. Because if I tell people not to get me anything, sometimes they hear please get me something. Ugh.

I normally just tell them "it was a few weeks back". This gives a full year for them to forget about it and has a sufficiently vague period of time that they can't nail you next year should they remember.

> I try to tell people I don't have a birthday anymore.

Never thought of that. I'd imagine the ensuing conversation is even more problematic though? "What do you mean you don't have a birthday? That makes no sense!"


I mean it usually goes "No really? When's your birthday" "I don't have one, thanks" and usually dies off from there.

I mean, if I have to put it on a form, that's one thing, but like office people don't need to know when it is.


No, just respond with "I stopped caring".

Maybe could also tack on that you count winters to tell your age.


Um, no, I've never gotten disappointed. I've been married for a decade and the hubby and I don't do material gifts, ever.

I'd be much more disappointed in some useless trinket I don't need and would feel obligated to keep.


Nope. I dont want or need more shit.

That seems a little harsh? Even people in the best marriages sometimes have emotional, irrational disagreements

This is a particular telling one, however.

Apparently a lab grown diamond meant my love for her was also artificial [...]

Why then a ring [with a diamond] at all? It's nothing special at all, just what everyone does. Almost the definition of replaceability and arbitrariness. There is no connection between the relationship and a random ring with a stone you buy at some random jewelry store. Why not something individual, specific to the relationship? Every $1 toy ring used as a wedding ring is more personal and telling than any thousands of dollars ring with a diamond.


It is not a rational argument, result of some cultural indoctrination. Media, friends, peers... Everyone is susceptible to such influence to some degree but not aware. Still, must be sad to witness.

Yes, seeing an otherwise healthy, and free-thinking human being turn through their behaviour into almost a sub-sentient machine running pre-programmed scripts, would errode a bit of the soul in almost everyone. As some of their childhood naivete is forever extinguished. At least now they’ve gained through this experience a deeper perception of the true nature of reality.

Is this an American thing? I'm polish and this whole discussion is just mind boggling. I don't know anybody who would had such high (monetary wise) demands

Yep, to a large degree, at least. American thinking is thoroughly colonized by powerful corporations. In the absence of a real culture, you are left with consumerist zombies. So when Washington comes knocking at your door to "liberate you" and "spread freedom", just know that this is a large part of what they mean.

I believe it is more of an English speaking world thing. The tropes of the white wedding come from people emulating English nobility.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_wedding


It seems it is, I'm Dutch and also don't recognise this at all (but not married yet, so who knows). It does remind me, again, how many HN and Reddit discussions so often are by default seem US-centric, until stated otherwise. I am very much willing to accept though that the fact that this annoys me a bit is my own problem.

In Sweden, it is more customary (at least for mixed-gender couples) to buy matching gold bands for the engagement, then a fancy wedding band for the female spouse (and optionally another plain gold band for the male). They typically have the names and dates of the engagement/wedding engraved on the inside, as well.

Both times I got engaged (only got married once, though), I brought my partner to the jewellery store to pick out rings we both liked, as it would be something we'd be wearing for a non-determined time and I'd say that being happy with that trumps the whole "propose with a ring out of nowhere in public".


Yes it is American. Getting down on your knees to propose, the engagement ring, the bachelor/ette party, the white wedding dress, the bridesmaids in matching outfits and flowers, the handwritten invitation cards, the tiered wedding cake, the wedding photographer, the reception dinner. It's the cultural script that little girls and boys learn to follow. .

It's more of a white people that watch movies thing I think. So yeah mostly American but you see pockets of it on different cultures, one of the common threads that I find is that people that like this also like their houses to look as if they were designed for the set of a romantic comedy.

Nah, there's rings from my ancestors that predates movies and we're from appalachia. It ain't much but an expensive valuable is a tradition that predates movies by a mile

It’s an American consumer culture thing.

When looking for a mate, animals often engage in so called "irrational" behavior to signal to the other party of their readiness and seriousness for mating. This is how, for example, peacocks get their ridiculous plumage.

And thus, when somebody "irrationally" buys a "worthless" ring for a hefty amount, it signals to some extent that one is serious, committed and financially capable of the proposed marriage.

It's often not that the partner wants the expensive thing, but more that they want a proof that the marriage is worth more than that expensive and useless thing, which they want precisely because it's useless objectively and the purchase is "irrational".

It's basically a trolley problem of "do I value my partner more, or my hard earned $XXXX more?" The forced irrational choice makes the game rational on a meta level. I don't disagree that the game kind of sucks, and there are other ways to build trust and understanding regarding the level of commitment between partners, but I consider the ring thing to be the "easy" way to do it. (which is why it's de-facto standard in many cultures)

I think the hatred against capitalism and marketing is slightly off the mark here, since capitalism is merely supplying these expensive things to satisfy the somewhat "biological" demand in our mating rituals. Capitalists might be unscrupulous, but somebody had to do it.

(Disclaimer in case it matters - I'm male, happily married to my wife, and bought a non-diamond ring as an engagement ring. I don't think this necessarily applies to any gender in any specific case, but generally speaking so far as humans are animals, the biological aspect dominates)


If we’re talking about the animal kingdom POV, then an expensive diamond is physical proof of the male’s resourcefulness and ability to provide for young. I would argue that if the diamond was displaced as this proof then it would shift to another physical object that’s publicly displayed such as a house or car.

I agree, but at the same time, we're much more intelligent than penguins, so it's a shame that we also signal commitment with a fancy rock. Something like a work of art or rare book would serve the same purpose but would have more personal meaning.

I wanted to say you've committed the naturalistic fallacy, but actually, you've also misrepresented the meaning of mating behaviors in essential ways and made a few tacit and unwarranted jumps in between.

Humans are rational animals. Yes, obviously we have natural inclinations (they aren't irrational, btw; they have a purpose and only when the inclination is disordered, deficient, excessive, or we behave in ways opposed to the good when moved by the inclination can we speak of irrationality). However, we can make errors in judgement when interpreting signs and relating these signs to our inclinations. Marketing is often actively engaged in confusing people when it comes to what things mean. And when we get the meanings of signs wrong, we relate things erroneously to our natural inclinations. So this very recent practice of buying extravagant diamond rings beyond our means is the product of psychological manipulation and deceit that exploits vice and inclination by effectively lying about what an overpriced diamond ring signals.

It would be an error to assume that a woman from a culture that values thrift would react positively to such a gift, much less demand it. She might be left thinking that the man is financially irresponsible. Most cultures do not make spending obscene amounts of money on a ring a common practice. The engagement ring has historically been a symbolic gesture, not a demonstration of irresponsibility, immodesty, profligacy, and vanity.

In the case of peacocks, they ARE their plumage. Their plumage is not a sign of seriousness, but a sign of fitness and health and shaped by inherent traits and female selection (her interpretation or recognition that the better the plumage, the better the health), not male initiative. The peacock also isn't willing his plumage.

You can just as easily construe the ring as a test of your potential wife's character. If she refuses to marry you because you haven't spent a fourth or more of your salary on a ring, then good riddance. Who wants to be saddled with a fraudulent, vain, and vapid creature like that. She would make a terrible mother.


In many cultures, marriage was traditionally a more convoluted affair, involving both families and there's a strong preference to marriage with a family that your family knows and trusts. The socio-economic status of prospective mates and their families are considered. There's a solemn ritual in a religious setting where all members of the community are invited to witness an oath. And thus the expensive shiny thing isn't _as_ necessary, although often expensive gifts are exchanged anyway.

These days people get married with somebody they met on Tinder for a month because "true love". The weight of a promise from a person you met for a couple weeks and from a family you've known for decades is different, which accounts for the modern inventions you despise as compensation.

I mean, I'm not saying this expensive ring thing is a desirable game to play, and I don't disagree that there are vain people out there, but the ring serves a particular purpose in the mating game of modern society, not just to satisfy some people's vanity.

(btw, if you think about it, an engagement ring isn't inherently that great for showing off. Most people put it away in a little box and wear a less conspicuous ring anyway.)


Different cultures uses different displays to convey status. In cultures which do not place similar importance on a diamond ring, they may place equal importance on other displays, such as a large wedding banquet or purchase of a residence. Regardless of the specific expression of status in various cultures, I would think that they exist as a constant across all cultures.

I don’t see what’s so hard to understand. The entire point of buying a ring is that you’re showing her how much you care by spending a bunch of money on something special. Instead, you decided to save money and get something that’s not as special, and that hurt her feelings.

The point is that its fucking stupid and a corporate mind game that is trivial to see through.

So, tell her that. You didn't need to be in a relationship anyway.

Just chiming in to say that you can in fact be up front with your SO about your opinions on pretty rocks as a symbol of your relationship, and continue to have a happy, healthy relationship.

Yep, exactly what I did

> showing her how much you care by spending a bunch of money on something special

If this is what the other person expects out of a relationship it's time to jump ship ASAP.


You conveniently left out the part where they discussed it and she said that it didn't need to be 'natural'.

There's nothing wrong with wanting a 'natural' diamond. But to mislead your partner as part of some sick test, and then make them feel like dirt for not having passed?


> But to mislead your partner as part of some sick test, and then make them feel like dirt for not having passed?

Women do this all the time. I agree it’s not a good behavior.


>When I showed her what I'd picked out, it quickly devolved into a lot of uncharacteristic tears and shouting. It took a few more tries, and then she explained. Apparently a lab grown diamond meant my love for her was also artificial, a budgeted ersatz stand-in for the real thing

I'm wondering how, if you picked it out, she even knew the diamond was lab grown? Did she start grilling you immediately? Or did she get the microscope out? Maybe I'm a total moron but I can't tell the difference by just looking at it.


Funny you noticed. (Natural) diamonds have certificates of authenticity, ostensibly for appraisal and insurance. When I told her I could print one up with the specs is when the arguments started.

Now try a "used" diamond.

shudders


Haha. Could you imagine the horror of a USED DIAMOND!

It reminds me of the scene in Lord of War about the atrocity of a “used gun”.


> Now try a "used" diamond.

The right “used” diamonds are often received better than fresh natural diamonds by recipients. But that depends a lot on the “origin story”.


> I don't know what kind of spell the diamond people cast on otherwise reasonable women to make them able to reduce the totality of a life and experiences shared together into a single crystalline bet, but they need to package it and sell it to the military.

If we can grow a perfect diamond, of seemingly any size, then finding a large, clear natural diamond is more special than buying a manufactured diamond. Then there’s the time involved, The natural process taking much more time. It’s hard for me to see why people think they are equivalent. Approaching an emotional subject with a logical mind won’t work. Yes they are the same but really they’re not.


Well, if you ever want an example of advertising working... (I realise it plays enormously on preexisting traditional cultural notions of value, but still, as mentioned, de Beers did quite the job). I had similar conversations pre-engagement, but felt forced into a real diamond once the time actually came.

"Real diamond" as opposed to zirconia, or did you mean natural diamond (as opposed to a real artificial diamond)?

Natural, as in what would commonly be referred to as a real diamond (yes, I realise they're they're chemically and structurally the same).

Edit: As I said in another reply, there's nothing illogical about it. If value is placed culturally and socially on natural diamonds, then they are valuable, regardless of if that value is "artificially" created via advertising of whatever. Lots of stuff is quite stupid if you look at it objectively, out of context. Doesn't mean it isn't true in context.


I truly mean this to be thoughtful and not antagonistic, and your notion of value being subjective is accurate. But I think I can somewhat snarkily summarize a lot of the doubt some HNers are feeling (I'm not saying I agree or disagree): it's basically saying diamonds are like NFTs.

EDIT: Just did a ctrl-f for NFT and I guess I wasn't the first to say that, although those comments are much lower on the page.


Oh, sure, not to going to disagree! I don't think it's being sarky to compare the two (although NFTs have slightly different cultural precursors), no offence taken. I also think that in this case many commenters [being human] have equally subjective notions of value (edit: which are also correct in context, I'm not just having a pop) but would just like to pretend that they do not, that they are being "rational".

Your mistake was not knowing enough about evolutionary biology. I suggest you read about Signaling Theory.

> My biggest mistake was including her in the decision. > When I showed her what I'd picked out, it quickly devolved into a lot of uncharacteristic tears and shouting.

I do not think you would have had a better experience if you did not include her.


There’s something about the fact that the stone on the ring spent millions of years being made and lying in the ground before being found.

Spouse was the same way.

There is a right answer. She absolutely will not tell it to you.

If you guess wrong that means you don’t love her.


It's from birth at this point. Generational indoctrination.

Its amazing how much society can make people believe such stupid illogical things

Where do you draw the line between marketing vs flat out lies? There's a conflict of interest between consumer and sales person.

I just tire of the subterfuge.


It's mostly about the emotional attachment. If you find two identical pens, and one of them was used by a famous writer, you would expect a price difference.

There is no difference in the quality of those pens. They both work the same, and using the writer's pen will not make you a better writer by itself.

I personally would not buy a natural diamond because of the ethical issues, but I do understand the students who feel there is a difference.


"Okay class, child labour, a few thousand poor people dead, terrorist groups starving hundreds of thousands, destroying schools and libraries. That is where diamonds come from. How many would still want a natural diamond because diamonds are forever?"

The elephant in that lecture hall was probably the hypocrisy.

I think if you still raise a hand after hearing all that, the issue isn't branding at all. It's narcissim, that people have to die so you can maintain the illusion of...of what?

That's the difference.


I personally fully agree, but unfortunately not everyone thinks as logically as you or I.

I talked about this with my wife recently, and even though she had a vague idea of the horrors that mined diamonds bring, she'd still continue to buy/want mined diamonds. She sees mined diamonds as more "real", and finds it difficult to believe that her diamonds in particular would be part of the problem - as if it somehow would only affect diamonds purchased in dodgy, back-room deals. She seems to think it's OK because "everyone else does it". No amount of discussion of verifiable facts seems to change that view; indeed, she got quite annoyed with me, and didn't want to discuss it any further.

A large part of the problem is conditioning, through both advertising and tradition. In the west, we are conditioned from an early age to believe that "diamonds are a girl's best friend", that women should accept nothing less that a "real" diamond, and that men should spend some silly multiple of their salary when buying such a diamond. Diamonds are synonymous with luxury.

What we really need is a big, sustained campaign against mined diamonds, really putting the horrors in the faces of potential customers, so they have to accept the damage mined diamonds cause,and accept that they are part of the problem. Such a campaign probably needs to be fronted by celebrities - inspirational figures that people will listen to.

I whole-heartedly applaud Pandora for making the first move here - hopefully this will help to break the stalemate and be the start of a much bigger movement.


There's also a common line of reasoning that roughly goes "well this particular diamond has obviously already been mined, so no additional harm is caused by me wanting it."

Obviously you and I see that even that line of reasoning alone jacks up demand for an awful business, but not all people have the capacity to reason that abstractly about how their behaviour plays a part in a very big aggregate.

----

My wife did get this after some discussion, but we got stuck with a different problem: we asked virtually every local jeweller to create something with a lab-created diamond (or even a different shiny rock entirely) and all of them -- to our astonishment -- refused.

They only work with mined diamonds from the suppliers they have long-standing contracts with and can ensure are as ethical as they come. I'm sure they have their reasons but that was very frustrating.


That's interesting - when I bought an engagement ring for my wife the one and only jewelry store I went to was happy to order me a bare ring, give me the size range of diamonds that would fit it, and then install the 3 synthetic diamonds I ordered from Gemesis. It seemed like installing diamonds that folks already owned into new rings was something they did relatively often. Maybe you'd have better luck approaching it that way - "I already have a diamond, what rings can you sell me that would fit it?" rather than "source me a synthetic diamond and put it in a ring for me".

Although it looks like Gemesis, the company I bought the synthetic diamonds from, has pivoted and rebranded as Pure Grown Diamonds, and sells wholesale rather than retail now.


> we asked virtually every local jeweller to create something with a lab-created diamond (or even a different shiny rock entirely) and all of them -- to our astonishment -- refused.

ooooo now there is a signal. Putting in the time and effort to find/get a jeweller to make me a custom ring with a lab-created diamond when no one will. Unique, expensive. Not something he can just order from the internet.

Because lets just cut to the chase. The diamond is all about the story, the signal and what it represents, not what it is.


> I'm sure they have their reasons

I would guess it's profit, with mined diamonds being more expensive than engineered ones?


Not sure where you are located, but I was able to get a local sole-proprietor jeweler to custom design a ring based on my specs to fit the diamond I had. I am in Southern California.

I've had jewelers make custom jewelry with stones I brought. Maybe you haven't found the right one yet.

Were these chain jewelers? Did you bring the stone, or want to include that as part of the purchase?

My guess is that we need a sweeping, emotion-fill, romantic story toward something else, not just away from the current diamond-status quo. There certainly is a quiet satisfaction, and clear conscience, in avoidance of evil. But no joy in the act of NOT.

A normal person who repeatedly throws aside a full heart in favor of facts will not wake up singing for many years. There needs to be a new song to replace the old, something as emotionally filling as DeBeers shadow demons dancing to a swelling string section.


Dude.. people don’t think about who’s making their Nikes or Apple products or tshirts. They buy these incidental products with zero concern for the people producing them. How noble are we, talking about refusing to buy blood diamonds when the very MEMS mic in a household device probably vibrated to the scream of people watching a friend jumping out a factory window.

Getting people to care about who’s winning and losing in a production lifecycle seems like something that doesn’t get fixed initially with the diamond-buying crowd when the shoe-buying consumers don’t even care.

I think what I’m struggling to get at is that the diamond-buying population at least have these earnest “noble ideals” of love, unity, etc represented by this product for which at some low level the sacrifice and blood may _add_ value (god knows what unconscious calculus is at work in the mind of a grown princess). Compare this to a pair of crap tennis shoes that you’re going to throw away, where they are completely utilitarian, replaceable, and you have zero emotional investment in what they represent. The suffering represented by the product offers nothing other than the blatant profit of the consumer. And we can’t wrest the shoes from the consumer’s hands no matter what is said about the abysmal conditions that produced them.

All of these conditions in the production of these products are known. Nobody can claim ignorance in the first world. If the population at large hasn’t had a moment of moral clarity by now, I’m not sure I’d hold my breath any longer. Either systemically the culture needs to be more open to moral awakenings (a hard sell in a world defined by deconstructionism) or a new and acceptable critique of globalism at a policy level needs radical change.

Just my .02 but I’ve been hearing the same convo about diamonds since I was a kid and it’s as sad as hearing the rationalizing of any addict.


> How noble are we, talking about refusing to buy blood diamonds when the very MEMS mic in a household device probably vibrated to the scream of people watching a friend jumping out a factory window.

The suicide rate in those factories is greater than zero but is not high at all. You picked the wrong analogy.


It (as an example) is sufficient to remind you that the production environments for many goods _more accessible than diamonds_ are highly, highly exploitive. We don’t need to argue about specific frequency of people jumping out of windows (btw, enough for one building to install nets), to understand the broader point. We could talk about child labor. We could talk about labor camps. Again, nobody in the first world can claim to be surprised by these things. For people to walk around on sneakers cushioned by children’s tears and fret about the provenance of their diamonds seems a bit of a joke.

I understand the broader point, but you don't want to use incorrect information as part of making it. "forced labor, child labor, unreasonable overtime, people dying in mines, and a factory with a well-below-average suicide rate that got a lot of media attention for a cluster over a decade ago" One of these things is not like the others, and detracts from the actual point. It's a distraction from the real problems.

How about this: Industrially created diamonds represent science and human achievement. After many years of engineering, we can take carbon, crush it at super-high pressures and temperatures, and make a diamond out of it—one that is more crystal-clear and perfect than what you get when this process accidentally happens in places in the earth's mantle. Humans have wanted to do this for millennia, and now we can!

You can iterate on the above. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_diamond would be a starting point for getting more specifics. Hmm, it says: "A third method, known as detonation synthesis, entered the diamond market in the late 1990s. In this process, the detonation of carbon-containing explosives creates nanometer-sized diamond grains." Fuck yeah, my diamond was made with high explosives! Might prefer one of those because of the awesome factor.


This is quite insightful. I never thought of it this way but I think you are correct.

If I could rephrase it a bit more clinically, the signaling of fitness (wealth, social status, etc) is important to the human mating rituals. And diamonds are integral to that in a some cultures. That underlying need is probably innate will not change. Therefore, as you said, you can't just say "NO", it needs to be replaced with something else.


That will be hard, women are much more conservative and care more about traditions than men.

Interesting that you are downvoted when what you are saying is quite true.

It's downvoted because it's not true. There are tons of traditions that men follow too. Gender norms just lead to men and women following different traditions.

More fundamentally: we're conditioned to privilege our ambitions (or maybe just grand ambitions in general) over things like concern for the horrific-yet-ultimately-banal suffering that enables them, or for building and maintaining a stable and sustainable "floor" for human existence. We pour funding into tech startups that promise to maybe change the world when we know that we can move the needle (often for a fraction of the cost) by spending on basic needs and not looking for a direct ROI. It doesn't matter that people are starving, homeless, wallowing in practical and spiritual squalor, because we're going to Mars, damn it.

In the end, we just can't seem to take our eyes and minds off the shiny things, even knowing that we're merely gazing at the glare of hubris.


> we know that we can move the needle (often for a fraction of the cost) by spending on basic needs and not looking for a direct ROI

Based on San Francisco's experience, I'd say spending other people's money isn't enough to do much about the homeless issue. Further, I suspect a startup that moves the economy upwards results in citizens with more disposable income to donate to good causes. Ideally, the competition for those funds leads to increased effectiveness from those good causes (because I'm not going to donate to someone who doesn't efficiently get food to the mouths of the hungry so to speak).

Also, the "shiny things" often bring tangible and less tangible benefits (e.g. technology advances, societal celebration of science & engineering), whereas quite a bit of our social programs seem like money pits with no real outcome other than feeling good about burning all that time and treasure (see above re: SF and the homeless). I'm reminded of people who protested going to the Moon, arguing instead that the funding should be spent on welfare programs. The difference is that going to the Moon is a quantifiable win and also brings interesting benefits to society, and there is an end state where the job is done. Welfare, as it is currently structured, does nothing to actually solve the problem of systemic poverty so its job is never done. It's not even clear if increasing or decreasing funding really does much about the problem.


"San Francisco's experience" proves my case. I suspect that if you poofed one or two of the larger tech companies or VC firms and took the delta in housing prices from reduced demand/speculative pressure and put it towards building, NIMBY laws notwithstanding, you'd solve homelessness in SF. That is the magnitude of money (that is, our past and future time, energy, and belief in our own produftive capacity, converted to fungible currency) that is being siphoned from society in order to prop up an industry with, frankly, a mixed record of public good ROI. That's just one case of many.

The anti-moon mission people were right, in the end. The advances solely attributable to it were few (to ask someone to name them is akin to asking a government official what assets and missions, exactly, Edward Snowden's leaks compromised), and NASA and the government abandoned the effort not when the possibility of further advances dried up, but when the prestige of beating the USSR wore off. This, of course, is the fundamental issue: that the shininess blinds and then dulls, leaving the problems that were ignored still unaddressed. The people protesting the moon missions were:

*Environmental advocates

*Anti-war protestors

*Black and PoC Civil Rights advocates

Consider then, in good faith, the troubles that continue to rock our society, some 40-50 years hence. Interesting parallels.

On the other hand, welfare works. Full stop.

Like I said, we've been conditioned. And by "we", I mean "you."


I had a similar conversation and I think you're spot on with "conditioning". I don't even think it is about luxury, necessarily. It's literally just how middle class+ white women grow up in the United States. I can't necessarily fault someone for making those kinds of emotional choices after being bombarded with that idea their entire lives.

Totally agree with your campaign idea too. I think a lot of it is social signaling and if there was enough of a big movement against them, diamonds would be "canceled" pretty quickly. Social pressure is one of the great guiding forces we have (for better and for worse).


Markets tend to abstract away responsibility. Just look at rhino horn, elephant tusk buyers in Asia, I am sure it's a similar story. Most people think that if they are buying from a reputable company that it must be okay, some companies even market that (Brilliant Earth) and even they get in trouble though since the diamond market in general is shady.

>In the west, we are conditioned from an early age to believe that "diamonds are a girl's best friend", that women should accept nothing less that a "real" diamond, and that men should spend some silly multiple of their salary when buying such a diamond.

In the west, the US or the anglosphere? Because I only know this from Hollywood movies.


Ha - Hollywood/Debears infected post-war Japan too:

https://danwin.com/2010/08/how-de-beers-diamonds-won-over-th...

The scope of their mass brain washing is indeed staggering. Heck I have a good friend in the jewelry business and we still get into heated discussions about how he feels there is nothing wrong and how he is providing value as an agent of Debears brainwashing. It is pretty disgusting.


The west. I'm from the UK, and this mindset is common here. I've discussed this topic with others from various other European countries, and it seems to be widespread.

> I personally fully agree, but unfortunately not everyone thinks as logically as you or I.

Yes they don't because of marketing.

If we want to really change this, the narrative, the media and marketing has to change from: Earth Diamonds = Status of eternity and "foreverness" to Earth Diamonds = Status of child abuse.

With massive campaigns from media and celebrities, people can be shamed into changing their behaviour.

We need to stop treating women as children and objects to be "bought out" with diamonds and gifts. The days of women needing men to "provide" for them are long gone.

But I digress.. more to your point, just because something is a tradition, it doesn't mean we should throw our hands up and accept the status quo.

Change requires bravery.


The solution is simple: make man-made diamonds more expensive than mined.

This is actually a great idea - either to make them more expensive, or to pressure governments to ban them outright, like has been done for ivory.

Partial solution: change product labeling laws /consumer protection laws/trademark laws/etc to have an exception for diamonds that allows all diamonds regardless of origin to be labeled as natural and/or mined diamonds.

It also factors into how someone grew up.

I'd rather toss 10k into a couple emergency fund then waste it on a ring. Most marriages collapse due to money. I recall in my younger days I was with a girl and she dragged me to Brooks Brothers. As a child of poverty and evictions I couldn't understand why anyone who need to spend this much money on a shirt.

Even making well into the 6 figures I shop at Old Navy. Hell, my favorite partner thus far was making 200k or so, and she still used an IPhone 6.

Maybe whenever I meet someone new I'll ask on the first date, would you rather have 10k saved in an emergency fund or a shinny conflict rock ? Her response will tell me everything I need to know.


>Maybe whenever I meet someone new I'll ask on the first date, would you rather have 10k saved in an emergency fund or a shinny conflict rock ? Her response will tell me everything I need to know.

I don't know about asking that on the very first date, but it is very reasonable (essential even) to make sure your priorities and your partner's priorities match up.


I hear your point. How we grow up is important on how we make decisions but we can't turn a blind eye on individual facualty. If killing koala bears to make purses or minks for fur coats puts people in their feelings, I don't get how a blood diamond escapes the conversation of morality.

I don't think it's a radical claim that most want blood diamonds precisely because lot's of people suffered and possibly died for it.

That's the elephant in the room.

The sadistic narcissism of which I speak.

> Maybe whenever I meet someone new I'll ask on the first date, would you rather have 10k saved in an emergency fund or a shinny conflict rock ? Her response will tell me everything I need to know.

Haha. I doubt her answer is going to deter you from the path you intended. You'll probably still be mesmerized so maybe this is 29th date, watching netflix after getting laid type of talk.

Is money the cause or symptom? Unrealistic expectations of overflowing love clouding rational judgement of lifelong partnerships? I feel money is too simple an explaination - as if the foundation of the marriage was money in which case it was dead before it even started.


>Most marriages collapse due to money.

Some studies on factors leading to divorce do put 'money' (and particularly attitudes regarding money) as the biggest single factor, but I'm not familiar with any study (let alone a consensus) that it's a leading factor in 'most' divorces.


Money, Children and Infidelity.

Children also includes weirdly a large subset on how to raise children (when marrying someone of a different faith)


Is this a book or a set of books or a study? Could you please tell me who is the author?

These were the most common before no-fault divorce became the common cause so they used to come from court filings.

In these days, some of them come from marriage counseling statistics undertaken during divorce (some states require it before disolving a marriage).

There is some specific research from small N groups where N=52 for example (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012696/)


Oh! Money, Children and Infidelity are factors, instead of studies or a book. I think I was confused because the words were capitalized.

Thanks for the link as well, I found it interesting. :-)


Oh yeah, that does look like a title.

People buy expensive clothes because it makes others think they have money. By wearing a brand she is mentally leaving the proviety behind.

I don't think you have mentally left that state of mind. Thinking you need $10,000 in cash and telling everyone on the first date tells them this guy will never save more than 10,000 and he is cheap with his money. Might work for some but perhaps you are putting out a negative signal.


That's a dangerous mindset. I know too many people who can't wait to get into more debt, then complain when they can't afford things. I'm thinking of specific people that have more expensive versions of everything I own, while making less money than me, then saying "it must be nice" when they see me go on vacation or go out to dinner without considering the cost.

Plus I think you're being a bit unfair about his first date comment. It seemed like it was more of a quip to explain his position, than an actual plan


>he is cheap with his money

Exactly, anyone I'm with needs to understand the difference between my money and their money. I've had no problem dating plenty of fantastic girls who have their own careers( real life only and I tend to date a few years older ). That's by far my number one priority when meeting someone, have your own life together first.

$10,000 was a random number, maybe the pre-marriage emergency fund needs to be $50,000, 100,000 ? In my mind having that money saved up says when life happens, and life will happen you'll be okay.


> I don't think you have mentally left that state of mind.

All of those people in 2008 who lost their houses in my neighborhood had the left that state of mind.


I agree it wouldn't be a good signal for most women early on.

I remember, a few months in a relationship, lightly making fun of some of her "cheap" behaviours (which I really appreciated) and her getting very offended. At that point I realised I never communicated I was a massive cheapskate and I asked her if she thought she was more frugal than me. It turns out she thought so!

I think I definitely proved I won the frugality contest, but I learnt over time to mask this to appear more interesting and charming.

Money is not the only resource that count and that's worthy of optimising for; time and reputation are important as well.


Don't apply logic to fashion choices. Why do some sneakers sell for thousands? It is all about the attached backstory. Two identical shoes, but one was owned by a celeb. The backstory, the notoriety of owning the embodiment of that backstory, is the value. Some people want to own something 'from the earth'. Some would even pay more for an object that people suffered to produce. Lots of people certainly pay more for objects that come from animals suffering. Blood diamonds are no different than ivory or tiger parts, the backstories of which are so valuable that we enact laws to destroy their market.

>Don't apply logic to fashion choices

Fast fashion is literally harming the earth, screw everyone who says that and thinks about that, I absolutely reject it and we SHOULD apply logic to fashion choices that directly harm us and our planet.


You can say the same thing about fast technology. There are mountains of discarded gadgets from just last year filled with toxic materials that first had to be mined from the Earth, and now are polluting the Earth.

I totally would say the same thing. That’s why I support all steps that make it easier for devices to be repaired and re-used.

My hi-fi system is 30 years old. My Squeezeboxes (audio players) are 15 years old. Laptop (running LXDE) is 13 years old. TV is 10 years old (only 720p but free of “smart” aka tracking features). The mobile phone is about 7 years old; this one is due for replacement and while I usually buy second-hand, I am considering a Fairphone 3. The most recent device I bought (a year ago) was an Apple TV which I’d hope to be using for at least another 5 years.


> Two identical shoes, but one was owned by a celeb. The backstory, the notoriety of owning the embodiment of that backstory, is the value.

So the value lies with the fact that it was made by slaves?....


> Why do some sneakers sell for thousands? It is all about the attached backstory. Two identical shoes, but one was owned by a celeb.

It's mostly artificial scarcity, even sneakers that weren't personally worn by a celebrity sell for thousands when they are of a limited run with particular high demand.

Throw in scamming as a service, the FOMO marketing that has become ever-present, and the result is brands being able to charge absurd prices for mundane items.


It's not that simple.

Almost everyone buys clothes, electronics made with child labor.

I think you might have clothes made with child labor as well.

Why do you draw the line at diamonds?


It is very difficult, and expensive, to completely avoid these products (clothes and a phone being necessities, more or less, in our society). Not saying it's justified, but it is understandable that even contentious people give up when it is nearly impossible to know for sure if something was made by slaves. Which is a terrible state of affairs... this information should be easy to find.

You could buy second hand clothes and electronics if you care that much, but you don't.

The author is outraged at the hypocrisy, without realising the value of diamonds is that they are scarce. If you can produce them artificially, they are no longer in the same league with the scarce ones.


> You could buy second hand clothes and electronics if you care that much, but you don't.

This is a thing that people do, so it's not fair to assume that the parson you're having the discussion with is a hypocrite.


Unnecessary ad hominem aside, second hand items are just as likely to have been made by slaves as new ones. The point is that our marketplace is full of the products of slave labour and almost no reliable information about it.

Yes, but at least you are recycling.

Reminds me when they closed a china assembly factory because of online activism, and the chinese people there started starving, because they had no other income. They would gladly have their factory back.

Also most of the help for african countries does the following: 1) There are 1 Million people starving 2) a lot of food is sent there 3) There are now 2 million people starving


People value (perceived) scarcity. They are not willing to pay for a reprint of painting (that might have better quality compared to the original), but they are willing to bid on the original.

Does it make sense? No, but humans are emotional animals that seek for differentiation.


Among my friends I've been surprised to find out how many believe that diamonds are genuinely scarce and that mined diamond engagement rings qualify as an investment asset.

Your comment shows your understanding of the diamond industry comes from a few articles you read on the internet, like an anti-vaxx person crying foul about vaccines. The facts, about 50% of the diamonds in the world come from Western countries like Australia, Canada and Russia. Another very large percentage come from stable African countries like Botswana and South Africa. There's no child labor in any of these countries, no terrorists, not thousands of dead people, not the terrible working conditions you read 1 article about a few years ago by a writer in the Congo or the Blood Diamond movie with Leo.

Botswana has used the opportunity of being so diamond-rich to require that diamonds be cut/polished in the country, enabling hundreds of their citizens to learn a new high-paying trade. Many countries require the sale of their stones happen inside the country rather than having all the stones immediately shipped off to European trading floors.

The real hypocrisy is people complaining about an industry they really know nothing about.


https://danwin.com/2010/08/how-de-beers-diamonds-won-over-th...

You sure you want people to really know about "the industry"?!?

I view Debears as industrious as the Casinos. They produce nothing but feelings created by predatory practices at an astonishingly high price.


You’re just proving my point further - you provided a link to an article more than a decade old that has links to articles even older than that. I would really like people to learn about the industry because it would cut down on the inane comments in HN stories like this. The fact that you still hold DeBeers accountable shows your lack of knowledge - they don’t advertise any more AND they don’t have a monopoly AND they’re not even the #1 diamond producer any more.

“Produce nothing but feelings” — that’s called advertising. Same as Coke, BMW and Tumi.


Stable countries like South Africa where getting carjacked is not even noteworthy. Good joke.

South Africa - a parliamentary republic with three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary, operating in a parliamentary system. All bodies of the South African government are subject to the rule of the Constitution, which is the Supreme law in South Africa.

That sounds more stable than many South American countries, even Russia.


That's very interesting. Do you have any links to some independent reporting regarding this?

I'd say it's more like:

"Okay class, a very small percentage of diamonds are made via child labour, a few poor people dead, terrorist groups etc while most are made via modern mining practice. That is where diamonds come from. On the other hand, a successful marketing campaign has occurred declaring that all natural diamonds are made by torturing children. It may well be that your iPhone's supply chain causes more misery. How many would still want a natural diamond because diamonds are forever?"


That's a good point, the difference doesn't have to be in the item itself, BUT -

Does anyone, other than geologists of course, really care about the back-story of the diamond, how it was created and how it was mined? Or are they just hanging on to an idea that some of them are "real" and some "not real" for the purposes of social signalling?

If the latter, I would consider this much more changeable over time.


> Does anyone, other than geologists of course, really care about the back-story of the diamond, how it was created and how it was mined?

Yes, very much so, as is the case with all lifestyle products. People want to believe that they’re buying something special.


Someone should pay celebrities to wear specific jewelry with lab created stones to galas and awards ceremonies. Then resell the pieces, or even just the stones, at a premium since they were worn by <insert story here>.

Then folks would be buying something ethical and more glamorous. Maybe philanthropic donations could be associated to revitalize areas hurt by the diamond industry to further tell a story for the celebrities and consumers.


Funny you mention that since that's how diamonds became the thing women desired in the first place

They would need a catchy name, though...

Something like Naturally Famous Treasure, or NFT for short?


Really?

I've never met anyone that talked about it at all. Maybe I don't have conversations about diamonds very often, but people only ever seemed concerned that they were 'real', and latterly that they were conflict-free.

> People want to believe that they’re buying something special.

What if it turns out they're not?


Jewelers provide certifications when buying diamonds. They'd be a) on the hook if they sold counterfeit products, and b) they wouldn't be able to sell anymore because of a tarnished brand.

I don't think the suggestion is that they'd sell counterfeits. The suggestion is that even the real thing has no special differentiating properties. The authenticity certificate is just a tool to achieve better signaling, nobody cares what it says as long as it says "authentic".

What I meant was what if it turns out diamonds are not special after all?

Lab grown diamonds are diamonds. Whether one comes out of the ground or from a lab, maybe they aren’t that special.


Ah.

A lot of economists have argued that the "value" of something is based on the labor cost of production. So given that viewpoint, mined diamonds would be worth more than lab ones, even if they were identical in every way (yes, I also think this is silly, but that's what the market's indicating even today).


I'm pretty sure that doesn't really apply in such a massively manipulated market!

(And yes, those economists would tend to get laughed out of the room these days)


> What if it turns out they're not?

Buyers remorse or post-rationalization.


I think the white collar internet kind of distorts the picture because it tends to heavily reward things that signal compliance with rule of law.

There are a lot of people who would consider a car, diamond, piece of art, etc that has "a decently long chain of people had to stick their neck out doing criminal things" in its provenance to be a more interesting than an equivalent "produced in a high tech factory".

I think even with synthetic diamonds being 100% on par in every way there will still be a market for ethically and legally gray diamonds because people want to know they're buying something that someone toiled and/or took risks for.

I'd say price will probably be the determining factor but luxury status symbol markets don't work that way.


The people in these stories don’t buy diamond for their mechanical properties or bore tunnels, so everything surrounding the diamond itself is what matters.

How it was mined, where it came from, which company sells it and how all of that is marketed to the world (not even really to the owner) is the value of all of this.

It’s like sending a unicef postcard, what matters the most would be the effect on the receiver and how the sender feels about it. The object itself isn’t on the front stage.


> How it was mined, where it came from

I've never met anyone that cares about that at all, beyond 'conflict-free'.


"Does anyone, other than geologists of course, really care about the back-story of the diamond, how it was created and how it was mined?" Yes of course. Everybody can buy a ring with a diamond, but if they sell you a story with it you can tell, it is even better :)

> Yes of course. Everybody can buy a ring with a diamond, but if they sell you a story with it you can tell, it is even better :)

A story about geology and how it was dug up? The same story as literally every other diamond wearer?


I don't think your metaphor of a famous writer's pen is apt. For that to work, we'd have to be able to reproduce writer's pens in a lab for less money and less ethical violation. Probably a better analogy would be using some rare squid ink vs. using manufactured chemical ink.

That an emotional attachment exists explains why a difference can exist, but doesn't explain why the attachment points in the direction that it does. Lab-grown diamonds could just as easily be the ones with emotional attachment, perhaps emphasizing how much hard work, research, ingenuity, and dedication went into making that diamond as a symbol of the hard work and dedication one is willing to put into a relationship. That the emotional attachment is specifically toward mined diamonds shows the strength of marketing.

I think the question might be a bit misleading. "Would you rather have X?" isn't the same as "Would you rather your spouse buys you X?". I'd prefer having a natural diamond too, for the same reason I'd prefer having a piece of ember with an insect that was trapped there naturally millions of years ago as opposed to a man-made one that was produced last month. By no means would I buy a natural diamond or support the mining system behind it, but there's no denying that I'd find it more interesting and somehow awe-inspiring.

The current narrative is more along the lines of, "How much work should your fiancee spend on declaring his commitment to you?" The societal answer is at least two months. Salary is the convenient measure for this. The ring is the communication medium.

Which is super stupid, especially since there is a negative correlation between amount spent on rings and weddings and the success rate of a marriage: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/wedding-co...

I got my wife a custom designed ring with a fairly large moissanite stone for ~$1,200 all in, and we spent about $2,000-$3,000 on the wedding itself. My wife actually would have been upset with me if I had gotten her a real diamond. Not so much because of concerns over conflict (though she did care about that) but because she felt that spending that much on a useless stone was outright stupid.


>The societal answer is at least two months.

Might be an American thing? My parents spent about 1 month worth of my dad's salary on two wedding rings a long time ago. My dad actually wanted to buy a far more expensive ring for my mom, but she insisted to keep it simple and "cheap" and "unproblematic" to wear. Same story in the rest of the family.

Friends (usually a lot younger than my parents) spend even less on rings, I'd estimate 400-600 EUR per ring from what I keep hearing.

I've heard about that two months rule before, in American TV shows and movies, never thought about it. Now I wonder if it's really an American thing, or if people around me are just cheapskates :P


It's a marketing thing, it was made up by the industry.

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27371208

>These two achievements - making the diamond ring an essential part of getting married and dictating how much a man should pay - make it one of the most successful bits of marketing ever undertaken, says Dr TC Melewar, professor of marketing and strategy at Middlesex University.

>"They invented a tradition which captured some latent desire to mark this celebration of love," he says. Once the tradition had been created, they could put a price on it - such as a month or two's salary. And men, says Melewar, would pay whatever was expected because it was a "highly emotive" purchase.

Of course, it's all optional, jewelery purchases are not a mandatory part of getting married, I (heterosexual woman) have been married for a decade and neither of us purchased any sort of jewelery.


It's an American rich person thing.

It's the opposite in my opinion. The richer the social circle, the less people care about stuff like diamonds or 2 months salary (which I never even heard of outside of online discussions). A diamond ring is barely a notable expense for a dual six figure earning couple.


I saw some ads for three recently.

Oh, they are being sneaky and getting into news too:

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/13/why-you-dont-need-to-spend-t....


I'm sure the jewelry businesses were peddling it, but I don't recall it ever being mentioned amongst people as if it were a cultural thing. Then again, maybe women talk about this kind of stuff, whereas men don't.

I have not once heard this being mentioned as a metric.

Most people I know don't really care at all (I'm 25 for reference), since they generally don't have the money to waste on such frivolous purchases.


Yeah it's probably a generational thing, I grew up pre-internet and that's the time I heard people talk about "X months salary." - pre-internet.

I'd say more of a generational thing

Rich people don't work. Seems more like some sort of "aspirational spending".

I find it helps to remember that diamonds are a status symbol and a form of conspicuous consumption. People often want as much of that expensive, visible status and commitment signal as they can get.

Part of the significance of the gesture is the level of painful expense involved. So making the item much cheaper also cheapens the gesture.


The amusing factor to all of this, is that 99% of people can't visually tell the difference between a $100 and $10,000 ring. As a status symbol, it effectively works on the honor code, or based on someone directly reporting its cost! Sort of like fancy wine or art.

e.g. people will make a judgment on the 'realness' of your ring and it's validity as a status symbol, based if it's inflated value is perceived to be within budget, and if challenged you would have to stand ground by declaring it's cost.


I suspect - but obviously cannot prove - that this is an arena where being challenged means you've already lost because your claim is not credible. You're right, it's odd that something that's supposedly a clear signal is so murky to others.

Obviously this suggests that the status symbol hypothesis is kinda weak.


> Part of the significance of the gesture is the level of painful expense involved. So making the item much cheaper also cheapens the gesture.

Call it what it is: diamonds are a down payment from a man to a woman for access to sex. The higher the price, the higher the value he assigns to it.


If you post egregious flamebait to HN again we will ban you. You did it repeatedly today (not cool), and we've had to warn you about this before.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Apologies.

Nope. Nope nope nope nope.

Please don't perpetuate flamewars on HN. You violated the guidelines, which ask:

"Don't feed egregious comments by replying; flag them instead."

If people would follow that simple rule, hellfires would die before they spread. Please don't contribute to spreading them by feeding them. The replies do more damage than the originals, because they open the floodgates.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]


>In the same alternative universe, the families of men look at the Cs of the ring and judge if "she is good enough for him". In the same alternative universe, men get together, pull out their diamond rings and discuss if those rings are worth the sacrifice.

You might need to take a break and take a walk away from media. Do you honestly think this is a thing for all women? Do you honestly believe life is like a television sitcom or romantic comedy?


Stunning argument.

Please don't perpetuate flamewars on HN. You also violated the guidelines, which ask:

"Don't feed egregious comments by replying; flag them instead."

If people would follow that simple rule, hellfires would die before they spread. Please don't contribute to spreading them by feeding them.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]


> There's no need to flatter blatant sexism with the dignity of honest argument. Indeed, there is nothing to be gained by doing so.

If you think it's so out of line then why engage on that same level by replying with a bunch of "nope"?

I fail to see how his comment is blatantly sexist. If anything it's insulting both sexes equally and craps on the institution of marriage more than anything else.

Yes, his comment was unnecessarily cynical and we all know how well that goes over here when not directed at an approved boogeyman (BigCo, Congress, etc) but you can easily walk that cynicism back by replacing "down payment" with "signalling commitment" and "sex" with one of the other upsides to a stable marriage and the meaning is unchanged.


Yes, if you change everything about the statement, it's a different statement. No one is going to argue that.

What's sexist about it? 85% of engagement rings are bought by men, for women [0]. Are statistics sexist?

[0] https://www.jewellermagazine.com/Article/8591/Women-spend-mo...


Jarring worldview to hold.

Buying rings isn't the problem- you stated "the value of a ring is how much a man is willing to pay for access to sex".

Without a further breakdown of why you think that's a reasonable statement to make it just sounds weirdly myopic.

People pay more because of status "I am a good provider and I can prove it", or because the woman wants to feel valued.

It doesn't go back to sex, not for a long time, in fact sex is very far removed from the idea of modern day marriage in the majority of western countries.


There is a name for a relationship that begins without sex. It's called a business partnership and I can assure you they don't involve diamond rings.

Give me one reason why a man would enter a sexless marriage.


I think it's unfortunate for you that you view any relationship devoid of sex as a business transaction.

I wouldn't marry a person who _only_ had sex with me though, so your logic is largely flawed.

The economics behind diamonds are better explained by an sociologist, not a geologist- the high cost and useless-ness of the gift are a feature not a bug! The burning of significant amount of wealth is a costly signal of commitment to the receiver. I heard from a friend who worked at a diamond company (and as such could purchase stones with significant discount to market price) that his fiancée had specifically rejected the idea of receiving a stone from his company on the grounds that it being 'discounted' devalued the gesture.

>the high cost and useless-ness of the gift are a feature not a bug! The burning of significant amount of wealth is a costly signal of commitment to the receiver.

So basically... proof of work?


I love this

More like "sunk cost fallacy".

No, they're really different. Just because the sunk cost fallacy has something to do with spending money doesn't mean it applies whenever money is spent in an unwise way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_(economics)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_cost


But buying a wedding ring is not only about showing off, it is an old method of psychological trickery that is supposed to make relationships and marriage more durable.

It used to be "sunk cost" for a man, since until recently it was expected that if you break the engagement your ex-fiance would keep the ring (right now in most of the states law require it to be returned). Expensive wedding party is another sunk cost.


>> right now in most of the states law require it to be returned

Is this true? That would be very surprising, as it is essentially a gift, or at the very least, joint property subject to divorce adjudication like anything else.


> The burning of significant amount of wealth is a costly signal of commitment to the receiver.

So why not buy something practical and expensive? Like a house or a car?


Because houses and cars are useful, the GP pointed out that being uselessness is the entire point

>the high cost and useless-ness of the gift are a feature not a bug

The other thing is the marketing says diamonds are "forever," presumably like your love, but houses and cars require expensive maintenance and are easily damaged. Not good if you're buying something symbolic.

Not that I personally agree, far from it, we didn't make any jewelery purchases when we got married.


> The other thing is the marketing says diamonds are "forever," presumably like your love, but houses and cars require expensive maintenance and are easily damaged. Not good if you're buying something symbolic.

Definitely some symbolism there. Relationships (romantic and otherwise) are indeed more like houses and cars - innately valuable, easily damaged, and requiring regular maintenance - than diamonds.


Right, I agree (and that's why I'm not "into" diamonds/useless trinkets) - but that's a realistic take, not the sort of thing people who are buying/receiving diamonds want.

For houses it's completely plausible that the motivation is for the asset to appreciate in value and even if the marriage ends in divorce, both parties end up being able to extract some value from it. For a retail diamond the purchaser is likely to see zero value recovered from it whether divorce happens or not.

For cars, I suppose my hypothesis would say cars likely to depreciate very quickly (such as high-end SUV) are more suitable as engagement gifts than practical (prius or such), which fits roughly with my observations in real world


You're thinking in terms of real people, not what weird things rich people do with their money. The uselessness is part of the point.

> The uselessness is part of the point.

Reminds me of these outrageously expensive dishes some places are selling, where they put gold on the food, and other expensive ingredients that don't fit, all for the sake of creating the most expensive burger/steak/pizza whatever.


Even if she could get a larger stone for the expected amount that the guy should spend ?

yes, I should have mentioned it was explicitly put to her in those terms

This might have been the wrong way to run this experiment.

The fact that the participants publicly shared their opinion, and then they would also publicly had to signal that they were wrong could simply be such a big psychological factor, that the topic at hand did not matter.

It would’ve been better to vote anonymously, or even better ask one class at the beginning and a different class at the end of the lecture, then share the statistics with both classes at the next lecture.


On the other hand (pun not intended) diamonds are primarily used this way in engagement/wedding rings, which is a social signifier, so asking this question in the context of social pressure is arguably a better estimate of how people would behave for a form of conspicuous consumption.

> That was the point where I realized the strength of diamonds product branding.

Here's another interesting twist that further shows how powerful branding and marketing really are: Spence Diamonds is a diamond retailer in Canada that advertises extremely aggressively via radio ads. A few years ago, it started a huge campaign for lab grown diamonds, portraying them with adjectives such as "artisan-made" (going as far as comparing them to Michelangelo art). And what do you know:

> While still offering mined diamonds, Spence has found that when its customers are given a choice, 80% of them choose lab-growns over mined diamonds[0]

[0] https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2019/05/12/spence-d...


Diamond branding taps into a much more fundamental obsession with scarcity, which manufactured objects cannot provide. Scott Galloway explores this really well in a recent post comparing NFTs to long-standing art world practices: "Scarcity has always been a function of bits, not atoms." [1]

I wonder if synthetic diamonds that were organized into specifically limited editions would hold more value...

[1] https://www.profgalloway.com/scarcity-cred/


Potentially synthetic diamonds could destroy the scarcity appeal of natural diamonds.

Right or wrong, Galloway's thesis would specifically reject that idea. Synthetic diamonds are equivalent (or superior!) on an atoms level. But on a bits level they lack the history of being formed in the Earth's crust, which stays scarce.

Diamond marketing exploits that to good effect -- most diamonds are marked and registered in a database that traces its unique history. Doing so makes it possible to value the history as unique, and also leads by example in investing in the value of that history (they make a big deal out of the tech used to confirm authenticity). Since the final purpose of the diamond is to demonstrate stored value rather than produce it, the target buyer is focused on whether others recognize the value, not whether it is justified.

On a personal level, I think the history of "real" diamonds is almost always horrific and a negative asset! I hope companies like Pandora can put marketing power into creating scarcity stories for synthetic diamonds.


> Doing so makes it possible to value the history as unique

It may make it possible, but I would dispute that many people really care all that much about the story. Sure, they care about 'real', but what that means is up for debate.

> the target buyer is focused on whether others recognize the value

Pretty solidly they don't, hence the abysmal second hand values! But you're not wrong - to split hairs I think it's whether others recognise how much was spent, which lots of people confuse with value :)


> most diamonds are marked and registered in a database that traces its unique history

Most engineering projects around cultural products change (not necessarily improve) the "registered in a database" process. Whereas most value comes from creating / enriching a "unique history."


Reminds me of when Jamie Oliver tried to convince kids that chicken nuggets were bad by showing them how nuggets are made. Even after showing disgust at the whole process, all of the kids still wanted to eat chicken nuggets at the end.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKwL5G5HbGA

I think it takes a lot more than logic to convince most people to change opinions - especially on matters of preference or taste.


> at a fraction of the cost

That might also be the reason. If something is cheaper, it feels inferior.

Also with diamonds it's probably a factor that the fiancé is expected to present serious intents with a deeper monetary investment. "Look honey, it's an ethical, clean diamond and only cost 1/20th of a dirty one" sad, but feels wrong.

Edit: I also remember a guy at dinner party bragging about buying a 5000EUR ring, it goes both ways.


> A Veblen good is a type of luxury good for which the demand for a good increases as the price increases, in apparent contradiction of the law of demand, resulting in an upward-sloping demand curve. The higher prices of Veblen goods may make them desirable as a status symbol in the practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure. A product may be a Veblen good because it is a positional good, something few others can own.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good

Also:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giffen_good


Maybe the key would be to keep the artificial diamond ring at a similar price point. Larger, designer brand, more manual labor details, I don’t know. Not saving money, but get a superior product.

> Also with diamonds it's probably a factor that the fiancé is expected to present serious intents with a deeper monetary investment. "Look honey, it's an ethical, clean diamond and only cost 1/20th of a dirty one" sad, but feels wrong.

Then he can spend the same money for a bigger diamond ? That would give also more bragging rights to the future wife (nobody will come and ask if it is a natural or artificial one).


Buy 20 then. I wonder if there's a way to tastefully put them all on a single ring.

A friend of mine lost the fist one so he had to go back the same day to the same shop :)

Would you rather buy a Banksy NFT Or JPG of a Banksy they are the same image at a fraction of the cost?

You can turn around and resell a Banksy for something comparable to what you just paid.

Try doing that with a diamond. You walk out of the diamond showroom with it, and its resale value plummets to the value of the base metals, the work of the setting, plus a small fraction for what you had just paid for the diamond.


A certified laser etched diamond is a mass produced item that is pretty easy to authenticate. The brand name store selling it to you is invisible once it’s on your hand. There’s no such thing as a “used” diamond.

So the diamond is worth whatever it can be bought / sold for online. If walking out of the store drops it’s value, you’re donating to the store.

Buy an exactly equivalent stone elsewhere if the price drops too much after you buy it.


I think the issue is that there is no really trustworthy place to go for used diamonds to ensure you're not buying a cheap knock-off or lower grade gem. Most people don't understand cut, clarity, and whatever else are the other ones. Pawn shops are amazing places to buy SUPER cheap jewelry, especially diamonds. The issue is that, unless you definitely know what you're doing, it's super easy to get taken advantage of.

I wish there was a trustworthy clearinghouse/reseller for used jewelry and gemstones. That would be fantastic.


Given that NFTs are a scam that only exist to make fraudsters rich while helping pollute the planet, I would take the JPG every hour of every day.

I'll take the NFT.

The NFT is a pointer to the image, not the image itself. Owning a copy of the JPG is actually closer to owning the art.

JPG of a Banksy

This is great, I want to go back a decade and relive an argument I had about this with a co-worker who was ring shopping for his now wife.

I was trying to explain to him that diamonds are worthless, they have little resale value because they're not fungible, the rarity is being manipulated, and man made diamonds are indistinguishable without a special tool.

His position was that he can't get his fiance a "fake diamond" and I said just because it's man made doesn't mean that it isn't real. We went back and forth a bit, and started to get heated, and eventually I said "If I make a sandwich it doesn't mean it's not a real sandwich!" which made our other co-workers laugh hysterically and repeat for years. Ice would have made the point much better than a sandwich, but I suspect I wouldn't remember the story.


He should have explained about DeBeers. That would have brought the number of raised hands down.

The ice analogy is a bit faulty because no one is eating their diamonds and the impurities are technically advantageous (though most people want the shiny "perfect" diamond which are much easier to come about artificially).


Aren't the impurities which make them shiny? Or is this also just marketing?

No, impurities would make it not white. Pure diamonds are shiny the same way (shinier than glass).

You could make the same analogy with CGI vs. human-drawn imagery. Yes, you can draw much more precisely, and generates millions of copies of that precision, etc. with CGI. But, does a CGI rendering really have the same 'value' as seeing something drawn entirely by hand? I guess some would say 'yes' -- and I'd direct them to the factory-made diamond counter. Others, though, would value the _human_ involvement (not to discount the programmers who wrote the CGI software) -- even if that includes people toiling in mines.

It's not surprising that the 30 minute lecture didn't sway too many minds -- I think the professor didn't 'get it' in his/her own way. People aren't just buying collections of atoms (though they actually are).


As an alternative, let me share an observation.

People don't often change their minds right away. Specifically, there is a huge amount of neural reconfiguration which happens when we sleep, which is why we "sleep on it".

The interesting question, which is impossible to answer, is how those women felt about lab-grown diamonds by the time it was important. I'd guess that nearly all of them became more open to the idea, and that more changed their minds later than had revised their opinion immediately after the lecture.


Aside:

Go to gem and mineral shows for jewelry.

They are very close to wholesale prices and as such can be up to 10x less expensive than a store, and cash purchases typically even less.

Jewelry diamonds at such event aren't the main item that people are there for though. It's the truly rare items that you find. Things like non-standard colored sapphires, gargantuan amethysts, gem rhodochrosite, fossils of dubious pedigree, meteorites, fordite, etc. Working diamonds, ones that are perfectly made and the size of your palm, can be bought and then cut down for relatively cheap. Many research labs and universities get samples at these events in 'legal' deals.

Especially near the end of the shows when vendors need to make a sale, things get pretty wild as the liquor comes out as well as the cash.

Check your local listings, ads, and billboards. It's a great Saturday activity even for the nephews and nieces.


Or that some people are small minded without insight of how their decision shape the world around them.

Be it diamonds, sports cars, etc doesnt matter.


They were just given the insight, so that's not it. It's more that they don't care.

> The reasons they gave all seemed to tie back to branding and natural diamonds being “real.”

Forced child labour used to extract natural diamonds in some parts of the world is also real.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_labour_in_the_diamond_in...


The root of it, I think, is that mined diamonds are the standard for engagement rings. Culturally, having a mined diamond is (for many/most Americans) table stakes for what an engagement ring should be.

Getting a lab grown diamond or an alternative stone for your girlfriend can feel like you chose saving money or your personal views on diamond ethics over getting her something that meets those table stakes. It doesn't matter if it's technically superior (I rarely hear people discuss the quality of their diamonds anyway, beyond weight occasionally). What does matter is that you chose to give her something different than the standard, and the ring will always feel like it has a little asterisk on it marking this.


The teacher was fighting another principle of consistency. where people want to be consistent with a previous decision. There probably would have been more hands raised for human made if the professor never did the first voting.

Diamonds are a prestige thing, like fancy watches. It doesn't make sense to lecture a fancy-watch-wearer about how cheap electric watches can actually tell time better. They know, and that's not the axis that matters to them.

You heard a different question to the one the women heard.

You heard "Do you want this man-made item that is functionally identical to a naturally occurring item".

The women heard "Do you want the jewelry that symbolises your love to be real or fake?"

Functionally, there is almost no difference in an item containing a diamond and an identical one containing worthless rock.

But, you know, jewelry derives almost all of its value from being expensive and rare. Jewelry that is neither expensive nor rare stops being jewelry.


> Jewelry that is neither expensive nor rare stops being jewelry.

Costume jewelry is usually neither expensive nor rare, and yet it remains popular with certain demographics.


Sure but, please, let's show some context sensitivity.

An engagement ring is emphatically not costume jewelry, and if you don't understand that "real jewelry" is an important sense the antonym of "costume jewelry", well, now you do.


> > Jewelry that is neither expensive nor rare stops being jewelry. > > Costume jewelry is usually neither expensive nor rare, and yet it remains popular with certain demographics.

Okay, let me clarify: Jewelry that is neither expensive nor rare stops being jewelry, it becomes costume jewelry.


"Fine jewelry" and "fashion jewelry" are the category names, typically.

Random ice story! My mother in law buys “good ice” that is clear despite having a purified water source on her ice maker. She even has frozen bottled water and says it’s cloudy and tastes bad. I’ve explained to her numerous times that her clear ice is clear because they freeze it quickly. That’s it. It doesn’t taste better. She refuses to believe me and it’s basically a joke we tease her about now.

Equivalent is not as good when what matters is what other people think.

Even if the person displaying a luxury artifact agrees that some other artifact is equivalent, if the people they're displaying it to don't also agree, then there is a difference that's relevant to the purpose of the artifact, which is to advertise your wealth.

Though the topic at hand is diamonds, which are strongly associated with wedding proposals, this principle applies equally to sports cars, guitars, etc.


You could just use an artificial stone and no one would know. If you just care about the signal, buy good replicas of things you could plausibly afford, how hard can it be.

Not everyone is comfortable with the risk that the truth might eventually come out.

What some intrepid manufacturer should do is create custom diamonds that are actually more expensive than natural diamonds, with some subtle structure that cannot be found in nature. That solves the problem of immoral sourcing, and better suits the purpose of displaying wealth.


“Do you want natural diamonds or man-made diamonds?”

The correct answer is: no.


NFTs suggest that there will never be an end to the appetite for making things 'special'.

I has nothing to do with branding. It is entirely about price and false scarcity.

traditionally it was an important gesture that the man was investing a large sum of money into his soon to be wife


I never understood the idea behind a wedding ring being an "investment". It's not like you plan on ever selling it. It's purely an expense. If you wont sell it, then a ring's value is only in its aesthetic and any sentiment attached to it by the wearer - neither of which seem to be strongly related to the initial purchasing price.

Of course, people often sell their rings if they get divorced... but wouldn't that make actually an expensive ring an incentive to separate? The whole gesture makes very little sense.


The gesture, is that the man is willing to spend that much money, and because of that, is serious about the woman, sort of like a purchase. Its not an investment in the sense of producing or keeping value.

Of course, times are very different now, and it is quite an antiquated idea.


So like an escrow for a marriage proposal... except it's held by the person to which the offer is made and is never closed out if the offer is accepted. I still can't say I get it.

Rings I get. They are a symbol of commitment, a sentimental memento, and just a nice accessory. But the idea that the cost to purchase the ring is somehow a reflection of that is still silly to me.


Thanks for the story, that was a very good analogy by your prof.

> that was a very good analogy by your prof.

Sounds like it wasn't because it didn't convince many people!


Because people are rational and can be convinced to abandon notions of value deeply ingrained since childhood because of a nice analogy during a single lecture?

If an analogy doesn't help you look at a situation any differently... is it a good analogy?

By this logic there are no good analogies because there will always be someone that will refuse to look at the situation differently for whatever reason.

To each their own...it helped me look at lab diamonds differently. I've always assumed they were somehow chemically inferior to the real ones, maybe compromised tensile strength or something.

Didn't ice cubes made from icebergs command a premium price once? Don't know if it was deserved.

My ice cubes are also made from icebergs. They just melted a long time ago!

Its all about marketing. Look close around you and look at the money spend on bottled water.

> I realized the strength of diamonds product branding

No, that's not it.

Diamonds are conspicuous status signaling. It's a very human, even animal drive. DeBeers gets a lot of hate, and much of it deservedly so, but they tapped into and exploited our nature - they didn't create it.


everyone would prefer natural diamonds to artificial ones.

Why? Because natural ones are more expensive. It's literally like asking someone whether they prefer to have $20 or $40.


If your partner offers to buy you a $5 McDonalds cheeseburger or a $50 McDonalds cheeseburger, which would you accept?

Assuming a somewhat efficient market, I'll take the $50 cheeseburger.

Obviously I would want a more expensive thing than a less expensive thing from a partner. If we split up, I could sell the more expensive thing for... more.


A natural diamond is nature's NFT.

Branding and artificial scarcity

That doesn't bode well for your marriage. I would ditch her now before it's too late .. later.

Thats the point you should've realised that people aren't most of the time rational but emotional.

Diamonds are precious partly because they're rare. If you find a way of 'making' a diamond it loses some of that value. It's interesting to me that someone would even try making a comparison between a precious stone and something like water/ice which is mostly desired for utility and not any sentimental reason.

Your comment proves the point on marketing; diamonds are not actually that rare, a lot of the scarcity is marketing plus control of supply by De Beers & others.

In fact, Diamonds are some of the most common gems in nature!

https://www.gemsociety.org/article/are-diamonds-really-rare/


They’re actually not all that rare. Big Hope Diamond stones yes, but your run of the mill variety that 99.9% of people have are not all that rare. The “rarity” comes mostly from the the tight grip a small number of companies have over mining and production of raw stones. You can make tap water “rare” if you run the waterworks.

It also comes from selling them as "this is a sentimental item that you should keep forever" and "these are bought as meaningful gifts so it would be gauche to buy one second hand" to limit the size of the secondary market.

But the rarity leads to intensive mining and human rights abuses. There's a good kind of rare (like say, an original painting, bought from the artist) and a bad kind of rare.

Sentiments can change. Diamonds will not become unemotional, but the emotional reaction will likely go into reverse soon.


The "rarity" is mostly marketing too.

> our teacher asked all of the women

Sounds like a pretty sexist thing to do. The same question can be asked without putting women on the spot. "If you were to buy a diamond, what would you rather choose?"


He asked that way because it's irrelevant what the man would choose in the case that he's buying it for a woman (which is generally the case). If a majority of women prefer "real" diamonds, there's no way he's going to use his preference over hers for something this important. Women's preferences determine diamond buying behavior on the market. If you want to make a difference, you have to start there.

My initial instinct agreed with you,but I then wondered if there would actually be a relevant gender difference in answers.

In western culture, still today I think,majority of men would be buying and majority of women would be receiving diamonds. It would be interesting if this affects answers. Would a buyer go for more practical cheaper option while receiver goes for more expensive traditional options? Or a different split completely , or none? I think it'd be a fascinating exercise.


Same reaction. I've anecdotally asked this same question: "man-made or natural diamonds?" to my friends in the past – mostly because I can't get past the ethical concerns, but wanted to understand the other side.

I found majority of my men friends argued it's the same diamond without the ethical concerns if you go man-made, while majority of my women friends chose natural (reasons included social pressure, the story, and so on).

Anecdotes aren't proof. But perhaps there is something to looking at this from a gendered (proxy for giving vs. receiving?) lens.


As a male giving a ring, I bought a real one. Logic was that it was cheaper and better quality once you get over ~1-1.25 carats. If lab made wants to compete more meaningfully they'll need to get better at the engagement ring size diamonds which I'm sure they will with time

They are both real.

I would expect there to be a gender difference in the US, due to the social influence of marketing. But I don't think highlighting the difference would help the discussion in any way.

If the professor is making an argument that one choice is clearly the rational choice, and then highlights differences in how different groups make that choice, then they are directly implying that some groups are more irrational than others.


> In western culture

This phenomenon has to be more localized than Western culture (the worldwide diamond consumption hints at it being US-specific?) - I for example don't know anyone who even contemplated buying one for proposing. Granted, this is purely anectotal, but over extended family and workplace colleagues this includes a bunch of milieus.


Yes I do think it's an american thing to buy a separate engagement ring, having a prominent diamond, in addition to wedding rings (which often don't have diamonds).

My family in Europe doesn't have the whole engagement ring concept.


Sure; there's definitely going to be a significant time variable then if we want to start getting specific.

Well, there are (lots of) statistical regularities that disfavor specific groups of people. And any one individual could have answered “no,” and thus avoided showing themselves as an idiot who values rocks just because a monopoly prices them exorbitantly.

This doesn’t help the discussion.

Its more the marketing that is sexist. Marketing for Jewelry (and especially diamonds) usually aims at woman, not men. Men more likely would choose the cost-saving option, because for them there is not much awarness around the pricing of such meaningless "decoration". And this would kinda sabotage the purpose of the question.

While I personally don’t think natural diamonds are any more valuable than synthetic. I understand the scarcity and way it’s used to show status (similar to cars, we don’t need great ones).

That being said, what I actually took away from that comment... was that the teacher in geology class was presenting effectively political argument as opposed to teaching. Explaining the process of fine, but given what you described — I bet no one changed their mind about synthetic vs real. Most knew what the “correct” answer was. I think everyone kinda knows about synthetic diamonds, they just don’t care. Same way plastic bottles are better for the environment, yet are still used widely.


>I think everyone kinda knows about synthetic diamonds, they just don’t care.

I 100% disagree. The stigma around cubic zirconia and 'fake' jewelry is real and alive, and absolutely carries over to any kind of man-made gems. I also don't think most people have any idea at all about the issues in the gem trade. Source: My highly educated co-workers who were astounded to read about conditions in emerald mines after Elon Musk got popular.


Cubic zirconia (Mohs 8) is less hard than diamonds (Mohs 10) or Moissanite (Mohs 9.25). For something that gets a lot of wear, the CZ will get scratched up and have its edges rounded off more over time than diamonds or Moissanite. But, if its something that only gets occasional wear this is likely not going to be too much of an issue. Just don't go banging your stone on a pile of diamonds.

CZ also has a lower refractive index and less dispersion than either diamonds or Moissanite.


what does elon musk have to do with emerald mines?

There was the story about Elon Musk's family ties to apartheid and an emerald mine in like 2017-2018. That's where that comes from.

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