My boyfriend wants to get married but doesn't want to buy an engagement ring. Money isn't an issue. He has a good job, a home and a luxury car. He wants simple gold bands. I want a diamond ring. He thinks a diamond is a waste of money and the industry is a scam. The more we argue, the more materialistic I look. What's the compromise? —Anonymous
You should have your diamond. But I need to meet his argument halfway to properly explain why.
I assume when he says the diamond industry is a scam, he’s likely referring to the time when De Beers controlled the worldwide diamond trade and to its widely discussed business strategy of stockpiling diamonds and releasing them strategically to drive the value up. That, and the diamond company’s advertising campaign from 1938, when it hired Philadelphia ad agency N.W. Ayer with the goal to “create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.” The result? The slogan “A diamond is forever.”
To call that campaign effective would be an understatement. Before World War II, only 10 percent of engagement rings contained diamonds. Currently, 75 percent of brides in the United States wear one with diamonds, according to the Jewelry Industry Research Institute.
So yes, your boyfriend’s summation that the diamond industry is a “scam” based on De Beers’ business strategy and marketing campaign isn’t far-fetched.
But if that’s his argument, then he should know his luxury car is a scam, too. On average, cars lose 17 percent of their value in the first year, according to a 2015 study from iSeeCars.com, the auto-shopping website. The top 10 cars with the largest price differences after one year include luxury models such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Hyundai Genesis and the Jaguar XK. And while advertising agencies for car manufacturers haven’t come up with a universal and seemingly timeless catchphrase like “Diamonds are forever,” it’s not for lack of trying. The U.S. automotive industry spent $7.30 billion just on digital advertising in 2015 and is on trend to spend $12.08 billion by 2019, according to a new eMarketer report.
I tell you all this to point out that from a purely logical perspective, his argument doesn’t hold up. He’s rallying against the diamond industry as a “scam,” but he takes no issue with his luxury car also being one.
If you told me that your boyfriend was fiscally conservative across the board, I’d tell you, “Well, baby girl, you know how your man is.” I’d say if he’s the one for you, then go ahead and accept that gold band. But that’s not who your man is. He’s a guy who likes to stunt in his luxury car, which means that if you’re materialistic for wanting a diamond when a gold band will do, then so is he for wanting a luxury car when he could drive a Ford Focus.
And it’s problematic that he doesn’t seem to mind splurging, except where you’re concerned. He wants you to be his other half, but when it comes to you, he doesn’t want to meet the standards that he’s set for himself?
The desire for a diamond engagement ring might be the result of a brilliant advertising campaign, but it’s become a standard of American engagements. It’s troubling that he knows what the standard is, he knows that what you want is standard and it’s important to you, he has the means to meet that standard, and yet he is refusing based on some illogical general principle. He is creating an unnecessary conflict, not only by not offering you a customary engagement ring but also by not offering a reasonable alternative to make you, whom he sees as his potential wife, happy.
A gold band? That’s awesome if that’s all your man can afford. But your boyfriend can do better for you, just as he does for himself. If you accept less than his best now, I wonder how that plays out in the marriage. Will he continue to expect you to settle for way less while he splurges on himself? Or is this a one-time thing?
Let’s see if we can get him to step his game up. Maybe you can have a precious stone—say, a ruby or an emerald—that doesn’t have the popular backstory of a diamond. That way you get your rock and he gets to keep his principles. Would that work?
I hope he is willing to do better. But if he is not, hold on to your standards and don’t ever feel bad about it. You’re not asking for a lot, or even too much. There are men aplenty who won’t make you feel bad for desiring something nice and who will gladly offer it to you because they want to make you happy. Don’t let anyone make you feel that you don’t deserve nice things, including the man who wants to marry you—especially when he can afford it.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “She’s in Love With a ‘Nice’ Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Trust Her and Still Has a Wife”