In the news today…
Diamonds are a vulgar and grossly overvalued product, lacking all the unique properties and charms of truly precious substances like gold. I can’t help but admire the idea of this ring with an inward-turned diamond. It’s a creative way to subvert a ridiculous custom.
For start, the diamond engagement ring is not an ancient custom at all. It’s the result of a successful marketing ploy by the global diamond near-monopoly De Beers from two generations ago — a completely fake and manufactured tradition. There’s a plausible theory why the marketing campaign worked so well: around that time, courts stopped awarding damages for breach of promise to marry. (Such lawsuits were based on the assumption, back then certainly true, that if a girl lost her virginity and got dumped, her marriage prospects were greatly damaged.) Thus, women started demanding expensive gifts as bonds from their fiances before giving them sex, and De Beers filled that demand perfectly with their diamonds:
Moreover, diamonds are not a truly rare and scarce substance like gold, which is impossible to manufacture except for the tiny quantities mined. Diamond is just an allotropic form of carbon, and it can be industrially synthesized from ordinary carbon (i.e. coal or graphite) in a form indistinguishable from the “real” mined ones. The synthetic diamond industry is churning out ever larger stones at an ever lower cost. De Beers is of course fighting like hell against this technology, and they’ve even successfully lobbied for regulations thatsynthetic diamonds must be physically branded as such. However, I’d still bet that the technology will continue advancing, and in a not so far future, diamonds will be just cheap trinkets, unless I’m underestimating both the skill of De Beers’s marketing and human stupidity.
Thus, diamonds are definitely not a reliable store of long-term value (this not even considering that many people pay the entire value of the thing all over again in insurance). And even regardless of that, while e.g. gold really has a unique and mysterious charm, a diamond is just a piece of coal that’s been held under high pressure for a while, and machines are available that will actually do that. The damned things aren’t even particularly durable — they are fairly easy to shatter, and they’ll burn at roughly 700C. If your house burns down, your gold will still be there, even if melted, but the diamonds will all vanish into carbon dioxide.
Of course, all this is not even considering the unfairness of the custom and the fact that it brings out all the worst irrational bragging urges in women. Unless he’s rich, a man who wanted to spend thousands of dollars on a useless whim just to brag in front of his friends would be condemned as an irresponsible spendthrift, yet women consider this as their inalienable privilege. That this frivolity is expressed through such a vulgar medium only makes it worse.