Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two Months' Salary

First of all - this post is not meant to offend, or to make anyone feel guilty about their choices or possessions.  Unless you are actually super shallow, then shame on you.

I don't have a diamond on my engagement ring, and I couldn't be happier about it.  It's a recycled sterling silver band with a moissanite stone - so it LOOKS like a diamond and will always look like a diamond and will last as long as a diamond - but it didn't cost thousands and thousands of dollars.  Which is awesome, because we need thousands and thousands of dollars to buy a house, not for me to wear around on my finger and worry about losing or getting cut off by a mugger in New York City or something.  Brahm and I picked it out sort-of together (I found the band on Etsy, he worked with the jewelery maker to order the stone) and it was custom made just for me, which is about a million times more special than him going to some random jewelery store and saying "give me your finest blood diamond, my budget knows no bounds just like my love."

So anyway this morning I was reading a book about wedding etiquette from the 70s (surprisingly modern in some ways, but sexist enough for some good laughs all the same) and got curious as to what the Internet considers to be "groom's duties" in modern times, since the book basically said his duties are to buy rings, plan the honeymoon, pay the minister and show up on time (actually).

In doing so, I stumbled across a couple of "groom" websites and somehow made my way to this article about how much a man should spend on an engagement ring.  If you don't want to read it (but you should, it's got some interesting facts about how diamonds first started getting marketed as the only way to show a woman you love her), I don't quite get it for this reason: it flat out says that the symbolism of a diamond in an engagement ring was started by JEWELERY COMPANIES (DeBeers, specifically) and then basically agrees that you probably should spend two months' salary on a ring.  At least it mentions that you might want to discuss it with your future wife first.

The more enraging part though is in the comments of the article. There are a good number of reasonable comments but others just drive me nuts:

I fully agree with the 2 month salary rule. If you are serious about being with your partner for a lifetime, you should get her the absolute best diamond you can afford! This is something she will wear forever and something your children and grandchildren will see. I have a $40k ring and I think it is worth every penny. It brings me so much joy and even keeps other guys away when they see it! My husband made the choice to pass up buying a sports car to get me my dream ring instead. Every time I look down at it I am reminded of how much he loves me and the sacrifices he makes for me.
By "other guys" do you also mean muggers?

So I am one of these girls that got a rather cheap ring... It was $950 but because he asked me on xmas he also got a discount of 30%.. i love the ring but at every wedding we go to, i am always the girl at the table with the smallest ring... the last few weddigs i just say i didnt wear it cuz it dont fit anymore..it just hurts my feelings. i feel like i wasnt worth it... my husband makes 5 grand a month.. i make 7 grand.. my husband also bought me a heart shaped neckless once, it was 69.00 the one i wanted my whole like was 149.00 he bought the cheap one instead of the one i wanted, that hurt to...my husband spends 150.00 a month on a car that has been parked in our garage for 3 years in insurance, he spent 10 grand on a painting back in 2008... so my advice is add up what you spend on beer in a year and buy her a right worth more then that!
These people clearly have issues with communication that aren't just about her ring... yikes.

Next, a lot of reasonable people said "WTF, I would rather have a house than a 40k ring, I do have priorities" including this post about the silliness of it all:

I have a 1.5 carat high quality FAKE diamond.. i get compliments on it all the time and jealous glances..cuz it sparkles like crazy.. Nobody know the difference.. It made me realise how stupid the whole engagement ring thing is.. It is all just for show and an attempt to make other people around you jealous. And the funny thing is my fiance is a successful professional with a 6 figure annual salary.. so nobody doubts that my ring is real.. engagement ring is a sign of commitment my arse.. a simple gold wedding band can show as much commitment. diamonds don't make a happy marriage or guarantee that your husband will be faithful .. simple human effort does that.. People nowadays are just stupid and materialistic and have their priorites all twisted. our grandparents marriages lasted longer than hours and they couldn't afford 1 carat diamond ring or even a half carat. Start living in reality people!! 

and this breath of fresh air responded:

this sounds like a lot of insecure ranting from people who can't afford/ did not receive a DECENT ring. I 100% agree with the opinion that there is no need to go overboard and to buy a huge diamond. But you still want something that goods decent and classy. A modest ring CAN be beautiful. But you want modest, not CHEAP. When people hear your girl is engaged, the first thing they ask is to see the ring. Do you want to embarrass her with a $500 piece of crap that screams my fiance doesnt give a shit? And that makes them think "poor girl." Unless you REALLY CAN'T afford $2,500 for a decent ring, you are just being miserable. You usually can't find a respectable diamond ring for less than that- as this article states. To the man a piece of jewelry doesn't matter, but guess what? It's not about YOU. It shows that you took the time and made the sacrifice to invest in something that IS important to most women. And as for the girl bragging about her fake diamond, I am glad I'm not fooling people and lying everytime I show my ring. Some suggestions for making a smaller diamond stand out more is to get a bigger, more ornate setting with the diamond set INTO the setting rather than on prongs. Then the diamond is part of the ring rather than the centerpiece of the ring. 
I actually didn't realize people think like this.  If you don't spend at least 2.5k you are "miserable"?  And I kind of think the whole "it proves you are willing to make sacrifices" is a little bit of BS as well.  There are other ways to make sacrifices, if that's what you need for "proof" that the guy is marriage material.  I also highly doubt that this woman would consider it a "sacrifice" if her beloved put the same money he spent on her ring towards a down payment on a house.  A mortgage is inevitable but a diamond is forever, right?

There's more:

After reading this article and subsequent comments, I'm pretty disapointed in the engagement ring I am wearing. My fiance proposed to me in a time in our life when we are entering economic hardships and I am having trouble understanding why he decided this was a good time to blow $700 on a ring. I feel that he should have waited for a better time when he could have saved up and bought me something a little nicer. I am a little bit embarrased to show the ring to anyone because the diamonds are so tiny. Am I horrible person for wanting more? I love him but I feel like something is awry because I have established a successful entry level career position and he is getting his work hours as a salesman cut in half. If anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it.
Um well maybe he got you a ring he could afford because he LOVED YOU and wanted to MARRY you and, silly him, he thought you would be happy about that rather than wish he had waited to propose until he could buy an expensive ring.  Yes, advice - stop sucking as a person.

And finally, my personal favourite:

What anyone considers excessive or too expensive is relative. My girlfriend and I are young professionals living in Washington D.C, and we both make about 70K per year. I make enough money now to afford a 10K ring, but I can further justify it by assuming that I'll be making twice as much money in ten years given that I'm a level 2 in my company and expect to receive regular promotions and raises. 10-15K for an engagement is pretty much the norm for anyone working in a competitive professional industry. I'd even say that buying or wearing a cheap ring (under 10k) would seriously cripple both your social and professional life. Conversely, if you are a blue collar worker making less than 50k, and have pretty much peaked in terms of earning potential, than a 10K ring would absolutely put you in permanent debt. The same is true for low level professional workers in mid-size cities. If you aren't willing or able to save 10K for a wedding ring, you probably shouldn't get married and definitely should not be having kids. If you aren't smart or responsible enough to save 10K, you definitely aren't serious enough to get married.
WHAT???  A "cheap" say, 8k ring would cripple you professionally?  You shouldn't have kids if you don't have a 10k+ ring?  I think most of us are capable of saving 10 grand but not necessarily willing to blow it on a piece of jewelery... just wow.  I honestly didn't realize these opinions existed in real life.

Well there you have it... and like I said before, this is not meant to offend anyone.  If you are the wearer of a very expensive engagement ring but you and your partner are both happy about it, then I'm happy for you.  I will not look down on your choices if you are comfortable with what you spent.  However I wanted to showcase how the "two months' salary a diamond is forever blah blah blah" marketing campaign has worked terrifyingly well, judging from the number of commenters on the article who fully agree that a small diamond makes them feel worthless, or judge others on the size of their stone.  To me, that is so sad.

A marketing campaign that makes people question their self-worth based on possession of material goods is nothing new, but all the same I'm really glad we didn't participate in the "traditional" wedding custom of a diamond engagement ring.

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