a little blue stone
my wife asked me in the comments on this post to tell the story of her engagement ring
when my wife and i decided to get married (and i mean this last time, when we really did it . . . not the hundred plus times we decided it as kids and didn’t) i was not in the best situation, financially, but i took to heart one of the few really good pieces of advice my mother ever gave me.
“if you wait until you have the money you will be waiting forever”
so i proposed (sans ring) and started scrimping and saving and looking around.
i knew i couldn’t afford a diamond, not by a long cry, and my credit was less than appealing to most merchants. i was also a little bit up on my high-horse because diamond value is one of the most artificially inflated markets in existence.
it is, and hear me out:
walk into any jewelry store and start counting stones. diamonds outnumber the other precious stones by at least 3 to 1 in most establishments. and i don’t mean diamonds outnumber rubies 3 to 1 or emeralds 3 to 1 – i mean gather all the emeralds, rubies, sapphires, alexandrite, pearls, topaz, jade, aquamarine, lapis, onyx . . . ALL the other precious and semi-precious stones by karat weight and lay them alongside all the diamonds in the shop and the diamonds will outnumber the lot of them by about 3 to 1 (again, by karat weight – if you were to count each individual chip and stone it would be like 25 to 1).
but cat juggler – aren’t diamonds rare?
erm. no. not compared to other stones. clear diamonds are rare compared to other diamonds and clear versions of other stones (rubies, emeralds, etc) are rarer still, but no, they are demonstrably (again, go into any shop and start counting) not the rarest or even the second rarest (or even the twelfth rarest for that matter)
even accounting for all the rubies and sapphires that get pounded into dust to be used as a commercial/industry polishing agent for other gems, diamonds are still more plentiful. they just are.
the market is artificially inflated.
why do they do this?
how did they do this?
first, the flow of diamonds is the most controlled of any precious stones. many diamonds just sit around collecting dust, never seen by the public to help bolster the idea that they are indeed rare.
second, most major jewelers do their own sourcing. this helps control the supply, thus controlling the market.
third, and most brilliantly, the barstids created an artificial NEED for the diamonds.
had you offered a diamond to your lady love a mere 150 years ago she’d have been horrified. (try offering her anything *less* now and you’re promptly in cold-shoulder land on the fast track to find-a-new-girlfriend-you-loser land).
like herbs and flowers, gems (both precious and semi-precious) were imbued with meaning so that the giving and/or placing of them told a story with no need for words. rubies signified passion, sapphires healing, emeralds sovereignty, etc (there was much more depth and nuance, i am tossing out very simple designations just to give you an idea what i mean)
diamonds were equated to ice, solitariness, isolation, and hardness. hardly a way to shout to your love in the silent language of stone that you wanted to make a passionate pairing with her. just the opposite, in fact.
but the need was manufactured and deBeers famous *a diamond is forever* made it impossible for a man to reasonably offer anything *less* to his finance if he wanted to be taken seriously.
yet, in my search i toed the party line and began with diamonds.
the first store i went into eagerly showed me many rings and quickly began to tell me about their finance options. i didn’t qualify. at the time i didn’t even have bad credit. i had something worse. no credit.
but this guy was determined. he cut the price of the ring in half and told me it was to keep me as a customer that he would make this great sacrifice. half. and this barstid would still be turning a profit.
half was still more than i could do and still meet my obligations to the good people at dominion power and the water company. i began to leave.
he cut that halved price in half. he had cut the price by 3/4 to *keep me as a customer*
now, i’m a retail brat and i know nobody goes out on a limb to the tune of that kind of money to *keep* a customer who obviously has no money and may never be back. which means at 1/4 of the original asking price (which, according to the price tag had already been marked down substantially before i ever got there) he would still be making a profit.
to which i say WTF?
at this point i could almost (but still not quite) afford the diamond ring and knew i was not going to get a better deal elsewhere. but even if i could have afforded it i think i would have walked away on the insult factor alone. that you would inflate the price more than 3 times what you are willing to sell it for (forget what you originally paid for it) is just a slap in the face.
that you would be fool enough to tip your hand on that one just says you are confident that i have no choice but to do business with you based on the artificial NEED you have created.
it was an eye opener, but it made my decision all that much easier.
i had only to decide on the color of stone and the setting. so i went downstairs (i was in the mall where expensive jewelry stores are much easier to escape than stand alone buildings when the sales people get too pushy) to a jeweler i had done business with for years and started looking.
why hadn’t i gone there first? because they didn’t really specialize in engagement gear. they specialized in quirky, unique jewelry. much more to my taste. and to T’s i think. sadly they have gone out of business in the years since then.
in any case, i had a choice to make.
emerald (green) was out because every emerald i have ever bought has gone missing with the girl i bought it for following suit shortly thereafter.
topaz (yellow/orange) did not appeal with it’s connotations of strength and conquest.
amethyst (purple) actually is a fairly common stone, though its aspect hints at nobility (juggler’s note: not all the stones that are rarely seen in jewelry stores are actually *rare* they just don’t have a huge market so the stores don’t carry as many of them. amethyst was a very popular stone in the late eighties and early nineties because the color purple was insanely popular. i’m guessing prince never did get his cut on that one)
ruby (red) signifies passion but i shied away from it because passion is what T and i had as kids and it gave us nothing but great sex and great fights.
in the end i settled on sapphire (blue) for it’s association with healing, something we both desperately needed. the stone i chose was a triangle cut, emphasizing a christian marriage that includes god at one corner and an equal relationship between god and the man god and the woman and the woman and man. geometrically, it also signifies male and female (depending on which way the triangle is pointing – down-pointing signifying the triangular pubic area of a woman, up-pointing signifying the male phallus) which also appealed to me as a symbol for marriage.
flanking the sapphire were diamond chips, indicating the isolation, hardness, and frozen aspect of our lives without each other.
the ring and the setting are white gold simply because i knew T prefers white over the yellow.
i downplay that ring as a product of a financially challenged soul doing the best he could with what he had, and on the surface that version of the story is true enough and easier to tell, but once i got over the *need* to procure a diamond, a damn lot of thought went into the ring that i finally purchased.
instead of a single band, T opted to have two slender bands welded to either side of the engagement ring giving it that nestled affect and it looks really good.
one day i do hope to upgrade that ring to one of my own design, and it may feature a diamond as a nod to convention (and to the fact that the singularity a diamond describes is not the worst way to portray two people becoming one) but it will include sapphires because that is what we are to each other in this marriage:
a font of healing
until then, however, i’m not ashamed of the ring i got her and she is not ashamed to wear it. it’s a hassle to explain, and i usually don’t bother, because in the end no one really needs to know but us.