Diamonds are for suckers. They always were. Thirty-five years ago, you could buy two books that explained, without the slightest bit of hyperbole or misdirection, how an absurdly secretive cartel and a cooperative mass media turned an easily-duplicated stone with primarily industrial worth into an indispensable signifier of middle-class success.
As fate would have it, I read one of those books right before getting engaged, and I took absolutely seriously. As a consequence, my first wife’s engagement ring was a quarter-carat pawn-shop special, just a bit under $250 after tax. To her credit, my bride didn’t complain too much, even as our friends and acquaintances went to the altar with a full carat or even the two-carat honker that a friend’s sister received from a construction worker in the midst of a boomtown year.
“The bigger the ring, the shorter the marriage,” I laughed, and I wasn’t wrong. I was also correct about just how worthless a used diamond ring is. By the time we officially divorced fifteen years later, some of our friends had already managed to buy, and sell, a second set of rings.
Right around then, my girlfriend of the time suggested out of nowhere that $15,000 would be a nice number for the engagement ring she expected me to put on her finger. “You have to be kidding,” I replied.
“But I’ve seen you spend that much on a guitar,” she snapped.
“Yeah, and I could sell that guitar for something more than a nickel on the dollar.” Alas, the engagement never came to pass. The current Mrs. Baruth wears an heirloom from a deceased relative on her left hand, while I rotate through an ad hoc collection of titanium and silicone rings designed to be lost in a set of gloves or at a skatepark without sorrow. I feel good about this. Diamond engagement rings are a scam.
Yet most Americans, if pressed, will admit that they believe at least somewhat in the value of a “natural” diamond. That belief is on the way to being utterly shattered.