The Failed Hunt for a Conflict-Free Engagement Ring

When my now fiancé asked me, on the early months of our relationship, what kind of ring I wanted for an engagement, I didn’t know what to answer– I wondered whether I was supposed to be excited for he was already mentioning commitment, or worried he was testing me. I decided to be careful and considered that he was testing me.

“I don’t know, why do you ask?” I replied.
“I was just wondering if you’d want a diamond.”
Hum, why this discussion, I thought? What is wrong with diamonds, is it because they are too expensive? Is he cheap?
“Well, yeah, I guess a diamond would be what I’d preffered.” I chose to be honest. Like most of the girls I know, of course I pictured the perfect diamond ring and didn’t consider any alternative. Because it looks beautiful and elegant, it lasts forever, and so on.
That’s when he started to passionately explain what is wrong with diamonds:
“Haven’t you seen the movie Blood Diamond? Diamonds are evil!”

After watching the movie and listening to more of his arguments supported by evidence from the internet, I found out why he was so fired up about the issue.

Enslaved Africans mine gemstones in terrible conditions, and the trade of diamonds finances guns and warlords in Africa. These are the main reasons why we should be more conscious about buying diamonds. I wish I knew more about it, but watching Blood Diamondmight be a good start for those who are interested. Besides, not only does the diamond industry finance and perpetuate african wars, it also creates artificial scarcity by buying far more stones than they need and storing them in safes; that way, they can sell the gems at the highest price people are willing to pay for them.The high demand for diamonds is actually part of the predicament. Refusing to buy them is one of the best way to protest against their bloodshed traffics. However, Pressure from movies, books, advertising (I didn’t make up “diamonds are eternal”, or “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”) makes grooms-to-be spend far more money than they should on a ring for their demanding girlfriend because they want to be taken seriously. The investment they make on the ring will show their girlfriend’s parents and friends how much money they makes and how committed they are. Is it really what matters the most: how much was spent on the ring? Isn’t it supposed to be about love?

At the end of the discussion, I was convinced:

“I guess the most important thing is that my future husband feels as happy as me about the ring we choose. And  knowing about the diamond industry, maybe I want another kind of ring”, I said cautiously, secretly scheming about the possibility of getting a fair-trade diamond anyway.

He replied with a huge smile and revealed how his ex-girlfriend had told him that for her it would be a diamond or nothing, and that it should be a really expensive one as well, something like 3 times his monthly salary. They didn’t break up for that reason, but he sure didn’t seem to regret her.

So it was a test, and I passed, yoohoo! As our relationship became more serious, we later talked about engagement and started to consider what kind of ring could replace the diamond one I originally pictured.

One alternative was the starchild of cheap jewellery : cubic zirconia (CZ). I found it lacked the sparkle and shine of a diamond. According to Nick, though, these flaws have more to do with the quality of the cut and the setting than with the stone in itself. CZ is actually supposed to be better than diamond: the refractive index is higher which means that, with the right cut, it should sparkle more. It is unfortunately usually still badly cut and put together so that diamond’s jewellery looks better. And to be honest, I never liked the idea of getting an artificial stone.

So we moved on to other gems: saphire, ruby, amethyst,… I like colored stones but I couldn’t picture myself wearing it everyday for the rest of my life. Those concerns are trivial and ludicrous compared to the problems described above; I knew it and still couldn’t let go of the selfish desire for the most beautiful ring that I could find. White sapphire and crystal have the same look as diamonds, but they sparkle far less and are fragile. On the overall, I think that the models offered with gemstones other than diamonds don’t look like an engagement ring, they remind me more of old ladies jewellery.

We finally had a look at the window of a fancy  jewellery shop in Zürich. There, a beautiful, sparkly, yet simple ring caught both our attention. We knew there was a diamond, because fancy jewelries don’t even sell CZ or factory-made diamonds– another option we considered. To my surprise, Nick liked it so much that he pushed me to go inside to try it; he thought he could use the setting with another stone. When I saw it on my finger, I knew it was the one. And so did Nick. We left the shop, and Nick told me he’d think about it.

Two month later, he proposed with this ring. He explained to me how the shop refused the eventuality of replacing the diamond with a factory-made diamond. They assured him that they were sourcing all their stones very strictly. What was the guarantee though? Nick decided to go for it anyway because it was a small stone, and he decided that the most important thing after all was that we both liked it so much.

I said yes indeed :-D, and really, I don’t know how to conclude this story. We wanted to make a difference by making a conscious decision, and we failed. Were our fantasies too strong? Should we have looked longer for an alternative? Well, at least, we tried; only, our desires won over our ethics– for this time.

You might also enjoy:

Taking the Good with the Bad

Ten Terrible Reasons to Get Married

Do You Know Your Life’s Deepest Purpose? I Don’t


8 thoughts on “The Failed Hunt for a Conflict-Free Engagement Ring

  1. Pingback: The Dream Is Not In The House « Trying to be Conscious

  2. I love your stuff! I don’t know much about learning new languages, so I am admittedly ignorant, but you’re English is so incredibly fluid and you write so well! Excited to be a new follower :)

    PS. We did the whole engagement ring thing too… it was very interesting haha! So happy you guys found what works for you.

  3. Pingback: Love, Risks and Adventure « Trying to be Conscious

  4. Pingback: Friends with limited benefits « Trying to be conscious

    • It is quite cool. We had a look at this kind of “ethical” jewellery offer from the internet, but it seemed hard to make up our minds without seeing the stuff. I saw things i liked though :).

  5. I love the thinking, the story and the result . —the most important thing after all was that we both liked it so much— and each other.

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