It’s been 5 years since the special day you met the love of your life – you know in your heart, this is the person you want to share the rest of your life experiences with.Together you’ve been through the ups, downs, and everything in between. It’s been tough, and you are so grateful to have someone’s shield to lean on. Discussions of philosophy, money, dreams, and goals have been had. You all have plans in action to accomplish them together! Because of this wonderful person, you look back at the last 5 years in complete happiness – and the moment as arrived! Your significant other has asked you to marry them…the question is would you want a more expensive diamond ring, investments as a token of your love, or both?
In this post we want to examine the philosophy of buying diamond rings, using your money as voting power to make you think!
Buying a Ring or Buying Assets?
For the post, we want to explore two budgets: 5K and 15K. While reading the questions and points below, we encourage you to look at it from both angles. Once from the angle of the person proposing, and once from the person being proposed to.
In each budget:
- How much would you use to buy/expect of a wedding ring?
- How much would you invest in the stock market instead of spending on the ring?
- If you knew you had a guaranteed return of 5K for every 1K invested in 10 years, would your budget change?
Before reaching your decision on how you would utilize your budget, let’s explore a few statistics and questions.
Should your ring cost 3 months worth of salary?
First, let’s take a look at a few statistics from the Wedding Wire 2015 newlywed report:
- Average number of wedding guests: 120
- Average spend on engagement ring: $4,758
- Average wedding ceremony/reception cost: $28,958
- Average spend on honeymoon: $3,882
To be in the average of American engagement ring status, a person must spend $4,758! For the average single American who, according to the US Census makes $34K a year, or $2,911.66 a month, would need to save 1.7 months of their salary to be average. Further, for the 3x salary rule, they would be purchasing a $9,000 ring.
That is half of the maximum 401(k) limits and almost enough to max out your IRA twice, yet it has become common knowledge that we are not saving enough for retirement. Priorities and planning out your goals can change the no savings story – we’re here to help!
What does a ring represent?
Marriage is one of the biggest and potentially happiest decisions you will make in your entire life. Committing to someone for the rest of your life in sickness, and in health, has nothing to do with with the size of the diamond ring you wear. Why do we wear one?
- Back in the old ancient Greek and Roman times, it was believed that the left ring finger had a vein directly connected to the heart
- Rings are circular. The symbol of eternity since they don’t begin or end -> signifying the never-ending love shared between the newlyweds
- Commitment – It shows that you are married and accounted for
- Status. For some, the size of the diamond on the ring is a social status – it shows how much someone loves you right? Not so fast…:)
In summary, a ring given for the reasons above (except for #4) represents the ideals of marriage. Love, commitment, and support for the rest of the time each person has with the other. In other words, if your husband gave you a ring from a cereal box, the symbol it represents should be the same -> why does the size of the diamond matter when the symbol it represents defines the real reasons for getting married? We have the diamond industry to thank for correlating a diamond’s size to the commitment of one’s love.
If you are able, and it doesn’t affect your future or present situation, then, by all means, buy the biggest ring you want for your soul mate. It may seem that we are against expensive rings, and that is sincerely not the case. We want to instead have you use your brain to make the decision, rather than letting the diamond industry’s marketing techniques do it for you.
A little bit of diamond industry history
There’s a famous article outlining the industry’s history from The Atlantic magazine – although outdated, it shows how their marketing agencies used psychology to change our culture towards purchasing, but not ever selling, diamonds to show status and love. Let me summarize a few of the points below:
History of the Diamond Industry
Before 1870, diamond’s were rare gems found in the jungles of Brazil and riverbeds in India – totaling a few pounds per year to be traded. “In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds.” The financiers who organized the mining needed to protect it, becaus, with the new mines, tons of diamonds were being added to the market. Diamonds didn’t have real intrinsic value as it depended on them being rare, so they decided to merge interest into one entity to control the production and continue the scarcity illusion.
“The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.”
To do this, De Beers hired N. W. Ayer to lead marketing campaigns to further the diamond intervention.
- The First Ayer Plan -> Romanticize diamonds by creating the picture of young males using diamonds to win the woman of his heart. Motion pictures, pictures of models with rings, and advertisements to the elites.
- In 1946 – the agency organized “a weekly service called “Hollywood Personalities,” which provided 125 leading newspapers with descriptions of the diamonds worn by movie stars”
- 1947 – “A Diamond is Forever” became the official sloagan for De Beers
- Success!! – “Toward the end of the 1950s, N. W. Ayer reported to De Beers that twenty years of advertisements and publicity had had a pronounced effect on the American psyche. “Since 1939 an entirely new generation of young people has grown to marriageable age,” it said. “To this new generation a diamond ring is considered a necessity to engagements by virtually everyone.” The message had been so successfully impressed on the minds of this generation that those who could not afford to buy a diamond at the time of their marriage would “defer the purchase” rather than forgo it”
The article goes into more history of how De Beers continued to expand the advertising for varying sizes of diamonds, working to withhold the supply and demand from competition, and continuing to increase their sales. Fast forward to today, and you see a new company at the forefront of the diamond industry -> Tiffany. Diamonds have become embedded into our culture as signs of wealth, success, and status – yet we know that it is due to the business mindset of these companies that socially engineer that mindset.
To help decide on how to spend the money from the budgets above (5K or 15K), we’ve highlighted a few decision points.
What do love and marriage mean to you?
Is the love shared between you and your other half symbolized by the size of a diamond ring? If proposed to with a lack luster ring would you be disappointed?
We described the symbol of rings in marriage, as it is the biggest commitment we have in our lives. Can a diamond ring, with an expense price tag solidify the values you hold dear? We think not. We feel that marriage isn’t represented by the SIZE of the ring, although the ring itself symbolizes the ideals we look to uphold in marriage itself. Love, kindness, respect, support, experiences, and more. The ring helps solidify the commitment, while the values and your partner makes the bond special. The size of the diamond doesn’t do either, but buying quality isn’t out of the equation.
Recently one of our favorite blogs wrote how to save on an engagement ring!
From his post, and from our mindset of making purchases as more of the frugal side of our country, it is important to talk about the quality of an engagement ring. We feel it makes sense to buy a quality ring that your future spouse can cherish. One could argue, the ring can be replaced. This is true, but the original ring for that special moment holds closer to the heart and represents so much to both people in the engagement.
His article suggests going to mom and pop jewelry stores versus mall chains, and interestingly enough notes that mall chains use HUGE mark up on their lesser quality diamonds.
If we create a very hypothetical situation, where for every dollar you invest today would guaranteed to be worth five in 10 years, then the point we’re trying to help you consider can more easily be seen:
Scenario 1 – 5K budget:
Instead of purchasing a 5K ring, you can choose to spend 1K and invest 4. The 4 would become 20K in 10 years, thus giving you MUCH more return then using it to spend the money.
Scenario 2 – 15K budget:
Instead of purchasing a 15K ring, you can choose to spend 10K and invest 5K. The 4K would become 25K in 10 years. That’s a great decision right? Meh…this why mental models and rational thinking helps with decisions.
If you had 5K and bought a 1K ring, leading to a happy spouse, then why would spending 10K and investing 5 be rational? It would be more rational to still buy the 1K ring and invest 14K, leading to 70K in 10 years.
Using average returns would result in less money in 10 years – we understand and just want to show the difference in opportunity cost when making the decision for your future self and family.
Final scenario thoughts:
Purchasing based on your total budget for a diamond ring may not make sense for you – it may make sense to decide on what can be paid for a quality ring, then offer the rest of your available budget to help with wedding cost, honey moon adventures, or investments!
Like we said above, we’re not trying to conclude buying an expensive ring means bad decision. What we’re trying to suggest is that buying a ring that is more expensive than necessary comes with opportunity cost. The diamond industry, mixed with social status can lead us to make decisions without being aware of the influence they have on us. We hope this enlightened you to consider these types of questions going forward, and using them to make better purchases for your future!!