Engagement rings, history and searching for answers – Part 3 of 3

In Part Three of the Engagement ring series we get into the more recent history of engagement rings and finally get to the part where I figure my shit out.

The Past 150 Years of Engagement Rings

With the discovery of diamonds in South Africa and the founding of DeBeers Mining Company in 1880, it was the beginning of the end. Within a decade DeBeers controlled 90% of the world’s diamond production. And what better way to get those diamonds into the hands of people who didn’t need them and couldn’t afford them than to stick them on engagement rings and start advertising them as a truest symbol of forever, true love and devotion and the ultimate measure of how much your husband-to-be loved you?

Following the Great Depression of 1929, one of the most recognizable slogans of all time, “A diamond is forever” was created and the notion that the value of true love, or sufficient proof of true love, was two months of a fella’s salary – not on the engagement ring, but on THE ROCK. This was a generation of people who were just out of economic hardship that rocked the world as they knew it, but I wonder if that experience with poverty made them primed for fleecing by advertisers. Having been raised or at least lived so long doing without or making do, perhaps people needed to feel flush again, as though the money troubles really were behind them and that the future was going to be all rainbows, free-flowing liquor and pots of gold.

Fast-forward to present day. The diamonds have gotten bigger and the inclusion of multiple diamonds has upped the ‘sparkly factor’ exponentially. Diamonds are now, thanks to some handy-dandy technology, available in numerous colours from pink to black in unlimited quantities (coloured diamonds occur only very rarely in nature). High quality “fake” diamonds, like lab-created moissanite (again, occurring very rarely in nature, but quite prolifically in labs) are gaining in popularity and making even bigger and more ostentatious rings available to the middle-class. Moissanite is touted as “an affordable option” when diamond shopping. Again, the push is on to get the biggest most expensive (looking) engagement ring possible. WHY?

So, after all of this research and thought – do I still covet that left-ring finger sparkler?

Unfortunately, yes, I do (pun unintended), but not for the reasons I thought. But after this journey of discovery, I realize that my desire for that elusive diamond ring does not stem from needing my husband to ‘prove’ that he loves me, he proves that every day when he goes to work and provides for our family. Nor does it stem from having to compete with or prove my worth to strangers. No, my desire for that ostentatious, sparkly diamond ring comes down to this: the feeling, the sight, the experience of wearing beautiful jewelry makes me feel happy. I do not care much about the kind of car that I drive, the clothes that I wear, the handbag that I carry or the restaurants in which I dine; when it comes to those things, I’m basically completely neutral, as long as it runs well, fits without cutting off my circulation, does not weigh a tonne or fall apart within a week, or poison me, I’m good.

Doing these posts has given me some time to think about what makes me feel happy, what I need more of and what I need to do less of to increase my overall satisfaction. I do not believe that life is not about being happy all the time, it is a series of cycles that include happiness as a part of the cycle. I think that we need to identify and embrace those things that make us feel happy, identify and manage those things detract from our happiness, and come up with strategies for those things we just need to do because someone has to do it (and we all have those things!). The latter two can wait until another post, but for now some of the things that make me feel the happiest (in no particular order and not including my family) are: being at home, writing, reading, Pink Lady apples, cooking/baking, chocolate, sleeping, very big sparkly jewelry, flamingos, dragonflies, music, school, travelling to new places, taking pictures, really comfy track pants, office supplies and stationary.

 

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

Engagement rings, history and searching for answers – Part 1 of 3

This is a trilogy of posts looking at the history of engagement rings and what they really mean.

Getting married? Want to get married? Already married?

I was. I kind of did. Then I really did. Then I did and so I remain.

I got married without an engagement ring. Honestly, I never really thought that I would get married, I knew that I would have children, but marriage? It was a foreign concept to me. That said, I always knew that if I did one day get married, it would involve a HUGE dazzler on my finger. I never pictured myself in a big white dress and having a huge wedding, attended by people I barely knew, but of the ring, I was certain. And aside from my natural obsession and attraction to shiny things, I always just wanted a seriously big diamond ring. And like so many other people, I felt that a beautiful, sparkly rock on my finger would let other people know at a glance that;

1) I was loved and desired (and therefore worthy of their attention);

2) that I was worth A LOT as a person (because a bad or worthless person surely would not have such a beautiful ring? *insert eye roll here*);

3) that I was special enough for someone to spend a whack of cash (at least two MONTH of his salary, right?) on to gift me something so coveted and valuable; and

4) That I was finally pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, funny enough, just plain GOOD enough and someone amazing had sealed his promise to love me unconditionally forever by putting his money where his mouth was and I had the 1.5+Ct VVS1 or better, white gold/platinum, 3+ total carat weight knuckle duster to prove it.

Now, I don’t need you to tell me that this kind of thinking is some seriously twisted shit. I can read. I get it.

I have been married over a decade now, and there is no engagement ring in sight. We had a small, perfect ceremony (we eloped locally) and I would not have changed a thing (except perhaps to extend an invitation to our respective parents). Even so, it has always nagged at me that I do not have an engagement ring, that I lack that one, seemingly very important cultural symbol of love. What does it mean? Does it mean that I was not (am not) special enough or worth enough to deserve the very splashy and public declaration of love that only an expensive, flashy ring screams? It has bothered me so much so that over the years, I have started various savings funds to purchase my ‘dream ring’ for myself. But those funds always end up being needed for the family, so I use them happily and start again.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking – is my internal struggle over having an engagement ring about me, for my ego or well-being or it is for the benefit of others? Would it enhance my life or would it merely give me the false belief that other people will perceive me to be a ‘better’ or ‘more worthy’ person? Would it make marriage easier, would it make any difference in the day-to-day realities of being married? Would it mean that my husband loved me more or better than he did before the ring?

And the answer is, I just do not know. But I do know that I want to learn and understand how the engagement ring became such ‘a thing’ and how it came to represent of love and the worth of a woman within our society. Because if I can understand those things, then maybe I can get honest about the origins of my motivation and determination to have one of my very own.

The next two blog posts in this mini-series will explore some of the history behind the engagement ring ritual and try to sort out fact from fiction and meander through through centuries-old relationship drama (spoiler alert: not a hell of a lot has changed in the past 600 years). And by the end of it all, I hope to have a better idea of what I am really searching for and if it can really be found at the top of a band of gold.

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.