Should Diamond symbolize happily ever after?

Diamond ring photo

About ten years ago, a friend who hadn’t seen me in over two decades, offered me some tips as to what jewelry to wear to lunch when I meet one of my former editors of a Dhaka daily. He came to Maryland on business and to spend time with his family. I was a little nervous about the lunch meeting. My friend knew the editor, and naturally I wanted to find out a little more about him. She went out of her way to reassure me that he is an “affable” man and I needn’t worry so much. In an email she wrote, “Put on your best pearls, be your vibrant happy self, and lunch will be a breeze.” I was a bit startled by her comments and therefore, I asked her why she thought I should wear pearls and not diamonds. My question amused her, and her reply was, “diamond is vulgar and you are not.”

About ten days ago, on our way to the Dewey Beach in Delaware, I noticed on the side of the road a billboard advertisement for a jewelry store. It read: Diamonds make a woman weep and a man weak in the knees. My immediate thoughts were why would most women desire at least one diamond ring on her finger? Is the appeal of this crystal so great that it has become a synonym for steadfast love, romance, beauty, value, self-worth, pride, glamour, seduction, luxury, and ultimate happiness?

A diamond ring on a woman’s finger is usually taken as a sign that she is loved and cherished. When a woman wears a diamond, it seems to be a boastful declaration of love. As if she is telling the world that someone who loves her gave it to her. And she always remembers the money he spent on her and it pleases her. Long after she is gone, the diamond will remain as a family heirloom, and as a testament to her living here on earth. She possibly hopes to be eternalized because Diamonds are forever.

Since the 1950s, a diamond engagement ring has become the obsession of American women influenced by the advertising industries that combined desire with commerce and went onto to say, Diamonds are forever. The diamond traders and high-end stores offer stories and society photographs to selected magazines and newspapers which would reinforce the link between diamonds and romance and dupe the consumers into buying diamonds to symbolize their love for the loved ones in their lives. In the 1880s, British diamond trader De Beers in South Africa had started the campaign on the premise that Diamonds are forever. De Beers recognized that by creating a myth that diamonds are scarce and inherently valuable, he could target young men and women to make a profit. The company, with their creative ad campaign, promotions and logos like: A moment to last forever, has whispered such a message in the ears of young men and women. The diamond retailers make men believe that it is synonymous with romance and a measure of a man’s love for a woman. In turn, women are convinced that a courtship concluded in a splendid diamond engagement ring means how much she is adored. The bigger the rock, the greater is the measure of love. De Beers basically told women, “Hey, ladies, marry for diamonds.” The company knew how to protect its investments and buoy diamond prices. Any of you who is contemplating to propose to your girlfriend with a diamond ring, should consider if giving a diamond is the only choice. Do you really want to be a part of a very old campaign that De Beers wanted?

Throughout history, Hollywood celebrities’ love affair with diamonds is a long-standing tradition that has always impacted the consumers. In the 1953 film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe, gave a legendary performance. Clad in a bright pink ball gown and dazzling diamonds, she epitomised the significance of diamonds with her upbeat and seductive song: Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. With that sultry song she spoke to many women all over the globe. “Movie idols, the paragons of romance for the mass audience, would be given diamonds to use as their symbols of indestructible love…Stories would stress the size of diamonds that celebrities presented to their loved ones, and photographs would conspicuously show the glittering stone on the hand of a well-known woman.” –The Atlantic

Women are captivated by the allure, magic and mystery of the diamonds and want it at any cost. They happen to believe that both love and diamond symbolize the abiding commitment between a man and a woman. Women see diamonds as must haves because they believe these precious stones ensure enduring love and everlasting happiness. Studies have revealed that seventy-five per cent of the American would-be brides want a sparkling and elegant diamond engagement ring from the high-end fine jewelry stores like Tiffany & Co or Cartier. An average engagement ring in an affordable store costs $4,000. A rich girl’s engagement party is unthinkable without a stunning Harry Winston ring. A one carat HW engagement ring begins at around $15,000 but goes up to $25,000 to $50,000 range and up.

Should anyone really blame women and the brides to be for wanting diamonds? Some women consider diamonds are necessary in keeping up with the appearances and traditions. They adore diamonds because it is one of the most romantic gifts a gentleman can give a lady as she believes it can stand the test of time. Others love it because of the high price.

In case of a broken relationship or divorce, a woman usually gets to keep it and forgets that the ring was a symbol of lifelong partnership. They perhaps justify by thinking that love isn’t forever, but diamonds are! It is better to hold onto the diamonds than unreliable men. I recall an American friend of mine once telling me, “I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.” 

Only a tiny section of women who are not stranded in a cultural mess believe that diamonds represent commercialism. These are women who are not victims influenced by the worldly values like Madame Loisel in Guy de Maupassant’s story, The Necklace. In the story, Loisel suffered silently because she believed that poverty is a curse and she was born for luxury. She felt tormented and insulted about being poor. To attend a ball, she once borrowed a diamond necklace from her rich friend, Madame Forestier and lost it. Madame Loisel and her husband went into enormous debt to buy a replacement necklace for her friend, and ended up living in extreme poverty. The story has a twist ending as her rich friend’s necklace was only an imitation, not made of real diamond. To endorse low-cost luxury and as an alternative, some rich women wear replicas. Madame Loisel finds that out after ten years when she ran into her friend in Champs Elysées.

The universality of the story is relevant as characteristic of any society where many women hide behind expensive jewels and clothes, in order to assert their social position.

In the recent years, after a decade of negative press about blood diamonds and the deplorable working conditions in the mines of Angola, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; women still associate diamonds with romantic love. High-end traders guarantee “conflict free” diamonds by certifying that those diamonds have not financed a civil war and the mining companies have avoided serious environmental harm, child labor and worker exploitation.

For a lot of fashion-conscious women, the lines between fine and faux jewelry have merged. They admire the aesthetic components of authentic jewels without really caring about whether they have a big diamond ring on their finger or not. Late British princess Margaret reportedly once told American actress Elizabeth Taylor that she thought her 69.42 cartas diamond ring was vulgar. Some women with great taste do not get swayed, and consider diamond as one of the most desired commodities in the world. But those women are very few and far between who do not become overwhelmed over the appeal and mystique of these stones.

A guy with a good job would have to be able to willing to spend his three months’ worth salary to purchase the ring, because he knows that is what she is waiting for as a symbol of forever. This reminds me of a young couple that I know. A couple of years ago, they got engaged after a very brief courtship. Certain people were making comments about the validity and seriousness of the commitment. Without losing his cool, the man in question said with conviction, “If you look at my VISA bill, you will realize how much I want this woman to be my wife.” That statement made the doubters back off, and the wedding went off without a hitch.

No one can deny that the exquisiteness of a diamond speaks for itself when it reflects light beautifully. There is a certain aura about the sparkling brilliance of diamonds that is not comparable to anything else. The glamour and attractiveness of these gemstones is very desirable to women. Let’s not forget the endlessly clever marketing strategies of the retailers during Christmas season, and prior to Valentine’s Day, and lately they have added Mother’s Day to their diamond selling campaign. Those advertisements usually make fashionable and dreamy woman want diamonds, mostly the ones like Madame Loisel, who fantasizes about a luxurious lifestyle.

Celebrated movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and American singers like Rihanna to Napoleon Bonaparte have been entranced by these sparkling stones. In 2013, Joséphine’s diamond and sapphire engagement ring sold for 730,000 Euros in France at an auction. American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald buried a few kilometres from my home, talks about diamonds in several of his works to describe the destructive power of greed that is associated with great wealth. He refers to one woman in The Great Gatsby as an angry diamond to evoke the rapacious feeling of such love.

We know that the world’s largest diamond Koh-i- Noor (110 carat) is associated with a curse and lust as depicted in a 14th century Hindu mythology. “He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know its misfortune.” Now it is part of the Crown Jewels in Great Britain worn by the female monarchs. But it has often been in the centre of diplomatic squabbles since the Partition of India.

Though diamonds are highly regarded for longevity and commitment of everlasting love; it is a bit ironic that in a damaged relationship it has come to suggest the fragile nature of love and romance. In that sense diamonds can also be associated with the pain, sadness and disappointments of love. Late Elizabeth Taylor’s notable jewelry collections valued at $30 million from her seven husbands will attest to that.

However, whether it is a cheaper synthetic one or a real one from Tiffany or Blue Nile, a woman’s love affair with diamonds will continue. A solitaire diamond engagement ring remains an inevitable choice to represent a beautiful moment as a gesture of true love, commitment and happily ever after. Photos of prominent Hollywood celebrities exchanging vows with pricey diamonds rings (that are cut and designed exclusively for them) in the newspapers and magazines constantly reinforce the link between diamond and romance. Many songs of Beyoncé urging men to put that ring on her finger have impacted the diamond industry in a positive way. Why diamonds have been made a metaphor for invincible and steadfast love has puzzled men and some women ever since the use of diamond became popular.

Zeenat Khan writes from Maryland, USA




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