So, you just found the love of your life and you need to make a romantic gesture for the big proposal; the biggest part in proposing, is the ring itself. There is a lot to consider when going ring shopping: always remember that the shape matters most, the 4 C’s (cut, color, clarity, and carat), the type of metal of the band, her style, ring size, and your budget. There’s a lot of thought that goes into shopping for engagement rings and there needs to be because she is going to show off her new ring to everyone. All her friends and family are most likely going to judge your financial status solely by how big that stone is and you don't want to look like you can’t financially support her. The average American tends to spend about $5000 on an engagement ring and a chunk of that comes from the cut of the diamond; for example, the most popular diamond cut, round cut, approximately starts at $2000. For the most part, through brilliant advertising diamonds now represent how much you love a person and bring out the idea of “Forever”. The tradition of giving an engagement ring dates back into ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians believed circles were a symbol of eternity and so wedded couples would gift each other a ring that was made up of braided reed; also it was put on the left hand ring finger because a vein is located there that connects directly to the heart (“The History of Engagement Rings”, 2017). Fast forward into 2nd century B.C. where in ancient Roman times, only women wore engagement rings and it symbolized many things such as a contract made between two people that included their families, a social status, and ownership. The contract was basically the ownership itself, where the father gives ownership of his daughter to the husband under a legal agreement. Women in ancient Rome were given two rings: an iron ring and a golden ring. The iron ring was meant to be worn at home and represented strength and permanence. Meanwhile, the gold ring was to be worn in public to impress people and represented their wealth. However, not everyone was lawfully allowed to have gold rings. The lower class was to not wear gold rings but these laws were difficult to enforce because even a slaves wedding iron ring would be found with a small part of gold ( “Roman Engagement and Wedding Rings: Joining Hands and Hearts”, 2017). It wasn’t until the middle ages where precious stones and rare metals were added upon the idea of engagement rings. The first recorded diamond engagement ring was in 1477 given to Mary of Burgundy given by Archduke Maximilian of Austria. From there on, diamond rings became popular but diamonds themselves were still expensive because the supply of them were so low, so it was seen that only the rich can have diamond rings or even accessories. The first diamonds were found in rivers and streams in India. Historians believe India began trading diamonds as early as the 4th century. They eventually made their way to Western Europe and by the 1400’s diamonds become expensive but fashionable to Europe's wealthy class. It was until the 1700’s where India’s diamonds began to decline and Brazilian mines took over the diamond business for more than 150 years. It was in the late 1800’s where Founding Chairman, Cecil Rhodes, established De Beers Co. which was a diamond mining company. It was his company that made diamonds boom and soon the diamond engagement ring we know of today became a tradition (“Diamond History and Lore”, 2017) With multiple online sources, almost all sources point fingers to De Beers Group of Companies advertising team for the social construction of needing to propose with a diamond engagement ring. Because De Beers is an international corporation with multiple branches such as diamond exploration, diamond mining, diamond trading, diamond retail, and diamond industrial manufacturing, De Beers clearly took over the business from the early 1900’s and still continues till this day. The discovery of diamonds in Kimberley, South Africa by Cecil Rhodes in 1871 was the start of it all. By the 1930’s, diamond engagement rings took part in the United States but they were still seen to be only for the wealthy class.. According to their website, it was 1947 when Mary France Gerety worked for the N.W. Ayer & Son advertising company, who partnered with De Beers, that coined their iconic slogan, “ A Diamond is Forever”. According to an article by the New York Times, even by 1938 women still believed diamond rings were a waste of money and would rather have their husbands spend money on a new washing machine (Sullivan, 2013). The agency was still determined to convince people that diamond rings was a sort of gateway to marriage or that they must go together. During wartime, marriage rates went through the roof by 250% because men wanted to experience marriage before going into war without knowing if they’d make it back or not (Mintz and Kellogg, 1988). The advertising company saw this opportunity and took it; Gerety made an ad that says, “ Star of Hope: The engagement diamond on her finger is bright as a tear — but not with sadness. Like her eyes it holds a promise — of cool dawns together, of life grown rich and full and tranquil. It’s lovely assurance shines through all the hours of waiting, to kindle with joy and precious meaning at the beginning of their new life to be” (Sullivan, 2013). Notice how they target the men and in a way guilt them into buying their new love of their life a ring, so while they are off in war their spouse has a sort of commitment and an oath that they’ll be coming back. Soon after in the 1950’s, they began capitalizing on America’s newest obsession by lending diamond jewelry to socialites, people who are well known in fashionable society and enjoy going to social events and entertainment. For example, actors wore jewelry for the Academy Awards; a wonderful place that really focuses on how people present themselves and analyze what they wear. “In two years time, the sale of diamonds increased by 55% in the United States” (Sullivan 2013). Another action point by De Beers was that they began helping, as in guiding, the consumers on how to properly buy diamond rings. They attached instructions like “ How to Buy a Diamond Ring” to every ad and invented ideas such as the 4 C’s: cut, color, clarity, and carat; they slowly taught consumers that bigger is better. Finally in the 1980’s, we can see in one specific ad where the idea that buying a diamond ring is worth the money unlike in the late 1930’s where women believed it was money thrown down the drain. N.W. Ayer & Son released this ad, “ Isn’t two month’s worth of salary a small price to pay for something that lasts forever?”. What’s really interesting is that the ads did not focus on the product necessarily but more upon the emotional connection and the values of what a diamond ring can potentially produce. In the end of the 20th century, De Beers monopoly in the diamond industry ended and soon lost control. They still dominate the industry along with other companies, and society has finally shifted into what was once a waste of money, into diamond engagement rings becoming a tradition. In like manner, it is very important for whomever is purchasing diamonds or is thinking about purchasing; it would really be beneficial to them to really research about diamonds a little bit more. When we think about diamonds, it is usually along the lines of being shiny and precious, but only so few think about it being related to chaos, controversy, and pain. Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are known as diamonds mined in areas controlled by resistant forces that are against to the recognized government of a country and that is sold to fund military action against the said government. Shockingly 1 out of 4 diamonds in the open market are conflict diamonds. Majority of diamonds come from Africa and it is in Africa were Warlords and rebellious leaders take over villages. A lot of the rebellious activity can be found in Central and Western Africa, and to be more specific in Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone. Warlords hire people to mine for these diamonds for them, and it is usually children whose family are financially struggling. These diamonds would be sold to a merchant who then sneaks them into a neighboring country, which are then merged with a company's legitimate certified mined diamonds, and become available to the open market. In these areas, forced labor for diamond mining or panning in the rivers for said diamonds are very common. However, sometimes it doesn’t not be forced because people are wanting to work in order to survive. Time Magazine shares a 15 year old boy named Mbuyi Mwanza, works to help his blind father purchase food, pay his debts, and medicine (Baker, 2016). Mwanza knows at least a dozen other kids who have been forced to work instead of continuing school. “One survey of diamond miners in the Lunda Norte province of Angola found that 46% of miners were between the ages of 5 and 16.” (Brilliant Earth). These miners are only being paid at least $1-$2 for a full day of work. Besides being obscurely underpaid, other issues related to working small-scale mines is that workers are inexperienced, lack safety gear and tools, and can easily die or get injured from landslides and tunnel collapses. Although there is adults who work in the mines, it’s the children who are most vulnerable to these working conditions such as: digging with heavy shovels, carrying bags of gravel, inhaling toxins like sulfur, and dealing with explosives.“Because of their small size they would be asked to enter narrow mining shafts or descend into pits where landslides can claim their lives” (Brilliant Earth). From children working in dangerous conditions to supplying warlords military equipment, it is all part of where 1 out of 4 diamonds come from. Furthermore, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was created in 2003 by the United Nations General Assembly. The KPCS “imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free' and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate trade” (Baker, 2016). Under the KPCS participants are required to establish national legislations, institutions, and exports/imports controls, be able to share statistical data and be transparent about it, trade only with other members who follow the KPCS, and ship conflict-free diamonds while providing certification that supports that where they originate. However, even with these requirements some still speculate not all traders honor the KPCS and are illegally being smuggled out of Africa. The idea was very simple, every diamond had to be certified of its origins in order to be able to export it out to other countries. But even the government of Congo does not know where 40% of their diamonds come from (Melik, 2010). In any case, no matter how many rules or laws exist, there will always be a loophole or people being able to cheat the system. As shown above, diamond engagement rings have become very traditional in America but they also support rebels to take military action in a way. What was once something that symbolizes commitment, love and a promise between two people, can also be seen as a child being paid $2 for finding the $5000 pressurized shiny rock that will be placed on the ring finger from the left hand on your significant other. In order for the consumers to help stop the exports of blood diamonds, they should do their best to remember to ask for the certification of the diamond and if it doesn't have one, then it is best not to purchase it. Consumers don’t have to stop purchasing all diamonds but just the ones that associate to violence across the sea. With that said, diamonds only became huge because of strategic advertising from diamond companies like De Beers and their advertising team from N.W Ayer & Son. Without them, it may be possible that diamonds wouldn’t have been a big deal and other stones could have been used. To those who are planning to propose with a diamond ring, remember that a diamond does not have to symbolize the amount of love for your partner; and sure enough your partner would be happy with anything that is given to propose with because the diamond is not the reason they said yes.
Baker, Aryan. “Blood Diamonds.” Time, 16 June. 2016, Time, time.com/blood-diamonds/