There’s a lot of marriage hubbub happening lately. Priyanka Chopra just had her bridal shower (at Tiffany’s, no less), Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson just called their engagement off and who the hell knows whether Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin are married or not.
Regardless of the details of an engaged couple, though, they always have one thing in common: a big, fat diamond ring.
And these days, proposals are becoming less about the, you know, premise of a commitment to one single person for the rest of your days, and more about the ring. Think about it -- the first thing you ask your girlfriends when they announce an engagement is, “OMG let me see the ring!”
So how did the diamond ring tradition begin? Why don’t we propose with, say, a shiny new convertible? Or a puppy? The costs are pretty comparable, when you think about it.
It started like anything else: randomly.
The first diamond engagement ring was presented to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 by Archduke Maximillian of Austria. Besides that, the idea of proposing marriage with a ring supposedly dates back to ancient Rome, where wives would wear rings with small keys to represent ownership. There were also the Egyptians, who believed that circles were symbols of eternity.
Wealthy Europeans expanded on that by adding other gemstones into the mix, because what are Europeans if not campy? Despite their efforts, though, only the diamond stuck.
The diamond also used to act as financial security.
Before women were the glass ceiling-crushing bad*sses they weren’t allowed to be during basically the first half of the 20th century, they pretty much depended on their future husbands for every kind of protection. There was even a law called “Breach of Promise to Marry” that allowed women to sue a man if he broke off an engagement; she was considered “tainted” and would have a hard time finding another husband.
When that law was dissolved, suddenly the diamond ring became worth so much more than a promise of eternal love -- it was two months’ salary to hold onto in case no one else would marry you. Collateral, if you will.
Modern society took that “eternity” thing and ran with it.
If I told you the only real reason women wear diamonds to represent their engagements is because of a really good marketing ploy, would you believe me? Well, buckle up.
You know that scene in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” where Matthew McConaughey comes up with, “Ladies, frost yourselves” for his ad agency’s diamond client? Use that as the basis for this explanation.
After the De Beers Mining Company was founded in the 1880s, they grew to control 90 percent of the world’s diamond production when the gem was discovered and mined in South Africa (did you watch Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond”?).
So, these guys had all these diamonds and had to figure out a way to sell them...for two months’ worth of men’s salaries...during the Great Depression.
And they did just that by coming up with the phrase, “A diamond is forever,” penned by a Ms. Frances Gerety in 1947. So simple, so cliché -- but it worked (because duh, women know women).
So, if a diamond is forever, then a marriage that begins with the presentation of a diamond will last forever, right? Sure, that’s what early 20th-century Americans thought. I doubt that women these days are accepting their sparkly rocks under the impression that because their future spouse bought them a diamond, their marriage will be successful, but that’s basically what Gerety was banking on back then.
And they’ve been using it ever since.
So, when it comes down to it, the diamond means nothing without an advertiser making you think it means something. But can I see yours?!