You may often hear the phrases, “A Diamond is Forever”, or “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. Where do they come from and how did we associate diamond with a commitment between two people and marriage?
A Brief History of Diamond Rings
The history of diamond rings actually dates back in the 1400s Roman era when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria purchased a ring for his beloved Mary of Burgundy. The rising popularity of diamond rings actually began after WWII in 1947 when the De Beers company held a monopoly in the diamond sales industry and commissioned an advertising campaign that “A Diamond is Forever”.
Here is the video for De Beer’s “Diamond is Forever” campaign circa 1993. The ad is clearly dated but the idea sure seems to run forever.
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
Coincidentally around the same time, Carol Channing first performed the jazz song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the Broadway musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1949. This campaign was so successful that the practice of purchasing a diamond ring as an engagement proposal spread around the world.
In fact, this phenomenon has replaced exchanging of other precious metals such as gold bracelets, jewelry, cash, and livestock in traditional, non-western, agrarian societies as well.
Diamonds Rather Than Livestock
So why has the diamond ring replaced practical goods for engagement? Some theories include that in the event of financial hardship, the wife could hock the ring to help out when the family fell into hard times. Taking a ring to the pawn shop does seem a lot easier than herding farm animals to town.
Today diamond rings have become such a customary practice, that the absence of the rock would not even be considered as a legitimate proposal to many couples. You could also reason that a diamond is one of the hardest substances on earth, so receiving a diamond is a sure way to express an undying promise to a life-long commitment.
A Legally Binding Contract
In common law terms, marriage is a legal contract. In order for a legally binding contract to take place, there must be an offer, acceptance, and consideration Thus, a diamond engagement ring serves as consideration for a marriage contract to take place.
How Much Should an Engagement Ring Cost?
There are lots of anecdotal accounts of how much an engagement ring should cost in a relationship. Though there is no official rule or guidebook in the “bro code”, the general consensus on the price of an engagement ring should be equivalent to 3 months of gross wages.
What about Modern Couples?
This often makes me wonder about countries where gay marriages are legal now. Who would be responsible for buying the engagement ring? Who proposes? Does the 3-month salary rule still apply to same-sex couples?
Whether we like it or not, diamonds are here to stay in our culture as the object for engagement proposals.