Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone…
Lucy in the sky with diamonds…
— Lyrics to “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds,” by The Beatles
Nine years ago today, my husband surprised the hell out of me by getting down on one knee, pulling out a box with the most beautiful diamond ring I had ever seen, and popping the question. Still today, I love to look at my engagement ring remember just how surprised, elated, and absolutely over the moon I was when he proposed.
I love to think about all of the covert visits to the jewelry store he had made for a month or so before he proposed; about how he picked out the perfect ring simply by picking up on subtle hints (ok, they probably weren’t quite as subtle as I would like to think) and paying attention to my general style preferences.
I love to think back to that relatively carefree time in our relationship before mortgages, kids, miscarriages, career changes, job stress, health problems, dogs with cancer, and all of the other things that marriage throws at a couple.
So as I say this, it may seem a bit odd when I explain that lately my husband and I have been pondering the ethical concerns and extravagance associated with diamonds, and wondering if maybe my engagement ring was a colossal waste of resources.
Historically, the diamond industry was controlled by the DeBeers cartel in various African nations. Although the cartel’s control has been diminished in recent years due to lawsuits and competition from other diamond sources, the presence of conflict diamonds in the jewelry industry continues to exist. Conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds, are mined in certain African counties where there is a war or armed conflict that involves slavery, rape, or torture, with the proceeds of diamond sales going to support rebel or terrorist groups.
Fortunately, ethical concerns associated with conflict diamonds have been somewhat mitigated in recent years with the adoption of the Kimberly Process, whereby participating countries agree to meet minimum requirements regarding the exportation, importation and internal controls of the diamond trade. Shipments of rough diamonds from countries that are subject to the Kimberly Process must certify that the diamonds are conflict-free. Accordingly, those who have purchased diamonds recently or plan to buy diamonds in the future can request verification that the diamond is not a conflict diamond.
Nonetheless, doubts about the legitimacy and extravagance of the diamond industry continue. As admitted in my post “Time Warp”, the person I was nine years ago is hardly the person I am now, and the woman I was back then cared a bit more about elegant jewelry than I do today. And so, what’s a girl to do?
Knowing what I know now, as I harbor anxiety about supporting a corrupt and profligate industry, not to mention guilt about promoting the lavishness of diamonds in general, can I still appreciate my engagement ring? But isn’t the sentimental worth of my engagement ring also worth something? Eventually, I end up taking myself into a confusing maze of conflicting priorities, incompatible ethical considerations, and confusing social concerns. After all, we are human beings, not robots; we must be recognize and accept that sometimes the ideals of our social priorities conflict with the practicalities of daily life and our human predispositions for certain comforts and material possessions.
Certainly one option would be to sell my ring to a reputable jeweler and donate the proceeds to a charitable organization. Truth be told, my husband and I actually discussed doing this very thing. Nowadays, there are a number of diamond alternatives available with physical and aesthetic characteristics that rival mined diamonds so I could certainly find a viable and reasonable replacement. But the obvious trepidations hold me back – fears that I will one day regret divesting such a monumental symbol of our marriage, sadness over departing with such a beautiful piece of jewelry, and doubts about whether such a minor act even makes a difference.
But, ultimately, what is really holding me back is none of these things – a happy marriage is not dependent on a diamond ring, my materialist vanity would wane, and the donated proceeds would certainly make a difference, albeit in some small way.
The real reason that I don’t want to let go of my diamond engagement ring is one that filled with childlike romanticism and touch of selfishish. You see, my engagement ring is the only physical reminder I have of my husband’s marriage proposal – there are no photos, video, or other mementos of the occasion. And even though my husband and I had been together for more than three years by the time he proposed and I knew that we would get married “one day,” I was legitimately swept away when he got down on one knee. My engagement ring reminds me of this early romance of our relationship, when the possibilities for our lives together seemed limitless.
As our lives have become consumed with kids, jobs, in-laws, finances, and the general messiness of life, my engagement ring serves as a kind of personal fairy tale to me. It reminds me of how one day a young man got down on one knee, slipped a ring on the hand of a young woman, promised to love her forever, and made her feel like…a princess. And, really, don’t we all need a little bit of fairly tale in our lives?
I am still conflicted over my diamond engagement ring and I am trying to work through my internal priority conflicts. One thing is certain, though. Ring or no ring, my husband continually makes me feel like a princess – even if some days, I feel a little more like a Princess Fiona than a Princess Kate.
Food for thought: What are your thoughts on the diamond industry? Do you have any internal moral/ethical conflicts? What holds special significance to you?