Thursday, June 7, 2012

the evolution of my engagement ring

This post has been percolating in my head for awhile now...I think since even before I was engaged. Or rather, since before the engagement was "official," since we've known for almost a year now that this is where we were headed...(well...since *I've* known for almost a year now...he's known for much, much longer).

I considered presenting pages upon pages of information. I wanted to educate myself - and you! - and indeed spent about an hour Googling every variation of the phrase "history of the engagement ring" I could think of, but I decided that sort of defeats the purpose. What I want to convey is why I went through an engagement ring evolution (revolution?). My goal here isn't to convince you that my way is the only way, or the best way; it's not to preach, judge, or even educate (there are plenty of informative sites out there that do it much better than I can!).

It's to explain why it's my way.

The diamond is the quintessential, universal symbol of love. Of all its many roles, the diamond as messenger of romantic love - beginning with the belief that Cupid's arrows were tipped with diamonds - has resonated through the centuries to emerge today as powerful as ever.

Lovely, isn't it? It's from the DeBeers web site. Ah, consumerism. How romantic. Nevermind that sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are the stones that have truly been considered precious gems over the centuries, and were the original gems in engagement rings (which, by the way, in itself is a very recent trend), and that diamonds gained popularity when DeBeers created a very successful marketing campaign.

A diamond is forever...

I digress. The characteristics I wanted in an engagement ring evolved, on average, every two weeks over the course of no less than six months. When I'm learning about something new, I throw myself into the research, trying to absorb anything and everything that I can as quickly as I can. The hunt for the perfect engagement ring was no different. I educated myself about the 4 C's - Clarity, Cut, Color, Carat - and developed an idea of the diamond I was looking for.

Early last fall, my then-boyfriend and I started looking at engagement rings. I was finally ready to think semi-long term (at the time, I was ok with the idea of being engaged, but not necessarily ready to comprehend marriage). Interestingly, my boyfriend and I each had our own idea of what we wanted (expected?). Both of our expectations had been perpetuated by the WIC. His instinct was to easily spend three months' salary on what would supposedly be the most expensive and significant token of affection, ever, and I knew I wanted white gold and a brilliant cut diamond, and that it had to be at least .5 carats (what was the point of anything smaller, amirite?).

In our quest to educate ourselves, we took to the mall.

The first ring was this one, though I was going to opt for a black diamond center stone to keep costs reasonable (...ha.). We found it at Bailey Banks & Biddle.

If I am completely honest, I still swoon over this ring. It was absolutely perfect. Just the right amount of sparkle, so dainty on my slim finger and small hand. Beautiful. And I loved the kite setting. I still do. I love everything about it, and a part of me yearns for it, and I hate myself for that.

Then I started delving into more research on diamonds and mining practices, and of course came upon The Great Diamond Debate. I realized that if I was to feel good about my ring, if I was to gaze upon it without any guilt, without any taint, it needed to be ethically sourced. And, if possible, so did the gold.

So I turned to Brilliant Earth and Blue Nile. Right around this time, I realized that - while most of the jewelry I wear is sterling silver - yellow gold is much more flattering on my hands. It glows, whereas white gold just looks cold, somehow.

So I spent the next few weeks flip-flopping between these:

18K Yellow Gold Heirloom Diamond Ring (1/4, top view18K Yellow Gold True Heart Ring, top view

Slightly less expensive than the A Jaffe, because "ethical" diamonds are quite expensive. I put that in quotes not because I doubt the validity of sites like BE and BN, but because the more research I did, the more I learned that it's really, really, really hard to trust that a diamond is truly ethical. Many certification programs site it as ethical if it was ethically sourced, but don't measure how it's transported, and vice versa. It became too tricky to tell if a diamond was truly ethical and environmentally friendly; there were too many loopholes, too many corners that could be cut.

The amount my boyfriend was willing to spend on my engagement ring was also starting to make me queasy. I am not exaggerating. Here he was, saving $50 every week, frustrated with himself that it wasn't accumulating faster (because man, have we been ready to be engaged for a while) and desperate to get me what I "deserved," to prove he was a man, while I'm sitting over here writing out checks to pay for my credit card debt, college loan debt, and budgeting like crazy because car payments start in June.


And so I inevitably discovered moissanite. I still kind of dig the idea of moissanite. A stone that only exists naturally on meteors? How freaking cool is that? Most moissanite jewelry, of course, is created in a lab, but that was ok - less environmental impact, and at least I could be sure no violence tainted it's history.
Round Moissanite Petite Milgrain Wedding Set, 0.25ct
This was the set (engagement ring and wedding band) that I had decided on (truly, boyfriend, this is the last time I'll change my mind, I swear!!). In yellow gold, of course. At last! Something that wouldn't break the bank! The entire set was less than $1,000! I didn't have to feel sick at the thought of spending a stupid amount of money on a teeny tiny trinket that I was slowly coming to realize I didn't NEED.

Then one day, I was browsing the mother of WIC sites. And I found this.

And just like that, all the brainwashing broke through the barriers I had been slowly, painfully erecting. It stole my breath. I showed my boyfriend: it was perfect. It was beyond perfect. It was so beyond perfect, there was no way to articulate it. I inquired from the designer if it came in yellow gold, and oh gods be good, it did. The setting itself - not including the center stone - also starts at around $4,000.

I told my boyfriend. His face fell. It was far above and beyond what he could afford. And I was disappointed. I was crushed. This was IT. IT was PERFECT. It was me, and it should be mine. I sulked for maybe ten minutes, and then I snapped out of it.


I am not ok with being disappointed that my boyfriend can't afford a ring whose payment would nearly clear my credit card debt, whose payment would put a significant dent in my student loans, whose payment would cover almost a full year of car payments.

And if that isn't perspective, I'm not sure what is.

I wanted to spend under $100. We compromised, and I adore my ring. It's perfect, because it's utterly me.

It's a yellow gold, matte finish bezel set London Blue Topaz. Because I spent about a day and a half looking into sapphires - they are one of the original precious gems - and I loved their symbolism: Sapphire is the original "true blue," symbolizing honesty, fidelity, and the soul. When I discovered they were nearly as prohibitive as diamonds, I researched other blue gems - because why not? - and rediscovered London blue topazes. Then I went straight to Etsy, because I knew I wanted recycled gold and handmade, and wanted to support someone who was doing what they loved.

Because isn't that really what it's all about? It makes me smile every time I see it, it sparkles like crazy every time it catches the light, and I love that it's utterly personal. No one (at least, more than likely, no one I know) will have this ring, and you can't find it in stores. While it may not be right for some people, it's perfect for me. For us. Because we embody the true blue spirit, we practice honesty and fidelity every day, and shortly after I met him, I told him that I thought we were kindred spirits. I wanted to say we were soul mates, but I had a different boyfriend at the time, and the notion was too romantic. But...everything, in the end, fits snugly where it's supposed to.

1 comment:

  1. The engagement ring you ended up with is absolutely beautiful! I can understand your reticence about diamonds though. I prefer to look past the commercialism, and think of how diamonds engagement rings represent tradition, timelessness and stability. Since diamonds are the hardest gems, they symbolize strength and sturdiness in marriage. That’s why I think diamond engagement rings are beautiful. Still, we have our own interpretations of things. What’s important is that you have a ring that makes you truly happy.

    ~ Bridget Rossi