There is an interesting summary over at alternet about the rustic and complicated politics behind the gifting of jewellry. Essentailly, the gifting of jewellry is fraught with sterotypical notions that reinforce traditional power relationships between men and women. What does it all come down to? Men are stupid and desparate and women are endlessly manipulative. Men are told through adds that they still have to buy sex, and women are told they are only desired if they recieve a worthy bauble.
Indeed, the workplace ritual of a newly engaged women “showing off” her engagment ring is also a time of judegment. Did he get her a big enough ring, is it pretty enough? How does it compare to the others. I see it after Christmas as well. I can’t count how many times I have been asked if I plan to “upgrade” my little chip. The history of the diamond engagment ring is largely a lesson in marketing when DeBeers launched their, ” A diamond is forever” campaign in the 1940’s. Within three years of that campaign launch 80 percent of American marriages were starting with a diamond ring. Never mind that diamonds have frequently been harvested through slavery and used to fund conflict. The diamond industry is hyper sensitive about this and claims here that most diamonds on the market today are conflict free. However, if you buy online at Amazon it isn’t easy to get a straight answer about the source.
Diamonds became more accessible for ordinary people and DeBeers conveniently controlled a large portion of the market. Women learned they should covet diamonds. I work with many a young woman who is waiting to get engaged until their intended can “save” enough for an appropriate rock.