I recently discovered to my great surprise that the average amount couples spend on an engagement ring has risen up above $6000! Maybe it’s because we own a cubic zirconia jewelry business and I’m accustomed to high quality jewelry at much more affordable prices, or maybe it’s because we are in the stage of our lives where we’ve got kids in college, aging parents, and concerns like health care and a mortgage, but I cannot imagine couples, especially young couples, spending $6000 on a single ring, no matter how significant the occasion.
We’ve all heard the “months rule” that you should spend two or three month’s salary on an engagement ring. But how many of us realize just where this “rule” comes from? A recent BBC article outlined the origins of this idea. In the 1930s the giving a diamond engagement ring wasn’t common. In fact, not many newly engaged couples even exchanged a ring, but for those that did, less than 10% of those rings were set with diamonds. In an effort to increase sales the DeBeers diamond cartel launched the hugely successful A Diamond Is Forever ad campaign. At the start of the campaign DeBeers encouraged men to spend one months salary on a ring, but by the 1980’s DeBeers, who by then controlled 90% of the diamond market, had increased the recommended amount to three months salary. The great achievement of the campaign was that it not only solidified the idea that a mined diamond was a necessary step in the engagement process, it also dictated how much a man needed to spend. By the late 20th century, a diamond engagement ring was inextricably linked to getting married. The success of the campaign led to similar ones in Great Britain (one months salary), Japan (three months salary), and most recently China and India (three months salary), both countries that don’t traditionally exchange engagement rings.
DeBeers dominance of the diamond industry peaked in the latter part of the 20th century. Per an article on Kitco.com, the discovery of diamond mines in Russia, Australia, and Canada made it difficult for DeBeers to maintain their monopoly. Anti-Apartheid legislation restricted Russia from doing business with DeBeers, a South African company, further eroding the syndicate’s power. DeBeers’ stranglehold depended heavily on their ability to control the global market, and world class mines began bypassing DeBeers to sell their diamonds directly, undercutting DeBeers authority and financial strength. In 2012 DeBeers lost a law suit alleging that they “unlawfully monopolized the supply of diamonds, conspired to fix, raise, and control diamond prices, and issued false and misleading advertising.” DeBeers paid out $295 million dollars and promised “to refrain from engaging in certain conduct that violates federal and state antitrust laws.” DeBeers’ share of the diamond industry dropped to about 60%, which is still sizable, though greatly diminished from it’s heyday.
So what does all this mean for you, the consumer? Despite DeBeers’ industry decline, diamond prices remain high. The cost of an engagement ring increases every year. And while popular engagement web sites say the “two or three months salary rule” is dead, sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram, where engagement ring pictures are beautiful and profuse, give evidence to the contrary. The Knot.com suggests, “spend what you can comfortably afford” and I like that advice. Independent jewelers are offering more diamond alternative engagement ring options than ever before. Some suggest pearls, sapphires, or rubies as potentially less expensive diamond substitutes. Others advocate for colored gemstones like blue topaz or garnet, or semi-precious stones such as morganite or labradorite. There are more man-made options available as well. Moissanite and other lab-created gems are widely available but, although less expensive that mined diamonds, can still be pricey.
I couldn’t help but notice that cubic zirconias were missing from the list of alternative stone options for engagement rings. It puzzles me that prominent wedding blogs continue to ignore what my family has long known to be true: Each year many, many couples chose cubic zirconia rings to celebrate their engagement. I’m not talking about the obviously fake, middle-of-the-mall jewelry the mined diamond industry would have you believe represents our products. We are a second generation family owned and operated business. Our newest jeweler has worked with our company for over a decade! Each piece is hand crafted by master goldsmiths in the United States, using only the highest quality settings and hand cut and polished cubic zirconias. This jewelry is meant to last a lifetime, and it does! With 54 years of cz jewelry experience and an unwavering commitment to the highest craftsmanship, Orleans Jewels offers engagement jewelry that throws the “two or three months salary rule” out the window. We are proud that most of our clients spend a week or two of their monthly salary on their Orleans Jewels engagement ring. While wedding blogs and social media influencers may not be mentioning cubic zirconia jewelry as an alternative to mined diamonds, our customers are certainly aware of the beauty, durability, and affordability of our engagement rings. If you are considering a cubic zirconia engagement ring, give us a call. We’ll happily answer your questions, and send you additional images or price quotes. Rather than spending three months salary on a ring, you could spend three months salary on starting your life together!