How much is that sparkle worth?

Just last weekend I was joyfully bouncing from one jewelry store to the next in search of the perfect engagement ring. Now let me preface this by saying I have never been one to covet those big, shiny rocks. But as my eyes grazed the counters full of sparkly diamonds, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment.

There are many factors to take into consideration and it’s important to recognize these before you walk into the jewelry store and begin fawning over everything that sparkles. Trust me, those sparkles can cloud your judgment. All of the sudden you may find yourself attempting to justify a purchase you can’t afford to make based on factors that by all intents and purposes are completely false.

Luckily (for my boyfriend), I like to obsessively research every viable option when it comes to any big decision. The most surprising findings I came across in my research on diamonds were actually focused on the stone’s lack of value. It sounds ridiculous, right? But the next time you are drooling in the window of the fancy jewelry store, keep some of the following information in mind.

  • You have been conditioned to drool! We have all been the victims of a marketing scheme developed by the company that owns the biggest diamond cartel operation in the world. When De Beers coined the phrase “A diamond is forever”, the perfect advertising scheme was born. The decades-long ad campaign has been wildly successful at tapping into the American psyche and teaching us to always associate love with diamonds. 
  • Good luck re-selling that diamond. Diamonds lack a real, intrinsic value. Unlike precious metals, the value of diamonds is prominently driven by demand (which is created by the decades-old marketing schemes), rather than rarity, the buyer determines the price. And boy is that price inflated! So if you are justifying the purchase of that big, shiny rock on investment purposes, you may end up being disappointed.
  • There are alternatives. While there can be downsides to any mined gemstone, there are alternatives to consider when looking for a ring. After all, the current most popular engagement ring in the world isn’t even a diamond! Of course I’m referring to Kate Middleton’s stunning sapphire, which was a family heirloom once worn by Princess Diana. There are multiple frugal options when it comes to choosing a stone. You could also tap into the family jewelry chest. Ask if there’s a stone or ring that your mom, grandmother or great aunt would be willing to part with.

Ultimately, the value of your ring is going to be determined by the love you share with the person who gives it to you. Whether it’s the Hope Diamond or a diamond-alternative, the quality and longevity of your relationship will not (and should not) be determined by the price of the ring on your finger.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

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  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.