Concerning Diamonds, on Valentine’s Day

As something of a Valentine’s Day-themed post, I’d like to discuss diamonds a bit. There’s an article floating around titled Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? It’s appeared on a lot of “best essays” lists, and for good reason. It summarizes this history of the diamond cartel, how popular perception of diamonds was altered to make them more desirable, and how they became entrenched in the public imagination.

Diamonds as a whole are repugnant to me. The immediate problem with them is the human misery that’s required to obtain them. On top of that, there’s the fact that they’re jewelry which happens to be very expensive. Jewelry itself is something I really don’t understand. And it seems so foolish to spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on jewelry which serves no purpose. The worst part is that the money is just flushed down the drain.

It’s crazy that diamonds have become a necessary part of the marriage process, where men are afraid to suggest an alternative to their girlfriends, as though not indulging in diamonds would be the reason a couple decides not to spend the rest of their lives together. I could see making a sacrifice to demonstrate love. That’s romantic. But when it’s a monetary sacrifice, it’s ultimately a sacrifice both partners are making. It’s money that would demonstrably improve the financial security of a married couple, and as such could be spent on myriad things which have some tangible return.

On the other hand I do think synthetic diamonds are pretty cool. They’re cheap, indistinguishable from the real thing (except possibly purer), have numerous practical applications, and to me they represent the fact that science and engineering can improve the world. No one was harmed to make them. Also cool are titanium bands.

There are other Valentine’s Day-related rituals that confuse me. For instance, high heels. I understand they make a woman’s leg more attractive. But they don’t look very comfortable. I can even represent high heels vs non-high heels mathematically!

Attractiveness of Wearing High Heels = Delta of Leg Attractiveness
Attractiveness of Not Wearing High Heels = Attractiveness of Deciding Not to Endure Pain for Fashion + Attractiveness of Not Giving a Fuck What is Typical + Clothing Suitable for Zombie Apocalypse + Frugality Bonus

To me, it’s obvious which of these is more appealing. But maybe that’s just the engineer/INTJ in me speaking.

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  1. Shawn Isaacs

     /  February 15, 2012

    A few years ago I was in a small town jewelry store with a co-worker picking out an item for my wife. She went with me because she knew the proprietor. He was a genuine salesman. While I was browsing, she was trying on some gaudy oversized piece. I heard him say “WHat a FABULOUS display of wealth and POWER that is C____!!” It instantly sickened me but led me to think about what you describe above. I always knew such “heirlooms” were useless but its much worse than that.

  2. Olivia

     /  February 15, 2012

    Tungsten Carbide is a very cool metal for wedding bands. Well under $100 and near indestructable. It will look brand new after a year of daily wear. The downside is if your finger starts swelling, well, it’s virtually indestructable, so there are some risks there.

  3. Matt

     /  February 15, 2012

    This reminds me of the passage from Fountainhead where Gail Wynand gives Dominique a diamond necklace. He revels in the belief that he has transformed the dollars the public spends on the muck and mire printed in his newspapers into such a beautiful creation. Forging ignorance into art, if you will.

    I think the display of wealth is a useful and unavoidable dynamic in human culture (early retirement is often seen as this), but many people fall prey to displays they cannot afford, or as you pointed out, cause a net loss of dignity.


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