There is no doubt that buying rings can be stressful. So I give you the five stages of buying rings.
Stage 1: Sticker shock.
So there’s this completely arbitrary rule floating out in the universe that you should spend three months salary on a woman’s engagement ring. Now setting aside the question of whether or not that means before or after taxes, that’s a lot of flippin’ money to spend on a ring! I don’t mean to belittle people who spend that kind of money or who want a large size stone, but when you’re talking about spending three months of salary on a ring twice it can give you ulcers. Just to really paint the picture for you that would have been almost ten grand for just my ring, and then you have to wear it! Everyday! I would be walking around town with almost 10 K on my finger! I couldn’t do it, and Jen couldn’t do it.
We also found a three stone design for a ring that we really loved for a wedding band. The very nature of this ring would curse it to be a more expensive ring. We talked about it and decided that we really liked spending the money and effort on the wedding ring. The engagement ring was important to us, but the wedding ring is the ring that represents the promise of a life built and shared. It made much more sense to us to put our money into those rings. (Again let me say that this is what was right for us, not a mandate for what everyone should do)
Stage 2: Blood diamond guilt.
For those of you who don’t know about blood diamonds (also called conflict diamonds) they are stones where the proceeds go to fund war operations in various countries (mostly in Africa). Thus the name blood diamonds. I’d never given much thought to blood diamonds, but as I was preparing to have jewelry that I would wear everyday it started poping up in my mind. How was I going to know if I was looking at blood diamonds? It’s not like they show up at the store with a big sign that says “hey I helped kill a poor old farmer and his family”. I found a couple of things helpful in educating myself. There is a thing called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. The KPCS was set up in 2003 to help prevent conflict diamonds from entering into the international diamond trade. How well it works is (like most things) up for debate. If you assume that it works you can visit the site Diamond Facts. They have a list of countries that participate in the KPCS and give you some information about what to ask jewelers when buying diamonds. Any jeweler that is operating within the KPCS should have documentation for every stone in their store that they can show you. Also major jewelers should have their conflict diamond policy on their website.
Stage 3: Blood diamond guilt burnout.
If I were to believe everything I found on the internet my conclusion would be that every jeweler is a liar and no one has conflict free diamonds. There’s contradictory information everywhere! If I walk into Jared’s (where we bought our engagement rings) and ask to see their KPCS documents for the ring of my dreams there are twelve people out there who say they have proved that these documents mean nothing. So short of mining the diamond myself what was I going to do?! I finally realized that I was going to have to close my internet browser, take a deep breath, and make a decision all on my own. That was the only way to make a decision that I could live with.
Stage 4: Buy locally or you’re destroying the world.
Boston, like many cities, is an environment of buying local. One of the things Jen and I really wanted to do was buy rings from a local jeweler. When it came to the engagement ring part of this process we found that to be really difficult. We could get the rings custom made or spend close to a grand.
Stage 5: Making a choice that doesn’t give you nightmares.
Yes, we bought our engagement rings from Jared’s. We wanted small rings under $500 each. Jared has a conflict diamond policy and participates in the KPCS. Our stones are roughly around .01 carats, so most of our money was going towards the gold and not the stone. And we actually had a really wonderful experience in the store. The first time we went into a Jared’s, we told the sales man that we were looking for engagement rings and he asked us when our wedding was (this compared to the woman at David’s Bridal who remarked on what a coincidence it was that we were getting married at the same time). We also didn’t feel any pressure to buy something bigger than we wanted. It was a very pleasant experience. And when they had rings that both Jen and I liked we went for it.
Now to balance the scales a little bit we went a very different route for our wedding rings. As I mentioned we had found a design that we really liked. But it was a bigger carat count and would be more expensive. Jen’s mother very graciously offered us stones from Jen’s grandmother’s jewelry. Now these stones would have been mined and purchased long before anyone was paying attention to the devious things going on in the diamond trade, so I have no doubt that they are probably conflict diamonds. The other thing I have no doubt of is that no one new would die for our wedding bands. The deed may have already been done, but I wouldn’t be paying for it anew. Apart from mining the stones myself this was the best way to make sure that our rings weren’t doing new damage to the world. And a bonus was that they were already cleaned and polished, giving these stones a green edge that the self-mined stones wouldn’t have had.
Next we took the stones to a local jeweler and worked with them to custom design our rings. So for the rings that were going to mean more to us, we had stones that were as conflict free as we could confidently get, and we were buying local.
Before I sign off today, let me give you some advice on the process of having a ring custom made. Every jeweler we spoke to gave us an estimate of six to eight weeks for ring construction. Know whether or not you want fourteen or eighteen carat gold. The eighteen carat gold will be more expensive. And like all vendors, if you don’t feel 100% comfortable with the person you are speaking with, find someone else. The jeweler we ended up going with was excited by our design, quoted within our budget, and got our rings done four weeks early. That’s right, they quoted us six to eight weeks and got it done in two. Trust you’re instincts with vendors, and make sure they are someone you can trust.