A Diamond is Not Forever Money

Huge diamonds as investments are nonsense:

When you buy a diamond, you buy it at retail, which is a 100 percent to 200 percent markup. If you want to resell it, you have to pay less than wholesale to incent a diamond buyer to risk their own capital on the purchase. Given the large markup, this will mean a substantial loss on your part. The same article puts some numbers around the dilemma:

Because of the steep markup on diamonds, individuals who buy retail and in effect sell wholesale often suffer enormous losses. For example, Brod estimates that a half-carat diamond ring, which might cost $2,000 at a retail jewelry store, could be sold for only $600 at Empire.

Some diamonds are perhaps investment grade, but you probably don’t own one, even if you spent a lot.

So get what you want because you want it, basically, not because you think the kids will be able to hock it someday.

My own engagement ring comes with a story that, as per usual with anything involving Mr. A and I, begins with him being late for lunch.

We had been dating (and working together, and spending all of our time together) for two years the day he asked me to marry him. We’d talked about getting hitched once or twice, but it hadn’t come up in a while. I just wanted to go out for a bit, celebrate the fact that we could still stand each other’s company, and then go to a work meeting we had scheduled that night.

We planned lunch. An hour beforehand, I called him to ask where we were meeting. No answer.

I called back a half hour after that. Nothing. And again, an hour later.

(Today, after ten years of crime reporting, my first thought when he doesn’t return a call is that he is lying murdered in a gutter somewhere. Back then, I just thought he was being an absentminded professor screwup who’d forgotten all about me.)

At 4 p.m., sincerely cheesed off, I finally reached him. He’d been sleeping all day, straight through our lunch date and probably on into the night if I hadn’t been ringing his apartment. Get your ass down here, I snapped, we can at least go get some ice cream or something before this stupid 6 o’clock thing.

He finally arrived at 5:30, out of breath and not as apologetic as I really thought I had a right to expect. I was livid. Did I want to go outside and talk? Yes, by all means, let’s leave the office so I can read you the riot act as you so completely deserve.

We sat down in a courtyard outside our office, under some trees. I’d skipped lunch. I didn’t even really want ice cream at this point.

Have you been happy the last two years, he asked.

Sure, I said, still pissed.

He pulled out a little velvet box.

I’d been telling him for months I didn’t want or need a ring, or care about one at all. If I had six months’ salary saved up I’d blow it on a trip to Europe or, you know, rent and groceries, and not on a stone that would snag all my sweaters and probably wind up down the garbage disposal someday.

Turns out Mr. A had been up all night, having asked my father for my hand in marriage (so much a funnier part of this story if you’ve ever met my family) and then spent until dawn trying to figure out how to ask me, so he slept through the lunch he’d planned. When he woke up, the jeweler’s was closing, and besides, he had no real money for a ring.

He ran in, put all the cash in his pockets on the counter, and asked the poor unfortunate soul working that afternoon what he could get.

Inside the little velvet box was a simple white gold circle, like a wedding band. I said yes, put it on, we kissed and went upstairs to tell our organization’s board of directors that despite our financial reports not all of the day’s news had been bad.

Later, when I showed that ring off to one of my more tactless relatives, she said, “Well, maybe someday he can buy you a diamond.”

Mr. A and I were engaged for a year and a half before we got married, 15 years ago today. The ring he gave me is still my favorite piece of jewelry, and I wouldn’t trade it for the biggest rock ever found in the earth.


11 thoughts on “A Diamond is Not Forever Money

  1. Awesome! One of my college classmates got engaged with a cool (unique, not the same-as-all-the-rest-as-everyone-else-solitaire) estate ring that was unlike anything I’d seen. It meant something to her, like “it wasn’t a king’s ransom, but had more meaning than ANYTHING at Tiffany’s” ring.
    I would be good with a funky old ring that had a story. Or, like I said when I started corresponding with my Boo: I’d sooner the money for a ring (if one is to do such a thing and spend $$$) go for a cool kitchen. I will never get mugged for it, and both of us will benefit from using the kitchen.

  2. What a great engagement.
    So, the person who holds up my sky asked me what kind of ring I’d like. Half a pair, I said, half-seriously. So a few days later at lunch he showed me a pair of identical rings: they’re about a 3/8ths inch wide inside yellow-gold band, with a band about 1/16th inch narrower on the outside, which is white gold all cut in a diamond pattern. Never seen any like them anywhere else.
    24 years later it’s still the prettiest ring I’ve ever seen.

  3. Engagement stories are nearly always sweet. When my father asked my mother to marry him (at the tail end of the Depression), she told him that she wanted no ring, but for him to save up $500 and then she would marry him. He did that and her wedding band had tiny diamonds in two rows, which she wore nearly all her life and which I wear now with my grandmother’s wedding band. I always think of my mother being a hard ass saving queen even at the age of 23 and my father being a spendthrift who managed to make himself save money to win the woman he loved.

  4. Lovely story, A. Here’s our ring story: Mrs. Aaaargh had been married before, and I had been engaged once and tried to get engaged another time, so we pooled all those rings and some other stray jewelry and bought our quite modest engagement and wedding rings out of the proceeds of selling that–symbolically putting the past behind us. It seems to have worked. As the quote indicates, we got virtually nothing for the rocks though—all the value was in the gold of the old rings.

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