8 Reasons You Should Never Buy an Engagement Ring

It’s difficult to arouse much sympathy when conservatives argue that allowing same-sex marriage deviates from the tradition. Some traditions are bad, and we ought to change them. Marriage, in particular, has undergone extensive changes in recent history, even in addition to the progress we have seen for LGBT couples.

Women in the 19th century were unable to buy or sell property of their own right; many compared their plight to that of the slaves. And though the formal elements of the tradition have improved for women, full social and economic equality of the genders remains elusive.

With that in mind, I propose an additional change to our marital cushions: let’s end the practice of buying expensive engagement rings. As a gay man, I don’t foresee my involvement in this custom as very likely, and perhaps some will see that as reason to discount my opinion. But sometimes outsiders can see what insiders do not. Consider what follows:

1. Diamond markets and mines are sites of terrible human rights abuses. 

This is actually pretty well known, so much so that it was the premise of a popular movie in 2006. Blood Diamond focused on the diamonds mined in conflict zones, the profits of which support military leaders and finance wars.

We also know that mining companies have used police and private security firms to assault and abuse unlicensed miners in their fields. Some diamonds are marketed as “conflict-free,” but it’s difficult to verify these claims. Even if we could, purchasing these diamonds would still contribute the the global demand that sets the stage for the violation of human rights.

Interestingly, new technologies allow for the production of artificial diamonds. Though less expensive than natural diamonds, they are by no means cheap.

2. Engagement rings are very expensive. 

This is obvious, but it needs to be said. There is no sense in financing a single piece of jewelry before starting your life with someone, or wasting the money if you have it.

If you feel the need to spend a large amount of money to celebrate your engagement, consider giving a large donation to an exceptional charity. Put a down payment on a house. Squirrel some money away for retirement (how romantic!) or your children’s college. Heck, buy a curved TV–I’m sure you’ll use it a lot. Don’t buy a shiny rock.

3. No, a diamond is not a valuable investment.

Even if there was a good chance your ring would increase in value, you know what would still be a better investment? Actually investing your money.

4. Engagement rings a symbols of status and class. 

They are a quintessential example of conspicuous consumption, a purchase which serves only to show off the buyer’s wealth. Of course, most people don’t think of it this way, they think of it as a way of expressing their love.

But there are other ways to show love that are more creative, personal and sincere. And plenty of these methods don’t rely on demonstrating our superiority over others, implicitly or not.

5. Since the tradition is for men to give women engagement rings, the tradition reinforces the notion that men ought to have economic advantage over women. 

When a man gives a woman a ring, on which he is supposed to have spent one to three months (!) salary, the implicit message is that he can afford to take care of her. Though this might be nice in some senses, most people I know want a marriage built on mutuality and companionship rather than financial ascendancy. This aspect of the tradition harkens back to the bad old days of 19th century marriage.

If you’re suspicious of this point, consider the fact that early in the 20th century jewelers tried to market engagement rings for men, but that idea never really caught on.

6. Expensive gifts are emotionally manipulative at the moment of a life-changing decision. 

If we want marriage to be a joint project of equal partners, why should it begin with one of them spending a large chunk of cash on a historically fraught symbol? This might induce extra guilt if the answer is “no” or pressure to say “yes.” To my mind, making such a big decision because someone bought a ring or “popped the question” as a surprise is unwise.

When make important decisions in our lives, they should involve long, thoughtful discussions and consideration of the pros and cons. A conversation, rather than a proposition and a gift, should be the precursor to engagement.

7. The history of De Beers and the diamond trade is full of corruption and monopolistic business practice. 

It makes for fascinating history, but there’s no need to play a part in the bizarre and dubious legacy of Cecil Rhodes and British colonialism.

8. “A diamond is forever” is a lie. 

A terrible, terrible lie.

Perhaps you’re thinking “Who are you to tell me not to get an engagement ring?” That’s a good point, I’m just some guy with an opinion.

But it’s good to remember that the only reason anyone gets a fancy diamond engagement ring is because the idea was sold to us by people looking to make a profit. If you don’t like people telling you what to do, why would you listen to them instead of me?

Photo Credit: Seth Lemmons


Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

An engagement ring does not have to be a diamond or expensive. It could be any ring or any stone.

Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Sign my petition to end workplace sexual harassment in Ghana!


Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

The J.
Vikram S3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Why not pass them down through the family? My daughter recently got engaged and she is now recycling my mum's engagement ring.

Alvin King
Alvin King3 years ago

Thanks for posting.

mac c.
mac C3 years ago

I agree with the points made. I do however believe people who get engaged can have some frivolous fun and maybe both get a ring that isn't traditional and doesn't cost as much as a diamond would. Thank you for posting.