When my mother died, my father gave me her engagement ring, largely in the hopes that I might one day pass it on to another woman. Sure enough, a few years later, when I proposed to my wife, the diamond that I gave her was the one that my father had given me.
This isn't to say that I just passed the ring on; in fact, I spent about a month working with a jeweler friend and a goldsmith. Ultimately, the three of us created a truly distinctive ring that said a great deal about my wife, myself, and the family that we eventually formed.
If I hadn't gotten my mother's ring, I don't think that I would have given my wife a diamond. To begin with, buying a new diamond would have more than doubled the cost of the ring. Beyond that, however, I'm not sure how I feel about diamonds; apart from the human misery that is attached to their mining and distribution, there is the fact that the damned things just aren't that beautiful. Given a choice, I'd pick a sapphire, tourmaline, ruby, garnet, or even a helenite over the more traditional chunk of carbon.
And then there's the expense...
Still, regardless of the cost or the state of the economy, jewelry remains one of the best expressions of love and commitment that a man can make. One way to give your beloved the thrill of gems without the cost of diamonds is by exploring less expensive minerals. In the past, I've suggested a few gems that cost less than diamonds, but are no less beautiful. Many of these are available on eBay in a variety of styles and settings for very reasonable prices. If you're looking to give a one-of-a-kind gift, you might try buying a loose gem and working with a jeweler to design the perfect setting.
If your beloved requires a diamond and nothing else will do, you might try going to a pawnshop, consignment store, or Ex-Boyfriend Jewelry. Some people would argue that a "used" diamond means less, carries bad associations, or is otherwise flawed. I would reply that we're talking about a piece of carbon that was mined under circumstances that border on slavery, sold by an international conglomerate, and promoted with an advertising program that make the brainwashing scene in A Clockwork Orange look subtle. The fact that it was once on someone else's finger is the least of the bad karma that is attached to the thing.
Another critique of jewelry is the fact that most mining is environmentally destructive. For this reason, GreenKarat offers jewelry made from what they call "recycled gold." Unlike Ex-Boyfriend Jewelry, Green Karat's offerings are new pieces that have never been worn by another person. However, they are constructed from older jewelry that has been melted down and re-molded. The jewels are either synthetic or provided by the consumer, which means that they don't support the diamond trade. Finally, the designs are beautiful and the prices are very reasonable.
As I am preparing for my wife's birthday, I'm reminded that recessions don't mean that romance is dead. With these options, it's possible to send love without worrying about bankruptcy!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He hates, hates, hates the diamond trade!
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