You have been dating your partner for three years. Conversations about a future with each other have been brought up and discussed more times than you can count. You’ve only been looking at engagement rings every day for the past year. You live together, know each other’s family and friends, you even have a DOG together. But, one thing is missing. Where’s the ring? One day, you are out to dinner together, and you are sure this is it. They are talking about how much they love you, how much they care about you, and how they can’t wait to spend the rest of your lives together. This is it! This is the moment! They kneel down, they propose.
You say yes, wailing with tears and trying to hide your ugly crying face. You pop out your hand, waiting for the cold feeling of a diamond-encrusted ring to slide up your ring finger. Except…the feeling never comes. Your wails stop. You open your eyes to see your partner gleaming back at you, diving back into their vodka sauce pasta.
Your partner looks at you, mouth full of pasta, and exclaims, “oh, you expected a ring, didn’t you?”
You nod, your mouth wide open and gaping. They let out a little chuckle and say, “you don’t really want one. Do you even know about the dark history behind engagement rings?” You shake your head.
This didn’t go as planned.
The fact of the matter is, for women and some minorities, engagement rings have a dark origin that many might not know about. What is supposed to symbolize the love between two souls might not be as simple as you think.
Engagement rings can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt, where circles symbolized eternity and couples exchanged circular reeds on their left ring finger. Similar to what we do today, they were placed on the left ring finger as it is believed there is a vein in the left finger that leads directly to the heart.
In Ancient Rome, this is where it gets a little dark as the marriage between a man and a woman was seen more as a business transaction between the husband and the wife’s father.
Only women were forced to wear rings, made of ivory and iron, to show their obedience to their husbands.
In other words, a woman wearing a ring was supposed to assert the husband’s dominance over other men and prove ownership to their wife.
Trouble didn’t end when diamond rings were brought into the fold.
The Archduke Maximilian of Austria is said to have been the first person to have proposed with a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Diamonds were only possible for noblemen and royalty to possess because of its value and limited accessibility.
It wasn’t until the 1880s, when diamonds were discovered in South Africa, that the craze began.
The company De Beers Consolidated Mines quickly monopolized diamonds. They spread the message internationally that diamonds were a precious stone that only the most powerful and devoted men could afford and gain access to, making the market easily controllable from their end.
The world became power-hungry for diamonds, and the business has been corrupt ever since.
The diamond industry exploited African Americans and forced them to mine precious gems in hazardous conditions. Minorities were exposed to extreme temperatures and many died from diseases they contracted underground or developed respiratory conditions as time went on.
As diamonds became more popular and South Africa went international with their ad campaigns, the conditions only became more grueling and cruel.
Diamonds are definitely not a girl’s best friend, but you know what is?
Resisting patriarchal ideals that tell women a man owns them.
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