My engagement ring is not a Tiffany's diamond solitaire. That was not me. Budget aside, Michael would never have picked out something in a jewelry store case and walked away. I told him I wanted an emerald and being the modern couple we are, we shopped together. We picked out the perfect loose stone together. A round cut, natural emerald from South America. It was just the right shade and imperfectly perfect.
When I showed co-workers the kind of ring I wanted they were shocked. "Don't you want a diamond?!?" Well, there will be smallish diamonds flanking the emerald I'd explain, but they would still looked at me like I had two heads. Beyond a few comments from people who didn't know me well I didn't get a lot of heat on the ring choice. Some of my other choices, like my move across the country live with Mike and his preschool age son caused a stir. There was talk about how long we had been together and "engaged" without a ring, for sure. Once I had the ring nobody complained.
I didn't think it mattered that much when I got it or what it looked like. I wanted a tangible symbol of the promise, but I had time. I had lots of patience until I had a baby. Once I was his soul mate, co-parent, girlfriend, room mate AND the mother of his child I needed the ring. Whether it was social pressure to be perceived a certain way or do things the "right way" or just validation and reassurance that I needed, I needed the ring now.
By the time Riley was 3mo old I was not so subtly hinting that I wanted the ring. If it were truly a pure symbol of commitment I shouldn't have needed it so badly, I knew Mike wasn't going anywhere. If it were purely a tangible sign of commitment why would anyone care whether it was a diamond or not? The idea of having diamond engagement rings came from a De Beers ad campaign in 1938. I don't know about you, but when I hear stuff like that I feel like a huge tool. Capitalism has it's claws pretty deep in a lot of wedding "tradition."
In Offbeat Bride the author points out that while the ring is a symbol of commitment on the surface it's also a status symbol. I know I heard at least one "Can't he afford a diamond?" comment. Is that the purpose of an engagement ring? To prove your future spouse is flush (or foolish enough to go into debt to make everyone think so). I know when I visited my dad after the official proposal (not making this up) he got out a jeweler's loop. My ring however unconventional, passed inspection.
Bottom line, why shouldn't we pick any stone, metal, material that means something to us? It represents an incredibly intimate and personal promise. It's ridiculous to expect the tangible manifestation of that promise to always look the same. All politics aside I think diamonds are pretty, but there is such a spectrum of beauty out there. Follow your heart and as an added bonus say damn the man to the diamond corporations.