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Say Yes to Engagement Rings

Jan 11, 2018 10:51 AM   By Sonia Esther Soltani
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 Businessman Kevin O’Leary has sound advice for people who are about to get married: Don’t get into debt. So far, so sensible. Except he is also recommending they skip the engagement ring, blaming our industry in the process as the “people trying to figure out how to extract money from you.”

In an interview with CNBC Make It, he singles out the wedding ring retailers who, in his opinion, incite consumers to squander their bucks unreasonably.

“I know it sounds romantic to spend a lot of money — it’s crazy to do that,” he says. Instead, he suggests, couples should invest that money in more lucrative things, such as the stock market.

And because he has a reputation as sharp businessman — he wouldn’t appear on Shark Tank otherwise, and his financial successes are undeniable — he sounds like a man one should listen to.

So when he declares that “diamond rings are really expensive, and they don’t produce any dividends or any interest,” what is a consumer supposed to think? And how do we in the industry respond to our detractors?

Interestingly, when O’Leary proposed to his wife-to-be, he gave her a tiny diamond without a setting, one he got at a large discount from a wholesaler. But then, for their 25th anniversary, he offered her a 5.50-carat diamond ring. So surely O’Leary is not unaware of the power of diamonds to express eternal love. And there’s no denying that a sparkler will win a woman more “wows” from her girlfriends than would a stock portfolio.

But let’s go back to the “really expensive” argument. We all know not every man about to propose spends $2 million on an engagement ring the way Chris Zylka recently did for Paris Hilton. Of course, that pear-shaped, 20-carat ring by Greene & Co. International (pictured above) is superb and shines a spotlight on diamonds as the star gemstone for bridal jewelry.

Even in the non-celebrity, non-hotel-heiress world, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that most men will spend more money on the woman they love than on a new iPhone. The role of jewelers is to help them make the right choices — including for their budgets. Designers have come up with so many refined ways to create the illusion of a big stone for those couples who don’t have the means to spend two months’ salary but still want a ring that makes a statement.

Far from advocating a challenging, debt-ridden future, we believe a ring is one expense for which using a credit card or even borrowing some money seems justified. If I had a son about to pop the question, I’d tell him to spend more on the bling and less on the flowers, gold-laminated invitations and other dispensable gimmicks modern weddings include.

Long after the installments have been paid off, the smile on a woman’s face when she remembers the proposal — the surprise of discovering the ring, or the joint purchase — will remain. As will, of course, the diamond itself.

There are a lot of supposedly wise people who feel they can attack our industry and undermine our livelihood. Because diamonds are considered a luxury — as they should be — they are also considered expendable.

In the end, the consumers are the ones who will decide. Their level of engagement with diamond jewelry depends on how we present ourselves as an industry and how aspirational and ethical we continue to make diamonds. Whether the client is Mrs. O’Leary, Miss Hilton or any other woman who loves diamonds, our role is to make sure every person purchasing a diamond ring sees it as an emotional and financially sensible investment — one that means so much more than its price tag.

Picture: Courtesy Greene & Co. 
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