By Shaghayegh Gh
What is ‘I do’ without a wedding ring?
Dating back to Ancient Egypt and Rome, wedding rings have historically been associated with dowry and fidelity. From the earlier gimmel rings to the romantic poesy rings, there is no doubt that wedding bands symbolize love, marriage, and arguably no couple is complete without them. However, in a more modern society where millennials are more concerned about paying off student loans, it can be understood that wedding rings are beginning to lose their lustre and shine – figuratively, of course. According to a survey by TD Ameritrade, around two-thirds of young Americans refuse to spend more than $2,500 on a wedding ring, which is less than half of the cost of the average engagement ring (marketed at $5,680) – and it doesn’t help that most Americans plan to pay for their own weddings. A wedding ring may be a financial burden, not a symbol of love. Taking all this into regard, can it be said that the wedding ring has lost its charm?
Not quite. In an interview with Tiffany CEO Alessandro Bogliolo, he argues that modern relationships are much different from Boomer or Gen X relationships. He states that buying a diamond ring is still a ritual of love, just done differently which helps maintain its tradition.
“It’s true millennials don’t buy diamonds the way other generations did. It’s not true that they don’t buy diamonds.”
Another issue many millennials are socially aware towards is the unethical diamond mining industry, which has a history of using slave labour and other cruel practices for mining diamonds, poetically referred to as ‘Blood Diamonds’ by Time Magazine. Boglio understands this issue, and thus Tiffany tells consumers the truth behind where their diamond rings are sourced from, believing that sustainability and transparency is important. Boglio seems to have understood the millennial struggle: financial independence and ethicality in shopping.
Many millennials have also found a loophole behind expensive wedding rings: enter, laboratory grown diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds grown in a lab, which takes approximately 2 weeks, and cost one-third less than real diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are also ethically sourced and can only be distinguished from the real thing by an expert. Taking this into concern, it can be argued that millennials do still want to participate in the beautiful ritual of engagement rings and wedding bands, just without the financial burden on their already existent debts.
Are you as surprised as I am? You would think in a modern society where most women reclaim equality and independence, wedding rings would have been dismissed as a symbol of possession and sexism. However, in an interesting turn of events, research shows millennials are keen on keeping the tradition of wedding bands alive, just in more unconventional, modern ways. In the 21st century, there has also been a rise in ‘promise rings’, which are meant to promise marriage or fidelity before marriage itself. Promise rings tend to be less expensive, with prices in Pandora starting from $50 up to $200, and they are more popular among older Gen Z youth, college and high school students who don’t earn much but are still eager to prove their love to their partners. Although wedding rings have been distastefully linked to possessiveness and a lack of freedom, it can be argued they are more so symbols of a love that will continue to grow. Wedding rings are also continued in family traditions, with most women receiving the wedding rings of their mothers-in-law, most notably Kate Middleton who was gifted Princess Diana’s ring. This sweet tradition can help to better bonds between in-laws and they allow for tradition to pass through generations. In a creative twist, many millennials are tattooing their significant other’s initials or names on their ring fingers, which allows the flexibility of saving money on a wedding ring and still having the same ritual existing between the couple, notably done by Stephen Curry who was unable to wear his wedding ring during basketball games and thus tattooed his wife’s initials. Another unique component of a wedding ring is their simplicity: one often forgets they are even wearing a ring after wearing it for a while, yet the symbol of love and adoration towards their partner remains loyal on their hand. Because after all, isn’t elegance forgetting what one is wearing?