Would You Marry Someone Who Didn’t Buy You a Diamond?

Brian M. Williams, JD
6 min readMar 14, 2022
Photo by Alba Rebecca on Unsplash

This summer I proposed to my girlfriend in a beautiful, secluded spot in the Ronda, Spain, a place where “The entire town and as far as you can see in any direction is romantic background…”, according to Earnest Hemmingway. We went on a daytime hike around the base of the town’s famous massive stone bridge. Despite me briefly becoming an awkward, nervous mess in the minutes leading to me dropping to one knee to pop the question, everything went off without a hitch.

As traditional as this might all sound, I didn’t have a ring when I proposed. Knowing my fiancee, I banked on this not being an issue. The idea of an engagement ring itself, we’re both fine with. We get and appreciate the symbolism of it. It’s really just the natural diamond aspect that we both took issue with. As it turns out, however, once you aren’t constrained by the tradition of diamonds, the options for rings quickly become overwhelming. I knew I would need her input to make the right selection and decided to propose without one.

I do not have anything against people who like this tradition or who have practiced it, including my parents, my sister, and countless close friends. And I get that this is viewed by many people as something truly and deeply traditional, but that’s where my issues with diamond engagement rings begins. The mostly American practice of using a diamond engagement ring to ask someone to marry them isn’t traditional at all. What it is is a commercially manufactured practice.

Prior to 1938, it was an occasional occurrence that someone would use a ring of any kind to ask someone to marry them. That all changed when the De Beers diamond company, in an attempt to reverse the falling market value of diamonds, came up with the idea of associating the rock with love. The “Diamonds Are Forever” campaign (perhaps you’ve heard of it) targeted both men and women and De Beers was able to make the diamond be seen as the only way to conclude a successful courtship.

Diamonds quickly became a “necessary luxury,” according to the trailblazing woman who thought up the marketing campaign, and a new societal standard that quickly took on the illusion of a cultural tradition was born. These ads have since been called the “greatest marketing campaign of all time.” Add to this the fact that…

Brian M. Williams, JD

Writer, Traveler, Educator, Mardi Gras DJ with a JD. Author of “Stranger in a Stranger Land: My Six Years in Korea” and “When a Stolen Child Returns.”