October 15, 2007


Highlights of the Day + Al Gore and a Nobel Peace Prize. I know it is old news, but I'm still quite pleased. Karma is a bitch, Mr. Bush! Lowlights - The sun is going down earlier each day. I suppose in my ideal world I'd be packing up for my home in the Southern Hemisphere? - The fact there are not at least 32 hours in a day ;-) My Day as a Song Midlife Crisis - Faith No More Random Thought A group of insanely smart people who have complementary personalities and a great idea can change the world. The rest is just execution... jibber jabber I read that the average engagement ring costs $3500 to $4000. I also re-read the old line that one should spend an average of two months salary on an engagement ring. 17% of your annual salary?! I found an interesting twist on that old line which indicates that one should spend an average of two months of combined salary on an engagement ring. Maybe the modern adaptation was written by a DeBeers. I'm surprised at these numbers only because I think an increasing number of people are crushing the $4000 limit. I increasingly see women wearing the BHD, aka the Big Honking Diamond. These solitaires visually appear to easily top 2 carats, and I swear I've seen more than a few that look to hit the 4ct mark! These put the BH in Big Honking! Ok, let's apply demographic bias to my limited sample. Yes, I live in the Silicon Valley, and my days of hourly wages are long, long gone. The average income in this area is much higher than the national average. But I see BHD almost everywhere I go. Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, you name the city. One could argue that I travel to areas with similar demographic traits as my home, and I struggle to completely avoid that bias. It would be logical to say that the occurrences of BHD increases as household income increases. Two months of combined income is a sliding scale, and at some point it effortlessly buys a BHD. I argue that I see a higher percentage of middle and upper middle class women with BHD than their standard two months of combined income should allow for, but that would be an subjective opinion without more extensive research. My question is: "What drives a couple to purchase and a woman to wear a ring whose value is higher than many compact cars?" I think about a ring on two dimensions, aesthetic and performance: Aesthetic A definition of aesthetic is "concerning or characterized by an appreciation of beauty or good taste". If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then aesthetic could be the personally defined junction of artistic value and good taste. It is in the aesthetic that I find the greatest defense of the BHD. Every once in awhile you see an engagement set that is artistically amazing, a true work of art. Asked about these rings, I hear the words "custom jeweler" more often than not. If an engagement ring is beautiful, unique, and crafted by an artisan, it is hard to argue with the size of the stones set in the ring. I hope and believe that these couples are expressing their love for each other with a unique and personal artistic expression that fits their budget. A BHD solitaire hanging in orbit above a woman's knuckle does not meet my aesthetic requirement. It might be considered beautiful by the society at large, but is that "beauty" artistic or performance based (see below)? If the beauty is the cut and clarity of the stone, isn't that just an expression of your net worth (see performance). It surely isn't unique, given that BHD in a simple "I'm huge and blinding, can't you tell" setting are commonplace today. One could argue it takes an artisan to mount a BHD in a simple gold or platinum setting that highlights the stone, not the ring, but I believe that this skillset is actually mechanical engineering, not art. It takes a fair amount of structural expertise to keep that much stone safely ensconced around a woman's finger. Performance Is this truly the measure of a wedding ring's value, it's performance value to both the man and the woman? Let's start with the symbolic meaning of a wedding ring (at least within the cultural confines of the largely Judeo-Christian USA). A wedding ring expresses the undying love and exclusive bound between a married man and woman. Why do men select the BHD? A simple wedding band would meet the symbolic meaning of a wedding band for both men and women. Most men's wedding rings are simple gold bands. So what drives men to attach a Honda Civic (equivalent value?!) to their wife's finger? Love? As mentioned earlier, at some income level that "Civic on her finger" is a small fraction of annual income, but many BHD appear to be nice chunk of the couple's annual income. Love doesn't require 25% of annual income to be fully expressed. Is that BHD about the woman or the man? Is the BHD actually another form of alpha male marking? Does it really say "Guys, the man who is married to this woman is strong enough (in 21st century hunting terms) to bring home significant bling. He is an economic powerhouse, so don't even think of flirting with her!" The BHD's power for the male is asexual. It subtly (or not so subtly) says to other men that this woman has a mighty "provider", and it says to other women that the spouse is a mighty "provider". BHD is a huge visual advertisement for the economic virility of a wife's spouse!? Why do women desire or wear the BHD? If a simple wedding band meets the symbolic requirement of being wed, what is the attraction of the BHD for a woman? In a world where crime isn't a if, but often a when, what possesses a woman to wear a $25000 bill on her finger? There are few more concentrated expressions of wealth easily accessible to a thief. BHD also aren't physically practical. Ever crawled on a floor after a kid wearing a 4ct ring? Many forms of simple physical labor, even those done by white collar employees, are impractical while wearing a large ring. It's like large fingernails; impractical but societally pleasing. BHD crushes the symbolic requirement of a wedding ring, they certainly don't divert the attention of the criminally motivated, and they aren't incredibly practical relative to everyday activities. Yet I've met many "practical, grounded, unpretentious, and safety conscious" women who proudly display the BHD as a glaring exception to their normal personalities. The BHD is not in conflict with who they are!? Not being a woman, I can only pose questions. Is the BHD as a male "marker" not only acceptable, but preferred? Does it say "Ladies and gentleman, my man is an economic stud. I'm incredibly well provided for and my man loves me 4ct deep". Or is it a self-empowering statement? "Mine is 4ct and flawless, just like me". Does BHD create differentiation amongst women, between families/couples, or between the spouses that (helped) acquire them? Why the heck am I even thinking about this? Is the wedding ring just another societal status symbol? Is the BHD just another symbol like driving a Mercedes, flying first class, and wearing designer clothing? Is it a more powerful cultural symbol because it implies positive differentiation for both the wife who proudly wears it and the man who proudly gave it? A wedding ring is deeply personal and emotional, but have societal pressures driven us to the least common denominator of a BHD as the proper expression of our love and affection? Maybe the BHD is just the point of the spear that impales me with the knowledge that aesthetic and function are often drowned out in the cultural and societal wave of perceived superiority. This perceived superiority is manufactured by the DeBeers to sell small stones whose main attribute beyond scarcity is a Mohs hardness scale of 10... Alpha male marker, positive image amplifier, or an everlasting expression of love? All three. You make the call.
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