The good news: my boyfriend has engagement rings on the brain. The bad news: he’s been reading the Freakonomics Blog on the New York Times website. Why is this bad? The Freakonomics economists solve puzzling economic capers of day-to-day life, most recently tackling what a “bad investment” it is for a man to give his girlfriend a diamond ring:
Q: It doesn’t seem rational for a young man to give his girlfriend an expensive engagement ring when he proposes. My thought is that the most efficient use of that dollar is to invest it into something that a young couple would value most e.g. a down payment on a first house, etc. The diamond market is a monopoly and diamond prices are manipulated so that prices are always high. Can you construct a concise and logical argument that young men across the world can use to not buy diamond rings? After all, you already are offering the most valuable thing that you have (your heart) to your soon-to-be bride. In this age, why is a token like an overpriced rock still needed?
In response to this penny-pincher’s question, economist Tim Harford replied, “I tend to agree with you.”
Uh oh.Believe me, I’m aware of the reasons not to give a woman an engagement ring—”blood diamonds,” the historical context of dowries and paternalism, and now, apparently, economic logic. Certainly, the ring racket is a bad investment in a lot of ways.
But I am a romantic. I’d like to look down and see something on my finger, signifying to me and everyone else that my BF and I are in love. It’s symbolic and special to me in a way “a down payment on a first house” would never be, considering that everyone, including us, co-habits before marriage these days. Actually, buying us a house would seem more paternalistic to me, as if it’s my boyfriend’s job to keep a roof over my head. I can do that myself, thanks! What I can’t do is buy a lovely ring, get down on one knee, and promise a life of joy and happiness together.
So, fellas, I probably speak for a lot of girls here when I say I don’t care if it’s a busted piece of tin and costs $50, but I want a ring! Maybe engagement rings aren’t financially rational, but no one said being in luuuuurve was ever rational, did they? [NY Times Freakonomics Blog]