*This is a paid post from an APW Sponsor*
For those of you who have been reading APW for a long time, you probably already know that TurtleLove.com, purveyor of indie and artisan wedding jewelry, is headed up by a smart lady named Adrianne Zahner. Adrianne has had a lot of really important conversations here on APW about jewelry, symbolism, and the power that engagement rings and other totems hold in our lives. But what you might not know is that Adrianne is writing a book. A book about engagement rings and consumer culture. Here’s what Adrianne had to say on the subject:
I’m writing a book to provide a non-commercial perspective on engagement rings. There’s a lot of information about engagement rings out there, but most of it comes from sources whose interests are to sell bigger and more expensive rings. Turtle Love has never been about bigger and more expensive, and in any case, the book is completely independent of TLC—purely my own and purely academic. (Yum!)
Engagement rings play an important role in many people’s relationships (and a small or non-existent role in others), but in more subtle and nuanced ways than what’s typically presented in literature about engagement rings.
The book also includes an inside look at the workings of the jewelry industry, including the “indie” jewelry sector.
Rad, right? Adrianne’s writing on this subject has always made me think more critically about how I interact with objects in my daily life, so naturally I’m pretty excited about a whole book filled with her smart thoughts. (For an idea of Adrianne’s perspective on her industry, one of my favorite bits of her writing is from way back in 2010, from a post on authenticity and engagement rings. Here’s an excerpt, but if you want the full post, head over here. It’s worth the trip.)
At different points over the course of the last thirteen years or so, you could ask me about this topic and hear me rail about DeBeers and diamond marketing, or about blood diamonds, or engagement rings as bride prices. All of those things are still major issues. But when it turned out that most of our customers wanted to purchase engagement rings that featured white or clear stones, or colored stones in simple solitaire settings, it finally dawned on me that an engagement ring is a social signifier. It tells people, without having to speak, about your social status. You’re taken. This is how you roll. This is what you wear. And the things that we wear have a lot of functionality in our society—they help us sort out the types of people that we’re looking for. Each of us, even when we think we’re not, picks clothing that says something about ourselves and our group membership to others. It also means something to us.
So if your engagement ring is so unusual that it’s not recognizable as an engagement ring (like if it’s invisible, or if it’s actually an engagement necklace, or if it kind of looks like a mood ring), you’ll have to explain this with some frequency (at least until you get a wedding band, if you do). Not so with a diamond solitaire or something similar enough to a diamond solitaire. Everybody gets it. They can tell what’s going on.
So I get it now, too. People wear engagement rings as social signifiers—they mean something to the person who wears the ring, to the person who presented the ring, and to the people who see the ring. We crave that sort of efficiency and order.
Now my goal is to help people make meaningful and authentic choices about their engagement and wedding rings. Those rings are telling us and others who we are and who we want to be. And if we can make authentic choices about these signifiers at the beginning of a marriage, we’ve got a leg up on taking authentic roles and promoting gender equity in that relationship over the long haul.
That’s really exciting.
So if you really want a big diamond, go for it. Obviously, there are ethical and environmental considerations (and probably financial ones), but there’s lots of guidance out there about those topics.
And if you want something else, do that. Just make the choice authentic—about you and your relationship. Don’t do it because that’s what the guy at Zales told you are the guidelines; do it because that’s what you really want. And, shockingly enough, you can change your mind. You can decide in five years (or five months) that the ring that once made sense for you and your relationship doesn’t quite say what you want it to anymore. Maybe you go bigger, maybe you go smaller, maybe you take it off altogether because it’s not important anymore.
And don’t be too harsh on other people. You might wish that more people had the same tastes and values as you do. But somebody who wants something that you don’t is helping you (directly or indirectly) to define and challenge your tastes and opinions, and helping you find the community that will best support you.
I mean, right? Exactly.
So what does this have to do with you? Well, in order to write a book about engagement rings and consumer culture, Adrianne needs to know how people are interacting with engagement rings in the real world (your data can skew ever so slightly when most of the people you interact with on a daily basis care a lot about jewelry). So she’s asking the APW community for your thoughts and input on the subject. Says Adrianne:
I am asking for survey responses from the APW community because the objective is to present contemporary, real-life perspectives about engagement rings—how real, thoughtful people think about them—not a summary of what the jewelers want people to think.
And I’m hoping for responses from all sorts of people, including people who didn’t go the engagement ring route (like me!). So I want to hear from you whether you’re totally into your engagement ring (or plans for the engagement ring) OR if you think an engagement ring is an abomination that recalls a history that we’d rather not perpetuate.
The book is neither an indictment not a celebration of engagement rings—it’s an exploration of the role that these objects play in our lives and self-concepts. It’s all part of my fascination with our relationships with Things, which I explore in my new website, Study of Stuff.
So if you want to help Adrianne collect data for her book (raises hand) simply head over here and fill out the brief survey (you don’t have to give your name or contact information or anything like that; just answers to the survey). You’ll have Adrianne’s eternal gratitude and also the satisfaction of basically being book famous.
What do you think about engagement rings and the engagement ring tradition here in the u.s.? What does an engagement ring mean to you?