Brian McGuinn waded through a sea of more than nine tons of garbage. He came to the dump because just days before, he accidentally threw away his wife’s $10,000 diamond engagement ring.
Brian needed to find that diamond ring. It was a symbol of his marriage, of his love for his wife, and of their promise to share the rest of their lives with each other.
While many cultures take it for granted that these expensive rings are symbols of everlasting love, the true history of diamond rings is less about love and more about an outdated idea of purity and economics. In the early 20th century, diamonds were more like a security deposit than a token of love. Some even referred to diamond rings as “virginity insurance.”
Imagine being a woman in the early 1900s. At that time, premarital sex was frowned upon. But at the same time, for people engaged to be married, sex was still commonplace, even though the idea of virginity as desirable was still part of the culture.
Most women in those days didn’t have the opportunity to make money on their own, so they relied on a husband for financial support. This put the woman in a predicament. If she gave her virginity to her fiancé, and then he left her before the wedding, some people might consider her damaged goods.
To help keep women from being left high and dry before marriage, a law was put in place called “Breach of Promise to Marry.” This law allowed women to sue men for breaking off an engagement.
By the 1940s, this law was largely unenforced. At the same time, diamond ring sales began to surge. According to some economists and legal scholars, the less the law was enforced, the more diamond ring sales grew.
Basically, men began giving diamond rings as a type of insurance. If the man backed out of the marriage, the woman was compensated for the damage done to her reputation by keeping the valuable diamond ring.
To Brian’s relief, he did eventually find the ring, even though it was covered in sludge. While for Brian the ring was an important symbol of his love for his wife, the true history is based on an outdated idea about purity, virginity and the worth of women. What do you think? Is the diamond engagement ring a sexist tradition that needs to be put to rest? Or is it a romantic tradition that should continue?
from Deep English » Blog http://deepenglish.com/2016/02/diamond-ring-insurance/