Celebrate Singlehood with the Gift of a Right-Hand-Ring

“Diamond retailers contend a little bling is just the thing to declare your independence this fall,” wrote Houston Chronicle reporter Liz Embry a few weeks ago. Her story was illustrated with a photo of Ms. Sarah Jess flashing the hottest new trend in the jewelry industry: the right-hand ring. | The rings have recently been spotted on the famous right hands of Madonna and Beyonce Knowles. A national advertising campaign popped up in the September issues of Vogue, Vanity Fair and People, declaring, “Your left hand rocks the cradle. Your right hand rules the world.” —Celebrate Singlehood with the Gift of a Right-Hand-Ring (Tampa Tribune)

I first heard of the right-hand-ring from a post on memepool. An illuminating 1982 article from the Atlantic (“Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond“) exposed the techniques the diamond industry (really a single family-owned dynasty) used to create the “tradition” of the obscenely expensive diamond engagement ring, and ways that Hollywood stars were used to associate diamonds with eternal romance. (I wonder how much “Sex and the City” was paid to put a “right hand ring” into its storyline…)

That strategy also discouraged people from selling used diamonds (since, of course, “a diamond is forever”). Since diamonds don’t wear out, and since every year more diamonds are mined and put on the market, the diamond industry has to keep demand for their product high, or else supply will outpace demand and the price of rocks will drop.

In the wake of a lot of new coverage about how singlehood seems to be outpacing marriages in American life, we see the diamond industry creating a new tradition — women purchasing diamonds for themselves, as a sign of independence. Obviously the diamond industry would prefer that women purchase a singlehood ring for themselves first and then add an engagement ring at a later date. I do find it interesting to think that they will be able to associate the same rock with two very different concepts, just by changing its location on the body. It really exposes just how artificial the “traditional” meaning of diamonds was.

And by the way, yes, I did buy a diamond engagement ring when I dropped to my knee and proposed… I made sure it was more expensive than the last computer I had bought, but at the time I had a decent job and lived like a student (in the days before student culture demanded portable phones and cable TV), so I had few real expenses.

Update: This will cheer up my wife: “Motherhood not only makes females smarter, it makes them calmer under pressure and more courageous, a U.S. researcher said on Tuesday.” Of course, the test was on rats, but the researcher tells the reporter the findings probably apply to humans, too.