Husband gave me a non-traditional engagement ring: my birthstone (not a diamond) set in an unadorned platinum band. I think it’s just great. I was surprised, but not too surprised, when I saw it, because although we’d never discussed engagement rings in anything more than the vaguest of terms before, I knew that we both liked this particular gem and didn’t care for diamonds. I was mostly surprised that he was brave enough (or knew me well enough) to choose it completely on his own. In the little over a year it’s been since we got engaged, I’ve been hugely surprised by people’s reactions to the ring. They notice it. And they love it. [Or, those who choose to comment on it love it; I'm sure there are plenty who think it's strange or inferior.]
The point of this post is not to brag about my ring, though. It’s to point out that one of the people who loves it is my sister-in-law. On one occasion she told me that she always wanted something other than a diamond herself. I turned to my brother who said quickly and confidently that “no wife of mine is going to not have a diamond engagement ring.” I laughed and mentioned it to Husband later. How like my brother, to be less concerned with what a woman wants than with what a woman should be, I thought. And then I realized that he was not so much concerned with what the engagement ring says about his wife as he is what it says about him. He worked hard and searched hard for a diamond ring that he would be able to afford. [My brother got married very young and is still in school.] For him, the engagement ring reflected his efforts. He did not want anybody to question whether he was willing and able to buy her a diamond. It would show show the world that she was important to him and that he was able to take care of her.
This realization that the engagement ring is a status symbol for men, perhaps even more than it is for women, made me wonder if I shouldn’t have relayed my brother’s statement (no wife of his…) to Husband. Is he possible that he viewed this as a blow to his self worth? That my brother (or other men in general) think less of him due to his jewelry selection? Probably not, as Husband is pretty self-assured, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. All that talk of carats and spending x-months’ salary combined with the knowledge that the first thing asked of a recently engaged woman is “let’s see the ring” must put a ton of pressure on a guy. Which isn’t fair, but at least the engagement time is awkward for all parties.