Avoiding engagement ring envy, or: How I learned to love the symbolism

Guest post by Sarah Eliza
Something Blue!

Engagement ring envy — the stuff of legend and myth? Or a nasty side effect of being engaged and the wedding industrial complex?

Recently I met up with an acquaintance of mine after not seeing her for many, many years, and we were discussing her recent engagement (cue the typical “oohs” and “ahhs” from me). She then proceeded to wink at me and say her new fiancé was taking her to Tiffany on Bond Street in London. I am sorry to say that almost automatically that ugly little Wedding Industrial Complex demon was ranting in my ear…

Demon: You know… you LOVE Tiffany…
Me: I am well aware of that.
Demon: You know… you always DREAMED of having a Tiffany engagement ring.
Me: Your point?
Demon: Well… she has just got engaged, what if she will have the engagement ring that YOU always wanted?
Me: Fuck…

As you can see, it's a sneaky little demon that feeds on your wishes and fantasies. Or, in this case, the wishes and fantasies of twelve-year-old Sarah. The Sarah who was determined to marry a dark eyed, handsome man who had plenty of money in the bank and would ask her to marry him on top of the Eiffel Tower.

I have spent a few hours now considering my rather extreme reaction to her happy news and I have come to a conclusion: screw you, little demon.

  • Am I getting married? Hell yes, I am.
  • Am I having my dream wedding? Not exactly… but this wedding is more than I could ever dream of.
  • Am I marrying a dark eyed, handsome man with plenty of money in the bank? Well, he is dark eyed, incredibly handsome and, alright, he doesn't have a lot of money, but he has a heart of gold and, last time I checked, the gold prices were rising. He is incredibly valuable to me.

So I started to think, why the hell am I so jealous?

It was then that I realized: the entire culture of engagement rings almost asks for it. Many women have reported that other women have almost demanded to see their engagement ring. Some have even had to endure murmurs of, “oh, it is not a diamond” if they chose to step outside the norm.

An engagement ring is not about how much money it is worth, it is about locking in a moment in time. When I am old and in my dotage, I can look at my engagement ring, reflect on the lifetime of love it symbolises and also remember what position we were in our lives when it was bought. I can remember the days where our love held us together, despite money woes and how he made sure that, despite these woes, he bought me a ring anyway. I will be able to look into the eyes of my children and grandchildren and tell them that mum and dad/grandma and grandpa were meant to be together because they rode the ups and downs that life gives and how you know you have found the perfect person the day you hold their hand and step forward to beat down all that life throws at you.

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Comments on Avoiding engagement ring envy, or: How I learned to love the symbolism

  1. My engagement ring is a large manmade dark pink sapphire, I picked out myself from Kay Jewelers and was just lucky enough to find a wedding band later on at Littmans that fit against it perfectly. Oh and it costs us less than $200!

    My thoughts were, if we are ever poor enough that we need to start selling our things, my ring wont be worth enough to someone else and I wont have to part with it!

    It is stunning and I LOVE IT!

  2. My engagement ring came from etsy. It’s a beautiful pearl cocktail ring from the 1950s. I think it cost about $45; I love it, it’s totally my style, and my husband chose it for me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  3. I actually do no have engagement ring envy, even though my ring is less than 1/4 of a karat. What I have is freaking engagement envy. Mine, while sweet, was so dull.

    • Oh my GOSH I KNOW! I am waiting to be engaged to my lovely SO, and its so painful. Especially when at least 3-4 of my friends are engaged and planning their weddings. I have one of them who posts the EXACT FREAKING DAYS! Its so irritating. And I’m just waiting on everything.

    • I had engagement envy too! The first time my fiance proposed was on the couch… the second time was on top of the CN tower because I let him have a do- over. I wanted a story to make people cry! I had waited long enough (7 years!) for a proposal and the plans fell through without a backup. For me the proposal was the most important part!

  4. Even though my longtime boyfriend and I know one day we will eventually get married (as it stands we know we are going with April 1st ####) but for now we are happily content with where we are. For me, I don’t buy into what the Wedding Industry Complex wants me to believe is THE standard in engagement rings. Part of me just wants to buck the whole idea. But truly, for me, the engagement ring and wedding band are going to be my most valued pieces ever. No matter the style, price, etc. they are going to make it feel “official” official to me. Sure, the marriage license will be there and it is something I will gaze upon knowing legally we are married but the ring will be an extension of that. Something simple that makes me feel giddy.

  5. Admittedly, my first question upon seeing my ring was “are you serious?” simply because my ring has a center aquamarine and I wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry me or just give me a sparkly and I didn’t want to be all “OMG yessss!” if he wasn’t proposing and make things weird. I can’t say I’ve ever felt ring envy though, mostly cause mine is beautiful and I’ve never seen anyone outside of a tabloid cover that has a bigger ring. Not that we’re rich, all the diamonds are family stones and only the aquamarine is new, but I certainly don’t feel out of place with it walking past the Louis Vuitton store. No clue how much it would cost, but it’s 11 stones making up 5.5 carats and I’d assume that’s a few grand.

  6. No envy here! I got exactly what I wanted. Red amber, garnets, and honey colored amber. It suits me perfectly and it shows just how well he knows me in designing it and having it made!

    I did get the demand to see it and lots of people commenting on its uniqueness but all of them then said, ‘It is so your style and fits you guys exactly.’

    • I’m another one who got exactly what she wanted. My ring is a claddagh with 3 tiny emeralds set into the heart. The wonderful part is this: if he’d asked me to send him a picture of what I wanted – it would be exactly what he got for me.

      I don’t have ring envy at all. I’ve got my perfect ring.

    • No envy for me either! I had always wanted a specific brand of ring and when my fiance and I started actually shopping around I fell in love with my ring elsewhere. It was the first ring out of hundreds that we had looked at over the years that he remembered and that means more to me than the name on it! People always tell me how unique it is and that it suits me perfectly! Couldn’t be happier

  7. My Ring was made by someone on Etsy.. I found it one day randomly and fell in love with it! It’s totally fake (i.e Cubic zurconia) and as a result it was 24$!!! (after shipping!)

    My FH was always worried about “the rock” cause he grew up thinking that he’d have to spend 3 months work of money just to get me a ring that was good enough.. and as a result has been delaying in proposing. So when I saw this ring and I got teary eyed (I’m NOT a jewlery person.. this has never happened.. so I know I was onto something GOOD) I frantically sent him the link and told him that if he was serious about wanting to marry me this was the ring I just Had to Have.. he looked at the price and was like “Really?… are you sure it’s good enough” To which I verbally spanked his bottom (I was at work, he was off that day) and told him that it was the first and only ring I have ever felt any sort of anything to and that if he spent a whole bunch of money we didn’t have on a ring I wasn’t going to like just because it was what other people told him he should do I’d keep spanking him until he changed his mind lol.

    As a result the ring was ordered, re-sized and sent off to me.. It’s now hiding somewhere in my house as FH has said since I basically picked out and ordered the ring, he wants to do a “proper proposal” when I least expect it LOL. Fingers crossed for Christmas!

  8. A cousin of mine has the big Tiffany solitaire rock. It’s lovely, no doubt. I would estimate the stone at at least a carat, set in platinum. I have my grandmother’s re-set three-stone ring and matching wedding band. It has a center stone of about half a carat, with smaller flanking stones. The matching wedding band has four small stones across. It’s super vintagey looking in a midcentury Mad Men era way, but most importantly it was my grandmother’s. So it’s sentimental, plus we didn’t give a load of money to the diamond industry in the process of getting engaged.

    I’m also pretty sure it would make me nervous to walk around with a giant diamond on my finger. My mom has a huge anniversary ring, and I just don’t understand how she wears it around without feeling awkward and nervous that it might be damaged or lost.

    This just seemed to be the right practical and sentimental choice for us. We spent a modest amount on refurbishing/repairing the rings, and I get a family heirloom to wear as a bonus.

    I’m not going to lie, though, a tiny part of me twinged when I saw that giant Tiffany sparkler. But then I remembered that while that might be perfect for her and her now-husband, it wouldn’t reflect me or my relationship accurately at all.

    • I completely feel the same way. My husband bought me a ring perfect for me and a perfect representation of who we are. At first, I had worries that my family would judge because it wasn’t even a typical cut/shape (Star Trek Insignia ring!) or that he had diamonds put into it instead of a different stone. But as the wedding approached, I realized how much more of a gift he gave me.
      Every time I showed it, I got to tell our story and even express our geeky habits. And even though I was hesitant about the diamonds, I realized without them, the piece of traditional-ness that I needed in the ring wouldn’t exist. In the end, it was perfect and was more than I could have dreamed of having.

  9. It’s hard not to get jealous sometimes when I see women with expensive beautiful things of any kind, not just rings. But I remind myself that that there are always people with more, just as there are always people with less. Some friends would be jealous I think of any ring or wedding, because they haven’t found that relationship yet. I’m lucky enough to have been proposed to, even though it was with a ring that cost $10. We got married with wedding bands that cost less than $50 each. That’s who we are and the life we live. To have something else, I would have to be someone else.

    So I let myself get a little jealous sometimes, because that’s human nature. Then I take a moment to be grateful for and appreciate what I have, which is a lot.

    • “So I let myself get a little jealous sometimes, because that’s human nature. Then I take a moment to be grateful for and appreciate what I have, which is a lot.”

      So beautifully put! Brought a tear to my eye. Bless you 🙂

    • “So I let myself get a little jealous sometimes, because that’s human nature. Then I take a moment to be grateful for and appreciate what I have, which is a lot.”

      Yes, yes, yes, thank you for this. I berate myself when I feel these twinges of jealousy, like I should be above it. We’re all human. It’s okay and normal. I just need to let myself feel it for a moment, breathe, and remember what I have is what I love.

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you, perfect timing for your perfect sentiment! Going to keep it and re-read as necessary! Hope you know that your words touched others!!

  10. As those who’ve read my book know, I didn’t have an engagement ring at all. There was no proposal, and no ring. I didn’t realize it was a thing until people kept wanting to look at my hands and realized there was nothing on them. HA!

    • My parents didn’t have engagement rings either. When I got old enough to notice that other people did have them, and asked her about it, she said, “Oh, he didn’t ever propose… it just became clear that we should either get married or break up, so we got married.”
      I love that, because it makes it so clear that it was an obvious mutual decision.

      • I wanted to do without(we were incredibly tight with money at the time), but my better half insisted I had to have a ring. In the end it was nice, granted. But so long as I got him I really wasn’t that concerned. And he likes to see me wear it.

      • My mom wore two rings, but the “engagement” ring was actually her 1st anniversary present. They have a very cute story in which her sister proposed to them – hence, no ring.

      • My mother also didn’t have an engagement ring. She and my dad were not very well off when they started out – in fact he was just a private in the military and 33 years ago, he wasn’t even paid enough to put gas in his car every week! So her engagement ring was her 10th wedding anniversary gift from my father. And it was a beautiful memory for the family – he bought it for her, re-proposed and they renewed their vows with my sister and I present as witnesses.

        As for my husband and myself – he proposed to me in the hospital while we were waiting to see the oncologist just as he was being diagnosed with cancer. I had a small diamond solitaire that I had bought for myself a couple of years prior, and he suggested I move it from my right hand to my left. I told him I would only if that meant we were getting married and he basically said “well, obviously” and that was it. My actual engagement ring is a white gold band with a dark blue sapphire in the middle flanked by 2 round diamonds on either side stacked vertically and then three other rectangular diamonds stacked on top of each other on the outsides of the round diamonds. We found it on kijiji for $200. It originally had a tanzanite in the center, but I am super hard on things and had worn down all the shoulders, so he decided to have the stone replaced. Anyway, I love my ring. I love that it isn’t something every other girl will have, and I regularly get complimented on how pretty it is. I did once get a “well it’s pretty, I guess, but not very traditional” to which I replied “actually, it is very traditional – you should do some research on the history of wedding and engagement rings”. 😉

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