Marilyn Monroe said “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Jill St. John said “Diamonds are forever.” Elizabeth Taylor said “Big girls need big diamonds.” It seems everywhere we look someone is telling us that we need to buy diamonds, big ones. They shout the praises of these magical rocks. Every commercial begins with a young couple in love whose love becomes validated by the largest, most brilliant diamond in the store. To the awestruck couple it seems like the perfect recipe; buy a ring, show your significant other you love them, live happily ever after. But as the saying goes not all that glitters is gold. The fact is in in 2015 it is predicted that over 80% of all brides will receive an engagement ring adorned with a diamond (a figure which has been climbing steadily). Statistics also predict that over 50% of those marriages will end in divorce. While I’m not stating diamonds guarantee a marriage’s failure, I would be hard pressed to not believe that there must be some correlation between the numbers. I am not a statistician, nor do I have the time to crunch the numbers and provide a scientific answer but what I can provide is a simple anecdote about what a woman learned after more than 50 years of marriage.
My grandfather passed away in 2013. After 58 years of marriage my grandmother was forced to say goodbye to her best friend, her soul mate, and the love of her life all at once. It was three days after the burial when I walked into my grandmother’s room. She sat on the bed handing out her jewelry to relatives and friends saying “You take this. This one is perfect for you! This will look great on you.” As she reached out to hand out the rings and necklaces everyone seemed to reject them asking “How can you give these away?” She grew frustrated at her failed attempts until she exclaimed at the top of her lungs “What good do these do me?! They mean nothing to me! Can’t you see he’s left me with much more than this?! He’s given me memories and in the end that’s all I want to keep.” She stood up and reached into the box. After lifting several drawers of neatly-arranged, brilliantly-polished, pristine jewelry she pulled out a dull necklace with a small amethyst pendant. As she ran her fingers through it she said “This is the only one you can’t have. This is one I will keep forever.” As everyone in the room seemed to hold their breath, my brother asked “Why do you want to keep that one?” She slowly walked towards her chair in the corner of the room and took a seat. Her eyes filled with tears and her mouth closed tightly trying her best not to cry she began to tell us the story behind the necklace. “It was 1942 and your grandfather and I were just getting to know each other. One night we decided to go to the movies and I invited my sister and her boyfriend. After the movies, we decided to go have dinner at a restaurant across the street. After we all ate, my sister’s boyfriend said “Sara, I have something to give to you.” He reached down and pulled up a tiny box which held a small diamond necklace. She was so excited she tried it on immediately. It was beautiful and I asked her if I could try it on. As your grandfather latched it on me, I said “I hope someday I can have a necklace like this.” I removed the necklace and gave it back to my sister but I noticed that for the rest of the night your grandfather wasn’t himself. He seemed sad although when I asked he said he was fine. Months passed and things didn’t seem to get better with him. He always appeared sad and tired. Then one day he knocked at my door and asked my father if I could come outside to see him. As I walked out I noticed that he was dressed up in his Sunday best. I immediately asked him “What’s going on?” He stood there hunched over almost as if he were afraid of something. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small cardboard box. “What is this?” I asked as he handed it to me. “Open it” he said. I opened it and as I did I couldn’t help but notice a tear crawl out of the corner of his eye. I pulled out the small necklace and asked “Why are you crying?” Between sobs he explained that although he tried his best to buy me a diamond necklace that this was the best he was able to buy. He told me about how he had offered to work any hours available to him and how he saved for three months and still couldn’t afford a diamond. I stood there holding the bright red necklace in my hand, looking at your grandfather as he struggled to hold back his tears. There he stood, pressed pants, starched shirt, and polished shoes which tried their best to hide their age. And just like that, it happened. “I love you” I told him. It was not the first time I had told someone I loved them, but it was the first time I had truly meant it. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. You see he gave something priceless. Something you could never buy in a store, not in a million years, not with a million dollars. He gave me him.” My grandmother bent down and held her head between her hands, the necklace tightly clinched. As I glanced over at the jewelry box I couldn’t help but notice how similar all the pieces that remained were. All either gold or silver all with clean sparkling diamonds. Despite their undeniable beauty something about them seemed emotionless, distant. That amethyst however, was different, it came with a certain warmth. It was a stark contrast to the elitist and cold feeling that the diamonds emitted.
You see, truth is that when a gemstone is given, rarely is it unaccompanied by a story, an anecdote, or an explanation as to why that particular gem stood out above the rest. When a diamond is given, it usually comes with a series of numbers and little else. So, if you want to say “I love you”, “I appreciate you”, or “you mean the world to me”, give a gemstone, give its story, and give its meaning; but, if you want to ask “Love me?” then simply give a diamond and make sure you include the price tag.