Saturday, May 23, 2009

US vs. UK - Diamonds


















If you want to know the difference between the US and the UK then just look at the ring finger of any married woman.

Even the lowliest toilet-scrubber in the US will be sporting a cantilevered confection bristling with diamonds. I first noticed this while still living in the UK. My home town in North Yorkshire hosts a US Army Intelligence Base so it was not unusual for local women to meet and marry American serviceman. After having done so they could barely lift their left hands because Good Lord - where the UK engagement ring mantra seems to be 'it's the thought that counts' in the US it is definitely 'size matters'. It honestly had me wondering whether diamonds were ten a penny in the States.


















Then I moved over here, and I swear the same DeBeers commercial that rhapsodizes 'how else can one month's salary last a lifetime' is two months salary in the US. I'm convinced I remember the 'one month' yardstick in the UK, but I'll admit I've tried and failed to google some proof of this. Am I just imagining this or are there really different standards in largesse? I really think so. Take a look at any issue of Hello magazine and you will see the wealthiest of Brits sporting the most modest of rings.

I inherited my engagement ring from my Nanna, and while it is definitely on the 'demure' side representing love in the North of England in the late 1930s it is priceless to me.



















Having said that, I realise that whatever I write here may cast me in a jealous light as a result. I do notice what I call the 'Nordstrom effect' of being judged in shops by the lack of a carbon paperweight on my left hand. If you think I'm being paranoid, in high school LK used to teach kids tennis lessons at one of the swankiest clubs in town. The guy in charge pulled him to one side on his first day and told him to be most solicitous to the Moms with the big rings. If their child was worthless, persuade the parent that all he/she needed was extra tuition, if the child showed any talent at all, persuade the parent that private lessons would guarantee acceptance to the Ivy League school of their choice. If the ring lacked carats - don't bother with the kid.

Heart-warming, no?

Obviously there are exceptions to this, and I do know a lot of cool California chicks who sport the most pared-down of wedding bands, no in-your-face bling at all - something that I think is becoming increasingly popular.

Has anybody else noticed this? Any expat Brits out there fighting the good fight with their meek solitaires, or any Americans in the UK wondering why no-one else has 17 diamonds surrounding their 3 carat centerpiece?

24 comments:

Lucia's Mom said...

I have a funny ring story ... which I can't post to my own blog so here goes.

Hubs tells me early on in the engagement that the Portuguese "don't do" engagement rings. So I'm like, ok, I guess I'll live with that. But my parents are kinda pissed and start pressuring engaged boy to pony up a ring. Hubs resists. Dad's best friend is a jeweller so they start emailing me photos (I'm in England - they're in Canada - engaged boy is in U.S.) of some hairy man's finger wearing rings - none of which I liked. After seeing about 3 or 4 that I didn't like they said "We think we know what you like now, so Dave's going to make one up for you". Dave did indeed make a ring for me, my parents mailed it to hubs's house when I went to visit, sent the bill to hubs (he still complains bitterly) and typical of how unromantic he is, he hid it under his bed and forgot to tell me about it so I found it myself a few days into the trip while he was at work. It was sort of nice but the fixture looked shockingly like some female anatomy. So I hated the ring and hubs was royally pissed at getting a bill in the mail for something he didn't believe in. Turns out the portuguese do engagement rings but on a smaller scale so he was either out of the loop or pulling my leg. Only my parents were happy with the situation.

I waited a couple of years, then citing wanting to add my infant son's birthstone to the ring (which was the same as my birthstone), I redesigned the ring with the same stone and two new blue diamonds on the sides. It's still pretty small compared to most other people's rings and I still feel weird wearing it, especially after hubs complained so bitterly and frequently about how he felt trapped into paying for it, so I mostly don't bother. But it does look better than the first time.

I can't say I noticed rings on UK girls during my England stay though, sorry!

Lucia's Mom said...

When I say I don't bother, I mean I just wear my plain wedding band that matches hubs's.

Daffodilly said...

This is so true I had never seen so many honking rocks on ladies fingers until I came over here!

Almost American said...

I've noticed the same thing. DH and I chose my modest (by American standards) solitaire together. He was VERY happy I didn't expect him to spend two months salary, which seems to be the going rate around here! I blinged mine up a little later when I added my grandmother's half eternity ring to the same finger, but the diamonds in that are small too.

I met a woman in the UK once whose engagement ring resembled nothing so much as a Disney castle. Probably not that expensive overall though as the diamonds in it were all small - and because it was so tall she only wore it for special occasions, which to me isn't the point! I chose what I've heard some people call a 'gypsy' setting - where the stone is held in the ring by a band of gold. No prongs to bend and risk losing the stone :-)

Another US-UK difference - the cut of the diamonds tends to be different. I believe the cut is shallower in the UK, so American diamonds sparkle more. So I've heard anyway, but that may be urban legend!

Eden Kennedy Onassis said...

I have a ring from Jack's mom, I forget what it's called, channel set? Little diamonds set into the band, very low key. Unfortunately, it traps every horrible thing I stick my hand into and then I get a skin infection, so I gave up wearing it. I mean, sure, I guess I could clean it once in awhile...

Little Britainer said...

Oh, you are so right! I feel this quite keenly, having got engaged myself in September. Happily, I was proposed to with a very lovely hand-made ring (mind you, not made by my boyfriend, but by a 6-ft serbian lady who I later got to meet....) I have no idea what the size of the diamond is, but it fits the band, which is about 4mm (and I only know that, because we just got wedding rings to match...) Anyway, the poor sweet boy chose the ring and arranged the thing all by himself, but he has some great stories to tell about the experience -- apparently, a lot of the shops he went into couldn't understand why he didn't know what I wanted for a ring. They kept saying things like, 'oh, but are you sure she hasn't dropped any hints? She hasn't been ring-shopping with a friend? She hasn't told you what size, or what setting she wants?' and basically making him paranoid that he was doing totally the wrong thing... And people do say to me, "oh your ring is so UNUSUAL" with a sympathetic look, like I'm weird because I don't have a fuck-off rock on my finger.... I didn't know there was a word for this treatment in shops, though! Or that it was such a wide-spread phenomenon!

Working in London with an American who wore a huge lump of sparkly diamond on her finger, I'd be embarassed on her behalf when we went into meetings, thinking that everyone would probably be pitying her thinking how ostentatious it was etc and what a stuck-up arse her other half must be. I think giving a woman a big rock to wear is rather like driving a very fancy car - it's really just a penis extension of sorts for him. But clearly, most American women don't see it that way!

Phew. Quite an essay there. It's a fun topic! And I think your ring is gorgeous.

Brit Gal Sarah said...

No I have to admit I have totally succumbed and have a ring not that dis-similar to the one featured here LOL!

In fact when I first returned to work back in Blighty newly engaged to my Cowboy, there were many "f'g hell it's huge" comments made over it!

I do agree though with what you wrote here, there really is a size difference in this area. But I for one am all in favour of bigger is better where diamonds are concerned ;-)

MikeH said...

I've always put this done to American's innate ostentation. My wife is always amazed a the size of the rings she sees when we visit.

Trannyhead said...

I admit it. I've got a seriously big engagement ring. It's like 3 carats. It was a family heirloom, though, so we didn't buy it. Maybe that's why some people have big ones? I don't know. It's just a single stone - there's no way you could put more than one stone on this thing. It's already ginormous.

AliBlahBlah said...

Thanks for all you fantastic comments and stories, and LB - CONGRATULATIONS!! Yay!

...and for the record, I'd be lying if I said I'd never fancy a a massive rock...it just never came up!

Jane said...

Yes, I too have noticed this. Sticking my nose up against US jewellers windows looking for something that might resemble a simple engagement ring rather than the crown jewels. I have just put it down to the American 'Big Is Better' thing (which I hope people are growing out of in the light of recent fiscal events.)
I myself have spent the past 20yrs sporting a single solitaire much like yours, but then I did marry a Brit. We just live in the US.I do believe 1 months salary was the norm back then, but I would hazzard a guess that, US marketing being what it is, DeBeers et al decided that the best way to bolster their bottom line was convince all those gullible yanks that anything short of two months was just.....well....too.....tight! Marvellous marketing ploy!

Anonymous said...

I would agree that a significant portion of women in the US have been sucked into believing that the size of one's diamond is a direct measure of one's beau's love (nb: epicenters of this phenomenon seem to be Texas, Atlanta and LA -- not so much in more understated places like northern new england or the pacific northwest -- maybe it's climatalogical?) BUT . . . i was passing behind the parcel pickup at Peter Jones in sloane square this afternoon and I was BLINDED by the flash of a woman's ring reaching out through her window to take a parcel. I heard her thank the porter, so there's no question that she was NOT visiting from Dallas.

Yes, I know that chelsea and environs probably are a culture all their own, but as a visiting American< had to comment that the Bling factor here FAR outpaced what I normally see in the Berkeley hills of CA.

amy (not intending to post anonymously -- just not clever enough to set up an identity tonight. BTW, Ali, the one other time I posted to your blog, I asked advice on headwear for a wedding in the cotswalds last summer. Your advice was spot on, and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the blog ever since).

lynn said...

From the US, lots of relations in the UK, and I think you're right about the supersize factor in many American purchases, not just rings. But I did have a laugh about that stereotype during one visit to the UK where a cousin complained about the Colgate toothpaste I left in the bathroom tasting disgusting. It was a can of Colgate shaving cream, and that's what he used on his teeth, despite all evidence that it was not toothpaste -- "Hell, you Americans want everything so bloody big, why not a big can of toothpaste?" --- ummm, because it says shaving cream on it?

Expat mum said...

I was proposed to the night before the Ball & Chain got back on a plane to the US and I didn't see him again till we got married - so no engagement ring. I have a nice gold band with diamonds in it, and I blinged the whole effect up with a Tiffany band five years and two kids later.
But talking about American rings, a lot of my friends have the in-your-face engagement ring, which is then matched with a BAND of similar diamonds for the wedding ring. You can see them from Pluto.

notfromaroundhere said...

I've definitely noticed that the Brits around me here don't have diamond solitaires at all-- a few have multi-stone rings (what an American might call an anniversary band) and quite a few have colored stone rings. The bespoke jeweler down the road from me has lots of non-diamonds listed as "engagement rings" on their website.

notfromaroundhere said...

I've definitely noticed that the Brits around me here don't have diamond solitaires at all-- a few have multi-stone rings (what an American might call an anniversary band) and quite a few have colored stone rings. The bespoke jeweler down the road from me has lots of non-diamonds listed as "engagement rings" on their website.

Anonymous said...

The whole engagement ring concept is very alien to me. I grew up in Germany and live in the US now and am amazed what size of diamonds people wear here, e.g. women in the cafe of the Ivy League Business school here. I am not even fond of jewelry, and don't understand why someone has to prove their devotion by buying a ring that costs that much. I would find it weird if I was expected to give my prospective fiance something hugely expensive - maybe a used car?

Ladybird said...

Ali, I am super amused to read this. I am Irish and noticed that De Beers had doubled the salary requirement the first time I went to the States. I have mentioned this to lots of people cos I ought it was culturally very interesting, nobody else had ever noticed it.

Tranquility said...

I got married at twenty, and although the diamond prices were pretty decent at the time, I wanted something that wouldn't be too flashy - something that didn't scream "child bride" since I was already being harrassed by family and friends about getting married "so young".

I must confess though, that as all of my friends and cousins have gotten married, they all seem to be sporting super huge, very flashy rocks and I have considered, more than once, getting an upgrade.

All in all though, I'm happy with my small diamond. I don't think that going into debt over a ring (or a wedding, for that matter)is a very healthy way to start a marriage and I don't understand why so much importance seems to be placed on either.

Anonymous said...

I've come in late to this discussion but would like to point out that most british engagement rings arent diamond anyway - saphires are very popular indeed, and my own engagement ring is a very pretty emerald solitaire. When I lived in Australia they wore diamonds that made the american ones positively modest!

Kelly said...

I just discovered your blog so I'm late to reply but I find this topic hilarious! I am American and my husband is British and before we were engaged that exact DeBeers commercial came up in a group conversation. We debated 2 months vs. 1 month for ages and since he was in a group of Americans my husband lost, but he remains adamant that 1 month is the appropriate salary measure.

chantell7 said...

I completely agree, since moving to the States from the UK I could not believe the size of some of these rings. It was funny when I got engaged the only request I made of my American boyfriend is that I would prefer a Sapphire to a diamond. The ring he got was beautiful and still a little large to what I was used to seeing. I must admit I was surprised at the comments I got because I did not get a diamond!

Now with all the impending royal wedding news, I am apparently now in fashion...lol.

Wedding rings said...

You are right... Different cultures have different values...

文章 said...

餐飲設備 製冰機 洗碗機 咖啡機 冷凍冷藏冰箱 蒸烤箱 關島婚禮 巴里島機票 彈簧床 床墊 獨立筒床墊 乳膠床墊 床墊工廠 產後護理之家 月子中心 坐月子中心 坐月子 月子餐 銀行貸款 信用貸款 個人信貸 房屋貸款 房屋轉增貸 房貸二胎 房屋二胎 銀行二胎 土地貸款 農地貸款 情趣用品 情趣用品 腳臭 長灘島 長灘島旅遊 ssd固態硬碟 外接式硬碟 記憶體 SD記憶卡 隨身碟 SD記憶卡 婚禮顧問 婚禮顧問 水晶 花蓮民宿 血糖機 血壓計 洗鼻器 熱敷墊 體脂計 化痰機 氧氣製造機 氣墊床 電動病床 ソリッドステートドライブ USB フラッシュドライブ SD シリーズ