Can we have a frank discussion about money, please? And the wise spending of it? And how to STOP and THINK about funds and goals and the best paths forward? And how to make decisions based on What Actually Works for Your Budget and Your Life instead of on Cultural Norms?
Because I have some Words in that regard to BLESS YOU WITH today, friends. Some Haphazard Lifestyle Advice, Beth Woolsey style, with special thanks to my very own Abby and her very own Chandler, because they’re letting me tell you All the Things, and I’m grateful.
As we so recently discussed, Abby and Chandler are ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED…
…and this mommy is over the moon about it, 95% because they are delightful and darling and prepared to be fallible and fabulous and horribly, perfectly human together and 5% because I decided very consciously to quit freaking the heck out about their Young Ages (21) and follow my own advice about trusting my children to make their own wise, wonderful, wild choices and to support them even though my own young marriage (also at 21) was at times more fraught than one (aka, ME) might have liked.
Now, I’ve known for a little while that this engagement may be coming, first because Abby and Chandler told me so, and second because Abby asked if I remembered — and meant — that thing about my ring.
Once upon a time, I told Abby if she ever wanted my engagement and wedding rings for her own union, I’d give them to her gladly.
Turns out, I gave them gladly and also a little sadly because I loved the dainty engagement ring Greg and I so carefully picked together — a far-from-flawless 1/3 carat center diamond with three tiny diamonds in triangles on either side, set in 14K yellow gold we bought for $850 at Shane Company in 1994 — but I’m content with my choice. To be honest, I seldom wore my wedding set in recent years, opting for something more rugged in both silver and gold tones — a $49 center stacking ring from Brighton and two $5 silver rings from Something Silver in an airport mall — because I could knock it around while kayaking, camping, and traveling without ever worrying about losing it or breaking it or otherwise ruining it forever.
It seemed silly to me to keep my own wedding set in my jewelry box when my daughter could wear it and cherish it, you know? After all, my sons are unlikely to want it — I have other small bits of jewelry if they prove equally sentimental — and my other daughter would far rather I gift her a set of giant, fancy dragon wings or black quartz imbued with magical powers or the next Pokémon plushy on her wish list than a ring I’d expect her to keep track of.
I knew Abby and Chandler had been discussing engagement, and they’d shown me rings they liked online. So when Abby asked if my ring might still be an option, I let her know it was hers and they could alter it into something they chose together. Because Abby’s enamored with oval center stones — something larger than my smaller circular diamond — they decided to remove my center diamond (which we’ve made into a bezel set necklace pendant I can wear all the time) and add a larger oval instead.
Now, here’s where the haphazard lifestyle advice comes in, because Chandler and Abby asked how much I thought that might cost and whether I could get them a quote from our favorite local jeweler.
Y’all, it’s 100% OK if you disagree with what I’m about to say, but at this point in my life — and the season of Abby’s and Chandler’s lives — DIAMONDS SEEM LESS THAN IDEAL. And simulated diamonds seem really, REALLY worth considering if you’re after a specific aesthetic rather than a stone that can only be recognized as “genuine” under a jeweler’s loupe.
Listen; I get that that’s kinda controversial. My brother went to Conservative Evangelical College (not its real name) and took the Christian Man Class (might as well be its real name) where they told the young men they needed to pony up for as large a diamond as humanly possible to prove to their intendends that they valued them like Christ values the Church — extravagantly, lavishly, sacrificially, endlessly. The size and expense of the ring, he was told, was in direct proportion to the love he harbored for his fiancé. To buy something less expensive — something, dare I say, affordable whilst carrying student loans — was tantamount to saying she was so much chattel; her bride price worth no consideration at all, she was valued so little.
Hopefully, you’re rolling your eyes as hard at Christian Man Class as I did. And fortunately for my brother, his future wife thought that was ridiculous. But I think if most of us are honest, our ideas about engagement rings and cost and expressions or symbols of love are at least a little tied together. A little bit linked. A tiny bit enmeshed. Like, is a cubic zirconia engagement ring even ALLOWED? Who DOES that?
Turns out, Abby and Chandler do. AND I AM SO PROUD OF THEM.
They priced all the options.
They looked at the pros and cons of each.
They narrowed it down to three choices, each in a new 14K yellow gold setting (to securely hold the center stone), each with my 6 tiny diamonds, each to look like this:
Option 1. Diamond center stone — prices start at $10,000 and go to infinity. (For example, Sarah Hyland and Wells Adams announced their engagement last week — her ring is almost identical to this, minus the tiny diamonds, and is estimated at $100,000-200,000 depending on the quality of the diamond.)
Option 2. Moissanite center stone — $2,500-$3,000.
Option 3. Cubic Zirconia center stone — $635.
They chose Option 3, and it’s GORGEOUS.
And, not to brag, but Richard Muller, professor of physics at UC Berkeley, agrees with their choice. The value of diamonds is in their rarity, but their rarity is artificially manufactured, set by diamond cartels that restrict the flow of diamonds onto the market. Simulated diamonds, meanwhile, are more clear, more colorful, and less flawed than mined diamonds, and, frankly, no one except a jeweler can tell the difference.
The only real con of cubic zirconia is that it isn’t as hard as a diamond. Diamonds are a 10 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness.* Moissanite is a 9.25. Sapphires are 9. Cubic Zirconia is 8.5. Topaz is 8. Emerald is 7.5. And so on. However, similar to the way Seismic Magnitude Scales** like the Richter Scale reflect an exponential difference in magnitude as the numbers increase to describe the intensity of an earthquake, diamonds are exponentially harder than cubic zirconia. More simply, you can’t just say CZ is “close enough” in hardness*** to diamonds. Oh, it’s hard. It’s just not that hard.****
The fantastic news is, if at some point a CZ stone is scratched or otherwise marred, it costs a whopping $10 to replace the stone itself + $50ish in labor. AND, if Abby and Chandler or any super savvy spenders like them decide in the future they’d rather have moissanite or diamond, it’s incredibly simple to make that swap. They’re not “stuck” having made the CZ choice they same way they would be with a more expensive option.
In conclusion, MY CHILDREN ARE THE SMARTEST CHILDREN THAT EVER WERE, and this is today’s Haphazard Lifestyle Advice in How to Wedding.
*P.S. Greg and I are going to play Mohs Scale of Hardness later. He doesn’t know yet, so shhhhhh… don’t spoil the surprise.
**P.P.S. We’re also going to play Seismic Magnitude Scales.
***P.P.P.S. “Close enough in hardness” is not part of the game.
****P.P.P.P.S. “Oh, it’s hard; just not that hard” is not part of the game, either.