Millennials have been credited with killing everything from affordable housing to chain restaurants, but what we’re really killing, it seems, is tradition.
And with more millennials starting to get married and settle down, it seems like wedding traditions are becoming yet another victim. Specifically, the engagement ring.
Traditionally, the man surprises his would-be wife with a ring he picked out after agonising hours and days and weeks of choosing. This is hardly the case now, in Singapore, where more and more couples seem to prefer shopping for the ring together. Is romance dead in our too-practical country?
Beyond the lack of surprise, it seems that traditional types of engagement rings have gone out of fashion. No longer are couples limited to dazzling diamonds set atop silver or gold bands. These days, we’re getting everything from (millennial pink) rose quartz rings, to wooden rings topped with resin and blossoms.
As with most jewellery, engagement rings have been a marker of status, and a largely Western invention. Yet, I’ll bet you never knew that the popularity of diamond engagement rings is really a marketing ploy.
Back in 1938, De Beers embarked on a fierce campaign to boost diamond sales. Yes, that De Beers. Heard of the 4Cs mantra for diamonds? Introduced by De Beers, the importance of cut, carats, colour and clarity encouraged us to believe that only diamonds belonged on engagement rings. Because “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, right?
Thanks to the rise of alternative gemstones and designs for engagement rings, we’re finally moving away from traditional diamond engagement rings. And far from the traditional secrecy where the groom-to-be surprises his prospective bride with a ring he bought, there’s a much more collaborative effort on the rise. Go gender equality!
Which brings us to our question: should couples shop for engagement rings together? Does shopping for the ring together sound the death knell for romance, or is it only logical?
I talked to five Singaporean women to find out more.
M, 23, is a self-proclaimed picky purveyor of jewellery. Her boyfriend of 16 months recently bought an engagement ring for her, after they browsed the displays together.
Describing the eventual ring she chose, M delivers it with such clarity that she sounds like an expert. Her selected design comes from the Destinee Royale collection: with 81 facets and 10 hearts and arrows, the star-shaped pattern is further enhanced by the six-claw setting. She also settled on a twisted band, which added a twist on the classic solitaire look.
Yet neither M nor her boyfriend knew anything about engagement rings, or even diamonds. Walking past a jewellery retailer, they decided to go in on impulse – the jeweller gave them a crash course and helped them select the design together.
M declared that, ultimately, she must like the ring – otherwise, what’s the point of spending so much money on it?
To her, the surprise is nowhere as important as making sure she chose the right ring. Before choosing the ring, she thought she would prefer a “surprise ring”, but now she realises that “choosing it is really very important”.
Of course, her boyfriend still plans to surprise her with the proposal – and that is much more important to her.
Likewise, Jingwen, 23, and her boyfriend also bought their ring after a brief browsing session in a jewellery store.
“We happened to pass by a jewellery shop and ended up getting pulled in for a lecture on ‘how to decide which diamond to get’,” she confessed. Even though the couple had already been thinking about marriage, this encounter was really what kick-started the whole process of buying an engagement ring.
Price was definitely a consideration for Jingwen, who “didn’t want to spend 3000 bucks just to buy a diamond”, and ended up getting an amethyst for her ring instead.
“I happened to see my current ring on display, and it was love at first sight… so we just bought it immediately”.
In true Singaporean fashion, Jingwen and her boyfriend even managed to get a discount for the ring. Because the ring was the last one available, and part of an older collection, they managed to snag it for less than $1000. That’s right, an engagement ring for not even a grand.
She admits that there have been people who questioned her decision – she has heard remarks like “you’re dumb for not getting a diamond” and “why did you get such a cheap ring”.
But she responds that, after all, she’s the one getting married and the one wearing the ring, “so who cares!”.
Of course, for those like Amanda, 28, who knows exactly what she wants, shopping for the ring together is a much better choice.
Talking to the store staff helped refine her selection down to a 0.5 carat diamond with a six-prong Tiffany setting – classic and elegant.
Even though they bought the ring together, her then-boyfriend still managed to surprise her with the proposal.
“He got his army friends to set the Montigo resort’s bedroom up with lit up candles, the ring, and fake floral petals that formed a heart-shape and [the] words ‘will you marry me?’, while he stalled for time by bringing me on a walk around the resort”.
Amanda wears the $5000 ring every day, stacked with her wedding ring. The effort, ultimately, is what she appreciates.
“It might not sound like an epic… proposal, but the fact that he went out of his way to plan all of it in secrecy. I really appreciated it”.
Sometimes, even the best laid plans of men can go wrong – if you’re not aware of your partner’s preferences. That’s what almost happened to Charmian, 34. Her now-husband tried to surprise her with an engagement ring, mistakenly assuming that she would like the classic solitaire design with a plain band.
“I liked a solitaire with side diamonds,” she admits. “The more sparkle, the better!”. Bonus points for her diamond’s rose design.
Her husband didn’t manage to surprise her with the ring, because they browsed jewellery stores together. But he did manage to set up a surprise proposal – much to Charmian’s chagrin.
“We went to Adventure Cove, so I was totally unaware that he was going to propose to me that night. After showering, I saw him in shirt and pants while I was in T-shirt, shorts and slippers. I even told him, if he were to propose, I would say ‘no’ because I wasn’t dressed for the occasion”.
Of course, she did eventually agree. And the rest, as she says, is history.
For Felicia, 23, it’s possible to get the ring you want and still be surprised.
Despite not shopping for the ring together, her fiancé managed to buy the perfect ring. Psychic? Not quite – he gathered hints from her friends.
“I didn’t want a ring that was too flashy, like the kind with many little diamonds. I wanted something simple and classy”.
A 0.55 carat with solitaire reversed-tapered cut, the ring surpassed her expectations. She didn’t think he would get such a costly ring – she doesn’t know the exact price, but it costs at least $2000 – $3000.
The proposal itself was also a surprise for her.
“We had dinner at Coastal Settlement, then he suggested that we catch the sunset, so we walked along Changi boardwalk. His friends helped to set up fairy lights, flowers, pictures and fancy decoration at the proposal spot along the boardwalk – and he proposed there, with a poem, as the sun was setting”.
Of course, the stories of five women hardly represent the experiences of everyone. But their concerns and considerations are likely shared by many women looking to marry. Unless you happen to have a hefty inheritance stashed away somewhere, these years will probably take a financial toll on you and your partner.
After all, some of these women have shown that you can shop for the ring together and still get surprised by the proposal. Guess romance is still alive and well in Singapore!
All the more reason to save while you can. (Your soon-to-be husband will be very thankful as well.) Besides, traditional diamond rings are so passé. I say, get with the times and pick out a beautiful ring that best matches your personality!
What do you think? Should couples shop for engagement rings together?