Why I Refused a Diamond Ring

olive chan —  May 31, 2012 — 22 Comments

When people see my simple wedding band, some of them wonder where my diamond solitaire engagement ring is.  Well, I never got one.  Instead, I got a goat.  Strange, you say?  Well, let me tell you the story.

no diamond ringAt some point in our dating journey, I arrived at the conclusion that I wanted to marry Tim.  As we talked about possible engagement, I started researching ring options.  I wanted to make it easier for Tim to choose a ring for me so I sent him pictures of designs I liked.  (I know, what a considerate girlfriend I was!)  To be honest, part of me did this because I didn’t quite trust his judgement when it came to choosing things that I would like to wear.  (This was based on previous experience… but that’s another story.)

But the more I looked, the more I felt a growing uneasiness about such a big purchase.  It felt too extravagant.  Now, I know the rationale behind proposing with an expensive diamond is that it symbolizes how valuable a woman is to a man; to say, “This is how much I love you.”  But I just couldn’t buy into that.  Whether a man would stay with me through all the ups and downs of life didn’t seem correlated to whether he was willing to fork over two to three months of his salary to find me the perfect ring.  And just because he could pick out a rock with perfect cut, clarity, colour and carat didn’t really communicate to me his willingness to work with me to build a strong and vibrant marriage relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against receiving nice things. (Are you reading this, honey?)  But I just didn’t believe dropping $10,000 on a piece of jewellery was a wise use of money.  After all, whatever money he spent on my ring would be our money after the wedding.  And at that point, having that money for a downpayment (which translated to a roof over my head) seemed much more appealing than wandering the streets with some pretty bling on my finger.

It’s probably my pragmatic personality, but knowing me, even if he had bought me an expensive diamond solitaire, I would most likely be too afraid of losing it.  Or I’d get annoyed with it catching on things.  So it would ultimately end up in a safety deposit box somewhere.  And what’s the point of that?

Still, I wanted something of significance to mark his commitment to me.  But what?  A ring carried tradition and meaning, which I liked.  But I didn’t think it had to be an expensive one.  The engagement ring would serve as a visual symbol of Tim’s promise to marry me; it would be a place-holder until we exchanged vows at the altar and I would replace it with my wedding band.

As I thought about our relationship and what we desired for our lives to be about, I wanted part of our engagement to reflect the fact that our union existed for more than just the two of us.  So I told Tim not to get me a diamond ring (imagine his relief!) and to bless a family in the developing world with a goat from the World Vision catalogue instead.

In the end, he proposed with a deeply meaningful scrapbook with accompanying gifts, a simple cubic zirconium ring, and some fruit and olive trees for some needy families.  Oh, and yes, he also got a goat.  Which made me really, really happy.


  • I’m not going to lie, the best part of it all “Are you reading this honey?” Oh the nuances of male and female communication. Personally I never really got it. I still don’t get it to this day. I tell people I’m happy to drop 10,000 if it means an extra trip around the world, more photos, more memories, more experiences.
    The tagline “Diamonds are forever” may be true, but before De Beers came along, people gave all sorts of gem stones as a token of their love. Tim is very lucky to have you.

  • sirui

    I like you Olive!

  • Hey Olive,
    I was JUST talking about this with some of the girls and guys on project here in Uganda. I was a young bride (22) and immature at that. But now I love this idea. I’m not sure how I would have felt back then with no ring and all my friends getting engaged and married. Now granted, my engagement ring is a far cry from a $10,000 engagement ring and I am quite happy with it that way. Even then, I didn’t want something extravagant.
    I love how loudly this speaks of your character and compassion for others.

  • Drema

    Hey Olive!

    That’s such a great idea~ I didn’t think about it this way about wedding rings before. I just thought that it’s such a fad to get a diamond ring so if I could decide….I just want something different/unique, symbolic….something that harmed none of God’s creation (humans, earth…etc) through its process of becoming the ring. Hehe…an ethical ring perhaps? But then the engagement becomes even more meaningful when it also blesses other families with goats & produces. Thanks for sharing. =)

    I love it! I didn’t think about the ring/engagement that way, but I feel quite strongly about studio wedding photos. I’ve seen people spend so much money on those wedding photos that I felt the same way about them like how you felt about the rings. I really would not want to waste money on dressing up in all these different outfits just for memories sake. The money could be used to help those who are really in need. Photos on the wedding day is unavoidable, but looking all made-up and ‘perfect’ (touched-up) won’t make marriage any sweeter or better.

    I guess we can say that not just for rings or photos. It’s really worthwhile to take into thoughtful consideration all the things we simply do each day or with major life transitions not just based on that is how everyone else has done it before. Joy/blessings seems to be multiplied when a gift or gifts are shared. Usually we don’t think too much about these things because our focus is on ourselves — especially gifts given to us. We feel we deserve it. But when it’s so humbling and joyful to receive a gift, I guess that would be like what you shared, you want to bless someone with it as well or at the same time!

  • Sandra

    I did the same thing. My husband was going to spend so much money on my ring and I told him not to. I already felt married in my mind and I didn’t want to spend OUR money on a ring. I’d definitely rather spend it on our honeymoon (which was a fabulous trip to Vegas). ♥

  • Paul

    Olive, your post made my day. I only hope I’m lucky enough to meet and marry someone as thoughtful, practical, and unselfish as you are. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Pingback: Why I Changed My Last Name | Tim and Olive()

  • Pingback: These Eyes of Mine: A Fresh Perspective — SheLoves Magazine()

  • Pingback: 2012 Year in Review | Tim and Olive()

  • Let us also not forget the added complication of where the diamonds are sourced from! (concerns about “conflict” diamonds and the like, which may fuel horrific war actions in particular nations in Africa or support unjust regimes in that area as well)

    • olivechan

      Yes, Paulman. That is also a very valid point that I did not touch on.

  • Pingback: How To Live With a Highly Sensitive Person | Tim and Olive()

  • Pingback: When Half A Night’s Sleep Is Still Enough - SheLoves Magazine()

  • Pingback: The Holiness of Napping - SheLoves Magazine()

  • Bev Murrill

    Love it!

  • Laura

    This is beautiful. I love it! I’ve asked for goats for Christmas, and I love it so much more than getting something I don’t need and won’t use for myself. Even than getting things I would use… I love this.

  • I felt *exactly* the same way about an engagement ring!! I never wanted one because I am way too pragmatic for it–like you said. It just never made logical sense to me in any way. Why would I want thousands of dollars on my hand? We just got wedding bands instead. (Sorry about posting on your blog a bunch of times in a row, I just happen to keep finding and reading interesting posts!)

  • Amber

    I wish I would have thought like this before our wedding! We got the ring like everyone expected us to (though I pushed to have a smaller, less fancy one).I ended up donating that thing after having our child because it did get in the way and catch on everything like you said. I don’t even like wearing rings so I usually don’t, but have a simple silver ring I can wear if I feel like it.
    It feels so good to be free from that cultural pressure. I encourage other young couples to think about what’s a right fit for them as well – it’s much more fun!

  • Sabrine Azraq

    All diamonds are blood diamonds. That is why i refuse to purchase them. Especially those made by Israel, a state that continues to ethnically cleanse and brutally occupy Palestinians.

  • Hi Tim and Olive, I came on this blog post researching to see if there are other people who chose not to have engagement rings. I’m really happy to find out alike minded people, also commenting here.

    I made lots of research about the origin and looked in my country traditions, before I decided to refuse having one. The more I read, the more I didn’t want to have an engagement ring. You can have a look at my post as well:

    I do believe that love is something much deeper and we don’t need expensive tools to symbolize or show it :)


    Lu. http://www.balgarka.co.uk

  • Valerie Luzzi

    Hi Olive! Love this post about rings! Honestly…it bothers me that men spend so much money on something like this. I would take an actual rock and be fine without the other rock…or a rubber band around my finger. LOL! Proposing marriage is about the commitment, not the jewelry! I know my bf has family stones, so I know he will have it a little easier and that makes me happy…but this is something I think of every so often and I want him to know that he doesn’t have to go crazy. He knows I’m not big into jewelry (he bought me a beautiful necklace for christmas last year and did a perfect job…understated and music themed since we are both music teachers) so I trust his judgment and I’m not picky anyway! I love what you did and I give you so much credit for standing up and doing something great! :)

  • Irus McNoodle

    I just wrote something similar, then I googled a picture of ‘no diamond ring’ hoping I could borrow one for my writing, then I found your story. Glad I am not the only one!!