J-Lo’s engagement ring is reportedly worth$1 million — is it time to ditch the diamond?

Published: Mar 10, 2019 1:12 p.m. ET

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Many people don’t have the money to buy a diamond ring

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Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez got engaged over the weekend. He engagement ring is reportedly worth over $1 million.
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Personal Finance Editor

Are diamonds more of a frenemy to the financial lives of young couples — rather than a girl’s best friend?

Singer Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, the former professional baseball player, announced their engagement over the weekend, and Lopez showed off her square-cut diamond engagement ring on Instagram FB, -0.91%  to her 88.5 million followers. Lifestyle magazines have been asking jewelers to pitch their estimates on how much the ring might be worth. Assuming the ring is 15 carats, colorless and of pristine clarity, it could be worth $1.4 million, one jeweler told Cosmopolitan. Others speculate that the ring could be valued at multiples of that.

Other couples in America are putting less emphasis on diamonds. Nearly one-in-four millennials said they would have no problem selling their engagement ring to pay for a house or college.

It sounds romantic, but young couples in America are actually putting less emphasis on diamonds. Nearly one-in-four millennials said they would have no problem selling their engagement ring to pay for a house or college, according to a recent survey by WP Diamonds. Less than one-quarter of older generations feel the same way. This tallies with a slew of studies that conclude young Americans value experiences over stuff. They don’t feel tied by the same social conventions as their parents or even older siblings.

Diamond engagement rings are a post-World War II marketing construct. The industry was also given a boost by generations of romantic movies. Giving a diamond ring to mark an engagement goes back to the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign by the DeBeers diamond company, which trademarked the sentiment. It was written by copywriter Frances Gerety in 1947. Men spend an average of $6,351 on an engagement ring, up 25% in six years, according to a 2017 survey of 14,000 U.S. adults who were engaged or recently married and used the wedding website The Knot.

This man wrote to MarketWatch to ask whether it was appropriate to ask his fiancée to leave her diamond engagement ring to his daughter. (This writer advised him: “If you don’t feel comfortable giving her this engagement ring outright, you should probably (a) give her something else for your engagement (maybe a vacation in some amazing place) or (b) remain single. Don’t give her a ring with conditions attached.”) But his question suggests that more people are, perhaps, aware of the rising cost of diamonds.

Their value becomes especially important if a couple parts ways before the big day. Engagement rings have become the subject of a tug of war when the relationship breaks up. Last year, a young lawyer in D.C. sued his fiancée for the $100,000 4.06-carat engagement ring he gave her. He called it a “conditional gift.” (Family law varies by state, but in New York City and Washington, D.C. the gift of an engagement ring only becomes complete at the wedding ceremony.) There have been similar cases of couples going to court (and the papers) to retrieve the precious ring.

Diamond rings can become the subject of a tug of war if the relationship breaks up. Last year, a young lawyer in D.C. sued his fiancée for the $100,000 4.06-carat engagement ring he gave her.

There’s also good financial reason to ditch the diamond ring altogether and, say, put the money in an account to save for a home or start paying off other debts. Outstanding student loan debt totaled $1.46 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2018, up $15 billion on the previous quarter. Yet only a small fraction of younger Americans appear to be focusing on saving. Some 16% of Generation Xers say financial planning is part of their goals versus 27% of millennials, according to a recent survey from Allianz Life.

Not everyone believes that posting a photo of your ring on social media like J-Lo is a good idea. “The most gracious way to show your ring on social media is by posting a photo of your left hand that also includes you and your betrothed, according to the Who What Wear blog. “Your friends and family are likely dying to see your ring, so obliging them with a picture shouldn’t be considered bragging. However, posting close-up images of your new engagement ring can be a bit much.”

Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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