Dear Abby Dilemma

Last week a woman wrote in to Dear Abby with an interesting dilemma:

Dear Abby: My husband gave me a diamond and sapphire ring for our anniversary. Because it was too large, I took it to a jeweler, who asked me where it came from. When I asked the jeweler why he asked, he informed me that the sapphire was synthetic and the "diamonds" were cubic zirconia. I'm not certain whether to tell my husband. I don't want him to think I don't like the ring. It is beautiful, and I will love wearing it regardless. However, if he bought the ring thinking it was the real McCoy, he may have spent a lot more on it than it is worth. Because my husband has always given me exquisite jewelry, I suspect he doesn't know. Should I share this information with him or keep my mouth shut? - Stuck in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Dear Stuck: Tell your husband that you took the ring to the jeweler to have it sized and what he told you. Assure your husband that you love it and want to keep it "regardless." He may have bought it from the Home Shopping Network or he may have been taken advantage of. Either way, it will clear the air.

I suspect Stuck in Stone Mountain made two false statements in her letter. First, I doubt she took the ring to the jeweler because she thought "it was too large." She wanted to know if it was real. Second, there's no way that she thinks "he doesn't know." She's sure that he knows and is dying to let him know that she knows. (But my wife says I'm being too cynical and thinks the woman might really be concerned that her husband got ripped off... as opposed to being concerned that he was trying to slip a cheap gift past her.)


Posted on Tue Sep 06, 2005


If it was my girlfriend, I know what would be on her mind. With her, everything boils down to the cost.
Posted by Stinky Pete  in  UK  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  04:50 AM
Despite the fact that my wife thinkd me stupid enough to be taken advantage of, she'll still hold me responsible and one way or another want something as expensive, or more expensive, like a car, a holiday etc. And yes, I can call myself one lucky bastard if I'm ever to be allowed to drive the car, or escort her on her holiday.
Posted by Jerry S  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  04:55 AM
I dunno, I can believe it's a real situation. I actually have to get my engagement ring repaired, and will be taking it into a jeweler's shop this month...If I should learn it's not a diamond, I would tell my husband. Since it belonged to his mother's family it doesn't matter how real it is, b/c it still has sentimental value for him. And for ME, it was the ring that he proposed with - it would still be special.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  05:29 AM any case, I bet about 80% of those (Dear Abby letters) are fake.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  05:30 AM
I'm pretty sure this letter has been printed before.
Posted by Katey  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  07:17 AM
The truth of the matter is, all diamond rings have only sentimental value (unless you're planning to use yours to cut glass).
Diamonds are valuable because people think they are. If we had the same sorts of emotions about, say, graphite, everybody would getting their pencil leads appraised.
Posted by Big Gary in the kitchen  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  04:51 PM
She also could have been taking it to a jeweler to get it resized - she did say it was too large, after all. And it's definitely possible her husband didn't know it wasn't real. The ring my fiancee gave me was supposed to be a Mt. St. Helens emerald. It was actually something more akin to obsidian and was "emerald cut".
Posted by Jess  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  07:58 PM
True. Precious objects are valuable because of their rarity. Gold actually is rather hard to come by, as are rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. But diamonds--they are just carbon, and they are actually rather common.

After all, there is no park in Arkansas where you can dig for your own rubies. There is such a place where you can dig for diamonds.

Diamonds are actually much more common than they are valued as being. If market forces were left to it, you could get a ring-quality diamond for about two hundred bucks.

But the evil, evil Debeers corporation fixed that many years ago. Anyone who mines diamonds is forced to sign on to the Debeers cartel, which controls how many diamonds you can put on the market. This keeps the number of diamonds few enough that they stay valuable. Meanwhile, there are vaults in Africa and especially Russia that are full to the roof with diamonds, Scrooge McDuck style--that cannot be sold. They just sit there forever, so Debeers can turn mighty profits.

Do you know where the tradition of giving diamond wedding and engagement rings comes from? Debeers invented both, whole-cloth, in the first half of the 20th century, much the same way Hallmark invented all those holidays to sell their cards. Honest.

Bastards, aren't they?

I made up my mind a long time ago--when I give a woman a ring, it will be set with either a ruby or an emerald. If I'm going to pay for a precious stone, it had damn well better be precious, not just tightly marketed.
Posted by Barghest  on  Wed Sep 07, 2005  at  08:03 PM
Well, Big Gary, I wouldn't be so hard on diamonds - Pun intended. After all, carbon is one of the rarer elements in the Earth's makeup, and while the hardness of diamonds is repeatable in their synthetic form, natural diamonds are beautiful precisely beacuse of their imperfections, that create the spectacular color shows out of white light. Industrial and synthetic diamonds are plain glassy looking objects by comparison, which is an interesting lesson for dealing with people if you ask me smile

And a query: Are De Beers evil because of their actions, in your opinion, or their "impure" non-Americhristian bloodline, Gary mein fuhrer?
Posted by DFStuckey  in  Auckland New Zealand  on  Thu Sep 08, 2005  at  05:47 AM
DFStuckey, it was not I who mentioned DeBeers, and Barghest didn't exactly say Debeers is evil-- and he certanly didn't make any racial or religious references.

Now that you mention evil, though, as I understand it, DeBeers did make the bulk of its fortune by exploiting the labor of oppressed South African black people through the Apartheid system.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Thu Sep 08, 2005  at  05:43 PM
Watch the NOVA program about diamonds and deBeers, and decide for yourself.
Posted by cvirtue  in  deleted  on  Thu Sep 08, 2005  at  06:05 PM
>>>and Barghest didn't exactly say Debeers is evil<<<

Yes I did. Twice.

What a lame attempt at distractionary tactics. What, I'm racist because I think it's wrong to deliberately convince ten thousand young men a year that the only way to prove they love their girlfriends is to buy them chunks of carbon with artificially inflated prices, thus getting them into debt for years and years to come, taking money away from them that they could be using for their homes and children?

Oh, but Debeers are Afrikaners! So I must be RACIST!

You idiot. You unmitigated idiot.

For one things, the Debeers family sold off all their interests in diamond mining a few decades after they started up. The Debeers corporation has only retained their name, and has been run by a rainbow coalition of sleazy corporate types from all over the world for the bulk of its existence.

Reminds me of the time I was pointing out that Bush's social security scheme would require borrowing four trillion dollars from China, thus crushing our economy. Some Republican asshat then accused me of being racist against Asians. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.
Posted by Barghest  on  Thu Sep 08, 2005  at  07:48 PM
>>>After all, carbon is one of the rarer elements in the Earth's makeup<<<

Compared to silicon or sulpher, yes. Compared to corundum (which is the mineral that rubies and sapphires are made of) or other minerals that make up precious stones and gems? Not at all. Diamond is the most common precious substance around. You could dig up thousands of diamonds for every one emerald or sapphire you find.

You could also pay attention and remember what I said. Remember the vaults in Russia that are full of diamonds that the mining concerns aren't allowed to sell? I mentioned it. You don't even have to believe me--you could google it and find out for yourself. You could also google for some pages on precious stones and learn the truth about diamond, corundum, and such; any decent jewelry wholesaler's home page will have some background information on the science involved.

But look at me--I'm making appeals for rationality and scientific thought to someone who was stupid enough to make that retarded 'you must be racist' comment. Bet you don't put much stock in science atall, do ya, bubba? Cuz it ain't in da Bible no how so's how cun it be true, ayup!
Posted by Barghest  on  Thu Sep 08, 2005  at  11:33 PM
Barghest, I will give you a little slack on this matter. Firstly, I will just say that I am somewhat sensitive on the topic of diamonds because some of my ancestors used them as a medium of exchange when gold could be adulterated and counterfieted without detection; And I have lived a very long time being called "jew-boy". Besides which, I do not see what religious belief has to do with this matter, so I am rather surprised at your descending to name calling yourself.

And, umitigated idiot that I am, i was under the impression that most of the other gemstones, certainly sapphires and emeralds, are made up of aluminium silicates, aluminium being far more common in the crust than any aforementioned items? Correct me if I'm wrong, but not because I don't agree with you.
Posted by DFStuckey  in  Auckland New Zealand  on  Fri Sep 09, 2005  at  05:22 AM
Alright, let's say that I've gotten the 'making fun of someone' urge all done with and out of my system, so now we can move on to watching me discuss science calmly and politely.

You must realize that just because the components of something are abundant, does not mean that a particular configuration of those components are abundant. Sand is everywhere, yet glass is somewhat rarer. Aluminum is very common, yet there are no caverns in the earth filled with billions of naturally-occuring empty Sprite cans. Steel, plastic, and wiring are ubiquitous, yet VCRs do not litter the ground like so many cherry blossoms. It's not just the ingredients, it's how they are put together. And just because there is lots of aluminum and silicon in the world doesn't mean that aluminosilicates of gem quality are common; all jewel-quality minerals form under some very specific conditions.

Topaz and Aquamarines are both aluminum silicates; these are semiprecious stones, worth much less than gem-quality minerals like ruby, because they are much more common.

Rubies are formed from corundum, an aluminum/oxygen molecule which is much rarer than aluminosilicates.

Emeralds are formed from a rather more complex molecule called cyclosilicates, which are formed from berylium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. This is one reason they are rarer, and consequently more valuable.

Sapphire is actually corundum; the only difference between sapphire and ruby is the range of colors, which are determined by other trace elements in the molecular structure.

Now, let me make this clear: there is very little variance with jewels, chemically. By that I mean that all true emeralds are made of cyclosilicates, and all true sapphires are made of corundum. I cannot stress this enough: NO real emeralds or sapphires are formed of aluminosilicates. If someone tells you an aluminosilicate is an emerald or a sapphire, they are ripping you off by trying to pass off an aquamarine or a beryl as a much rarer and more expensive gem. This is a time-honored and ancient tradition among unscrupulous jewelers; they have all kinds of names to make semiprecious stones sound more valuable. An 'Indian Ruby" is not the same kind of mineral as a Ruby, for instance.

Diamond, on the other hand, is just highly-compressed carbon; no other element is present, exept in the case of the rare colored diamonds like canary diamonds, which get their color from trace amounts of other substances (often boron or nitrogen, I believe). Diamond is the hardest substance known to man, but that in and of itself isn't enough to make it valuable as a jewel (only as an industrial element).

Posted by Barghest  on  Fri Sep 09, 2005  at  08:36 PM

"Surprisingly, diamonds are not rare, whatsoever! This might come as a shock to a person who has just paid 1,000 dollars for a one-carat stone, but there are enough diamonds in the world to give every man, woman, and child in America a cupful. Although they have the best reputation, diamonds are not the most expensive gemstone, either. A top-quality ruby would be double the expense of a diamond of the same carat. A diamond
Posted by Barghest  on  Fri Sep 09, 2005  at  08:37 PM
">>>and Barghest didn't exactly say Debeers is evil<<<

Yes I did. Twice."

Oh, so you did. My mistake. Now that I re-read your first post, I see that you did indeed say that. Not only did you say it; you offered actual evidence (something fairly rare on iternet chat sites).

But I still say it was DF Stuckey, not Barghest, who tried to bring racial and religious prejudice into the discussion.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Mon Sep 19, 2005  at  01:41 PM
How wonderfully refreshing to see such a dedicated pursuit to providing thorough and definitive information to prove your point. Something, as Big Gary said, you do NOT see much of anymore.
Posted by Feighlogh  in  Puget Sound  on  Mon Sep 19, 2005  at  11:31 PM
>After all, carbon is one of the rarer elements in the Earth's makeup<

No doubt there are more abundant elements, such as silicon, hydrogen, and oxygen. But I have a hard time thinking of carbon as being all that rare. As I sit in my office and look around, the vast majority of things I see are made of carbon or of compounds containing carbon-- objects of wood, paper, plastics, cloth, leather, etc. Even the plants on the bookshelf, the pots the plants grow in, the bark and peat in the potting mix, and the bookshelf they sit on, all contain large amounts of carbon. And (need I say it?) the body that sits here doing the looking also contains many pounds of carbon.

You can't say the same thing about titanium or platinum.

The electricity to send this message is also being generated (mostly) by burning carboniferous fuels such as coal and natural gas.

Now, the fact that carbon is common doesn't mean diamonds are common, of course. But there seems to be a pretty broad general consensus for Barghest's basic contention, which is that an international cartel has effective control of the supply of diamonds, and thereby keeps the prices artificially high. (Similar things could be said about petroleum, milk, and soybeans, but diamonds happen to be the subject at hand.)
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Tue Sep 20, 2005  at  01:45 PM
My husband's money and my money are one in the same. So, yes, I would be concerned about whether he had been ripped off on a ring he thought was 100% real. Because if he gets ripped off, so do I.
Posted by Rachel  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  11:20 AM
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