As a woman who has been dating her boyfriend for the past 7 years, bought a home and moved in together for the past 1.5 years, my perspective on an engagement ring is simple.
I think I just want one.
I'm not trying to sound desperate but it does cross my mind sometimes. The ring symbolizes a lot in our culture and our society. Whether we like it or not, the engagement ring and weddings are symbols of life transitions and moving from one area (young adulthood) into another area of your life (cohabitation and possibly children). These symbolic meanings can't be easily brushed aside, especially when you have your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, your cousins, your friends all breathing down your neck and wondering when he is going to propose and when you are going to get married. It also symbolizes that someone wants you enough to want to settle down with you and get married. I know that I sound like an hypocrite feminist out there, but things like these are so ingrained in us even while growing up that it's hard to just shake off.
No, the ring doesn't have to be 3 months gross or net salary or whatever the stupid De Beers marketing rule is (because that would be ridiculously expensive for a ring), nor does it have to be a minimum sized 1 carat ring (I know a few people who are expecting a “ring upgrade” when they hit the 10 year marriage mark). It doesn't even have to be a Tiffany ring (though some girls I know may beg to differ).
The Salary Rule
Obviously the salary rule meant something different back then when it was prevalent than it does now. If men followed the salary rule, they would obviously be broke and unable to afford their rent or mortgage. Honestly. Inflation did something funny to our cost of living and I doubt that any woman out there expects their future fiance to pop the question with a diamond that cost three months salary.
To be honest, I know zero women who are engaged who have received rings that were 3 months gross or net salary. Believe me, I know a girlfriend who has a rock the size of her iris (read: 2 carat and up) out there, but it still didn't cost three months of her husband's salary. It might have cost the price of a mid-size car but not three months of her husbands salary.
Does Size Matter?
Size matters for a lot of things (wink wink) but I don't really think it matters for a ring (for most reasonable women that is). The aforementioned girlfriend with the ring the size of your iris? She was annoyed that her fiance spent so much money on her and would have rather preferred they put more money into their down payment.
As long as it's not the size of a promise ring (read: the size of a constricted pupil) then any engagement ring will really do.
Most women would rather see the money spent on something more practical, like putting money towards a down payment or a trip or a car. We all are well aware that the resale values of diamonds aren't anywhere near as high as what you paid for it.
That being said, I know women compare sizes of rings. They really do. But it will be a silent, passive aggressive catty way where no one will realize they are comparing diamond ring sizes with you.
I know another girl who accepted a cubic zirconia ring with a promise that he will buy her a real diamond ring when he graduates from grad school and gets a real job (he has a part-time job but still no ring and not paying mortgage payments). She made sure not to tell her parents because she knew they would be pissed. The last thing that any parent wants to see is that their daughter is not worth a real diamond ring.
The parents can't help it. It's the societal-culture thing. Ingrained in most of us, remember?
Another guy friend of mine (he's kind of a jerk) bought a cubic zirconia ring that is a knock off of a Tiffany and Co. ring and proposed to her with that. Yeah, kind of a jerk eh?
Well, What Really Matters Then?
What really matters then? That you put some thought into proposing. That you don't just dump the ring box on the table. That you make sure that the diamond you buy isn't tainted with blood and sweat from a child in Africa. No, it doesn't matter if you bought it on Amazon or even Costco, if you get more bang for your buck, then so be it!
Frankly, I don't think it's simply just about consumer culture. It's about family culture in general. It's about feeling wanted, feeling valued, and feeling like we actually mean something to you men. As cliche as it may sound, it really is the thought that counts.
I know many women out there may disagree with me. Ladies out in the blogosphere, what are your thoughts?