Diamonds are for…others?

Posted On March 6, 2017

They love me, they love me not. Can a generation that values new experiences and social awareness be counted upon to continue a tradition of extravagance in the name of love? That may depend on which report you pluck from the internet, but with a bottom line uniquely tied to a demographic that’s of the prime age for engagements and weddings, the future of the diamond industry may rest upon the answer.

A recent article in The Economist contends that it’s an industry in decline. While cheaper alternatives are increasing in quality, increased regulation and market forces are driving the cost of diamonds down – a troubling development for a commodity that draws its value from relative scarcity and prestige.

What’s worse: many millennials don’t see them as being particularly necessary – even in a marriage proposal.

For millennials who value experiences over material possessions, it may be preferable to spend more on the honeymoon than the engagement ring. For the socially conscious, the conditions under which some gemstones are mined are a turn-off, including the utilization of forced and/or child labor and the use of proceeds to fund war efforts.

In ridiculing an earlier Economist article on the same topic,’s Ana Kasparian offers another reason millennials might be turning away from diamonds: For a generation that is struggling with the skyrocketing cost of college tuition and a tightening job market, forking over a couple months’ salary for some bling is a “dumb investment.”

Shiny stones don’t seem quite as important when you’re trying to save up enough money to buy a house while you’re still paying off student loans.

But before we bury diamonds for good, let’s consider a different take from Forbes. The magazine cited a 2016 report by diamond syndicate De Beers which found that demand for diamond jewelry rose from $10 billion in 1999 to $16 billion in 2016 and that millennials led the charge.

Of course, it would behoove De Beers, which once held a relative monopoly on the industry, to paint as rosy a picture as possible – but that doesn’t necessarily mean its numbers are wrong. There is still an allure to the traditional picture of a man on his knee, holding up a box with something shiny and expensive inside for his beloved.

Is that allure strong enough to endure? Are diamonds really forever? Whether the Madison Avenue-coined catchphrase holds true may depend upon the tug-of-war battle between tradition and pragmatism that every generation ultimately goes through. While Team Pragmatism seems to get stronger with every passing generation, Team Tradition hasn’t been dragged across the line just yet.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials, Generations