“Diamonds are forever.”

Now that Kim Kardashian and her two-million-dollar engagement ring have announced details of her wedding to New Jersey Nets power forward Kris Humphries, we thought we’d examine that phrase a little. And it turns out that it is, in a word, bullshit.

Unless “forever” started in 1947, when that slogan was written by Frances Gerety, a copywriter working for an advertising agency called N.W. Ayer & Son. In an effort to reverse the falling price of diamonds in America and the lack of interest in their purchase, De Beers (the largest diamond cartel in the world), hired the ad agency to force feed the American public the idea that every man had to buy the biggest and most expensive diamond ring he could afford for his fiancé, that the size of the diamond was equivalent to how much the man valued the woman.

De Beers and their ad agency also created the false idea of the scarcity of diamonds to make the public think they were far more rare than they actually are. De Beers stored most of the diamonds they owned in vaults, circulating only a small percentage of their stock to nurture the illusion that diamonds were the most rare of all gemstones. Fun fact: they’re not. Rubies are.

N.W. Ayer & Son also worked tirelessly to influence popular mass media of the time. They convinced movie studios to include scenes of women shopping for diamonds and songs about diamonds, and they arranged countless public appearances for movie stars to show off the diamonds they were wearing. (Of course, they did all of this without alerting the public to the inhumane practices that were going on in virtually all of their diamond mines in and around South Africa.)

They whipped the public into a diamond-buying frenzy, and 60-plus years after the launch of that initial ad campaign, most American women wouldn’t consider a proposal of marriage complete without a big shiny rock in a little box. And most men will oblige.

Why this is silly

If being duped by a massively powerful cartel into shelling out thousands of dollars for something that is completely useless isn’t enough to stop you from buying a diamond engagement ring, then let’s take a look at the inequality of the idea itself.

De Beers suggests that a man looking to give the ultimate gift of eternal love to his sweetheart should carve out three months’ worth of his salary and hand it over to them. (Humphries and his 3.2-million-dollar salary, now in jeopardy thanks to the NBA lockout, must not have gotten the memo.) This is gross, not net. In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau reported an average mean income for full-time workers, aged 25 to 64 of $39,509. Since that was five years ago, let’s round up to 40k because it makes the math easy. Three months salary is 10 grand.

That’s right, De Beers wants you to spend 10,000 dollars on one of their diamonds, and there’s a good chance that your lady wants the same thing. Let’s assume the brain washing worked. Let’s assume you can’t wait to write off the last three months of working a job you hate to buy a tiny, plentiful rock that some 12-year-old kid in Sierra Leone mined even though the process could easily be simulated in a lab. Fine. But what’s she getting you to celebrate the beauty and love that will no doubt last for the rest of your lives? Oh, right…not a goddamn thing.

Two alternatives

I’m not saying everything in a relationship has to be equal. I’m just saying the thing that supposedly symbolizes eternal love and devotion should go both ways. So if the guy has to drop 10 grand on a pointless trinket that has no innate value beyond its mineral rating on the Mohs scale, then the lady have to return the favor.

Maybe she takes her man out for a bank-breaking all-night escapade at his favorite strip club. Maybe she buys him a nice-new entertainment center complete with 70-inch LED TV. Oh wait, that’s actually functional. Nevermind. Perhaps she pays his entry fee in the WSOP Main Event and they agree to a pre-nup that allows the guy to keep any winnings so she doesn’t rope him into the ten-year diamond anniversary ring. That’s another idea manufactured by De Beers and their ad agency, when they realized the first generation they’d hoodwinked were starting to hand their diamonds down to prospective grooms-to-be—and putting a noticeable dent in the number of new engagement rings sold.

If you’re still positive that your sweet little angel just won’t be happy unless she has a ring on her finger, if the indoctrination that she went through as a young girl took hold so firmly that logic will not break her diamond lust, then please at least consider this strategy, which was first outlined for me by my good friend Todd. You purchase three rings. Each of the three should be equal in size, color and clarity. Choose dissimilar settings and cuts of stone. Also make sure two of these rings are not diamonds, but instead cubic zirconia.

Get down on one knee, but instead of popping out one little box, pop out three. You tell her that she’s so beautiful you couldn’t decide on just one ring to give her. You want her to make the choice. You want her to choose the ring that she’ll wear on her finger forever and ever. Explain the logistics so there’s no confusion. She keeps the ring she chooses and you return the other two.

Unless she’s some kind of international diamond expert, you have a two in three shot of getting your 10 grand back from De Beers the next day. Chances are she’ll never know the difference, unless she has it appraised for “insurance purposes.” And even then, you’re absolved. Simply explain that deep down even she knew that the diamond engagement ring is a pointless and tired tradition that we need to be done with, the sooner the better. Don’t you agree?