October 28, 2002
Cubic Zirconia and Investment-Grade Bonds Are Forever

Andrew Tobias - Money and Other Subjects wants to diminish the power and wealth of the De Beers diamond cartel. He wants to replace the social custom of diamond engagement rings with the combination of cubic zirconium rings plus IRAs. "Just the $119 ring – let alone trying to pass it off as a real diamond – won’t cut it, obviously. You’ve got to come up with the ring and the $3,000 Roth IRAs – and maybe a necklace and a joint mutual fund account – to show that you really are crazy in love. Just not crazy in love with DeBeers":


Diamonds Are for . . . ? | Published on October 28, 2002: I have never been much for jewelry. You take the trinkets; I’ll take Manhattan Island. Yes, I once had a cherished high school ring – 14 karat gold with a garnet in the middle – that set me back $39. But it slipped off in the surf of southern Spain a few years later and no manner of diving around for it, goggleless, could turn it up. That was it for me in the jewelry department for nearly thirty years until Charles and I exchanged platinum bands, only a fairly minor extravagance. (It was the built-in bookshelves that made me gulp.) The point is, diamonds may be beautiful, but diamonds are also a lot more expensive than they would be if DeBeers hadn’t organized the world diamond cartel so efficiently, and hadn’t persuaded starry-eyed young men that, to be men, they had to devote two months’ pre-tax pay to the purchase of an engagement ring.

I say: click here for the engagement ring and be dazzled by the possibilities. Not that I have ever dealt with these people myself. But their full-page ad in the New York Times and their web site lead me to believe you could do worse than to risk your $119 on a two-karat diamond engagement ring that (the ad says) would otherwise cost $22,000. I never thought I would actually write the words “cubic zirconia,” and have deleted both QVC and the Home Shopping Network from my cable line-up. And, okay, yes, these are fake diamonds. But about the only way for a layman to tell they are fake is to scratch them with real diamonds. And what kind of people go around at parties doing that? Especially since their real diamonds are locked away in a safe deposit box, and they are wearing fake ones, too.

Do you remember Moh’s Hardness Scale? I do! I do! It runs from 1 to 10, with TALC being softest, at 1, then GYPSUM, CALCITE, FLUORITE, SOMETHING, FELDSPAR, QUARTZ, BERYL, RUBY, DIAMOND. Ta-da! (Ah, those endless, lonely childhood hours.) Diamond is 10. But quartz, at 7, is pretty darn hard, as you surely know, so if these $119 suckers are 9, and can scratch quartz, for crying out loud . . . can scratch beryl . . . can hold their own against rubies!!! – well, surely such a ring, along with $3,000 matching his-and-her Roth IRAs, is the wiser way to demonstrate your love and commitment. On your fiftieth anniversary, she’ll still have the dazzling ring. But you’ll also have – just by accepting a 9-hardness stone instead of a 10 – an extra $110,000, after-tax, in today’s buying power to help make your golden years joyous. (This assumes a return 6% above inflation, and from just one investment of $3,000 apiece in the matching his-and-her Roth IRAs. Manage to contribute $3,000 apiece every year at that rate, and on your fiftieth anniversary you will have, between the two of you, better than $1.8 million. If one or both of you don't qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA, you could still do well with an index fund.)

Just the $119 ring – let alone trying to pass it off as a real diamond – won’t cut it, obviously. You’ve got to come up with the ring and the $3,000 Roth IRAs – and maybe a necklace and a joint mutual fund account – to show that you really are crazy in love. Just not crazy in love with DeBeers.

Posted by DeLong at October 28, 2002 11:06 AM | Trackback

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I always go with DeBeers when talking about Monopolies in the principles discussion I teach; Monopolies are bad, mmmkay? Look at DeBeers-Evil, mmkay?


That aside, I think that investment grade bonds are for slightly less than forever. Maybe consols?

Posted by: Dennis O'Dea on October 28, 2002 12:47 PM
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