BYU students Olivia and Cameron Bardsley decided to get engaged last February. The Bardsleys went against tradition when they saved money with a ring with a morganite center stone rather than a diamond.
BYU students who get married at a young age can experience financial strain during their first few years as husband and wife. According to local retailers and students, this strain is prompting couples to spend less on a diamond engagement ring than tradition would suggest. One of the main ways couples are saving is by selecting an alternative stone.
According to Shelley Jolley, a three-year sales associate at Wilson Diamonds, buying a one-carat diamond can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000. A one-carat-size cubic zirconia costs about $20; a one-carat morganite stone costs about $500; and a one-carat moissanite stone also costs around $500. While a cubic zirconia will yellow with age and likely need to be replaced, a moissanite stone will last forever, just like a diamond.
Marrying young can affect ring options. Utah and Idaho are tied for the state with the lowest average age of couples getting married for the first time. The average for a Utah man is 25.5, and the average for a Utah woman is 23.3. When students choose to marry young, they are less likely to be financially established, and their priorities are different from those of couples who wait until they are older.
The infamous two-month-salary rule states that a man should spend the equivalent of two months of his annual salary on an engagement ring. The first issue with the rule is that most BYU students are lucky if they have a net gain on the year. So it’s likely that two months’ salary is a negative number.
The other issue is that the rule was invented by an ad agency in the 1930s to drum up business.
DeBeers is one of the largest diamond suppliers in the United States. Before the 1930s the diamond was not traditional for an engagement ring. That changed when DeBeers ran an ad campaign with the slogan, “A diamond is forever,” and put the two-month rule on ads, saying things like, “Two months’ salary showed the future Mrs. Smith what life will be like.”
Jolley said some couples are happy with alternative stones and more money in their bank accounts. “There is a cubic zirconia, which is a fake center, and then there is a morganite … and then there is a moissanite, which is a lab-created stone that’s really similar to a diamond which is also really popular and cost efficient. But still a lot of people are doing diamonds.”
BYU freshman Cheyenne Costa doesn’t buy into the “fake” trend.
“My friend said she’d rather have a cubic zirconia ring if it would be bigger,” said freshman Cheyenne Costa. “But I don’t agree with that because I don’t think the clarity is as good as a diamond.”
The co-founder of Wilson Diamonds, Richard Wilson, is certified by the Gemological Institute of America. He described the differences between the stones as being difficult, but not impossible, to spot. A cubic zirconia often gets dirty and shows a dark ring in the center of the stone because of the way it refracts light. Moissanite stones have a slight yellow/green tint. Morganite gems carry a peach tone. But according to Wilson, these differences aren’t the real issue with alternative stones.
“You can get fake flowers, and man they look really, really close, but it doesn’t do the same thing for a girl as if you give her fresh flowers,” Wilson said. “So it’s not all in the look … in the purest sense, it represents a guy’s sacrifice.”
Another popular trend is to buy an alternative stone with plans to replace it with a diamond at a future anniversary.
Student Mitch Call is going to play it safe. “I believe it’s all up to the bride,” Call said. “If she wants the real thing, she gets the real thing. If she wants to save some money, then that’s what you do.”
Sophomore Court Iorg has a strong opinion on the subject. “If you love someone, you want to give them the best,” Lorg said. “Why would you give them something alternative?”