I know a woman who was once at a relationship crossroads.
She and her significant other were either going to break up or get married (you’ve probably known couples in the same scenario), and the coming months would reveal the outcome.
At that time, the woman happened to find an antique diamond ring she loved at a really good price, so she bought it on the spot and tucked it away.
If the relationship continued, this could be her engagement ring, she figured. If she and her partner went their separate ways, it would be a right-hand ring. They ended up getting married, so a left-hand ring it was.
I know another couple who was talking marriage and planned to get engaged with a family heirloom.
One day at his parents’ home, the boyfriend’s mother pulled a ring from her jewelry box set with a large cubic zirconia, which she had worn decades ago on vacations in lieu of her regular diamond.
The girlfriend said she would prefer a ring like that to wear in her daily life, as she wasn’t comfortable walking around with a large diamond. Her boyfriend knelt down on the spot and proposed to her with the CZ. She still wears it to this day and never pulls out the heirloom.
Neither of these scenarios are what we millennials—a generation raised on Disney cartoon romances—would consider traditionally romantic, but they say something about who we are.
A much more famous man recently debuted an 18-karat white gold Y-necklace with 42 large diamonds, totaling 351.38 carats, each of which would individually make for a seriously sizable diamond jewel. (Mathematically speaking, that averages to more than 8 carats per stone.)
The man was rapper Drake, and the necklace designed by well-known private jeweler to the stars Alex Moss was dubbed “Previous Engagements,” a representation of all diamond rings the artist had considered, but ultimately resisted, doling out.
While 42 possible engagements isn’t relatable to the average person, the average person hasn’t been romantically linked to the likes of Rihanna
, Serena Williams
, SZA, and Jennifer Lopez
, to name a few.
What does strike a relatable chord, however, is the gesture itself and what it signifies. The engagement ring has long been the pinnacle jewelry purchase, but fewer Americans are getting married today.
In 1990, 29 percent of adults ages 25 to 54 were neither married nor living with a romantic partner, according to Pew Research Center
. By 2019, that number had risen to 38 percent, and while some of that group is divorced, the biggest rise was in the number of people who had never married.
The 2022 American Family Survey
by Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University noted a steady decline in respondents who reported being married over the last seven years, with 50 percent identifying as married in 2015, down to 45 percent in 2022.
The number of people who report not being in a relationship at all has also risen. While 32 percent of respondents to the American Family Survey said they were not in a relationship in 2015, 37 percent reported not being in a relationship in 2022.
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Drake and his “Previous Engagements” diamond necklace simply epitomizes the concept.
The 36-year-old Canadian has had ample opportunity to follow a traditional marital path, but one can arguably assume his focus in adulthood has prioritized his ascension to the peak of popularity in hip-hop and pop music.
After all, the same generation raised on Disney movie happy endings was also raised to “follow their dreams,” and the pursuit of romance and career success don’t always dovetail, and certainly not according to the timelines of generations past.
By giving himself the diamonds he could have given to others, Drake is declaring his independence and self-empowerment. The self-purchase is an act of that very millennial and Gen-Z buzzword our grandparents and parents certainly wouldn’t recognize: self-love.
The necklace’s clever name alone indicates Drake’s self-awareness when it comes to his flouting of traditional expectations.
While considered more successful than all but a handful of people on the planet, “Previous Engagements” is an acknowledgement of the romantic commitments he has foregone, underlining a clear understanding of the societal expectations surrounding marriage that even he can’t avoid.
It’s a topic clearly on his mind, as demonstrated in his music video last summer for the song, “Falling Back,” which featured him marrying not 42, but a respectable 23 brides.
Drake isn’t the only music superstar who feels the pressure.
No matter the magnitude of her accomplishments, Taylor Swift
apparently feels the same weight of expectations when it comes to marriage.
In “Lavender Haze,” a song off her 2022 album “Midnights,” she sings, “All they keep asking me/Is if I’m gonna be your bride/The only kind of girl they see/Is a one night or a wife.”
On the same track she laments about, “the 1950s shit they want from me,” a clear reference to marriage and possibly motherhood, her many albums and tours be damned.
Drake’s “Previous Engagements” necklace dropped right at the tail end of 2022, and it’s my favorite celebrity jewelry moment this year, not simply for the breathtaking assortment of diamonds collected into one necklace—a piece that would give Elizabeth Taylor a run for her money—but for its message.
Jewelry may be less overtly romantic than in times past, but it is no less meaningful. The self-purchase is a celebration of one’s own values and accomplishments, and something jewelers should embrace more, for women and men, in 2023.