Why are we attracted to shiny objects?
My analysis of the way we feel we are expected to live our lives doesn't always apply to just religion. Recently, probably because of the movie Blood Diamond, I've seen a lot of press on the diamond industry.
Diamonds are not that rare. And the reasons we value them are just as fabricated as reasons we buy Hallmark-cards. Read about the history of the diamond engagement ring, and why a diamond "is forever" in this article from 1982. These ideas, fabricated by DeBeers, are set in your mind so that you bury your mother with her jewelry, and buy new jewelry for your own bride. Today, many women EXPECT their fiancé to spend several month's salary on such a token of their love.
The latest attempt at selling more diamonds is in making right-hand-rings all the rage. Single girls should have their diamonds too!
How do we get diamonds? Here's a Photo-Essay by Time.com, and another from ForeignPolicy.com.
So, psychologically they've conditioned us that: 1) a diamond is a sign of love, 2) a diamond is a sign of wealth/power 3) a diamond is forever; you shouldn't buy them "used," and you shouldn't sell them.
The last part, selling a diamond, is quite difficult because individuals only want to buy diamonds "new" and from a jeweler who they trust will give them a quality and valuable rock. Jewelers don't want to buy diamonds back from the public, and often refuse instead of giving low-ball prices. Unless you are an expert with a magnifying glass, it is very hard to tell the quality of a diamond.
Being that carbon is one of the most plentiful elements on the planet, these days diamonds are easily made, and you can even have your cremated remains turned into a diamond. The man-made alternatives are diamonds in every sense of the word, but all man-made diamonds are laser-inscribed, so that at a glance a jeweler can tell. There are also differences in the way man-made diamonds refract u-v light, and DeBeers also uses this to it's advantage. (Thou I cannot really see the problem an individual would have with this, as it's not really like they could re-sell a natural stone either... but it's the psychological aspect, some people feel man-made diamonds aren't "real")
Still, they have accounted for women who object to the idea of diamonds:
Through a series of "projective" psychological questions, meant "to draw out a respondent's innermost feelings about diamond jewelry," the study attempted to examine further the semi-passive role played by women in receiving diamonds. The male-female roles seemed to resemble closely the sex relations in a Victorian novel. "Man plays the dominant, active role in the gift process. Woman's role is more subtle, more oblique, more enigmatic...." The woman seemed to believe there was something improper about receiving a diamond gift. Women spoke in interviews about large diamonds as "flashy, gaudy, overdone" and otherwise inappropriate. Yet the study found that "Buried in the negative attitudes ... lies what is probably the primary driving force for acquiring them. Diamonds are a traditional and conspicuous signal of achievement, status and success."
Being an atheist means I bow down to no god. But still, it's hard not to subject ourselves to the judgment of others. It amazes me how much industry, religion, and politics, is built on that concept. While the psychological impact of the diamond industry's advertisements bothers me, I still fall pray, feeling the need to explain my lack of desire for them and feeling a bit of inadequacy, as I know the expectations & assumptions others make about me by what kind of jewelry I may or may not be wearing.
More on the diamond industry at American Radio Works.