Personal Finance 
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Four Rules of Thumb In Need of Refreshing

Thumbs Up!Rules of thumb are great. They teach you a little nugget of wisdom and have been vetted by generations of experience. Don’t swim thirty minutes after eating, don’t mix hard liquor and beer, and don’t date your relatives. Follow those rules of thumb and you’ll live a happy and healthy life.

The same can be said about financial rules of thumb. Don’t spend more than you earn, save 10% of your salary, and always buy a used car. You don’t have to always follow those rules of thumb, but if you want to achieve financial prosperity, it’s best to heed them.

However, over the years, some rules of thumb are in need of a refresher. Times change. A rule that made sense ten or twenty, or even a hundred, years ago may not make sense. Let’s have a look.

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 Personal Finance, Your Take 
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Your Take: Would an Engagement Ring from Costco Bother You?

Diamonds are commodities. They’re rated by organizations on the four “C’s” (clarity, color, cut and carat) and the “value” of the diamond depends on those specifications, nothing else. So why can Tiffany’s charge $16,600 for an engagement ring when a no-name store could only charge six thousand dollars less? (a 2005 ABC News story about this very subject) In my opinion, it’s all in marketing that robin’s egg blue box that Tiffany’s jewelry all comes in.

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Synthetic Diamond Engagement Rings

Diamond Engagement RingIs there still a stigma against “synthetic,” or man-made, diamonds?

Nearly a year ago I wrote about an ethically-sensitive fiance-to-be’s dilemma: should he buy a larger synthethic diamond engagement ring or go with a smaller but “real” diamond engagement ring? The experts naturally advised him to be honest but the question remains whether there still is a stigma over having a man-made diamond versus a Mother Earth-made diamond.

I think the movie Blood Diamond awakened many to the atrocities surrounding the mining of diamonds but I don’t think it has or can overcome the years of powerful marketing and “tradition.” (Many still drive SUVs, fail to recycle, and do other Earth-unfriendly things in the wake of An Inconvenient Truth) I bought a Mother Earth-made diamond (I was aware of the atrocities surrounding the mining of diamonds in certain areas of the world; for me, I wasn’t aware of man-made diamonds and so I never made a choice) for my man-made lovely wife to be, but given a choice I’m not sure what I’d do.

However ultimately (and sadly), it’s all about comparisons. When people with engagement rings get together, both men and women, the question of size, color, clarity, and cut always comes up. People say they aren’t comparing, but they are. Ladies want to know who has the biggest, sparkliest, etc. and men want to know who bought it. So which is better, a larger synthetic or a smaller natural? The ones with the larger synthetic can sleep knowing they have the larger one, the ones with the smaller natural can sleep knowing they have a real stone. (of course the real bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter, you can’t eat, live in, or drive a diamond)

What’s your take on diamond engagement rings, be it naturally occurring or man-made? Natural is best? Synthetic is best? Everyone is crazy about these sparkly stones and we should be focusing on other things? And when you get a chance, check out this Smithsonian article about how synthetic diamonds are now as good as real ones.

(And what’s up with diamonds anyway? If I was a woman, I’d prefer another gemstone with a little more color, life, vibrancy, character, I don’t know… but then again my opportunity to be different, my wedding ring, is a solid gold band so what do I know)

(Photo by fensterbme)


 Shopping 
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Synthetic Diamond Engagement Rings

When I read this question about “fake” engagement rings, I was pretty surprised. Essentially a young man wants to get his girlfriend a nice engagement rings but can’t afford a “real” diamond yet so he was going to buy her a synthetic diamond and then make the swap later. What he wants to know is whether he should tell her or just make the Indiana Jones type swap when she’s not paying attention. Okay, I may have laughed when I read how ludicrous of a question this was, in part because of the deception and in part because of the emphasis on “real” vs. “fake” (synthetic).

Obviously the experts tell him to be truthful with his girlfriend, you had to have seen that coming (especially since it’s a column about ethics), but I want to address the idea of synthetic diamonds. By synthetic diamonds, I mean diamonds that are lab created and not nature created; I don’t consider actually fake diamonds, like QVC’s Diamonique®, to be synthetic. Lab created diamonds are actual diamonds except they are absolutely perfect and generally cheaper than naturally occurring diamonds.

Considering that the concept of the diamond engagement ring was a creation of De Beers, does it really matter, I mean when it really comes down to it, how much it costs? That’s really the only distinguishing feature between a synthetic diamond and a real diamond – the cost. Does your love mean any more or less because the diamond was created by a guy in a lab coat or eons of pressure? Probably not.

Your fiancee’s (or your) friends will still oogle over the ring, oblivious to its actual origin (no one will ask for the diamond’s birth certificate because no one will care) because that doesn’t matter. Most are just caught up in the excitement of another engagement and ultimately, the ring is only a small part of the bigger picture.

Personally, I didn’t get a synthetic diamond because it never entered my mind as an option, probably because De Beers and the diamond cartel has me, along with a whole bunch of other people, thoroughly brainwashed. :)


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