Sunday, October 26, 2014

Weekend Wildcard - Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend...?

Pink Heart Society columnist Avril Tremayne is here to talk about the pros and cons of engagement rings...

I don’t like dwelling on my many character flaws but one that I am confronted with every day of my life is my unerring ability to cut off my nose to spite my face.

Why am I confronted with this daily?

Because this is the picture of my ‘ring’ finger…

Yep – it is NAKED! Despite my being married since Adam and Eve were children! No engagement ring. No wedding ring. In short – an abomination.

Back in the day (waaaaaaay back), my husband proposed to me in what he thought was the most romantic spot in the world – the walls of St Malo, France. (The fact that it was the middle of the day and the walls were teeming with tourists didn’t make it romantic enough in my view – but that’s another story.)

In our usual way of doing things back to front, we were having a honeymoon before actually becoming engaged and were on an extended European holiday. And my husband (known in the Tremayne circle as The Honorable, or The Hon for short) was not brave enough to have selected an engagement ring for me. That pleasure was to be mine. Smart man.

We duly started looking…right up until The Hon confessed, mid-gaze into the window of an Italian jeweler at a truly spectacular ring, resplendent with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, that he had no intention of wearing a nuptial band himself.

Er…hello? If he wasn’t wearing a ring, why should I? Why should I be branded like chattel? Why should I advertise to the world that I was off the market when he was still visually on it? Why should I…well, you get the drift.

So at the end of a somewhat short, sharp discussion outside that jewelry store in Rome, I had my way. No ring for me!

And that was it.

What. An. Idiot.

The only (paltry) satisfaction I’ve had from this situation was having the digits of my left hand discreetly fondled by uncomprehending female friends and relatives entering my wedding reception. I was hoping they were thinking – what a liberated woman she is. But I suspect they were thinking: What. An. Idiot.

And then…. (Yes, my life has been that much of a soap opera it deserves an ‘And then…’)

I was offered a job in the Middle East. It was a great job, with a great company, and no way was I turning it down, even though it meant going solo – no husband, just me.

Lo and behold, The Hon had a sudden desire to revisit shoving a ring on my finger, perhaps fearing its bareness would be an irresistible temptation to all those hot, sexy Harlequin Presents sheikhs who were about to enter my orbit... Whatever the reason, I was game. Second chance at a rock with no loss of face? You betcha!

Just one little problem. This was what The Hon was envisaging on my finger…
 Whereas I was thinking more along the lines of...

Another of those short, sharp discussions....and I found myself ring-free in the Middle East. (Where I did indeed meet an array of utterly gorgeous, fragrant, charming, generous, kind, smart, poetic men…none of whom, I hasten to point out, was eager to take advantage of my ring-free state.)

I do occasionally wonder, though, about engagement rings – where did the tradition start, and why all the fuss?

Not wanting to get all encyclopedic, but engagement rings have been around in some form or another since cavemen popped rings of braided grass on their mates. Since the Romans gave their wives rings attached to keys to signify ownership. Since the ancient Egyptians slipped burial rings of silver or gold wire onto their wives' fingers. And the sultans and sheikhs kept tabs on their wives with puzzle rings back in the first century BC – fancy not being able to reconstruct the puzzle if you dared to remove it while the cat was away?

The first recorded account of an actual diamond betrothal ring, however, was not until 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented one to Mary of Burgundy.

But diamonds were rare, and so out of almost everyone else’s price range up until the 1870s, when the discovery of African diamond mines took the 'rare' out. By rights, they should have bee more affordable, but... Enter De Beers and its famous monopoly, and diamonds remained the province of the wealthy.

By the 1930s, in what had become a tough economic climate, the new challenge was how to expand the market and get people from all walks of life to covet the unaffordable luxury of a diamond over, say, a car. The De Beers Company – no slouches in the marketing department – went for glamor appeal, using images of diamond-encrusted movie stars to drive up desire. And then in 1947, came out with the famous slogan "A Diamond is Forever” and the modern engagement ring was born.

And I, for one, don’t have a problem with brilliant marketing! Or with diamonds.

So my questions for you are…

How much should a man spend on a ring? Apparently the average cost of an engagement today is in the ballpark of $5,000. Consensus seems to be that about three months’ of a guy’s annual salary is the right level of spend. Yowzer!

Do you prefer a diamond or a coloured stone? I’m partial to the Australian pink diamond myself (dreaming), but click here for a few eye-poppers, just because they’re gorgeous and I can’t help myself.

And, very importantly, is Avril Tremayne going to scratch your eyes out when she claps eyes on your ring and views it alongside her own denuded digit? Beware!

Whatever your answers, you can be sure I don’t let the heroines or heroes in my books make the mistake that I made back in Rome.

In fact, you can bet that when Max Rutherford slips a ring on the finger of his PA Catherine North in Turning The Good Girl Bad, it’s going to look a bit like this Faberge number…

And just to finish off – for the non-traditional amongst us, click here to see assorted rings that are fabulous but do not necessarily cost three months’ of your dearly beloved’s salary, and I have to say, I’m partial to #23 and #44…

Avril's latest book - Turning The Good Girl Bad - is available now:

How bad can this good girl be?

PA Catherine North is twin-set-and-pearls perfect.  Her hair is tightly coiled and so is her sex life – it’s safer that way.  Her only release comes from the steamy romance novel she secretly pens, featuring her too-hot-to-handle boss, Max Rutherford. After all, a girl has to channel those fantasies into something productive… ! 

But when Max finds the steamy book he sees his perfect PA in a whole new light.  Now he wants to know just how bad his good girl can be… and he’s going to enjoy every minute of finding out!

To find out more about Avril and the books which brought her to Harlequin Mills & Boon's attention in both the #SYTYCW and #WattPad contests, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


  1. What a great post! I love the story of your own non-engagement-ring (2 attempts at it and still no ring!). Interesting history on engagement rings. Love the book (as well as all your others)!

    1. Thanks so much! I still can't believe what I did to myself. Oh well. At least I can live vicariously through my heroines, right?

  2. Hysterical. Reading this blog was like reading your books! I'm happy you're living out your ring fantasies with your heroines.

    1. I haven't entirely given up on The Hon just yet - but I'm not holding my breath!

  3. Loved this post! And I learnt something new! Hurrah! I had to have a diamond for my engagement ring, but I was also particular about the gold. It had to be 22 carat. Don't know why. My husband chose the ring all by himself, but he did a spectacular job and even now, after 17 yrs of marriage, I still look at my engagement ring and sigh with delight!

    1. That makes me so happy. So romantic. You're really lucky - and so is he!

  4. I don't like the feel of rings so I don't wear my wedding or engagement rings. They're safely in a box on my dressing table. They're nice but didn't cost a fortune as I can think of so many things I'd rather have spent money on. Engagement skis anyone?

    1. To be honest, I almost never wear any jewellery - I wonder if I would have taken my diamond off and kept it in the box with all the rest? Well, I guess I will never know.

    2. I'd have had more use for an engagement nose ring. It's the only thing I always wear.