Two months salary

My fiancee forwarded me a link to show me that engagement rings are getting artified.


And, of course, by artified, I mean that someone did a google image search on god awfully ugly rings and tried to come up with a statement on what an average bloke could buy on two months salary. Lee Gainer’s attempt at showing the differences in what you could get. The problem, of course, is that the rings exhibit no taste or design aesthetic and that, in my mind, actually detracts from what the artist was trying to get across to the viewer. Plus, the fact that it’s hard to distinguish each ring on the page from other rings shows, to me at least, that artist doesn’t understand where the expense in a ring comes from. And the part in their statement about the 3/4 carat ring in NYC ignores that fact that, in NYC, the overall prevailing wisdom is that if you’re going to get a traditional ring, you should aim for 1.5 carats if you have the type of job that lets you live in a trendy spot in Manhattan. That, of course, doesn’t fly in other parts of the country but, again, this is NYC after all. We’re kind of special here.

So what is this piece saying? From the artist’s statement, (and the comments from sites like Jezebel), I’m guessing that the overall point is to try and show one problem with materialism which can lead to the fact that overall value is associated with a paycheck and wealth. The problem, of course, is there is nothing in this piece that, at first glance, shows that. Sure, the A list actor rings are suppose to be larger but the rings are ugly and there is nothing about those diamonds that actually show where the cost differential lies. The 4 c’s aren’t apparent and anyone who has shopped for a diamond knows that is where the price difference comes in. I’ve seen plenty of big ugly diamonds being used in earrings or used as bling for wannabe rap stars. But I don’t know anyone who looks at those ugly ass diamonds and go “oooo”. I know that’s the effect that people who buy these diamonds try to get but it’s a fool’s errand. In my opinion, a more effective presentation, and way, for the artist to get their point across would be to attack the concept of “eye clean” or “ideal” right on its head. Because, and I hate to break it to you, it’s not only size that matters; sparkle and pretty matter too. Critics of diamonds always seem to forget about that last bit.

2 thoughts on “Two months salary”

  1. Hi,

    I appreciate your posting of my print series, Two Months Salary. It seems you made some assumptions and I wanted to take a moment and I wanted to clear them up.

    My work revolves around the hidden messages and unwritten rules found in advertising and marketing imagery, such as the 2 month salary idea. I started this project by researching the industry and their campaigns, picking occupations, getting the average salary information and then collecting over 520 images of rings to fit the bill. I honestly thought they would easily show the difference in price. Not at all! I was surprised.

    I found that the jewelry industry has a lot of tricks to make inexpensive rings look like the expensive ones. Tricks such as putting several smalls stones closely together to look like a bigger one, lots of engraving into the setting for more “bling”, etc. The expensive ones (one A List Actor ring retails for over 400K) use extremely high quality stones and, of course, are large.

    The comment about 3/4 stones in NYC came from the Sunday Morning show during a test one reporter did on the streets of NYC, not from myself, as stated in the series statement.

    I wanted to keep this project visually simple to allow the viewer to bring their own opinions and experiences to play when thinking about this work. Haven’t we all felt pressure at one time or another from advertisers and marketers to spend more then we planned/wanted? We can all now “afford” expensive looking rings, thanks to the credit market, jewelry designer tricks, and low quality stones. With engagement rings, I found that it’s the perception of value that matters, not the actual value.

    Thanks and take care,

  2. Thanks so much for stopping by! What your wrote makes a lot of sense and clears quite a lot up actually. I misidentified what you were actually getting at. Now your setup, and display, makes a lot more sense to me. I didn’t get that the first time.

    When I look at those rings, I didn’t necessarily see value and that might be my perspective causing me to miss what you’re trying to point out. You’re right that perceived value matters, and is #1 when it comes to engagement rings, but, having done the research and the analysis to figure out how to find the ring engagement ring, I have a hard time seeing a 3 diamond setting on a ring and seeing it in value terms. Instead, I view it strictly in terms of my extremely subjective taste. And if I view it as rather ugly, the value of the item starts to vanish unless the person getting the ring loves it and it was exactly what she/he wanted. If yes, then the “actual” value of the ring is limitless because the ring is EXACTLY what should have been given. When not, then my subjective taste comes into play.

    When I look at rings, I tend to look beyond the marketing that drives the rings into our opinions, our lives, and our tastes. I tend to look at them as individual expressions with an incredible amount of stuff behind it, be it social, tradition, taste, whatever, which is probably why I looked at your pieces and missed what you were trying to say. I’ve been too colored by my recent experiences of seeing my fiancee’s engagement ring be scrutinized by other women and men and watching how their taste, opinions, and views influence what they think about the stone my fiancee has. To me, it is the individual reaction of others that I find to be interesting as I assume, and default to, the idea that a diamond ring is on the table for an engagement and, for many people, would be a requirement.

    So I guess that shows I’m sort of a goner and I bought it hook, line, and sinker, right?

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