Thousands snap up new £1 engagement ring

Tie the knot: Millennials are getting engaged later and in fewer numbers than past generations. © Getty

Poundland has sold over 20,000 engagement rings in the week since its range launched. As wedding costs spiral out of control, this budget option could be more romantic than meets the eye.

Poundland might not be the first place you’d think to find romantic jewellery. But now, nestled between the aisles of pick ’n’ mix sweets and tubes of Pringles, you might just find your dream engagement ring. Better still, it costs only £1!

When Poundland launched their range of £1 engagement rings last week, they sold 20,000 in seven days. Customers can choose from a (fake) diamond, ruby or topaz on a gold or silver-coloured band, kept in a red heart-shaped box.

Unlike diamonds, Poundland plastic isn’t forever. The retailer says it expects the ring to be used as a “beautiful placeholder” until couples can choose a more permanent ring together.

While traditionally men would surprise a woman with a ring, more than one in three couples now choose together.

And as wedding costs soar, budget rings might look appealing. Last year, the average cost of a wedding in the UK was £30,355, up 12% from 2017. The largest expenses are the venue, food and drinks.

Historically, weddings were paid for by the bride’s family, but now 82% of couples pay for the big day themselves. Given that one in three millennials will never own their own home, young couples are looking for ways to save money. Indeed, 52% make their own wedding decorations.

While engaged women have worn rings since Roman times, the expensive diamonds that are now ubiquitous are a recent phenomenon.

In 1939, just 10% of engagement rings in the US were diamond. In the wake of the Great Depression, as demand for expensive jewellery fell, the De Beers diamond company launched their famous “a diamond is forever” advertising campaign to convince couples that a diamond ring was the ultimate symbol of true love.

It was here that the so-called “rule” that a man should spend three months’ salary on a ring originated. Suddenly, engagement rings became a status symbol. The bigger the diamond, the greater the show of love and commitment. By 1990, around 80% of engagement rings sported diamonds.

Now, the average UK couple spends £1,500 on an engagement ring. However, demand for cheaper gemstones like rubies and emeralds is growing. Some couples are rejecting the tradition altogether as a relic of gender stereotypes.

Marry me?

Many think the wedding industry has got out of control, with couples now spending more than the average UK salary. Are pricey rings just a scam by diamond companies? Or an important sentimental object that will withstand a lifetime together?

Facing a housing crisis and unstable employment, will millennials turn away from engagement rings? Perhaps the Poundland ring is the most romantic of all because it recognises that real love is not based on material wealth. “For richer, for poorer,” as the vows say.

You Decide

  1. How much money should a person spend on an engagement ring?
  2. Is marriage still important in the 21st century?

Activities

  1. Do you want to get married? If so, what would it be like? If not, why not? Discuss these questions in small groups and have a class vote to see what everyone thinks.
  2. Are ceremonies and symbolism important for human relationships? Write a response to this question considering why people hold wedding ceremonies and exchange rings.

Some People Say...

“Wedding fever is one of the scariest diseases I have ever seen.”

Jessica Valenti

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Poundland has sold 20,000 £1 engagement rings in the first week since the range was launched. The rings imitate a range of gemstones and precious metals. They are intended for use as a placeholder after a proposal until the couple choose a ring together. The red, heart-shaped box reads, “Because we promise they’ll want to choose their own.”
What do we not know?
Whether engagement rings are here to stay. Young couples are increasingly breaking with tradition and making their weddings more personal. Non-heterosexual couples also report feeling less bound to follow gendered marriage traditions. Some couples are turning away from the traditional diamond ring or foregoing the tradition altogether.

Word Watch

£30,355
According to Bridebook.co.uk’s National Wedding Survey 2018.
Bride’s
Historically, the bride’s parents would gift wealth and goods to their daughter’s new husband upon their wedding. The practice is called a dowry and still happens in some parts of the world.
Roman
Women had a gold ring to wear in public and an iron ring for doing chores.
Ubiquitous
Extremely common, found everywhere.
Great Depression
A long and severe depression during the 1930s that started in the US. In most countries, it started in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s. Between 1929 and 1932, the world’s GDP fell by 15%.
De Beers
An international corporation that explores, mines and sells diamonds. It was founded in 1888 by British businessman Cecil Rhodes, who is now at the centre of the #RhodesMustFall anti-colonial movement.

Subjects

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.