Having spent years now speaking with young men and women about their desires for engagement rings and alternative ideas, it felt natural to share here my own journey before deciding a ring would be appropriate for us.

As my relationship developed with the woman who is now my wife, I pondered for hours of my waking and sleeping hours what I should do for a diamond ring. This, of course, was well before I had the inclination of starting a diamond mine or diamond growing business. The question plagued me not because of the budget, or the question of marriage itself, but because I trusted no one in the diamond industry.

My film work had taken me to many communities who were entirely burdened with the curse of being resource rich with things like diamonds, oil, and metals, so I was naturally hesitant to purchase diamonds. The sad truth is that international oversight and schemes like The Kimberley Process can only accomplish so much and I remained disappointed and saddened by the experiences shared by most diamond miners and other stakeholders along the supply chain.

Inspecting my options four years ago, when the idea of marriage first materialized in my mind, it was clear that everyone “hadda guy” when it came to jewelry.

“Whom should I work with?” I would ask my friends and family constantly.

“I’ve gotta guy”, they’d say without fail.

Almost never did that guy or gal have the answer to my questions around the origin of the stones. One time out of twenty, I would discover a jeweler would try to convince me that their stones were exclusively from Canada. However, they got them cut in Israel, for example, where diamonds are bundled and redistributed so I had little confidence in the authenticity of that statement. (Now, four years later there are reputable jewelers who do use exclusively Canadian stones, which I commend but am still concerned about the environmental side of the equation.)

Eventually, I decided I would surpass the diamond all together. I sought out an ethical metal smith, Oro Verde, who could create an elegant gold ring with integrity as a simple symbol to always wear; yet I still wanted to make a grand gesture.

That gesture, after many weeks of thought, manifested itself in a dream of mine. I woke up and immediately began searching for art auctions including Edgar Degas paintings.  The oil-painted ballerinas generated incredible fame for Degas and are the absolute favorite of my wife.

An engagement Degas, I thought. That’s cooler than an engagement ring. A few days from pulling the trigger on an early sketch (multi-hundred thousand or million dollar oil paintings did not fit into my budget) from Degas of his famous dancers, or a sculpture, a friend of mine told me you could go to a metal smith’s workshop in Boston and create your own ring. A big fan of DIY projects, along with my wife, I thought that would be fun but joked, “What if you could just mine your own diamond and make your ring with that?”

Thus began the path described in future blog posts regarding our exploration, mining, and ultimate passion for knowing a diamonds’ origin.

Had I not gone down the social entrepreneurial route of identifying ways to use diamonds as a catalyst for development, however, my wife would have received, and hopefully enjoyed, an engagement Degas. To me, it is most important to purchase or create a symbol of your love for one another that is fitting to your relationship and how you want to present yourselves to the world.

A simple, elegant, ethical gold band on my wife’s hand tells the world she already has someone who is very much in love with her, and I cared very little about extravagant representations of wealth that are large stones to be displayed on it. I cared much more that she had something at home that she adored, in the Degas, and that showed my interest in her uniqueness and passions.

Now, a true customer of ethical jewelry, my wife wears a ring with lab-grown stones as well as one with the stones we mined ourselves. Looking at her hand, I feel absolute comfort in the woven story the metal, the stones, and the craftsmanship all represent.

Diamond or Degas, extravagant stones or simple bands, the gesture of offering someone you love a gift should be unique. You only give it once. Be thoughtful, intentional, and considerate of more than just the four C’s.

Ask us for ideas!