While growing up, I never thought much about jewelry. Mainly, I thought it was a way to look “cool” and express yourself. I used to wear necklaces, earrings1, rings, and watches just to make myself look a little older and look a little “cooler”. Girls, I thought, did the same. They wore jewelry just to look a little more elegant and a little more pretty. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But I’m not here to discuss the semantics of beauty and jewelry.
In relationships, I always saw jewelry as a huge marketing scheme. After all, the idea of a diamond ring as something mandatory for a proposal was the result of one company’s ad campaign2. As we go about our day, we are constantly barraged with slogans like “Every kiss begins with Kay”3 and “Your personal jeweler, Ben Bridge” trying to lure us into the world of expensive, pricey jewelry.
There’s more to it than just marketing, most people would agree. Wearing jewelry is an expression that you are wearing something dear to you that was given to you by someone you love. A diamond ring, a heart necklace, a silver earring – all to show others that you’re proudly taken and proudly in love. It works well, too. Walking around, it is not difficult at all to spot men or women in dedicated relationships by the ring that they wear on their ring-finger.
There is more to just following trends, looking good, and showing others that you’re taken, however. Jewelry serves the purpose of reminding the wearer that they are indeed in a relationship. Why would someone in a relationship need to remind themselves of this? The following anecdote sums things up perfectly4:
One day, Peter locked himself out of his house, so he called around to find a locksmith. It took him a while to find one who was certified by the city to unlock doors. The locksmith finally pulled up in his truck and picked the lock in about a minute.
“I was amazed at how quickly and easily this guy was able to open the door” … In response to Peter’s amazement, the locksmith told Peter that locks are on doors only to keep honest people honest. “One percent of people will always be honest and never steal,” the locksmith said. “Another one percent will always be dishonest and always try to pick your lock and steal your television. And the rest will be honest as long as the conditions are right – but if they are tempted enough, they’ll be dishonest too. Locks won’t protect you from the thieves, who can get in your house if they really want to. They will only protect you from the mostly honest people who might be tempted to try your door if it had no lock.”
After reflecting on these observations, I came away thinking that the locksmith was probably right. It’s not that 98 percent of people are immoral or will cheat any time the opportunity arises; it’s more likely that most of us need little reminders to keep ourselves on the right path.
Now before you begin to disagree with me because there is no way that relationships are relatable to locked doors and locksmiths, consider the possibility. In relationships, there are probably around one-percent of people who will be faithful to their significant other no matter the circumstance. They will stay true to them in life and in death. Conversely, there are probably another one-percent of people who are purposefully looking to cheat on their significant other – to feel the rush of breaking the rules. Thus, this leaves the remaining ninety-eight percent who will remain true to their significant other “as long as the conditions are right”.
What kind of conditions am I talking about? Well, if a relationship is healthy and happy, there is probably no reason to change anything – the conditions are right; however, say that there is a little bit of trouble – one person has a little too much alcohol – anything can happen! This kind of disloyalty in a relationship is the disloyalty that happens on a daily basis. People seemingly “accidentally” cheat on their significant others quite often, and almost always because the conditions were a little bit off.
In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely discusses this phenomenon at length, saying that it does not only apply to locked doors, but also to tests, tax returns, and most other situations where a bit of honesty is required. Through several experiments, Ariely shows that there is a way to prevent this dishonest behavior – to have a reminder that keeps us on the right path. This reminder can be in any form, Ariely claims. According to his studies, swearing on a bible prevents lying, signing a “I will not cheat” statement prevents cheating, and signing a “I verify that these taxes are correct” prevents tax return fudging.5
The catch with Ariely’s claims, however, is that the reminder has to take place before the opportunity to be dishonest arises. For instance, when doing taxes, the signed verification at the end of tax submission would be much more effective if it was placed at the beginning, reminding people to fill out the forms honestly. The same goes for relationships – the reminder to remain loyal to your significant other would have to take place before the opportunity for disloyalty arises.
This is where jewelry plays a major role. Since jewelry is something that is worn all day and something that is visible, it serves as a constant reminder to the wearer that they are indeed in a relationship and that they should not do anything to jeopardize this. Following the logic of the above anecdote and Ariely’s well-argued claims, if one were to constantly be reminded of their relationship by the ring on their finger, they would be far less likely to be dishonest.
By making this claim that jewelry in a relationship reduces dishonestly, I’m not saying that every relationship is in jeopardy of having some sort of cheating occur – I’m mainly pointing to the possibility and saying that jewelry may reduce even the slightest chance by simply reminding the wearer that they should not be dishonest to their significant other. If you are currently wearing jewelry given to you by your significant other, you should not be offended that they think you may cheat, but you should be happy because they are trying to mitigate even the slightest possibility. Jewelry is a constant reminder and a constant warning and may prevent instances of heartbreak due to this.
1. For the record, I do not have my ears pierced. I used to wear magnetic earrings.
2. For more information about this, see New York Time’s fantastic article about De Beers, Frances Gerety, and the way that they influenced the American jewelry market. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/fashion/weddings/how-americans-learned-to-love-diamonds.html?_r=0
3. Stern Advertising has done a fantastic job raising the public’s awareness of Kay Jewelers. View the official Stern page here: http://www.sternadvertising.com/our-work/kay-jewelers-2/
4. Anecdote is from Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. Full citation:
Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012. Print.
Specific anecdote, “Lessons from Locksmiths” is on page 38.
5. These experiments and conclusions are mainly discussed in Chapter 2: “Fun with the Fudge Factor”.