The first words out of my mouth when photos emerged of Ariana Grande’s engagement ring were, “Holy hell, that thing is huge.”
The 3-karat pear-shaped ring—which reportedly cost Pete Davidson nearly $100,000—is so large that when I saw Ariana Grande in concert a few months ago I had a clear view of it from the eighth row. And yes, in case you were wondering, it is just as beautiful in real life as it is in the paparazzi shots.
So when the team at Engage Studio offered me the chance to wear an exact cubic zirconia replica of the ring for a week (not a real diamond, sadly), I jumped at the chance. “You’re going to get robbed walking down the street with that thing,” my best friend warned me when I told her I was going to pick it up. I rolled my eyes at her and rode off into the sunset toward my pretend engagement.
From the moment I put the ring on, I couldn’t stop staring at it. One day in yoga class, I literally fell out of a pose because I was so distracted by my own bling. Every morning when I got dressed, I was shocked at how glamorous the ring made every outfit feel, whether I was in a cocktail dress or the raggedy college sweatshirt I stole from an old boyfriend. I took ring selfie after ring selfie (to the very confused reactions of my Instagram followers), and, frankly, loved the way I looked with an iceberg-sized diamond on my finger.
What I wasn’t expecting when I started wearing the ring, though, was the sheer volume of conversations it would open up with strangers. I made it a point not to advertise the fact that the ring had been gifted to me by a publicist instead of a husband-to-be, which meant that I had people literally stopping me on the street to ask me about it (contrary to what my best friend had feared, none were robbers). Most of them were well meaning, and inquired about the proposal, when the wedding was happening, and what my fiancé was like (fabricating responses to these questions was equal parts hilarious and awkward).
But some of them, I found, were downright rude.
“GIRL. That is a ring,” a woman I had just met commented during a business meeting. And then, “What does your fiancé do?”
Understandably, I was taken aback—unlike some of the other people who’d inquired thoughtfully about the ring, this felt like an accusation instead of a congratulations. While hers was the most outright offensive question I received, it was one of many in a long line of uncomfortable conversation starters. “Wow, that thing is huge,” commented a woman next to me in the coffee line. “He did good,” remarked another stranger.
After spending the first few days of the experiment confidently showing off the diamond, I found myself taking it off or turning it around before walking into meetings. The feedback I was getting made me feel uncomfortable, and it seemed easier to avoid dealing with it altogether. I couldn’t help but wonder: Does this happen to real brides too?
“People would guess the cost,” a friend told me when I asked her if she dealt with the same sort of feedback on her statement-making stone. “[Someone said], 'Wow, should we help you hold your arm up?!' ” shared another.
"Sometimes people say something that they think is a compliment that isn’t,” etiquette expert Jodi Smith told me over the phone. "Sometimes people will look at a ring and be like, ‘Whoa, that’s a really big rock.’ And they mean that as a really nice compliment, like ‘Wow, what an expensive ring.’ But when you’re the person whose hand it’s on, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a compliment. It sounds like they're judging the amount spent...it comes out as accusatorially jealous—it’s not kind, and it’s not congratulatory.”
Of course, people get comments about their ring regardless of the size. “When are you getting your upgrade?” “It’s not a diamond and it’s that small?” “...That’s it?” are all actual, real life questions that people have asked my friends, which, just, wow.
The right way to talk about someone’s engagement—stranger, friend, or otherwise—has nothing to do with the size of the ring. "When somebody says 'I got engaged,' the first thing you say should not be, 'Let me see the ring,' ” says Smith. "The proper response is ‘That’s so exciting,’ ‘Congratulations,’ or 'I’m so happy for you.’ Then, once you’ve expressed your congratulations, you can ask to see the ring, if the person has one.”
When you do look at the ring, the easiest thing to say is, simply, that it's beautiful. “If you don’t think it’s beautiful, you don’t have to lie—you can say, 'what an interesting setting,' or 'that’s so exciting,' ” says Smith. "There’s always something you can say that’s positive and that doesn’t directly or indirectly get at the cost of the ring. An engagement ring is a gift, and to speak to the recipient of a gift about how much the giver of a gift spent is inappropriate.”
If you happen to find yourself on the receiving end of one of these uncomfortable lines of questioning, don’t feel like you owe it to anyone to answer. "The best response is 'thank you,' said brightly and cheerfully as if it were a compliment, whether it was intended to be a compliment or not," says Smith.
After spending months lusting after, commenting on, and even writing about the size of Ariana Grande’s diamond from afar, spending a week in her shoes (or, more aptly, in her ring), made me realize that the size or cost of someone else’s rock isn’t mine—or anyone else’s—damn business.