Media Releases

What “tainted” engagement rings reveal about consumer expectations: Rotman study.

February 16, 2016

Toron­to, ON — We’re told dia­monds — and their val­ue — are for­ev­er.

But new research into the re-sale of dia­mond engage­ment rings shows a dia­mond’s val­ue is affect­ed by the sto­ry peo­ple attach to it and whether it fits with their ideas about what a good ring needs to be.

When rela­tion­ships tank so does the val­ue of the rings meant to hon­our them. Rings dis­closed as prod­ucts of divorce and oth­er failed rela­tion­ships were much less like­ly to sell — and sold at low­er prices — than rings with­out a neg­a­tive his­to­ry.

That sug­gests pre­vi­ous aca­d­e­m­ic research claim­ing con­for­mi­ty to a sin­gle, clear­ly-defined mar­ket cat­e­go­ry is asso­ci­at­ed with a pro­duc­t’s suc­cess is not the whole sto­ry, says Anne Bow­ers, the study’s researcher. The assump­tion there is that con­sumer expec­ta­tions are ful­ly met when an item clean­ly fits into a cat­e­go­ry.

“In some sense, these find­ings are the exact oppo­site,” says Prof. Bow­ers, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of strate­gic man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Rot­man School of Man­age­ment. “Here’s a prod­uct that tech­ni­cal­ly speak­ing, fits exact­ly the cri­te­ria for an engage­ment ring, and yet you still have prob­lems.”

Two parts to the study revealed sim­i­lar find­ings. Analy­sis of data from 1.5 mil­lion eBay list­ings of dia­mond soli­taire engage­ment rings over a 13-month peri­od showed rings with no dis­closed neg­a­tive his­to­ry were most like­ly to sell and at a high­er price. Rings where sell­ers dis­closed a divorce or oth­er failed rela­tion­ship — marked by com­ments such as “not going to hap­pen,” or “right ring wrong guy” — were less suc­cess­ful.

A sep­a­rate atti­tu­di­nal sur­vey showed that even though par­tic­i­pants believed a dia­mond ring from a divorce was most like­ly to be authen­tic — com­pared to the same one from a hap­py mar­riage or a jew­el­ry store — it was the oppo­site when it came to how much they’d be will­ing to pay for it.

The results mean researchers should, “think more care­ful­ly about what it is that defines whether or not you fit into a mar­ket,” says Prof. Bow­ers, includ­ing con­sid­er­ing “more than just phys­i­cal characteristics—but also social char­ac­ter­is­tics” that define a mar­ket cat­e­go­ry.

And, if mar­keters can tap into or devel­op dif­fer­ent expec­ta­tions of engage­ment rings — such as an inter­est in the size or cut of the dia­mond or sim­ply get­ting a great deal — there is poten­tial to “shift con­sumers away from the pri­ma­ry mar­ket, such as what online used ring mar­keter I Do Now I Don’t has been try­ing to do.

As for the lovelorn stuck with a ring to unload?  “Actu­al pur­chas­es ver­sus num­ber of rings list­ed sug­gest that sales are real­ly rare in online mar­kets no mat­ter what the rea­son.  Anec­do­tal­ly speak­ing, if you want mon­ey quick­ly, the best hope you have is to try to sell it back to the jew­eller you bought it from, but be pre­pared to take a big loss” advis­es Prof. Bow­ers.

The study is pub­lished in Advances in Strate­gic Man­age­ment. Watch a video on the research at

For the lat­est think­ing on busi­ness, man­age­ment and eco­nom­ics from the Rot­man School of Man­age­ment, vis­it

The Rot­man School of Man­age­ment is locat­ed in the heart of Canada’s com­mer­cial and cul­tur­al cap­i­tal and is part of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, one of the world’s top 20 research uni­ver­si­ties. The Rot­man School fos­ters a new way to think that enables our grad­u­ates to tack­le today’s glob­al busi­ness chal­lenges.  For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it


For more infor­ma­tion:

Ken McGuf­fin
Man­ag­er, Media Rela­tions
Rot­man School of Man­age­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Voice 416.946.3818
Fol­low Rot­man on Twit­ter @rotmanschool
Watch Rot­man on You Tube