Downtime

Love for Sale

Why I adore looking at wedding rings and other romantic jewelry ads on Craigslist.

A ring in a box, wedding cake toppers, and anniversary frame.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by oksana_nazarchuk/iStock/Getty Images Plus, Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images, and Sashkinw/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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I’m the hardest-core Marie Kondo fan. I constantly weed out my drawers and cupboards, taking my items to Goodwill or the thrift shop. I also love sending relics from my closet to consignment stores because 1) dollars, plus 2) I thrill at seeing that my consignment item has sold, presumably to someone who needed that exact Guess bag from 2007. (Please don’t ruin this illusion for me.) It’s closed-loop recycling, but with closure in the emotional sense, too.

Last year, an engagement, of which I was half, ended in a way that was for the best for everyone involved. It was, subsequently, a time of neurotic tidying and redecorating in my apartment. But if you’ve been in a similar situation, you’ll know that there was a limit to what I could clear out: Wedding-related merch is nonrefundable. Especially the jewelry.

There are, according to some divorced friends and also Reddit, a few ways to offload an engagement ring. But pawn shops, I decided, prey on the poor, plus the Loan Star Savings and Pawn doesn’t have a particularly transparent consignment policy. Several sites suggested resale at a local jeweler. But only one major jeweler in my city specializes in resale, and I’m currently boycotting it over a pro–Donald Trump radio ad funded by its owner. (He also ran a special last summer offering free conceal-carry classes with the purchase of an engagement ring, if you’re in the market.) And insurance fraud, it turns out, is a federal crime.

The internet had one final suggestion for me: Craigslist. Apparently, despite the site’s removal of its personal pages, this relic of the ’90s still exists? I’d last used Craigslist to read the Missed Connections at a high school sleepover, but in this instance, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check local comparables. And, reader, I got hooked. For the next month or so, Craigslist pages usurped advice columns—beat out even that quintessential freelancer hobby, attending to the laundry—as my favorite time waster.

Most Craigslistings for jewelry include a photo, a desired price (“or best offer,” always OBO), and a reminder that the seller is looking for serious inquiries only. In some listings, the rings are freshly polished and the photos well-lit; in others, they look dingy, or the owner is in need of a manicure. Cut, color, and size are spelled in terse bullet points, alongside logistical conditions: “Can meet at any jeweler to verify quality.” “I can meet at the Centerville Walgreens, or at City Barbeque.”

Enter “engagement ring” or “jewelry” into the Craigslist search bar, and you’ll get results across the style spectrum. My city has plenty of heart-shaped numbers; major nearby markets showed Tacori pieces and lots of natural-cut diamonds. I heard once that marriages end at 18 months or 18 years, and the preponderance of now-trendy halo settings, along with 1999-trendy marquis cuts, doesn’t disprove the theory. Once, I saw a Rolex that was “originally purchased for $50,000.” And I saw a 0.5 carat solitaire offered for the price of $800 or a working van.

Most posts offer no salacious details. But some Craigslisters aren’t so shy. “MY LOSS COULD BE YOUR GAIN,” read one listing, a bit more wistful than another that said, “Wedding’s off, and it could be your lucky day too!” Some of these more open posts were unhappy, detailing the seller’s economic situation or an acrimonious split. Some felt gossipy and unembarrassed. Craigslist crawling will show you that some breakups are traumatic or financially devastating, and some are apparently as interesting as the sale of a used go-kart.

“I no longer have any use for this ring and would like to get rid of it.” “This ring meant the world to me… but now it’s gotta go.” “Necklace from my X—don’t want!” “I love this gift from my wife, but would love a new car more.”

Engagement ring listings marked sold are as satisfying as that Tidying Up episode in which Kondo organizes the guy’s sock drawer. Obviously, we shouldn’t commodify meaningful relationships with gemstones or artfully filled mason jars or patriarchal white lace. But as someone who once filled a binder with cake brochures, I’m not entitled to sit in judgment. I creep for the confirmation of a clear story arc: The past is over. What, as Kondo would say, do we want to bring into the future?

I’ve since returned to my usual time wasters, although thrifting is still a favorite. At worst, scrolling through other people’s gemstone mistakes was a kind of prying looky-loo-ism. But at best, it was an opportunity to imagine a narrative of someone happily ridding themselves of something that really no longer sparked joy.