Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor’s Best Friend (Ep. 203)
Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor’s Best Friend.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) The gist of the episode: It may seem like winning a valuable diamond is an unalloyed victory. It’s not. It’s not even clear that a diamond is so valuable.
Imagine for a moment that you and your significant other went to a charity auction, where you spent $100 to buy four raffle tickets to win a loose diamond valued at $7,500. And then you won. Congratulations! What happens now? Do you have the diamond set in a ring and wear it? Do you sell the diamond and use the money for more pressing needs? Or do you and your significant other squabble endlessly over what should be done about the diamond, and wind up sticking it on a shelf in the laundry room?
You’ll hear the answer in this podcast, which features a Michigan couple named Kristen and Jason Sarata. She’s a nurse; he’s a paramedic who’s also studying to become a financial adviser. They get along pretty well but when it comes to household finances, they aren’t always on the same page. It all comes down to “needs” versus “wants.” As you can imagine, a $7,500 diamond isn’t necessarily so easy to categorize. As Jason puts it: “We both did at one time say ‘I wish we never would have won it.’”
Along the way, you’ll learn about the diamond industry itself — that is, how a rare stone became much less so but how its producers constrained supply to keep prices high. (Our guide to this is the estimable Edward Jay Epstein). You’ll also hear how hard it is to resell a diamond for anywhere near its estimated value — and what the Saratas are doing to try to beat the odds.
We also talk about the theatrical concept known as Chekhov’s Gun: “You mustn’t put a loaded rifle on stage if no one intends to fire it. You shouldn’t make promises.” The Chevhov scholar Laura Strausfeld describes how a diamond in a marriage can act like a gun on a stage:
STRAUSFELD: The use of Chekhov’s Gun implies a certain number of things, for example, that there’s something inherently dangerous. Someone will get hurt.