The Silly, Scammy World of Diamond CandlesS

Did you know you can buy a soy candle with a surprise "diamond" ring inside it? Because you can. And that the women who buy the candles burn them down excitedly and then patiently extract the treasure-filled gold foil pouches like they're removing the still-beating heart of a cobra, then post "reveal" videos on YouTube? Because they do.

WTF are you talking about?

For $24.95 you can buy something called a Diamond Candle. The founders of the company, a husband and wife team plus one other guy, say the idea came when the husband went to buy his wife a ring for an anniversary and stopped to get a gift bag to put it in.

He couldn't find any gift bags, but just before leaving he saw some candles. David knew that Brenda loved candles, and he decided to pick one up to go along with the anniversary ring. On his way out of the store, he looked down at the ring in one hand and the candle in the other…

It's advertised as an "earth friendly, all natural soy candle" that comes in scents like "Sunwashed" and "Pomegranate Lemon" and "Cinnamon Tea," in addition to "life moment" candles like "It's a Boy" and "Best Friends Ring Candle" (which is SOLD OUT). The company, which has been around a few years, recently offered a "True Love" Valentine's Day candle for sale, but it sold out immediately. Inside the candle is a "real ring," supposedly worth $10, $100, $1000, or $5000.

So you don't even know what the ring looks like or if it will fit?

Nope.

And you have no idea the odds of whether the ring you get will be worth anything or not?

Nope.

How does the company explain it?

Very carefully (and lulz @ "nice rings"):

Is Diamond Candles a scam? How can we afford to put nice rings inside every candle?We are most definitely a legitimate company and are here to stay.Think about it like this, have you ever seen ads for a detergent company on television? Ad space during 'prime time' at night is extremely expensive.Where do they get that money from to do that? The money they make when they sell their products is reinvested back into the company by getting more customers and selling more products.Instead of us spending money on TV commercials, we take part of the money that we make from each candle sale and put a ring inside every candle.Obviously we can't put a $1,000 ring in each candle, but because we buy so many rings, we get discounts just like a jewelry store would.Need to see it to believe it? Head on over to our facebook page and just ask our fans and see the pictures they have uploaded of the rings they have found.

So how does it work?

The Silly, Scammy World of Diamond CandlesS

You buy the candle, light it, wait a few hours, and then grab some tweezers and dig out the gold foil pouch (which is visible through the wax on the outside of the candle). You wipe off the wax, cut it open, and check out the loot, and if you're so inclined, make a video or post your bounty on the company's Facebook page (with over 700k likes) or on Twitter (#diamondcandle). If it doesn't fit or you think it's hideous, you can swap it on another Facebook page specifically for trading rings/candles with other DC devotees.

But, hey, it's a conflict-free diamond, right?

Only wax on these "diamonds," not blood, my friend. (Or maybe hazardous chemicals.)

But what do the rings look like?

From the company's own roundup of its rings, everything from a cute, costume-y style ring (lulz, the shot in front of the flower) to a totally fug, tacky ring from a dollar store:

The Silly, Scammy World of Diamond Candles

And there's tons more on Instagram.

So how can you tell if the ring is worth anything? Must every consumer make a trip to the nearby jeweler?

From the website:

Our staff is unable to identify the value of your ring.You can figure your ring's approximate value by following these simple steps: 1. If the ring has '14k' or similar information imprinted on the inside of the band than you have a ring that is worth $100+. We advise that you take it to a jeweler to get a verbal estimate to see if it is worth $100's or $1,000's. 2. If the ring has 'Thailand' or something similar imprinted on the inside of the band it is most likely worth $100 or less. 

3. Unmarked rings are likely to be toward the $10 range but could be valued up to $100.

 4. Still not quite certain? Upload a picture of your ring to our Facebook page. Our active Diamond Candles community has become very skilled at telling if it is a $10 level ring or a $100+ level ring.

Also, they add:

If the ring is worth $100+ then most people don't mind spending a few dollars with a local jeweler to get the ring sized to their finger. Afterall the ring is a bonus that comes with the candle!

But has anyone actually ever scored a $5,000 ring?

Eh. Hard to say. People blog about $1,000 rings, but as evidenced by the YouTube videos and your brain and logic, most people get cheap ones. Here is a typical video where someone scored a 14k ring, which means it could be worth something over $100:

The experience is described as "like Christmas morning," her kid is helping, and in the background you hear a male voice ask impatiently, "Is it out?!" The comments claim the video is a fake, hilariously enough, because someone doesn't think she was excited enough: "Fake as fuck, if you just got a 14k ring in a candle, you wouldn't be like oh well thats nice, I gotta go appraise this now." There are lots of reveals on the 'Tube.

Aren't the women pissed when it's (inevitably) a cheap piece of costume jewelry?

You would think so, but not really (even as the company has had to address how to avoid your finger turning green from wearing the cheap ring). They love the rings anyway. Even though the company explains that they get their $10 rings "in bulk from the same suppliers that department stores get their supply of $10-$20 rings," people seem to like the fact that they can dig the ring from a honeydew-scented candle rather than do something I'm assuming they'd rather not, which is go buy a $10 ring from a department store without the promise of an exciting archaeological excavation or a powerful scent.

A blogger posted a trio pic of her candle/burning/ring reveal:

The Silly, Scammy World of Diamond Candles

and wrote:

I received one of the $10 value rings. While it's definitely a piece of costume jewelry, the ring seems sturdy and well made. As I mentioned above, the style and size of rings will vary candle to candle. The ring I received was a size 8 (I wear a 9 on my ring finger) and was, honestly, a little young for my taste. The surprise of not knowing what ring I would receive was quite fun though, despite the likelihood that the ring I received wouldn't fit or be my personal style. I really love the fun surprise aspect behind these candles.

Another blogger was disappointed she didn't get a "real diamond," but felt she "lucked out" with the "simple ruby design."

So it's like Cracker Jacks for adults?

Exactly. Or like, a lottery ticket for the ladiez. And the company seems to get that aspect of it entirely, as they lure rabid fans with pictures asking, "Do you want a Diamond Candle REAL BAD?" and get 22k likes.

The Silly, Scammy World of Diamond Candles

On Twitter, #diamondcandle chronicles photo after reveal photo, and the women boasting seem to be a wide range of ages (company says its target demo is women 18 to 36) who are legit excited about getting a worthless ring out of a candle. Bloggers review them and detail the excitement, which they totally admit is a little silly. On Pinterest, they're touted as great bridesmaid gift ideas, or gifts for coworkers, or gifts from boyfriends and husbands, etc. And people, feel compelled to photograph their rings against backdrops like this:

The Silly, Scammy World of Diamond CandlesS

As the company website explains:

The combination of highly fragrant premium quality soy candles, an exciting and fun 'ring reveal' experience (what ring will you find?), and a ring to wear for months and years to come means making something as boring as burning candles in your home something to look forward to.

Of course, not everyone is sold on this so-called Diamond Candle ring bonanza. The YouTube reviewer above bought 10 of the candles at a steep 60% discount, extracted the goods, and told the straight dope: Duh, most of the rings aren't worth anything, they aren't even her size, why would she go to the trouble of trading them, and the candle — she prefers Bath and Body Works, personally — isn't even worth the $25 bucks. Her verdict: If they were $15 with free shipping, it might be a fun activity or a good deal.

Regardless, the company says it's doing well. According to one of the co-founders, they went from 12 candles sold the first day to making a million bucks a month the first year, and are now slated to earn $20 million in their third year of business. And they aren't the only company doing this kind of thing. Jewel Scent is on the ring-in-a-thing bandwagon, too, offering a ring inside a candle, a jar of bath beads, or a bar of soap. Jewel Scent candles are also $25, they look a little bit "nicer" in terms of the packaging, and the ring could be valued up to $7500. Dazzle Candles, also $25, offer a ring OR a necklace hidden in the wax.

So are these people idiots or what?

Tough question. What is fancy? What is pretty? What is nice? As someone who grew up working class, I have a longstanding fascination with what people consider "classy" or "expensive" or indicative of "good taste" — these notions are so often treated like objective concepts, when it fact they are highly subjective and deeply, deeply socioeconomic. For instance, growing up on food stamps, we sometimes were treated to what we called "the good bologna," but it wasn't until I went to college that I realized that in good society, this concept is an oxymoron. Same goes with fashion: One woman's nice, fun accessory is another woman's piece-of-shit ring.

Jewelry has a more objective value, I suppose, at least in terms of whether the materials are considered worth something or not, but fashion is about fantasy, and perhaps here more than anywhere, there is a place for the low-end mixed with the high — after all, combining worthless thrift-store finds with couture is often regarded as the mark of a highly fashion-forward person.

So in the end, as silly (and scammy) as I might think Diamond Candles are — it's the Designer Impostors of real diamonds — there's something kind of mesmerizing and fun to me about how exciting everyone finds the rings to be whether they are worth $10 or $100. Besides, it's hard to find fault with someone simply enjoying their version of "nice."