The Greatest Story Ever Sold is a Fantasy Covered in Blood
Want an easy way to save over three months' salary? Don't buy a diamond engagement ring. If your fiancée, friends, and family scream hellfire, calmly explain:
1. It's Just Marketing
The whole "A Diamond Is Forever" and the idea of a diamond engagement ring is not an ancient tradition to be revered and followed. It is Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst." It is Nike's "Just Do It." It is Gary Dahl's "Pet Rock." Not only did De Beers understand it had to control supply (buying up and closing down any diamond mine discovered), they had to control demand. They had to make it sentimental. And Americans were the perfect suckers. They targeted the U.S. specifically for our marketability. This campaign is less than 70 years old, yet has become so ingrained in our culture that the diamond engagement ring has become the ultimate symbol of how much the relationship, the girl, and love itself is worth.
2. Diamonds Aren't Rare
Fine, using marketing tactics can't be blamed since that's part of the game of capitalism. But another part of the game is competition. It's all well and good if marketers can convince consumers to buy them instead of the competition based on a nice slogan, but the competition should be there to protect the consumer. All gems are valued based on their rarity (as are most things in life). But diamonds are abundant. De Beers has a huge vault where they keep most of the world's supply of diamonds. If it ever got released into the market, the way it would be if they weren't a monopoly, diamonds would be worth nothing. It's literally a pretty rock.
3. Diamonds Have No Resale Value
The reason "A Diamond Is Forever" is because you're basically stuck with it. You'll never be able to resell it except to a pawn shop. Even a jeweler (the few who would be willing to buy it) would offer a fraction of what you paid.
4. Synthetic Diamonds Will Flood the Market
Synthetic or "cultured" diamonds are already being made and within the next few years, will be efficiently made for the mass market. These are real diamonds. They are made in a machine that replicates the environmental forces that make diamonds. The only difference is that they're better. They have less flaws. And they cost a fraction of the going rate. Want a two-carat pink diamond? That'll be a few thousand dollars.
5. Moissanite Looks Just Like a Diamond
Jewelers had to upgrade their equipment to detect Moissanite from diamonds when it came into the market. It's undetectable with the naked eye. And it's actually more brilliant. A one-carat ring is under $1000.
6. Who Is the Ring for, Anyway?
Seriously. As The Dilettante so poignantly put it, "For women, comparing jewelry is our phallic posturing contest: look at how big MY dic….er, I mean, diamond is." It's fun to show off for about 30 seconds. After that there is little to show for the debt incurred for the shiny piece of rock. That money could have gone into furniture, an amazing trip (or many nice ones), your future kids' college funds!
Are these reasons still not enough? Watch Blood Diamond. It is high time Hollywood dared to broach the subject of diamonds, especially when they had a hand in marketing it to the public in the first place. Blood Diamond, is an explicit example of the blood and war that has spanned the entire history of the De Beers' diamond cartel. The story of Sierra Leone isn't an isolated event, nor is the conflict over just because the movie says there's peace in Sierra Leone now.
7. What Are Conflict/Blood Diamonds?
Conflict/blood diamonds are used by rebel groups to fuel conflict and civil wars, and by terrorist groups to finance their activities.
8. The Kimberley Process Is Just PR
It's an agreement that is supposed to prevent conflict diamonds from getting into the market but ended up being more of a PR stunt since it's based on a system of self-policing. The U.N. reported in October 2006 that due to poor enforcement of the Kimberley Process, $23 million of conflict diamonds from Cote d'lvoire alone entered the legitimate market. Sure De Beers won't buy diamonds coming out of Cote d'lvoire, but they'll turn a blind eye to the smuggling of diamonds from there through Ghana and Mali where they are certified as being conflict-free.
9. Percentage in the Market
During the height of the diamond conflict in the 1990s, the diamond industry reported that no more than 4% of the diamonds in the market were conflict diamonds, when in reality it has been shown to be closer to 15%.
10. Asking for Conflict-Free Certificates Is not Enough
In April 2006 after a scathing report by Partnership Africa Canada about activities in Brazil, an internal review showed that 49 of 147 Kimberley Process certificates were fraudulent. Besides these fraudulent certificates, real certificates could still be issued if conflict diamonds were smuggled and mixed with legally traded ones before being certified.
11. Children in India Are Cutting and Polishing the Diamonds
Children in India can become "bonded" — forced to work to pay off the debts of their family. These children end up working in the diamond factories.
12. Children in Conflict Zones Are Being Used as Soldiers
The images in Blood Diamond with child soldiers are very real. They are drugged and brainwashed to handle the manslaughter they are forced to do.
Jennifer Connelly says in the movie Blood Diamond, "People back home would not buy a diamond if they knew it cost someone their hand." Now you know.
Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond - Article from The Atlantic Monthly that chronicles the DeBeers marketing campaign
The New Diamond Age - Article from Wired magazine about the cultured diamond startups
Blood From Stones - LA Weekly
The Truth About Diamonds - A Global Witness Report
The Kimberley Process update, November 13, 2006 - Global Witness
Conflict Diamonds Fact Sheet - Global Witness and Amnesty International
The Diamond Invention
A History of the International Diamond Cartel
Diamonds Suck! - A personal essay on the virtures of Moissanite
Child Slave Labor in India