I've been hearing an advert on the radio a lot this month, and the tag line is this:
... because a diamond truly is forever. So this Christmas, say it with diamonds. From De Beers.
I hate diamonds. There I've said it, I hate diamonds. As a piece of ornamental jewellery they're prized for their ability to throw back fantastic amounts of colour. Part of this is to do with their internal structure. They have a relatively high refractive index because the arrangement of the carbon atoms is a whole heap of triangular pyramids. This also gives diamond another property - they are in fact terribly brittle. It you were to hit a diamond with hammer (and yes I have done this) they not only shatter as you expect but also turn to dust.
I'll say it again, I hate diamonds. Everything about them disgusts me. I hate shallow girls comparing carat size with each other, I hate admiring people’s rings, and I hate walking past ostentatious jewelry stores. I hate the fact that people fight and kill each other over control of diamond mines so that some poor chap can spend four months working in order to purchase something for a girl in order for her to show off and conversely to show her off. I hate the materialism and vanity that goes with diamonds. I hate fake salespeople and their slick ways of talking you into buying the latest bracelet, Seiko watch, or oversized rock. I hate how infants are starving to death or people are dying of easily curable diseases while people spend thousands on a tiny ridiculous rock. I hate how I can’t bring myself to wholly hate diamonds. Sparkly, shimmery, beautiful diamonds.
I have to continually remind myself of why I abhor diamonds. As soon as I do I can walk away from the polished glass diamond counter, breathing a sigh of relief that I’m not the type of chap who likes things like that, however much colour they can throw back.
The biggest reason that I don’t get into the diamond market is that buying diamonds hurts people. Somewhere between 4 and 15 percent of diamonds traded are part of something called "conflict diamonds" (or "war" or "blood diamonds") This means that people with guns and weapons take advantage of people without guns and weapons and make them mine diamonds in horrible conditions to help pay for those guns and weapons. These guns also keep those without guns from causing a fuss about anything illegal or atrocious that the mine operators do. In the last ten years some 3 million people have been killed. Countless more have lost their hands or feet so that they could serve as examples to others. These people with guns also use the profits from diamonds to buy more guns to support other unwholsome activities but let's not say anything about the Congo, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe or South Africa just yet.
But let’s say that a person really wants diamonds. Let’s say they are willing to go the extra mile and pay the extra ¥£$ to purchase a certified, non-conflict diamond. They can’t. There’s no way to be sure you’re not buying a conflict diamond. (Well... there is, there is a type of laser scanning technology, but it is not used, due to little demand for it.) There are also organizations and sanctions trying to keep the diamonds straight, but nothing works really well. In the process of mining, cutting, polishing, and setting, a diamond passes through many hands. And it takes just one person with their eye out for number one to scramble up the pot and ruin it for the rest of them.
Let's say that somehow, you have gotten a hold of a non-conflict diamond. You went to the mine yourself and saw well-paid, of-age, happy workers mining diamonds. They worked in safe conditions and could go home to their family with all four limbs intact. Can you dish out your hard-earned dough, feeling good about what you’ve done? Maybe you can, but the toddler who lost both hands to serve as a lesson to his parents working in the mines can’t.
Diamonds are not as valuable as most people believe. The price is kept unnaturally high by very powerful diamond lobbies; mainly by the South African company De Beers who since the late 40s have cartellised and controlled the market. By paying that lofty price for your non-conflict diamond, you are keeping conflict diamond prices high, and making it very much worth their while in Congo to keep those mines open and keep on mutilating and killing for profit.
Stepping off that soapbox for a while I’ll jump onto another one. Another reason I don’t like diamonds is all the materialism, greed, and vanity that goes with them. It’s hard to even know where to start. From all these ads on television and billboards, I am almost starting to believe that diamonds are no longer just a symbol of love, they actually mean some sort of concrete materialisation of love for some people. If I were to take this seriously then I would believe that any problems people's relationships or lives have, a new piece of jewellery will fix it.
A husband should feel as though he is a lesser man because he didn’t buy his significant other a large enough stone? That his love doesn’t mean anything unless it comes paired with a full carat stone affixed atop a platinum band? His wife doesn’t need quality time or support or even some help matching the socks, just a new pair of diamond earrings come Valentines day?
I hope that isn’t how real people think. Oh man, I really hope that is not how people think, but I’m pretty sure some people do. Isn’t love how you treat each other, not the size of a ring? That those fingers might be clammy, that you spend pointless time worrying about their wellbeing and safety, that you might throw your back out for them? And why else do people buy bling, if not to express their love for another person? To impress people? To feel better about themselves for being such a generous person? I hope both of those reasons are empty enough that I can leave it at that.