Every now and then my daughter sends me something that she has read or heard that she thinks I’ll appreciate. I love this quote she sent me last week. I love it for several reasons:
Reason#1 It’s a very powerful image, expressed succinctly and beautifully. Hmmm … diamonds … beautiful, light defracting gems that do more than sparkle, they create optical magic. Ummm … coal … dirty, product of decaying plants, pollutant. Apply pressure to coal, wow, extraordinary transformation! Who wouldn’t want to be transformed from coal to diamond? Someone who’s afraid of hard work, that’s who!
Reason#2 To quote from one of my daughter’s essays ” A diamond is one of the most expensive and coveted of all gem stones, yet it is abundant in nature. The material value of a diamond stems from an illusion of scarcity created by strategies of production and supply control, and the successful marketing of diamonds as symbols of desire, love and wealth.” And why do we not care about being duped by de Beers? Because diamonds are BEAUTIFUL and we’d pay anything (or want someone else to pay anything on our behalf) to have one. In fact we want de Beers and the rest of the diamond industry to maintain the illusion, thank you very much. We don’t want diamonds to be a commodity, we want them to be luxury items.
Reason #3 The reason we’ve bought into the best darn marketing ever (with our eyes wide open) is because we want to. The advertising phrase “diamonds are forever” may have been a cynical manipulation to persuade men to buy diamond engagement rings, but it worked because diamonds are the most beautiful of all gems and we women don’t want a second hand one, or an emerald or sapphire one … “Diamond’s are a girl’s best friend” … Recent advertising campaigns suggest the diamond right hand ring is now the independent woman’s best friend.
So yes, with or without the aid of marketing, a diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.
However, on a more serious note, the beauty of diamonds and the material value attached to them may have given rise to prosperity and development in parts of Africa, but the illicit sales of rough diamonds, known as conflict or blood diamonds, have been crucial in prolonging brutal wars in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Angola. Diamonds from Zimbabwe are also classified as conflict diamonds; although not used to fund civil war, mining of diamonds there has given rise to terrible abuses of human rights. Efforts to block conflict diamonds from reaching the market have included steps taken by the World Diamond Congress in 2000, but more recently and with greater effect, the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme requires participating governments to certify that shipments of rough diamonds are conflict-free. As of 2010, there were 75 governments participating in the KP, however, member governments have repeatedly failed to deal effectively with problem cases such as Zimbabwe, the Ivory Coast and Venezuela, despite estimates of the total percentage of conflict diamonds being just 0.2%.
Many retail stores, including Michael Hill, require the provenance of diamonds before agreeing to purchase.
Global Witness, an organisation that advocates against the trade of conflict resources and played a big role in setting up the Kimberly process, has recently withdrawn as an official observer. The reason? Late last year the Kimberly Process lifted the ban on Zimbabwe trading its conflict diamonds despite evidence that the military and government were using the diamonds to fund illegal activities. Incredible. See my post “Blood Diamonds – Not Al Diamonds Are The Same“