Of Diamonds and Clubs and Spades – At Any Cost?

Swapna Mirashi

Diamonds may be made to look pretty. But the diamond business is far from it. Diamonds are not rare, they are hard to resell – not a good investment and they are expensive. Despite being the cheaper cousins of the truly rare gems,  diamonds have been ruling public imagination and drilling people’s pockets for years. Some of them also come soaked in blood and exploitation. This post brings to light – the stage created for diamonds to take spotlight, and a dark background on which some diamonds shine – the dark cards in the deck – clubs & spades.


The Diamond Illusion  

There is a false perception among many that diamonds are rare gems, and that they are valuable because they are rare. This false perception has been reinforced by those with vested interest in diamond trade. De Beers is one of the most successful cartel arrangements in modern commerce and trade that became successful in;

a. regulating the supply of diamonds in the market, across the world

b. thus creating (and reinforcing) a perception that diamonds are rare and have an intrinsic value, and

c. controlling prices of the stones in market simply by maintaining artificial shortage of supply.

They have been also running an extremely successful marketing campaign that has established;

a. ‘engagement diamond’ an integral part of a marriage proposal, a woman’s dream and a man’s prestige (or lack of it)

b. diamond as a keepsake that should be handed down generations and not resold (hence keeping the real value of diamonds as speculative)

c. an enviable position for diamond in consumers’ aspirations, primarily through emotional blackmail (calling on people’s emotional weaknesses and fears – love, anxiety, insecurity, jealousy, envy, pride, ambitions, greed…

Successful marketing and rewarding – for the cartel alright, but at a cost borne by the consumer; financial and psychological and by the society; social, and environmental.

Besides this manufactured illusion of the need, supply, value, prices and demand for diamonds itself, the diamond industry has been grappling with others significantly serious political and human rights issues.


The Dark Side

Consider this; roughly 49% mined annually are found in Central and Southern Africa, these are also some of the poorest regions in the world. In some of these politically unstable, poverty stricken regions, violent rebel groups have taken control of diamond mines. They exploit the mines and labor and use the proceeds from sale of diamonds to fund their terror and conflict operations. Diamonds from such regions often have stories of violence and exploitation behind them and are referred to as Conflict Diamonds or Blood Diamonds (2006 Hollywood Movie Blood Diamond is based on the same theme).