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Now you can be sure your diamond is pure.
September 22, 2000 2:48 AM   Subscribe

Now you can be sure your diamond is pure. Wouldn't want it tainted with any revolution or nothin...
posted by Steven Den Beste (15 comments total)

 
There's a dirty little secret about diamonds most people don't know: they're actually quite common all over the world. Even "gem-quality" diamonds are quite common; judged on the basis of quantity available, diamonds should be considered "semi-precious", in the same category as garnets and tourmalines and topaz. On the other hand you have opals, rubies and especially emeralds, which truly are rare. Most of the world's emeralds come from a single mine in Columbia.

It's true that diamond is the hardest substance known, but that's really pretty irrelevant to its value as a gemstone.

But the single most successful cartel in history has controlled the supply and jacked up the price of diamonds -- and through extremely intense and effective advertising convinced nearly everyone in the world that diamonds are both rare and precious. They would be neither in a free and open market.

For a while, DeBeers was in pretty serious financial trouble, because they basically had to buy any diamond produced by anyone anywhere in order to keep them off the open market. And the Australians started pumping them out, and in particular, the then USSR, hungry for hard currency, started mining them big time. And DeBeers ended up with a cash crunch. But they really had no choice; if the Australian and USSR diamonds had been dumped onto the open market, the price would have collapsed.

They have a stockpile of diamonds which is beyond belief; the world producers have been mining diamonds far faster than the jewelry industry has been consuming them for decades, and they've been accumulating in the DeBeers vaults.

What I don't understand is how DeBeers gets away with being simultaneously a monopoly and one of the worst price-fixers on the planet. Janet Reno, paging Janet Reno...
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:21 AM on September 22, 2000


Beats me, it goes back to Cecil Rhodes, but I don't understand why everyone still plays along. I guess all the producers agree that it would be in everyones best (self) interest to restrict supply (like OPEC).

btw The Australian diamonds produced by the Argyle mine are not as pure as the others. They're pink in color.

posted by lagado at 5:51 AM on September 22, 2000


"Remember -- your girl will only love you if you spend TWO MONTHS SALARY on her engagement ring -- if you spend any less you will end your life drunk in a gutter"

I think that's the ad slogan, right?
posted by dhartung at 8:59 AM on September 22, 2000


DeBeers has run the most powerful ad campaign in history, IMHO. It's been one continuous stroke of genius after another.

...of course, that just means that it pisses me off even more. The thing that really drives me nuts is watching self-proclaimed Lefties buying diamonds -- someone rants about Nike, and then buys a diamond from DeBeers? Hypocrisy of the worst kind. And the really funny thing is that despite all my rants, I'll probably end up buying a damn diamond too. That just kills me.
posted by aramaic at 9:13 AM on September 22, 2000


"What I don't understand is how DeBeers gets away with being simultaneously a monopoly and one of the worst price-fixers on the planet. Janet Reno, paging Janet Reno..."

I thought it was because DeBeers doesn't actually do any business in the US. They sell to importers who bring the diamonds in themselves. You can't buy directly from DeBeers. Janet Reno doesn't have jurisdiction.
posted by smackfu at 11:47 AM on September 22, 2000


I'm sure there is a local jewler in your town that could make a quite fetching engagement ring for two months salery that didn't involve any diamonds. And then the ring will be a unique gift created personally for your sweetie rather than yet another diamond that you are told to go buy.
posted by captaincursor at 11:47 AM on September 22, 2000


Bah. One more formerly anonymous, untraceable way to move money around the world goes poof.

Why the is the entire world so hellbent on attaching a paper trail to everything we do? Is there some mad imperative buried in the human psyche to document everything that can be documented, record everything that can be recorded, regardless of consequences?

Even the 'net isn't safe anymore.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:13 PM on September 22, 2000


Yes, there is a mad imperative . . . it's called being a control freak.

Just about every politician, policeman and registered voter on the planet is a control freak. They don't trust themselves, and they certainly don't trust you. Therefore, you must be monitored in as many ways as possible. You might hurt children, you know.

If you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to be afraid of -- so why are you against being monitored? What do you have to hide?

Hmmm. Sounds like maybe you need a trip to the Detention Facility -- we have to think about the children, after all. Here, let me just pop these shackles on; won't take but a moment....
posted by aramaic at 1:55 PM on September 22, 2000


Sounds like this the point where the thread goes way off topic.

So in a vain attempt to bring it back, if controls were slapped on the diamond trade from war zones, a number of long running and highly destructive civil wars in Africa would run out of money very quickly and fizzle out. Sierra Leone and Angola being prime examples.

Better still, boycott those diamonds, boys. Buy opals!

posted by lagado at 4:08 PM on September 22, 2000


Or the combatants would simply turn to another method of getting money. Like getting VC funding.
posted by captaincursor at 5:12 PM on September 22, 2000


paging janet reno?

actually there are warrants out for members of the debeers family and staff in the united states and if they ever come here they will be served...

i watched a fascinating documentary (may have been frontline) on pbs about 9 years ago on the diamond industry...interesting facts:

1.the diamond engagement ring is not a tradition...debeers paid silent movie producers to include scenes of a man presenting a woman with a diamond engagement ring to encourage young women to want them and young men to give them...prior to that, garnets, pearls and the like were popular...

2.the "tennis" bracelet, and those anniversary rings were invented to use up the supply of small russian chip diamonds that they had to purchase to keep them off the market...

3.diamonds were so common that the debeers used native south africans to collect them in this way: an area of land would be marked off in a square, a line of workers with tin cans tied around their neck would walk south to north collecting diamonds from the ground, then a line of workers would walk the same area east to west to collect the diamonds that were left over...

4.the debeers are largely responsible for beginning and maintaining apartheid in south africa...

5.the technology to create almost perfect "fake" diamonds was almost perfected in the 70's and squelched by the debeer family...if i remember correctly, this is actually what their u.s. warrants are about...

there's lots more but i can't remember the details...

me? i would never wear a diamond...my engagement ring is a sapphire...
posted by centrs at 3:38 AM on September 23, 2000


re: 5. A good friend of mine makes synthetic diamonds as his chemistry research project -- he was at the annual conference earlier this month -- and he's told me about the regular "visits" made to the lab from the DeBeers reps. It's like something from The Godfather.
posted by holgate at 3:55 AM on September 23, 2000


Graphite is a girls' best friend...
posted by lagado at 4:58 AM on September 23, 2000


Synthetic diamonds are only allowed for use on industrial machinery like diamond tiped saws. However there is no difference between mined diamonds and synthetically produced diamonds. They are excactly the same, which kind of makes you wonder why it is we pay such inflated prices for diamonds. Don't ask me what the slanted writing is about.
posted by Zool at 9:10 PM on September 24, 2000




( I don't even have something stupid to add, I'm just closing the italics.)
posted by cCranium at 5:51 AM on September 25, 2000


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