why diamonds are bad
February 20, 2006 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I need a bunch of evidence/information to educate a friend about the diamond industry; why it is a monopoly, how it has fueled civil wars in African nations, the current state of diamond mining, etc. I thought there was also a famous photojournalist (Salgado?) who took photos of a diamond mine in Africa as well. Can anyone help me gather information on why diamonds should not be purchased? Thank you in advance.
posted by gen to Shopping (15 answers total)
In among the freak-outery, there are some interesting links in this post on the Blue.
posted by Gator at 10:27 AM on February 20, 2006

Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond? by Edward Jay Epstein from a 1982 Atlantic Monthly.
posted by gac at 10:28 AM on February 20, 2006

This is more from Epstein's book (not sure how much overlaps with the article already posted).
posted by loquax at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2006

Although it's not out until June, I am looking forward to the release of The Heartless Stone. (I am in no way connected to the book or author. Just heard about it through a media site I visit often.) In the meantime, it looks like the site might have some helpful info.
posted by lilybeane at 10:38 AM on February 20, 2006

Blood diamonds.
posted by yerfatma at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2006

This is from the UN, a pretty reputable source.

Here's a snip from a PBS / Frontline documentary about diamonds. It focuses on the new companies that make synthetic gem-quality diamonds, but it's got lots of good information:

Diamonds are not rare.

Diamonds are not intrinsically valuable.

Diamonds were not given as engagment rings until the 20th c.

The diamond industry is a price-controlling cartel, that also was built on and continues slave labor and armed conflict and colonial power.

Yeah, that's pretty much it. Fuck diamonds and fuck DeBeers. I bought my fiancee a sapphire.
posted by zpousman at 10:53 AM on February 20, 2006

Canadian diamonds don't have nearly the same problems that many other diamonds do. The DeBeers cartel doesn't control them, they don't finance paramilitaries, etc. A share of the profits goes to the aboriginal groups (Inuit, mostly) that inhabit the mining areas. Granted, diamond mining is still environmentally destructive, but the same is true of other gems as well.
posted by Emanuel at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2006

I very much like Anil Dash's Diamonds are for never (scroll down, permalinks aren't working).
posted by Jeanne at 11:06 AM on February 20, 2006

There is a massive amount of virulent anti-diamond press out there, much of it out-of-date, but you might get a more factual overview for debate by balancing it with discussions coming the other direction. Recent years have brought changes from the worst diamond-related atrocities. Although the industry naturally has its own bias, this article in Professional Jeweler's trade magazine concerning Lev Leviev of Israel -- Israel markets over half the world's diamonds by value and Leviev is a major player -- has a distinctly unglamorous overview of the problems associated with diamonds and the industries' response. Or, at least, Leviev's response. Here is part 2 of an Leviev profile directly discussing the controversy.

If you would like a more damning discussion of the diamond situation in Angola today, this article published in the African Security Review in 2004, is a nicely done piece by a journalist who visited the region in conflict. A summary quote from the article: " This paper ... examine[s] local popular perceptions of the diamond industry and of its impact on the region and on its people, and to examine to what extent the modalities of diamond production established in a time of war continue to influence the conduct of the industry today."

An interesting point made by the referenced articles is that the civil war, blood diamonds, and related controversies are endemic to African-mined diamonds. Diamonds from other sources such as Canada avoid several of the hot-button issues. Obviously, there remain such controversies as artificial scarcity, social obsession with the marital diamond, and so on.

[I am personally neutral on the debate: I bought my wife a blue sapphire for her engagement ring.]
posted by mdevore at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2006

I posted a link to my web site about how to buy an engagement ring, and it turned into a long thread on how evil diamonds are. There is a a lot of info and links and opinions in the thread on why diamonds aren't worth your money.
posted by chunking express at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2006

While the argements about rarity & lack of lasting value still stand, I'd like to re-iterate Emanuel's comments about Canadian diamonds: they don't 'have blood on them' if someone really wants a diamond, Canadian is the way to go. (Or, like we & several of our friends did, aquire a diamond from a previous generation and pass it on with the sentimental value)

Go Canada!
posted by raedyn at 1:02 PM on February 20, 2006

When you buy a diamond, you are creating an environment where it is worthwhile for people less scrupulous than Canadian mining companies to mine and sell diamonds. African blood diamonds are worth something because diamonds all around the world are worth something. If the Canadian mines sold their diamonds for a price based on their actual rarity, and not one based on the inflated prices DeBeers sets, then this would be another story.
posted by chunking express at 1:29 PM on February 20, 2006

Amnesty UK have run a campaign about conflict diamonds. You might find some useful information here, albeit with a UK slant.
posted by reynir at 2:36 PM on February 20, 2006

One more link, though I'm a bit late to the party.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:56 PM on February 20, 2006

Whoops, the link is fixed now. Sorry 'bout that. My post doesn't have that many really useful links itself, but the comments do have some good ones.
posted by anildash at 10:54 PM on February 21, 2006

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