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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Diamonds are the world’s worst friend

    This year, hundreds of UA women will fulfill a life’s dream by being presented with a ludicrously overpriced hunk of carbon by their significant other. If this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. The wasteful “”tradition”” of blowing money on diamond engagement rings – as well as other forms of diamond jewelry – is one that ought to be gotten rid of posthaste.

    If you saw the movie “”Blood Diamond”” a few years ago, or even if you’re particularly news-savvy, you know that there’s an enormous amount of moral hysteria surrounding the diamond trade.

    African warlords, who enslave citizens in diamond mines, are notorious for removing the hands and arms of suspected diamond thieves. But so-called “”conflict diamonds,”” whose acquisition and sale funds the exploits of these merciless warmongers, appear significantly less often in international trade today than they used to. This is partially thanks to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a non-binding agreement which empowers companies and corporations to ensure that their diamonds aren’t mined using slave labor or coercion.

    It’s difficult to know what the truth is about diamond companies like De Beers, a cartel which controls a significant fraction of the diamond trade. Internet and print sources alike are equally saturated with apologists for De Beers, many of them with connections to the diamond mining industry and liberals with a fear of big corporations.

    Until recently, De Beers’ Wikipedia page was a sanitized, watered-down account of the cartel’s history. Defenders and employees of the cartel had managed to completely remove all references to the cartel’s monopolistic practices and history in the trading of conflict diamonds.

    Such sanitization might be germane, and the dark cloud surrounding De Beers and the diamond industry at large is probably somewhat overblown. But even if De Beers isn’t a horribly evil, shadowy organization rejoicing at the slaughter and maiming of innocent African children, it is difficult to defend them on ethical grounds.

    Diamonds, like most shiny material objects, have nothing that might be called “”intrinsic”” value. But in the wake of the Great Depression, De Beers managed to convince a large number of young Americans otherwise.

    Diamond jewelry had never been a huge fixture in Western society; in many cases, diamonds were actually considered rather ugly. American men occasionally purchased cheaper diamonds as gifts for loved ones, but the tradition that diamond rings were a mandatory purchase for male suitors simply didn’t exist.

    Over the last 70 years, De Beers has managed to create this tradition completely out of nothing. Now, look where we are today. Millions of women worldwide don’t just want a diamond. They expect it.

    I had to visibly withhold expressing my disgust when, a few days ago, a female friend of mine informed me that one of our friends was getting married. Her follow-up comment? “”You should see the size of the rock!””

    Not “”he’s a nice guy”” or “”he takes really good care of her”” – but rather “”he bought her an expensive, useless rock.””

    Luckily, there are individual solutions to the problem of carbon allotrope-induced wastefulness.

    If you absolutely feel that you must purchase a decorative hunk of rock for your loved one, do the responsible thing: Invest in one of the new “”simulated”” diamond models. They’re made of cubic zirconium, but it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish them from the real thing.

    If you can wait a few years, the creation of totally synthetic “”real”” diamonds is becoming cheaper and more viable by the day, efforts by the diamond industry to stamp them out and proclaim them “”artificial”” notwithstanding.

    However, the best solution is not to buy into a completely artificial, corporately-created tradition at all. Not only does excessive consumption of diamonds fuel our unhealthy obsession with conspicuous consumerism – in other words, showing off how wealthy you are – but it fuels the notion that women are objects whose love and sexuality are commodities to be purchased and consumed, an oppressive practice which is upheld by men and women alike.

    This should be so obvious that it doesn’t bear repeating, but for some reason it isn’t: True love isn’t to be found in symbolic gestures, much less ones which cost a lot of money. Diamonds last a long time (though technically not forever), but if your love is going to last a long time, who the hell cares about the diamond? If a man loves a woman and vice-versa, it should be obvious; large monetary expenditures, relics of our patriarchical past, shouldn’t be necessary.

    Unfortunately, it seems like the diamond trade isn’t going anywhere any time soon; it has withstood many global recessions since the 1930s, and it will withstand this one, too. But you can do your part to tell snake oil merchants that diamonds aren’t your best friend.

    -ÿTaylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, math and physics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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