Diamonds Aren’t a Girl’s Best Friend

Diamonds, a symbol for love and longevity, the key token of courtship. A diamond is forever, but only because they don’t want you to sell it back to them. In society, women are taught us to look forward to the day that some lucky person puts a ring on it—a diamond ring preferably. But not only have diamonds cost thousands of lives, but they have also cost you thousands of dollars for something that is essentially worthless. People should stop buying diamond engagement rings.

Diamonds are a standing tradition when it comes to marriage in my family; my father proposed to my mother with a diamond ring, and by my grandmothers were proposed to with diamond engagement rings. It makes sense as diamonds are marketed as the only way to propose to someone you love (Epstein). It’s been said that diamonds are a symbol of longevity in a relationship, which perfectly fits the De Beers diamond corporation slogan “A diamond is forever” coined in 1948 (Sullivan). It may come as a surprise to a few people, but the concept of proposing with a diamond ring is less than a century old. In 1938 De Beers marketing campaign (done by N.W. Ayer) was a success as sales increased by 55% in the United States (Epstein). Before this advertising campaign, buying diamonds was only for the extremely wealthy elite. Afterward, it became a common tradition for diamonds to be bought for a proposal of marriage (Epstein).

In 2010 the worldwide retail market for diamond jewelry was $60 billion (Pisani), and in 2014 it was $81.4 billion (Baker 65). But despite this huge market, diamonds are not that great as an investment. As much as I’d love to tell you that ring you dropped 4k on was a lifetime investment (as diamond prices only continue to rise), it’s not. Sadly, because of the number of diamonds mined, they’re intrinsically worthless (Smith). You see in the 1870s huge diamond mines were found near Orange River, in South Africa (Epstein). Diamond cartels and companies quickly realized that because of the increase of diamonds, they would lose intrinsic value, so to save themselves they merged together to create the De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. (founded in 1888) (Epstein). Because of this De Beers had a global monopoly on diamonds and could artificially restrict supply, to make diamonds appear rarer (Epstein). But if you’re seriously wanting to sell that rock the best way to make your money back will probably be to sell it to some other unfortunate soul looking for an engagement ring. Trying to sell back your ring or even pawning it off is risky. For example, if you have a platinum band ring with one center stone, weighing in at about 4 grams with the carat size being 1.2, your average cost will be $5,300 on BlueNile a popular site for most wedding ring shoppers. The average selling price back to American pawn stores for that ring is $943, some places offering more and others less. After purchasing a ring it’s not likely that you will make the money back, let alone profit.

Blood Diamonds or Conflict Diamonds are an often-mentioned part of diamond mining companies. Though there were several wars that were funded by diamonds, the civil war in Angola was the most brutal and problematic (Baker 69). Angola was when conflict diamonds were first brought to the world’s attention. For more than two decades Angola suffered through a civil war that started in 1975 (True Story Blood Diamonds). After Colonial power Portugal granted Angola independence, the Soviets backed the MPLA (The Popular Movement for the Liberation Angola). They controlled the government from the capital (True Story Blood Diamonds). A rival army called UNITA (The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) lead by Jonas Savimbi, was supported by the USA. After the Cold War support dwindled, and in need of money for arms both sides turned to natural sources in Angola, the MPLA had oil, and UNITA had diamonds (True Story Blood Diamonds). UNITA strategically took over the diamond mines in North Angola with brutal tactics. The cruelty UNITA displayed was due to the hopes that through these methods they would push away potential miners and citizens, allowing diamonds to bankroll the ongoing war with the MPLA. The war between the two was fierce and many times civilians were caught in the crossfire (over 500,000 people died) (Hurst). Though diamonds have already been on the market from this conflict for quite some time; you’re able to ease your conscience about your potential contribution to the destruction of life by buying conflict-free diamonds. Diamond that are assured to not have been sold, mined, or distributed through any cartel. This idea of “conflict-free” diamonds while a nice one is in reality a marketing scheme. Even if when buying the diamond, the retailer can prove without a doubt the location of the diamond came from a humane mining location, and that it never passed through cartel hands (which is very unlikely) the demand is still present. By buying diamonds a demand is being created, and thusly the supply will continue to be meet. Humanly or not. The idea of a truly conflict-free diamond cannot currently exist in today’s market.

Though the thought of not getting your potential spouse a wedding ring is certainly concerning to most, that’s not the idea I’m rejecting. I find it sweet to give someone you love something that’s supposed to represent said love. I just don’t think that particular thing should be a diamond wedding ring. Many other options are available such as Cubic Zirconium, a lab-made gem that closely resembles a diamond. Alongside it looking almost exactly the same, it will also be a tenth of the cost of a standard diamond on today’s market (“Cubic Zirconia vs Diamonds”). And if you’re tired of the diamond look all together, why not go with the gemstone of love Rose Quartz? Rose Quartz is a subdivision of the quartz family ranging anywhere from faint pink (almost white), to a medium pink. An authentic rose quartz ring can start at $50 and reach about $500, a fraction of the price of a diamond.

Though we conceive diamonds as a tradition and a necessity for marriage proposals, I hope that after reading this essay you’ve re-thought the tradition of diamonds, and potentially even considered going another route. In conclusion, in spite of popular belief diamonds are not as long-standing a tradition as perceived, they’re artificially restricted to create the illusion of rarity, and they’ve cost tens of thousands of lives. So, are diamonds really a girl’s best friend?

Shelby Thompson

Shelby Thompson

Just a very tired college student.

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