And small undocumented wars are diamond producer’s best friends.
Several weeks ago, I was snubbed by a grocery store cashier. I had inadvertently offended her, and she made it clear to me, and everybody nearby that I’d gotten ideas above my station. My offence, as closely as I can determine it was to flirt with her, deliberately mis-reading her comment as a sexual come-on and suggesting “not just now, but perhaps later” – said by me with a deliberately bewildered look on my face. I thought at the time – and still do, that my remark was harmless and entertaining. I was not the only person amused, but the cashier to whom I offered this attempt at wit found it decidedly unfunny. She had to shut me down – and did so with a demonstration of social status. She flaunted her ring at me.
The diamond was – to state it delicately – fucking huge, and the ring likely cost somebody $30,000 or more. “I’m taken, by somebody who’s financial resource far exceeds yours.” It took me a second or two of goggling at this slice of some man’s annual salary to realize : A] she was choosing to take my flirting seriously and B] reacting with the most heavy-handed snub she could muster. It probably didn’t help matters that on realizing it, I laughed.
But what I didn’t do, and had I the the opportunity to do over, I still might not have bothered to explain the following:
I have a problem with diamonds.
I do not like them. This is partly an inherited prejudice from my geologist father, but partly a dislike I have learned on my own.
Diamonds, which many people seem to regard as being valuable as a result of their scarcity or their demand, are in fact, about as scarce as gravel.
In reality, diamonds would create a glut on the market if they were traded openly. Fortunately for the producers, the mining, rough stone distribution, and cutting of diamonds is an international monopoly, managed mainly under the DeBeers group of companies.
The purpose of this monopoly is to limit the supply of diamonds entering the consumer market, and to limit public information about diamond abundance.
Since the actual mining of diamonds has always exceeded the demand, diamond producers are not able to maintain artificial scarcity stockpiling. If they did, the volume of stockpiled diamonds would continuously increase, and would create a new problem of large scale theft from storage. A strategy they have developed to create a false sense of scarcity is the physical destruction and concealment of un-mined diamond fields. Another method is the sequestration of existing stockpiles.
In 1990, I was shown a set of photos taken on a mining exploration project under development by the company then employing me. The project was located in Ghana, on the west coast of Africa, although I worked in our offices in Vancouver. The photos showed a convoy of around 180 cement trucks. Imagine a large scale construction project requiring hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of cement.
These were brand-new cement trucks, freshly painted with the DeBeers logo on the rotating drum. The destination was not a construction site, but a beach. The trucks were lining up to pour cement into the ocean.
No amount of security would prevent a market flood following successful theft of diamonds from a large secure storage location, so one technique used by the DeBeers group is to regularly dump tones of diamonds onto the ocean floor, mixed with cement.
While it was not obvious to me at age 20, one of our geologists explained to me that the concrete contained an aggregate of diamonds rather than the conventional gravel. Both gem quality and industrial diamonds are so common that the diamond producing cartels have to bury tones of them every year to maintain an illusion of value.
The second problem with diamonds is their relationship to slavery, war, and bloodshed. On the African continent, they serve as a trade currency, financing tribal warfare and trade in arms. A recently established trading agreement called the Kimberley Certification is intended to restrict trade in conflict, or “blood,” diamonds. Sadly this has served mainly as a tool to protect the monopoly of the DeBeers group of companies.
Diamonds mines are typically filled with an abrasive dust which if inhaled – scars the lungs of mineworkers. This could be easily prevented by employing normal dust – suppression methods used in other industries, and by some diamond producers. De Beers currently holds a legal exemption in South Africa from the mandatory dust suppression method of spraying water when drilling, on the grounds that the dust in its mines is uniquely harmless. This exemption, and it’s reason, illustrate how seriously to take statements from DeBeers about their efforts to curtail trade in conflict diamonds.
The Kimberly protocol – intended to prevent the trade in diamonds financing bloodshed is subscribed on a voluntary basis. Being self-enforced by diamond producers, it is observed only when convenient. Many people claim the kimberly process successfully restricts the trade in conflict diamonds. Having worked in mining exploration, it is my opinion that such people are either naive, or simply lying.
Now, Ill freely admit, it’s men who dig diamonds out of the earth, who select them, who raise investment capitol to finance mining exploration projects, and it’s men who exploit slave labor in the mining operations. And based on my knowledge gained working for a mineral exploration company, it’s mostly men who are the slave labour in diamond mining operations. It’s also men who organized international cartels to control a monopoly on shiny but objectively worthless stones.
But the reason men do all these things is that women demand it.
Women, all claims of patriarchy aside, are in charge. Women control 2/3 of disposable income. Women control access to sex, women own all rights of reproduction, and thereby, control men. (Whether they wish to admit it or not) More women than men vote. And, it is not a coincidence that in this society we keep calling a patriarchy, it’s 93% of workplace deaths that are men.
The use of diamonds as a trade currency for indentured slavery, and the arms trade enabling the warlord model of regional government will continue as long as western consumers (read: women) create a demand.
Every time I see a woman wearing diamonds, whether they’re earrings or a big fuck-off diamond engagement ring – I am reminded of what they actually finance.
If you want to stop a war, or slavery, or torture, you stop buying the commodities which finance it, like diamonds.
ADDENDUM: Antz made an excellent point in the comments below, the substance of which I think is important enough to add here.
The consumer appeal of diamonds is only superficially the glitter. Artificially produced diamonds are chemically and visually identical ( except under high magnification ) to naturally produced stones, but the “fakes” have very little market appeal, why? Because an item of diamond jewelery is symbolic of male sacrifice on behalf of women. The men who die in diamond mines and in small wars, the blood and corpses behind that shiny ornament on a woman’s finger confer a sense of personal worth that she’s so special, that so many men have labored, fought, died, sacrificed and killed other men – for her bauble. That’s the true appeal – and its deeper and more primal than just how many dollars the diamond cost or how big it is – the size of the stone is a measure, certainly – but it’s the blood and the cruelty that matters. And if I’m wrong – why aren’t all diamonds used in jewelery manufactured rather than mined.
But don’t forget, if women ruled the world there’d be no war. Also, we live in a patriarchy.
[Publishers note: For skeptics of this article, watch HERE.]
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